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Chicken Tikka Masala

Heavily marinated in a mixture of yogurt, ginger, garlic and a multitude of Indian spices, chicken tikka masala is the addictive equivalent of Indian comfort food - its is extremely quick and easy to prepare, but for best results, the chicken really should be marinated overnight. Note: While the ingredient list looks alarmingly long, all ingredients are most likely already in your pantry..
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Servings: 8 people


Chicken Marinade

  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoon hot chilli powder or paprika for less heat
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder optional
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoon vegetable oil

Tikka Masala Sauce

  • 4 tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 4 cardamom pods crushed, optional
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • ½ tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 cup water as needed
  • 2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder optional
  • 2 teaspoon hot chilli powder or paprika for less heat
  • 8 green chillies optional
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala or substitute a cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup fresh coriander leaves chopped


  • Marinate the chicken: Add all the ingredients for the chicken marinade into a large bowl. Mix well. Add the chicken and mix with the marinade. Cover and refridgerate to marinate overnight.
  • Broil the marinated chicken: Put the chicken on skewers and broil about 5 minutes each side. The chicken should be lightly charred. The chicken can be broiled while the sauce is being prepared. Note: If using bamboo skewers, the skewers need to be soaked in water prior to use.
  • Create the sauce: Add the ghee to a pot on medium heat. When the ghee is hot, add the onions and cardamon. Saute until the onions are transparent. Add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the water first and then the remaining spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, hot chilli, green chillis, garam masala and salt). Simmer for about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and continue to simmer - about 5 minutes. Reduce the flame to low and add the heavy cream and sugar. Stir and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add the coriander.
  • The chicken tikka masala can be served immediately or later. The dish is best if the broiled chicken pieces marinate in the sauce for at least an hour. Chicken tikka masala pairs very well with plain white rice, naan or other flatbreads.
  • Wine Pairing - I have found that a medium-bodied, vibrant and crisp Riesling, particularly those from the Ancient Lakes near Quincy, Washington, strongly complement the complex flavors of this dish. The best ones that I have had with this dish have notes of white peach, honeysuckle and lots of citrus blossom.


Meat type:  While I have seen many use chicken breasts for this recipe, I have a preference for chicken thigh meat as it tends to be juicier after broiling and absorbs the marinade very well.  Chicken breast meat tends to overcook due to the high temperature grilling Heat intensity:  To reduce the heat in this dish, subsitute the hot chilli powder with paprika.  To make it hotter, add crushed red chilli flakes.  Adding the crushed red chilli flakes earlier while the sauce is still cooking will result in the heat being uniformly distributed throughout the sauce. Frying vs. Broiling:    I have noticed that several recipes suggest that you fry the chicken instead of broiling it.  I have not had much success because the heavy marinade covering the chicken tends to make my chicken steam and not fry.  To get the charred effect through frying, you would need to somehow reduce the amount of marinade on the chicken.  That being said, if you do not have a broiler and just want to skip the broiling and frying, you get a pretty fantastic dish which is more like a yogurt based curry rather than a "tikka" based one. Grilling vs. Broiling:  Grilling the chicken on a charcoal grill as opposed to broiling it in the oven, takes this dish up to another level. Blending vs. Mixing the Marinade:  I have tried both ways and have not found much difference since all the ingredients are in liquid or powder form. Tomato Sauce Alternatives:  You can use any canned tomato as long as you break the chunks so that the spices are evenly distributed.  While there are many recipes on cooking Chicken Tikka Masala with fresh tomatoes, this has not worked for me because the resulting sauce is too watery and took too long to reduce to the right consistency. Red vs. White Onions:  Personally, I have a preference for red onions as it makes the dish sweeter. Low fat substitutions:  Ghee and cream make a big difference in taste but if you are watching calories you can substitute vegetable oil for the ghee and evaporated milk for the cream.