This recipe for Vegan “Butter Chickpeas” is inspired by the classic Indian restaurant dish butter chicken (murgh makhani). We’ve swapped the meat for hearty chickpeas but retained the creamy spiced tomato cream sauce. This is a dairy-free dinner that is ready in just 20 minutes, and it’s something that the whole family will love! Serve it with rice and naan for a festive Indian dinner.
What is butter chicken and where did it originate?
Butter chicken (murgh makhani) is said to have first been served in 1947 at the restaurant Baba Chicken in Punjab, India. It supposedly was made by accident when mixing leftover chicken into a tomato and cream sauce. As such, butter chicken is a very popular curry dish in modern Indian restaurants typically made with lemon juice, dahi (yogurt), Kashmiri red chili, salt, garam masala and ginger garlic paste.
For today’s post we of course are taking a plant-based spin. I will be the first to admit that this is not an authentic recipe, merely a personal interpretation of a cuisine I have a lot to learn from. If you’re looking for more traditional (and delicious) Indian fare, I recommend looking into chef Madhur Jaffrey.
Chickpeas are a perfect substitute for chicken, and as a bonus they can be tossed right into our sauce. Instead of using heavy cream or yogurt in this recipe, we are substituting cashew cream (cashews soaked in boiling water to soften, then blended). My guess is that coconut milk could also work as a substitute, if you don’t have cashews.
I would consider this a very pantry-friendly meal, as it relies mainly on canned and dry goods. Perfect for days when you don’t want to go to the store but still crave a flavorful meal!
What Spices Are Needed to Make Butter Chickpeas?
I know the spice list here seems long but I promise it is worth it. I tried to tweak this recipe as much as possible to work in a traditional Western kitchen, with spices that are most commonly found. I encourage you to experiment to find what flavors you’re most fond of. If you cannot find the freshest versions of these spices to grate them yourself, I am including options for pre-ground spices as well.
How To Make Vegan Butter Chickpeas
The first step of this recipe is to combine all spices together in a bowl so that they can be added simultaneously. After sautéing onion and garlic, you’ll bloom these spices alongside in coconut oil. Then you’ll add some tomato paste and cashew cream. Finally, you’ll bring this entire mixture to a simmer while adding chickpeas and some water. Lemon juice finishes things off. I like serving with cilantro and basmati rice, but naan would be next-level delicious I’m sure.