white bowl full of orange chicken tikka masala in front of two pieces of naan and jasmine rice on separate white plate topped with fresh cilantro. All sitting on top of wood grain cutting board
Chicken, Mains

Chicken Tikka Masala

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I’m pretty excited to share this recipe with you today. If you are a tikka masala fan, I think you are going to love it. You start by marinating chicken thighs in yogurt and spices, then you simmer the chicken in a rich and creamy tomato sauce and serve it all over basmati rice with a side of naan. There is conflicting information out there about whether or not this dish truly originated in India, but you will find it in every Indian restaurant in America. There is no argument about whether or not it is inspired by traditional Indian ingredients and methods. It is a dream of mine to spend a day with an Indian home cook learning the ins and outs of traditional Indian cuisine. I hope to be so lucky one day!

Tikka masala has been a staple in our house for years. I’ve tried so many different recipes, and used all kinds of jar sauces when I’m rushing to get dinner on the table. Although tikka masala from the jar doesn’t compare, I’ve still never had a version of this dish that I didn’t like. It’s just a really delicious flavor combination. I’ve been playing around with this recipe for a while trying to get it right. I tend to have a heavy hand with spices, but the beauty of this dish is the subtleness of the spice, and I think I finally found the perfect balance! I’ve talked to so many people who love to order this out, but have never recreated the dish at home. If you never have, I really hope you will give this a try!

Get your garam masala here:

Learn more about Spicewalla Brand here.

Which Tomatoes to Use?

I have tried just about every type of canned tomato in tikka masala, and in my opinion, tomato puree is the way to go. It gives you a little more texture than canned tomato sauce, but still a smooth result overall. That being said, I’ve noticed that the puree can be a little more difficult to find. If they don’t have it at your grocery store, I would lean towards a can of crushed tomatoes. The puree and crushed tomatoes both tend to have a stronger tomato flavor than canned tomato sauce, which you see in a lot of recipes.

I have never used fresh tomatoes for this recipe. Mostly because I am always looking for ways to save some time. Have you used fresh tomatoes for tikka masala? I’d love to hear about your process. Talk to me in the comments!

What to Serve with Tikka Masala

You must serve tikka masala with basmati rice and naan! No exceptions! You’ll want to soak up all of that rich delicious sauce with your rice and bread. Naan is a delicious Indian flatbread that I very much want to learn to make. I’m going to start doing my research and working on a recipe soon!

I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think.

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white bowl full of orange chicken tikka masala in front of two pieces of naan and jasmine rice on separate white plate topped with fresh cilantro. All sitting on top of wood grain cutting board

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • Author: Katelyn
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 68 servings 1x

Description

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated in plain yogurt, garlic, and ginger then simmered in a rich creamy tomato sauce with flavorful spices. Next time you’re craving chicken tikka masala, stay in and make this version at home!


Ingredients

Scale

Chicken/Marinade

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces 
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder 

Tikka Masala

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced (small)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice 

Garnish

  • Cilantro

Instructions

  1. Combine all chicken/marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir until well combined, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator half an hour before you plan to begin cooking.
  3. Whisk your spices together in a small bowl (garam masala, chili powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cayenne).
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. 
  5. Transfer the chicken (allowing excess marinade to drain off) with tongs to the hot pan and cook over medium to medium high heat turning occasionally until it begins to brown on all sides. Complete this step in batches to avoid overcrowding your pan.
  6. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter back to the pan, add the diced onion and cook for 5-7 minutes or until translucent. 
  7. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic.
  8. Add the spice mixture and stir for 30 seconds, followed by the tomato paste. Let this cook for another minute.
  9. Add tomato puree, salt, and sugar. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and bring to a simmer.
  10. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add your chicken and juices from resting back to the pan.
  11. Add the heavy cream, and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. 
  12. Stir in the lemon juice, season with additional salt to taste if needed, and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

Notes

  • You can substitute coconut milk for the heavy cream if you are looking to cut some calories. The tikka masala will still taste delicious!
  • Yes, you can substitute chicken breasts for thighs but I don’t really recommend that. It is easy for the chicken breasts to end up being a little dry and rubbery. If you go this route, make sure you add the chicken really close to the end of the cooking time to allow it to just cook through. Chicken breasts are much less forgiving than thighs.
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: chicken, tikka, masala, tomato, cream

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4 Comments

  1. Lindsay Sugg

    Made this tonight and it definitely satisfied my craving for this dish. I think the yogurt marinade makes the chicken especially tender. I usually use half-n-half in place of heavy cream because I tend to always have it on hand and it worked fine I thought. My only complaint is that it was a little messy with the multi-step chicken process but it definitely made it taste better. The only other times I’ve made this were in the slow cooker and instant pot and it was easier but definitely didn’t taste as good.

    • Thanks so much for making it! I’m happy you liked it! That marinade definitely goes a long way for tenderizing the chicken. I plan to make an instant pot version at some point for when you’re looking for something fast with minimal clean up. I’m glad the half and half worked for you!! One thing to keep in mind is that the lower fat content in half and half can be more likely to separate or curdle in your sauce. I definitely use it at times as well, but just something to look out for. I like this article that has some more info on that concept:

      Coconut milk is another great substitution! Thanks again for trying it out ☺️

  2. This was delicious!

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