Chicken tikka masala is a delicious and flavorful Indian dish of tender chicken in a creamy, lightly spiced tomato sauce. While its origins are debated, it has become one of the most popular Indian restaurant offerings.
This recipe marinates chicken in a aromatic yogurt sauce, then bakes it until caramelized. The chicken is then simmered in an incredible masala sauce bursting with warm spices and finished with cream.
With 30 minutes of active time, you can have authentic tasting chicken tikka masala ready right at home. Serve with rice for a satisfying weeknight dinner.
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 cup butter or ghee
- 1 onion, diced
- 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
- Chopped cilantro, rice, naan bread for serving
- Baking sheet
- Small bowl
- Large skillet
- Wooden spoon
- Measuring spoons
Marinate the Chicken
- In a bowl, combine the chicken, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes up to overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange chicken on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until lightly charred, about 10 minutes.
Make the Sauce
- In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter or ghee. Sauté onion until soft, 3-4 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Add baked chicken and any juices to the pan. Simmer 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
- Just before serving, stir in heavy cream. Garnish with cilantro.
- Serve over basmati rice with naan for dipping in the sauces.
- Garnish with diced onion, chopped cilantro, sliced almonds.
- Accompany with pappadams, mango chutney, mint raita.
Prep Time: 10 minutes marinate, 5 minutes prep
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes active
Yield: 4 main course servings
Tips for Authentic Flavor
To nail the signature taste of chicken tikka masala:
- Use full-fat Greek yogurt in the marinade. Avoid non-fat.
- Bake chicken first to help retain moisture when simmered in sauce.
- Sauté onion well to sweeten before adding tomatoes.
- Simmer the sauce long enough to meld flavors, at least 10 minutes.
- Finish with heavy cream to balance acidity of tomatoes.
- Add garam masala and cumin to the marinade and sauce.
Choosing the Best Chicken
Chicken breast works but thigh meat is ideal for:
- Added moisture and fat to prevent drying out
- Withstanding longer marinating and cook times
- Shredding easily after simmering for perfect texture
- Absorbing the rich flavors of the sauce
Skinless, boneless thighs give the very best results.
Spice Combinations for Tikka Masala
While traditional spices make the signature flavor, you can also add:
- Smoked paprika for deeper color and flavor
- Dash of cayenne or chili powder for heat
- Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg for extra warmth
- Green chilies, jalapeño for spiciness
- Grated fresh ginger for extra punch
- Cilantro, mint, fenugreek leaves for fresh finish
Masala Sauce Uses
A good tikka masala sauce has endless uses beyond chicken:
- Simmer chickpeas or lentils in the sauce for vegetarian dish
- Toss with roasted cauliflower or potatoes
- Simmer shrimp or scallops in sauce for seafood tikka
- Use as the base for an incredible omelette filling
- Toss with rice noodles or pasta for Indian fusion
Take this flavorful sauce in any direction for easy, delicious weeknight meals!