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
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? We sure do ~
- Indian Style Saffron Rice
- Lamb and Eggplant Tikka Masala
- Chicken Pakora with Plum Chutney
- Spicy Mango Persimmon Chutney
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!
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.
notes and variations
*Recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit