This slow cooker creamy vegetable tikka masala is made with caramelized onions, hot peppers, tomato sauce, and cream (or coconut cream).
When life gets a little stressful, I (almost without fail) begin craving Indian food. I also start buying orchids and other houseplants, but that's probably beside the point.
At any rate, I've been craving Indian take-out constantly.
Unfortunately, the closest Indian restaurant is an hour away in Lexington, Kentucky, so I can't get take-out as often as I'd like.
Good for the wallet; sad for the soul.
If you happen to be in Lexington and want Indian food, make sure to check out Tandoor (our current favorite).
However, since my goal for the year is to adapt and adjust, I decided to make my own restaurant-style Indian food at home.
This vegetable tikka masala is a delicious meal that's easy to prepare in a slow cooker and will satisfy your craving for Indian take-out.
This recipe is not an authentic Indian recipe. Instead, it's an Indian-inspired meal made with ingredients that are easy to find in my area.
What is Vegetable Tikka Masala?
Vegetable tikka masala is a vegetarian version of chicken tikka masala, a creamy dish made with spiced chicken, tomato sauce, and cream.
This vegetarian version skips the meat and swaps mixed vegetables.
Do I Need Special Spices?
For this recipe, you'll need garam masala, an Indian spice mixture.
Garam masala should be easy to find in your local grocery stores, depending on where you shop. They carry it at both Whole Foods and Kroger, but I haven't found it at Walmart yet.
You can also buy garam masala online.
What Type of Vegetables Should I Use in Tikka Masala?
I treat this as a "clean out the fridge" kind of meal. In other words, it's a perfect way to use whatever veggies you've got on hand.
It's especially delicious made with cold-weather veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.
This is also a perfect recipe in which to use a frozen bag of mixed vegetables.
Is The Sauce Mild or Spicy?
It's either. Make it as mild or hot as you prefer.
Check the recipe card notes for tips on how to adjust the heat level.
Can I Use a Different Type of Hot Pepper?
This recipe uses serrano peppers, a slightly spicy pepper that should be relatively easy to find in the produce section. They're also one of my favorite hot peppers to grow in the garden!
However, feel free to swap the serrano for your favorite hot peppers, or whichever hot peppers you have on hand. Keep in mind that the heat level of your peppers will affect the heat level of the finished meal.
Can I Use Milk Instead of Cream?
You sure can!
In fact, I often do.
If you use cream, you'll get a rich, restaurant-style vegetable tikka masala. If you use milk, it will still be delicious, just slightly less creamy.
Check the recipe card notes for tips on swapping milk for cream.
Can I Use a Pressure Cooker Instead?
I haven't had great success making this recipe in a pressure cooker.
The sauce is too thick and usually triggers a burn warning in my Instant Pot.
Slow Cooker vs. Multi-Cooker for Vegetable Tikka Masala
This recipe requires a few stovetop steps before being added to the slow cooker.
I know it's annoying, but the meal will taste about a thousand times better than if you skip those steps.
If you own a multi-cooker with a slow cooker setting, it will make preparing this meal a little easier because you can cook the entire meal in the same pot using the sauté feature.
How to Make Slow Cooker Vegetable Tikka Masala
Start by caramelizing an onion.
If you're using an Instant Pot or another multi-cooker, do it in the pot. If you're using a traditional slow cooker, you'll need to use the stove top for this part.
How to Make the Sauce
Start by melting butter or ghee and then adding diced onions. Cook for about five minutes or until the onions soften.
Next, add the diced peppers and salt. Continue to cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the onions begin to caramelize.
Stir in the garam masala, paprika, and cayenne.
Optionally, use an immersion blender or a traditional stand blender to blend the onions and peppers together with tomato sauce and garlic.
If you skip this step, your sauce won't be as smooth, but it will still be delicious.
Slow Cook The Sauce
Stir your mixed vegetables into the sauce and cook for 4 to 6 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
Before serving, stir in the cream and adjust the seasoning.
Vegetable Tikka Masala
- 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 serrano pepper, diced Or more, see Recipe Notes for heat levels
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne (optional) Or more, see Recipe Notes for heat levels
- 28 ounces tomato sauce (marinara) Or use diced tomatoes
- 5 garlic cloves
- 3 cups chopped mixed vegetables, fresh or frozen (~16-20oz) See Recipe Notes for vegetable tips
- 2 cups heavy cream or 14oz can coconut cream See Recipe Notes to swap milk
- To serve: basmati or jasmine rice and/or naan (Serve with cauliflower rice for a low carb option.)
On the stovetop (or using the sauté feature in a multi-cooker):
- Melt the butter or ghee in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the diced onion and cook until it softens, about five minutes.Add the diced peppers and salt, and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, or until the onions begin to caramelize. If the onions begin to stick to the pan while cooking, simply add a few drops of water and stir.Stir in the garam masala, paprika and cayenne.
Blender (Optional Step):
- Blender Basin: Add the onion and pepper mixture to a blender basin. Add the tomato sauce and the garlic. Blend until smooth, and then pour into the slow cooker.Immersion Blender: If using a multi-cooker, it might be easier to use an immersion blender in the pot. (It may be easiest if you tilt the pot to the side slightly to help make the sauce thicker in one area while blending.)
- Add the vegetables and stir the sauce and veggies together.Cover the slow cooker and cook for 4 to 6 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
- A few minutes before serving, stir in the cream. Cover the slow cooker and cook until the sauce is warm again.Taste the curry. If desired, add more cayenne (for additional heat).Serve along with rice (or cauliflower rice). Leftovers can be refrigerated and used within three days.
- Mild: Remove the seeds and membrane from the serrano pepper.
- Medium-Hot: Leave the pepper seeds + membrane; add more peppers if desired.
- Extra-Hot: Swap the serrano for a hotter type of pepper.
- If it's not spicy enough: Taste the sauce after adding the cream. To make it hotter, add extra cayenne to taste, and simmer another five minutes.
- If it's too spicy: Add extra cream.
- This recipe works well with vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, and bell peppers.
- Frozen mixed medley vegetable bags work well here.