Meals, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian
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vegan cranberry bean and summer greens tikka masala

meatless tikka masala

This recipe should also be known as what I did with the random assortment of leftovers in my fridge.

vegan tikka masala ingredientsEvery once in a while when I am feeling overwhelmed and uninspired, I turn to cookbooks and blogs for recipes and meal plans. Most of the time, though, I listen to Craig and to what my body (and my mind and my soul) need and crave. I find inspiration in the fresh ingredients at the market. I rarely go with a shopping list and instead piece together meals as I pick out raw ingredients. Sometimes I have a very general outline — I need greens, beans, herbs, mushrooms. Sometimes a whole chicken. Sometimes not.

It can be difficult to cook this way. I know not everyone has the time or the interest to cook this way. And, I’ll admit, I still struggle with leftovers and reducing waste. Sometimes I get an idea and then it doesn’t work. Sometimes a recipe needs to be tweaked multiple times, but I still need to get dinner ready and on the table. And sometimes the inspiration dissipates and what I wanted to make turns into a different dish entirely.

I obsessed over this dish for weeks. It started with leftover cranberry beans. I had bought some dried beans at the market (for soup? for chili? I don’t remember), and I had a bundle of collard greens waiting patiently to be used. (This is what happens sometimes when you buy on a whim without a plan. Stuff just sits.) The first of the spring peas had just arrived at the market, too. Bright green, plump and ever-so-sweet.

The next week, collards had already disappeared from the market. But there was beautiful, tender, light green chard and hearty purple kale.

local chard and kaleThis recipe is about using what you’ve got and finding new ways to make ordinary ingredients and pantry staples shine. Don’t have cranberry beans? Use whatever you have — butter beans, garbanzos, kidney, or even cannellini beans would work well. Same for the greens. Any kind of robust green will do in this recipe. (A lighter, more tender leaf like spinach doesn’t need to cook down quite so much, so those kinds of greens should be added later in the cooking process. They’re still equally good.) Use frozen peas if you don’t have fresh. Similarly, thick cream-top whole milk or Greek yogurt or coconut milk can be swirled in at the end. Just a little something creamy.

gluten free tikka masalaYou could, of course, use chicken in this dish to make something more akin to the traditional tikka masala. (In fact, I did just that on the second day of this dish’s life. To use up as many leftovers as possible, I added leftover shredded rotisserie chicken.)

I chose beans in part because they were hanging out in my fridge, begging to be used up. I also used them because I’ve been trying to explore alternative, plant-based sources of protein. Years ago, my doctor advised me to start taking niacin supplements to help my heart. I just discovered that beans are a niacin nirvana and thus have been trying to incorporate them more into my diet. (Did you know that the Native Americans planted — and ate — corn and beans together, since corn is severely deficient in niacin?)

vegan tikka masala with beans

You don’t have to become a vegan. You can become a plant-passionate, plant-inspired bean lover!
— Kris Carr

Plant passionate. Resourceful. Creative. Call it whatever you’d like. Let’s eat!

Local List

  • Cranberry beans
  • Cilantro
  • English peas
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Swiss chard
  • Yogurt

tikka masala with beans

Gluten-Free and Vegan Tikka Masala with Beans, Greens and Peas

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
  • Print


1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon Indian celery
¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh shelled (or frozen) peas
4 cups chopped greens
2 14.5-ounce cans chopped tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ cup heavy cream/yogurt/full-fat coconut milk

To serve:
Cooked basmati rice
Chopped cilantro


Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the coconut oil is melted and shimmering, add the onion and saute until soft and translucent (about five minutes).

While the onions are cooking, puree the two cans of chopped tomatoes in a blender with one can full of water. Set aside.

Add the ginger and garlic to the skillet and saute for about 30-60 seconds until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste and continue to cook until the onions are coated and the mix has darkened in color (about three minutes). Add the spices and saute for another minute until fragrant. Stir in the tomato-water mixture. Cover the pan with a splatter screen and bring to a boil.

If you are using fresh peas: Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add enough salt so the water tastes salty and blanch the peas for about five minutes. Strain and run the peas under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. (Skip this step if you’re using frozen peas.)

When the tomato mixture has started to bubble and boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Working in batches, stir in the greens until they’re starting to wilt. Season the pan with salt and pepper and let them simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the blanched (or frozen) peas and cooked beans. Let the mix continue to simmer for another five minutes.

Do a quick taste test to make sure the greens, peas and beans are cooked through and soft. If necessary, let the mix simmer for a few more minutes. (If it’s looking a little dry, add a splash more water.)

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream/yogurt/coconut milk.

Serve with cooked basmati rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

vegan tikka masalaAre you plant impassioned yet? I’m hungry.


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