Chicken Tikka Masala

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Photography Credit: Lisa Lin

My husband is British, and therefore incredibly picky about Indian food. He bemoans the lack of restaurants that serve “proper curries” in our neighborhood.

This is why, on our annual trek back to UK to visit his family over the holidays, we’ve started the tradition of going to an Indian restaurant on New Year’s Eve. We skip the champagne, the sparkles, and the countdown in favor of eating our fill of spicy curry.

In an effort to ensure that we’re not deprived of Indian food the rest of the year, I am learning how to cook more Indian dishes at home. I’m starting off with the quintessential British Indian dish: chicken tikka masala.

The recipe calls for a number of spices, but they all add to the deep flavors of the tikka masala. This recipe is worth the raid on your spice cupboard.

My husband and I both preferred it with a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper. However, if you prefer less spice, you can cut that back to just a quarter teaspoon or just leave it out entirely.

For the best flavor, you’ll also want to marinade the chicken for 4 to 6 hours, or even overnight. This gives the meat time to fully absorb the spicy marinade. However, if you’re in a time crunch, you can just marinate the meat for about 45 minutes.

My husband gave this dish his seal of approval. I hope you like it too!

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Leftover chicken tikka masala tastes phenomenal the next day because the spices develop more flavor overnight.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a mix
  • 6 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt
  • ½ tablespoon grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt

For the curry:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced (about 5 ounces, or 1 1/2 cups sliced)
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes (regular crushed tomatoes work, too)
  • 6 tablespoons whole plain yogurt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooked rice, to serve
  • Cilantro, to garnish

Method

1 Prepare the chicken: Trim chicken thighs of any extra fat. Chop into bite-sized pieces about ½ to 1 inch wide. Place the chicken thigh pieces to a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika and salt. Using your hands, combine the chicken with the spices until the chicken is evenly coated.

2 Marinate the chicken: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 45 minutes or as long as overnight. (Marinating for 4 to 6 hours is perfect.)

3 Cook the chicken: In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thigh pieces and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes, until they’re cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

4 Toast the spices: Wipe down the pan you used to cook the chicken. Heat remaining canola oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, until softened, stirring often. Add the grated ginger, minced garlic, coriander, paprika, garam masala, turmeric, black pepper, salt and cayenne. Let the spices cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute.

5 Make the sauce: Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan with the spices and let everything cook for 4 minutes, stirring often. Add the yogurt and stir to combine.

6 Simmer the sauce: Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer for another 4 minutes. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and coat with sauce.

7 Serve: Serve over cooked basmati rice and garnish with cilantro.

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Lisa Lin

Lisa Lin is the writer and photographer behind Healthy Nibbles & Bits, where she shares simple, gluten-free recipes. She grew up in San Francisco and spent time living in China and Washington, D.C. before moving back to California. Her recipes are often inspired by her time in China and travel throughout Southeast Asia.

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Showing 4 of 44 Comments

  • Poppy

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. I’ve tried several chicken tikka masala recipes and this one is a keeper. My kids and even my picky husband loved it. I did double the sauce because my kids like the extra sauce for their naan. Thank you for the tasty recipe!

  • Dasha

    Would this recipe work with sour cream for the sauce instead of yogurt? I make a similar dish using full fat coconut milk, but it seems, at least according to our Indian friends, that it puts the dish into Thai curry category. I’d like to try this as written but with more sauce as many pointed out that there won’t be much. I wonder if sour cream will do the trick. Or maybe just double the sauce ingredients? Thanks!

  • Malika A. Black

    I love Indian Cuisine because of the spices. Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my favorite go to easy meals besides Chicken Curry.

    The yogurt makes the chicken tender and moist.

    This dish is so delicious served over Basmati rice or couscous (I love couscous, I’m North-African ! :) )

    Thanks for this recipe Lisa.

  • Gloria

    I made this recipe today for dinner. Pretty much followed it to the letter except I let the chicken pieces cook completely in the sauce and skipped the third step (I was so eager to start the sauce I forgot I was supposed to sautee the chicken first). My family loved it anyway! Next time I’ll try to remember to cook the chicken first :). Thanks for a nice, tasty recipe!

  • HB

    For restaurant style, you need 2 things – Maggi Hot Chilli Sauce (or concentrated tomato paste) and Kasuri Methi (Dried Fenugreek Leaves). Also, no yogurt.

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