Why does chicken get to have all the tikka masala fun? In this Indian-inspired vegetarian dish, we’ve swapped in cauliflower for the traditional protein, with sensational, plate-licking results. The cauliflower florets are battered and baked until crispy, then coated in the creamy, flavorful tikka masala sauce. A side of garlicky naan and ginger-infused sautéed spinach round out this better-than-takeout dinner.
5 ounces baby spinach
1 pound cauliflower florets
¼ ounce ginger
2 cloves garlic, divided
½ cup flour
2 naan breads
2 tablespoons ghee, divided
1 tablespoon tikka masala curry paste
1 cup tomato purée
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 parchment paper
½ tablespoon canola oil
½ cup water
2 baking sheets
2 12″ large pans
The whole ginger knob will season the spinach with its aromatic flavor during cooking, but won’t be pleasant to bite into. We recommend discarding it before serving.
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Rinse spinach. Rinse cauliflower florets and cut to 1-inch wide florets, if needed. Trim and discard skin of ginger. Mince garlic. Peel shallot and thinly slice. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and rub parchment with .5 tablespoon canola oil. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, .5 cup water, and .25 teaspoon salt to combine.
Add cauliflower florets to bowl with batter and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon to allow excess batter to drip off, transfer cauliflower onto prepared baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake cauliflower until golden brown, 22-25 minutes, then allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Loosen from parchment and set aside.
While cauliflower bakes, line a separate baking sheet with foil and place naan on foil. Heat half of ghee in a large pan over medium heat. When ghee is just melted, add half of garlic to pan and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Pour garlic and ghee over naan, spreading to fully coat, then transfer to oven and toast until naan is crisp and garlic is fragrant, 5 minutes. Remove from oven, stack, and wrap in foil to keep warm.
Add curry paste and remaining garlic to pan from ghee over medium heat and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato purée and whisk to fully combine. Increase heat to high and bring sauce to a boil, then reduce to medium and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced, 3-4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in heavy cream. Season with .25 teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Set aside until Step 6.
Heat remaining ghee in a separate large pan over medium heat. When ghee is just melted, add whole knob ginger and shallot to pan and cook until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Add spinach to pan and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Season with .25 teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Remove and discard ginger knob (see Recipe Tip). Transfer spinach to serving plates.
Return pan with tikka masala sauce to medium heat. Add roasted cauliflower to pan and toss to fully coat and warm through. Transfer cauliflower tikka masala to serving plates with spinach, spooning over any remaining sauce. Tear garlic naan into pieces and serve alongside. Dig in!