For when you want and you're feeling

Butter Chickpeas

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.

bowl of butter chickpeas next to ripped naan

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!

two bowls of vegan butter chickpeas

What Spices Are Needed to Make Butter Chickpeas?

  • Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Salt

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.

bowl of butter chickpeas

If you’re looking for more chickpea recipe ideas, try one of these next:

a hand with naan scooping some butter chickpeas

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bowl of butter chickpeas next to ripped naan

Vegan Butter Chickpeas

  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


This recipe for “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 and 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 with rice and naan for a festive Indian dinner.


Units Scale

For the aromatic spice blend:

  • .25 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp coriander (whole seeds freshly ground, if possible)
  • .25 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 TBS freshly grated ginger (or 2 tsp dried)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal if possible)

For the rest of the dish:

  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 3 TBS coconut oil (refined or not, it does not make a huge difference)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped finely
  • .5 tsp salt
  • 4 large cloves garlic, grated
  • .25 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 TBS lemon juice


  1. To begin, combine all spices in a small bowl and set aside. This will make it easier to add them all at once later.
  2. Add to a heatproof bowl one half cup boiling water and cashews. Let sit for 10 minutes to soften while you prepare other ingredients.
  3. To a large pot over medium heat add coconut oil (no need to melt it before measuring, just an estimate of 3 TBS is fine). This will be the base of our “buttery” flavor. Add onion and salt and stir, sautéing for about 5 minutes until onion is beginning to take on color. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds more. Turn heat to medium low as needed to prevent burning.
  4. Add in premixed spices to stir to combine. Let cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. This is a process known as “blooming” your spices. Next, add tomato paste and stir, letting cook for about 1 more minute. be sure to watch that it does not burn.
  5. Blend reserved cashews and water in a high speed blender until a smooth sauce forms, adding more water if needed. Add cashew cream to the pot with tomato paste and aromatics.
  6. Add 2 cups of water to the pan along with chickpeas. Bring this mixture up to a rapid simmer before removing from stove and adding in lemon juice. Serve warm with basmati rice or naan!
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stirring
  • Cuisine: Indian


  • Serving Size: One fourth of recipe
  • Calories: 269 calories
  • Sugar: 6.6 grams
  • Sodium: 762 mg
  • Fat: 15.9 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 9.3 grams
  • Unsaturated Fat: 6.6 grams
  • Trans Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 25.9 grams
  • Fiber: 6.2 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams

Keywords: chickpeas, butter, Indian, rice, naan, easy dinner, pantry meal

side view of a bowl of vegan butter chickpeas

Portrait of Emily Meyers, founder of Garlic Head

About the Author

Emily (Frigon) Meyers is the founder of Garlic Head, a plant-based recipe website for all eaters who want to easily, affordably, and sustainably incorporate more vegetables into their diets while saving time and money. She is a lifelong vegetarian and 10+ year vegan. Garlic Head does not focus on labels - it focuses on creating food that everyone can enjoy.

Emily earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University along with degrees in Economics, Spanish, and Global Sustainability from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been featured on numerous podcasts and websites including The Food Institute, VegNews, Buzzfeed, and the Boston Globe.

Meet Emily here.

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  1. Bella says

    This is my favorite recipe ever! Not only is it so amazing to eat, but it’s also incredibly easy to make. I am so happy with how it turns out every time!

  2. Maggie says

    Love this recipe and so does my 1 year old son and husband! Filling and delicious!

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