Vegan “Butter” Chickpeas

Created by Laura Wright
5 from 19 votes

Spiced vegan "butter" chickpeas is a totally plant-based take on butter chicken/murgh makhani, a spiced, rich, tomato-based curry. Simple and quick to prepare. Rich, creamy, and flavourful.

Overhead shot of vegan butter chickpeas in an individual bowl with a torn piece of flatbread to the side.
Vegan butter chickpeas in a wide skillet, shot from overhead and garnished with whole cilantro sprigs.

Is this vegan “butter” chickpeas the ideal summer-to-fall bridge meal? I’m thinking so. This is my extremely plant-based take on the classic Indian dish butter chicken or murgh makhani, a spiced tomato-based curry. We keep all the spices, the tomatoes, and the richness too (with coconut oil and cashew cream)! But we sub in chickpeas as our protein and I’m telling you: it’s really good! Vegan Richa has a recipe for a vegan murgh makhani with soy curls and chickpeas that sounds meaty and amazing!

I’ve used the last of my garden tomatoes for the sauce in this vegan butter chickpeas dish. You could definitely use canned crushed tomatoes if yours are all gone already (or they’re out of season where you live). I just simply boiled mine so that I could slip the skins off, and then I crushed them by hand in a big bowl. It gives this saucy stew a bright and fresh note. 

This hearty main is super weeknight friendly too. It’s a basic sauté that you add spices, chickpeas, the tomatoes, and a quickly blended cashew cream to. Let it simmer for a tiny bit, adjust the seasonings to your needs, and then heat up some flatbread or put on a pot of rice. This recipe freezes well too.

Hope that you’re all enjoying this special transition season! We’ve been getting some cooler days and its making me so happy. Soup and stew weather is when I’m at my happiest :). I find this season is really potent in terms of creative energy and just motivation in general. Almost like a fresh start.

Among other things that I’m working on lately, I’ve decided to get with the times and up my email newsletter game! If you’ve signed up for my email list already, you know that you basically get a very boring notice in your inbox when a post comes up on the site with a tiny preview of the text and the recipe title. I’m hoping to share a little simple recipe every week along with an update on all of my work online, an article or two that I’m into, some things/products that are lighting me up etc! Basically a slightly condensed, more easily digestible version of my old happy hour posts. Sound good? I’m so excited for this!

Hope that everyone has a great week! Make these spiced vegan “butter” chickpeas! It’s guaranteed to get you in the cozy (and spooky) spirit of Fall ;)

Overhead up close shot of vegan butter chickpeas in an individual bowl with a torn piece of flatbread to the side.

Vegan “Butter” Chickpeas

Spiced vegan "butter" chickpeas is a totally whole food-based take on butter chicken. Simple and quick to prepare. Rich, creamy, and perfectly spiced.
5 from 19 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings 4 -6


  • cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
  • cup filtered water
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (mine weighed 550 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons unscented coconut oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, fine dice (about 1 ½ cups diced onion)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (from approximately 2 15-oz cans)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • chopped cilantro, for serving



  • Yes, 3 tablespoons of coconut oil is a lot! We’re trying to replicate the mega creamy texture of a typical butter chicken recipe, so we need to go ALL in. Feel free to reduce the oil if you need to.
  • I used unscented coconut oil because I find it to be the most “buttery” of all plant-based oils. If you don’t mind a strong coconut flavour (it would taste great!), you could certainly use virgin coconut oil.
  • Maybe the maple syrup seems like a “HUH?” ingredient, but we add it to the cashew cream to evoke that natural sweetness of real dairy cream. Again, it would be fine to leave out if added sugar is a concern.
  • If you’re using canned crushed tomatoes, you will need exactly 2 cups (16 ounces) for this recipe.


  • In an upright, high speed blender, combine the drained cashews, water, and maple syrup. Blend on high until you have a heavy cream-like consistency, about 1 minute. Set aside.
  • Set a saucepan full of water over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, cut an “X” into the bottom of the tomatoes and gently place them into the water. Once the skin starts peeling, remove the tomatoes from the water and set aside to cool. Once cool, cut the tomatoes in half and remove the core. Then, place the tomato halves in a medium bowl and crush them with your hands. You can leave this pretty rustic as you’ll be blending the sauce later on. Set aside.
  • Place a large, deep skillet (or braiser) over medium heat. Add the coconut oil to the skillet and swirl it around. Add the onions to the skillet and saute until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the skillet, and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Season liberally with salt and pepper and stir. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Then, add the cashew cream and stir.
  • Carefully transfer the sauce to an upright, high speed blender. Carefully blend the mixture on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Return the pureed sauce to the skillet on the stove. Add the chickpeas and stir. Bring the vegan “butter” chickpeas to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened and clinging to the chickpeas.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and check the dish for seasoning. Adjust salt/pepper/spice/acidity if necessary. Top the vegan “butter” chickpeas with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with rice or flatbread of choice.
11/09/2019 (Last Updated 18/03/2024)
Posted in: autumn, cashews, chickpeas, creamy, earthy, gluten free, main course, quick, salty, side dish, spicy, spring, summer, tomatoes, umami, vegan, winter


Recipe Rating

  • Indra

    5 stars
    Favorite curry recipe, thanks a lot!

  • Veronica

    5 stars
    I made this recipe and it was absolutely delicious wow! I added crushed red pepper for a bit of spiciness!

