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Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe




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chicken tikka masala in a bowl with rice and naan bread

Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular Indian restaurant dish in the Western world, and with this recipe you can enjoy it any day of the week, right in your own kitchen!  This easy authentic tikka masala recipe is the only one you’ll ever need.

chicken tikka masala with basmati rice in a bowl

 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish from Northern India made with chicken that has been marinated in spices and yogurt, then grilled and added to a creamy curry sauce.

 This dish is all about the sauce and the chicken; the name translates to chunks (tikka) of chicken in a mix of spices (masala).   The mix of spices is just perfect ~ not too heavy or too ‘spicy’, which is probably part of the reason it’s so universally popular.   Once you have these Indian spices in your cabinet, it’s an easy recipe to put together, and believe me, you’re going to want to make it often.

chicken tikka masala in a bowl with rice and naan bread

Spices for this chicken curry recipe

  • turmeric ~ the dried and powdered form of the turmeric root, a bright orange root similar to ginger.
  • coriander ~ dried and powdered seed pods of the cilantro plant.
  • cumin ~ powdered cumin seeds.
  • garam masala ~ a custom blend of Indian spices that can vary greatly.  Look for it in better grocery stores, or online.
  • crushed chili flakes ~ for a little kick, customize it to your liking.

Lots of fresh garlic, ginger, and cilantro round out the lineup of flavors.

spices and flavorings for chicken tikka masala

A spiced yogurt marinade is key to chicken tikka masala

Plain boneless skinless chicken breast is marinated in yogurt that has been mixed with all those wonderful spices.  You can marinate for as little as an hour, but overnight is even better because the yogurt tenderizes the chicken and the meat gets a chance to soak up all that flavor.

yogurt marinated chicken

Broiling the chicken mimics the high heat of the traditional Indian tandoor oven

Indian tandoor ovens are super hot clay ovens that give foods like chicken and naan bread a fabulous seared flavor.  To get that same blistering effect you can put your chicken right up next to your broiler and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping once, until it becomes charred.  The chicken will continue to cook in the sauce itself.

I like to cut the boneless skinless chicken breasts in large uneven chunks for tikka masala.

yogurt marinated chicken charred

Tikka Masala for special diets ~

Vegan tikka masala

  • Substitute panner (Indian cheese) for the chicken for a delicious alternative.  Omit the cream and substitute a plant based yogurt for the marinade, coconut would be perfect.

Paleo and low carb chicken tikka masala

  • For Paleo, omit the cream and sugar, and serve with cauliflower rice.
  • Tikka masala is naturally low carb if you omit the tiny bit of sugar, and serve with cauliflower rice, or roasted cauliflower florets in place of regular rice and naan.

Whole 30 chicken tikka masala

  • Omit the sugar and cream.

Lower calorie chicken tikka masala

  • Omit the cream and use a light coconut milk.  You may need to cook down your sauce a bit more to thicken it up.

Make this chicken curry ahead

  • This is the ideal make ahead meal, it can be fully assembled up to 3 days ahead.

chicken tikka masala in a large white pot

Do you love Indian food?  We sure do ~

 


VINTAGE VIEW ~ this Chicken Tikka Masala is from TVFGI archives, first published in 2013.  I’ve updated the recipe and taken new photos. This classic Indian meal is one that our whole family has loved over the years, so I’m excited to bring this one out of the ‘vaults’ and into the light again!


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4 from 10 votes

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular Indian restaurant dish in the Western world, and with this recipe you can enjoy it any day of the week, right in your own kitchen!  This easy authentic tikka masala recipe is the only one you'll ever need.
Course dinner
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Yield 4 servings

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed stock pot

Ingredients

spice mix

  • 4 tsp dried turmeric
  • 3 tsp powdered coriander
  • 3 tsp powdered cumin
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

chicken

  • 1 cup plain, full fat yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
  • 1 1/2 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts

