Chicken Tikka Masala


Chicken Tikka Masala! Very EASY to make on the stovetop. Just like take-out! Ready in 30 minutes, plus marinating time.

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

  • 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.

Avoid using Greek yogurt if possible for this recipe. If it's all you can find, buy the Greek yogurt with the highest fat content you can find and mix it with a little whole milk to get the consistency of regular yogurt.


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 ground 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 plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooked rice, to serve
  • Cilantro, to garnish


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.

More from Lisa

Showing 4 of 62 Comments / Reviews

  • Howar mitchell

    I’m not sure what I did wrong but I tried to follow this recipe but my chicken tiki masala turned out to be very mild (not spicy). The fired roasted crushed tomatoes seemed to overwhelm the taste of the entire dish. I tried again by cutting the crushed tomato volume in half (replacing with water) and it was better but still not spicy enough. Also there was very little aroma to the dish. I was expecting strong aroma and strong seasoning. If you have any advice for I would appreciate it. Thank you.


  • Sylvia

    Very good recipe, a few recommendations:

    • use GROUND coriander instead of coriander seeds, I didn’t like chewing into the seeds
    • could use more sauce, mine was very thick but still good.
    • cut down on the cayenne pepper. I only used 1 tsp and I was sweating and it later upset my stomach because it was so spicy lol.

    Otherwise, this is a very solid recipe, I recommend.


  • ASato

    Is there a way to prevent the yogurt from curdling when you fry the chicken pieces? This recipe was great for the most part, but the yogurt was a bit “lumpy” (not sure how else to describe the consistency when I fried the chicken and added it to the sauce. I used whole milk yogurt. Is low-fat better?

  • Janet M.

    Looks delicious, but unfortunately I can’t eat tomatoes. What do you suggest I use instead? (Okay to reply privately.) Thanks in advance!

  • Sharon

    I have a collection of Tikka Masala recipes, but this is my favorite so far! Mine came out with plenty of sauce, maybe because I wasn’t measuring the yogurt but guessing. I couldn’t find my coriander, so I used a Penzey’s curry powder and did not add more turmeric, and it worked out well. I served with rice and an easy side dish that we once had on an Indian buffet – fried okra (no breading) until crisply, then seasoned with Indian spices. Thank you!

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Chicken Tikka Masala