  • Eva

    Could I use olive oil in place of coconut oil (we cannot have), and if so can I compensate with some additional cashew cream? Thank you.

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Eva,
      Yes, you can definitely use an equal amount of olive oil instead! No need to make further adjustments as olive oil has a nice rich mouthfeel as well. Hope you enjoy! Do let me know if you have further questions.

  • Debbie

    This looks amazing – making it tonight for dinner! Do you know how many calories it is per serving?

  • B

    Not bashing but genuinely curious as to the lack of garam masala or turmeric in this recipe as they wouldn’t affect the vegan aspect and have been in any butter chicken recipe I have ever seen?

    • Laura

      Hi Brian,
      In this recipe, I took inspiration from the spices found in widely available garam masala blends and applied that to the spice blend that I used. When I was experimenting with this recipe, most recipes that incorporated turmeric used it as part of a marinade that was directly applied to the chicken before cooking. This step did not seem appropriate with my use of chickpeas.

  • Adam Simmons

    5 stars

  • Nivedita Chatterjee

    The gravy was amazing…but I would have loved if the chickpeas were softer.. if you can suggest me how to do that..

  • Robert

    This is an extremely unpleasant reading experience. Too many pictures.

    • Sid

      Chill out, Robert. Look at the pretty pictures.

  • Ashley MacKirdy

    made this the other night and it was perfection! used canned tomatoes. the sauce is so, so good. thank you!

  • Allie

    I made these and they are SO delicious!

  • Laurel

    Made this tonight and it was very good! We served it over wild rice, which made it much more filling. We liked ours with a bit more lemon and lots of salt to give it some extra tanginess. I used canned tomatoes and with our Vitamix, I didn’t have to soak the cashews very long. Came together super easy. Thank you!

  • Laurnie

    Made this for a weekend lunch and it was delicious!!! I had a moment of pause when I realized the sauce was going to be moved from the blender to the pot back to the blender, back to the pot, haha but it was super easy. In fact, everything came together so easily, I made some chapati to go along with it. Thank you for this simple, budget-friendly and delicious recipe!

  • April

    Made this tonight, it was delicious!!!!!!!

  • Sarah Millman

    Just made this and it was absolutely delicious! I didn’t have cashews, so I used the suggested alternative cup of coconut milk (I had coconut cream on hand, super rich & creamy). I also didn’t have fresh tomatoes on hand, so used an open jar of Rao’s sauce (was nervous about this, but it’s a nice sauce & I wanted to use it up. tastes great!). Finally, I had a Cha’s organic blend of Curry Masala, so I used that plus some paprika & the pinch of nutmeg – and honestly it’s so delicious! Thank you for solving my weeknight dilemma!

  • J3

    Very interested in receiving your news letter as I find your recipes to be delicious

  • Kim H

    Just ate this for dinner — DELICIOUS and so easy! Thank you, Laura, for reliable recipes that turn out as good as your photos. I did add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes onto my portion. Next time I will likely add at the same time as the rest of the spices. Thank you!

  • Handpan les workshop

    OMG, I loved butter chicken when I still ate meat, but never found a real substitute for it. This might be it! Thanks :D

  • Dana

    I made this and it is absolutely wonderful!

    • Elijah

      I Made this last night and its really good.I used a wooden salad bowl to present to our guest and they like it the taste also the presentation.

  • Caroline

    I made this for a class at the Buddhist Center today. It was a big hit! Scaling up for 40, I’m not sure I kept the proportions well, but I’ll make it again soon for just the family and use the amounts as written. People asked for the recipe, and I sent them the link, so you may have more fans, soon.

  • Melissa

    Made this for dinner last night! It turned out soo well.

    I was low on time so I used canned tomatoes and 1 cup of full-fat canned coconut milk in place of the cashew cream. I used 2 tsp of garam masala, 1 tsp curry powder and 1 tsp of chilli powder in place of the cardamon and the coriander because I was out of both.

    It was still amazing!!!! Fast and delicious. I will be making it again soon and maybe adding cauliflower for some extra vegetables.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Lynn Haslam

    Made this for dinner. It was pretty darned good!! Don’t add extra tomatoes – perfect as written. Next time I will double the batch to freeze. Thanks

  • Tania

    Just made this for dinner and it was delicious! I added some veg that needed to be used up, namely butternut, spinach and cauliflower and it all came together beautifully. Thanks, Laura, for your inspiring and tasty dishes!

  • jenny

    How many ounces of a can of crushed tomatoes do you suggest if you don’t have fresh tomatoes?

    • Laura

      2 cups or 16 ounces of crushed tomatoes will substitute for fresh.

  • M

    This looks amazing. Are there any decent, relatively quick subs for the cashew cream? Tree nut allergies over here.

    • Laura

      You could use 1 cup of full fat coconut milk if you don’t mind a more overt coconut flavour. I think it would be great here! You could also use 1 cup of plain, unsweetened soy creamer.

      • M

        I love coconut, so that sounds perfect! Thank you! :-)

  • Jill

    Yum! So perfect as we move toward fall. Looking forward to the “new” newsletter. I always click on what you send and appreciate your thoughtfulness and effort. :)

  • Tracey

    Ditto for me, i enjoy reading your newsletters.

  • Misty Pittman

    YASSSS! I’m so on board with this newsletter upgrade. Anyone who says “newsletters are dead” is wrong. I love a good note in my inbox from my favorite peeps.

    Also, this recipe is getting made.