for the sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion halved and thinly sliced
  • 10 cardamom pods that you've crushed open (don't loose the seeds!)
  • 4 ounces or a small can of tomato paste.
  • 28 oz can of good quality whole peeled tomatoes
  • 13 ounce can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  • Mix all the spices together. Take about 1/3 of the mixture and stir it into the yogurt in a medium bowl. Slice the chicken breaksts in half lengthwise and add to the bowl, coating completely with the spiced yogurt. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to overnight.
  • Meanwhile put the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed stock pot and add the onions
  • Put the chicken on a foil covered baking sheet (leave the yogurt coating on) and put in the broiler for about 10 minutes until the surface starts to char, turning once. The chicken will not be completely cooked, it will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Cut the chicken into large chunks and set aside.
  • To make the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot and saute the onions, tomato paste, and cardamom pods for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add the remaining spice mix to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 5 more minutes. The spices will start to brown on the bottom of the pan, that's good, but be careful not to let them burn.
  • Add the tomatoes, crushing them through your fingers as you add them. You can also puree the tomatoes first, or used crushed tomatoes. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring up to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook the sauce for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the coconut milk, the sugar, and 2 Tbsp of the fresh chopped cilantro. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let the sauce cook very gently, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. At this point I pureed my sauce because I wanted it super smooth, but that's optional.
  • Add the chicken and the heavy cream, and finish cooking for another 10 minutes. Check the seasonings and add salt to taste.
  • Serve with basmati rice, garnished with lots of fresh cilantro. Serve yogurt, naan bread, and chutney on the side.

Notes

To crush the cardamom pods, roll over them gently with a rolling pin, but don’t lose any of the precious little black seeds! Be sure to chop your chicken in large chunks, it’s more authentic that way and it gives the dish a more appealing look.

*Recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit

chicken tikka masala pin

 

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20 Comments

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  • Reply
    Michael Hunt
    April 3, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Sue,
    Why do you specifically say not to use Greek yogurt in this recipe?

    • Reply
      Sue
      April 3, 2020 at 4:47 pm

      It’s traditional to use a full fat creamy style yogurt in this type of recipe, it will incorporate better into the sauce. But use Greek yogurt if that’s all you’ve got, you’ll be fine.

  • Reply
    Nancy
    December 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Help! I’m confused about the cardamon pod and seeds. In your notes, you explain how to crush the pods and be careful not to loose the seeds. In step 5 you instruct to add the pods to the sauce and don’t mention the seeds. So my question is: do you add the crushed pods AND the seeds to the sauce? Or do you save the seeds for another use? Do the pods cook down or need removing when the sauce is finished? If you can’t find pods at the store, can you use cardamon powder instead (which I do have)? Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 18, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      Yes, Nancy, the pods always include the seeds, sorry for the confusion! And the pods traditionally stay in the sauce, they’re delightful when you get one in a bite. You can use powdered cardamom in a pinch.

  • Reply
    Emily
    August 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    5 stars
    I made this for dinner tonight. Incredible! And so easy. I added eggplant and it was devine.

    • Reply
      Sue
      August 23, 2013 at 9:32 am

      So glad you made it, we loved it. I am planning a vegetable version for the blog this fall. Eggplant sounds great.

  • Reply
    Kate
    June 26, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    5 stars
    Just made this with coconut milk…. awesome!! Great background flavor layer.

  • Reply
    belleau kitchen
    June 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    my favourite meal!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 15, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Ours too 🙂

  • Reply
    Kate
    June 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Great flavor addition of coconut milk for the cream. I, sometimes, substitute evaporated milk for heavy cream but using coconut milk here sounds much better. You always have good ideas here.

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    June 23, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    Love, Love, Love Chicken Tikka Masala and your recipe sounds fantastic!

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    June 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

    When I look at this I can just imagine how good it smells. – this is one of my favourite indian dishes. Love it.

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    June 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I love the color of the sauce. I am not usually a fan of Indian food, but this really looks delicious.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 15, 2019 at 1:24 pm

      This is the dish to try if you’re not sure about Indian food, it’s fairly mild, and really delish.

  • Reply
    Sophie Brown
    June 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    This looks DELICIOUS. Going to have to try this one out!

  • Reply
    MD White
    June 23, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Funny! We were just at a craft show with food booths. They were cooking chicken Tikka Tikka there. They took whole pieces of chicken (legs or breasts) that were marinated in the sauce and skewered it. Then they bbq’ed it over hot bed of coals. Delish!

    I was just telling my husband, that I wanted to try this at home! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Reply
    Maria
    June 23, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my absolute favorites whenever I have Indian food!!!!! I looove the flavor of the sauce! Yours looks amazing!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Inside a British Mum's Kitchen
    June 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    This is making my taste buds go into overdrive! fabulous chicken tikka masala recipe.
    Mary x

  • Reply
    Gerlinde in Dallas
    June 22, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    I make this dish a lot and love trying out slightly different versions of it.I’ll be giving this a try soon.

    Btw, Whole Foods, at least here in Dallas as well as Sprouts both have spice counters in their bulk food sections. For pennies you can purchase small amounts from a large selection of spices and 99% of the time they are very fresh!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 15, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      Great tip, thanks!