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A tikka masala-inspired vegetarian recipe minus the cream

Swap the cream and butter with cashew paste for a light weeknight meal of tikka masala-inspired tomato mushroom curry

This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for tomato mushroom curry. (Milk Street via AP)


LAST PUBLISHED 30.04.2024  |  01:30 PM IST

Many recipes for restaurant-style Indian curries such as tikka masala and butter chicken call for copious amounts of butter, yogurt and cream to give them a rich, satisfying texture. For a lighter vegetarian interpretation of the takeout classic, meaty cremini mushrooms stand in for chicken and pureed cashews make up the base of the curry.

In this recipe from Christopher Kimball’s book Cook What You Have, which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, the author softens cashews in a bit of water, then blends them until smooth to make a puree that lends a creamy texture without making the dish heavy.


The puree then is cooked with an aromatic mixture of onion, garlic, ginger, garam masala and paprika until it begins to brown, concentrating the flavors. Canned tomatoes and water are added to release any browned bits and ensure no flavor is left behind on the pan. Cremini mushrooms are simmered until tender and the sauce is creamy. If you have only white mushrooms on hand, they’ll work well, too.

Also read | How to boost flavours with home-made garam masala

For a pop of color, stir one-half cup thawed frozen peas into the curry at the end of cooking. Warm naan or nutty brown rice are wonderful accompaniments.

Tomato-Mushroom Curry
Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Half cup roasted salted cashews, plus 2 tablespoons chopped cashews, divided
3 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons hot paprika OR 2 teaspoons sweet paprika plus half teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
14½-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 pound cremini OR white mushrooms, trimmed, halved if medium, quartered if large

In a blender, combine the half cup cashews and one-third cup water; soak for about 10 minutes. Puree on high until smooth, scraping the jar as needed, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium flame, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 9 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, paprika and half teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cashew puree and cook, stirring often, until browned and sticking to the bottom of the skillet, about two minutes.


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Add the tomatoes and three-fourth cup water, scraping up the browned bits, then stir in the mushrooms and three-fourth teaspoon salt. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping along the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking, until the mushrooms are very tender and the sauce is creamy, 10 to 15 minutes. Off heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the chopped cashews.

Optional garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro or lemon wedges or both. 

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