“Wow, this was a bit of a process but oh so worth it! Felt like we were dining at a fine Indian restaurant. Basically I’m committed to cooking whatever you put on here because I know it will be good” ~Andi
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you love Indian food?
- Indian Style Saffron Rice
- Lemon Chicken Biryani
- Lamb and Eggplant Tikka Masala
- Chicken Pakora with Plum Chutney
- Spicy Mango Persimmon Chutney
Chicken Tikka Masala
- heavy bottomed stock pot
- 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
- 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
- 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.
*Recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit
Questions and Reviews
Wow, this was a bit of a process but oh so worth it! Felt like we were dining at a fine Indian restaurant. Basically I’m committed to cooking whatever you put on here because I know it will be good……..<3
Thanks Andi 🙂
FOR SUE: Google says: As a rough guideline, there are about a dozen seeds per pod, and 10 pods will produce about 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cardamom. (hope this helps but not sure…good luck )
Please add me to your mailing list…great recipes!
Thanks Darlene, I’ll add you, welcome in!
Hi Sue, how much ground cardamom would I use in place of the pods?? I’m afraid to just guess as I wouldn’t want to over do it. Thanks…recipe looks divine!
This sounds devine — could it be made into an Instant Pot recipe? I love all you give us!
Hi Diane ~ I guess you could do this in an instant pot, but it’s one of those recipes that doesn’t really benefit from pressure cooking because it only cooks for about 30 or so minutes. You’d still have to do the browning manually on the IP, and then wait for the machine to come up and down in pressure on both ends, I don’t think you’d save any time!
Please add me to your email list. So far I love your recipes.
Sure thing Cheryl, welcome in 🙂
Why do you specifically say not to use Greek yogurt in this recipe?
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.
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!
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.
Sue, I was about to ask about the cardamom pods too. I’ve always thought the outer pod was to be discarded, because they’re so woody. Do you actually leave them in, and eat them? In the past, I’ve always taken the seeds out of cardamom and ground them in a spice mill, to release more flavor.
My husband loves the cardamom pods, so I leave them in, but I don’t like them myself. You can definitely use just the seeds.
I made this for dinner tonight. Incredible! And so easy. I added eggplant and it was devine.
So glad you made it, we loved it. I am planning a vegetable version for the blog this fall. Eggplant sounds great.
Just made this with coconut milk…. awesome!! Great background flavor layer.