Chicken Tikka Masala

5 from 2 votes

This recipe for chicken tikka masala features tender, marinated chicken in a rich, smoky tomato-based sauce. This sensationally spiced dinner is creamy, comforting, and remarkably flavorful.

overhead closeup: chicken tikka masala in a metal pot with fresh herbs on top

Chicken tikka masala is an Indian-inspired dish with a seriously bold flavor profile. In this tantalizing dish, tender chicken is marinated in a sumptuous blend of creamy yogurt and warming spices before being cooked to smoky perfection. 

These succulent morsels are then bathed in a creamy, expertly spiced curry sauce to create an intensely delicious dish. And just so you know, you can use this chicken tikka masala recipe with pork, fish, tofu, or any of your favorite proteins!

Don’t let the ingredient list overwhelm you not to make this either. It is fantastic and you can watch it getting made below in the recipe card video, too.

Recently I was in London, England after coming back from a trip to Egypt and met with my friend Dan Toombs, also known as The Curry Guy. We have been friends for years online, but never actually met in person before. I took a train to meet him and his wife Caroline up in York for the day and had a fantastic time. Besides visiting the beautiful sites around the city, all things food and blogging were discussed and it was a great day. Which brings me to this announcement!

Dan Toombs and Kevin

He has a new cookbook coming out that I had to share with you! One Pot, which was the inspiration behind today’s Chicken Tikka Masala, will be available on Amazon October 31, 2023 here in the USA. This is his 8th cookbook and I wish him the best with this latest.

You can also check out his authentic BIR-style Indian cooking on Great Curry Recipes too.

One Pot Cookbook Dan Toombs The Curry Guy
extreme closeup: chicken tikka masala with fresh cut herbs on top

For more Indian-inspired chicken entrees, check out my Butter Chicken, Chicken Korma, Tandoori Chicken, or Chicken Biryani.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Chicken – I recommend boneless and skinless thighs, or breasts if you prefer. 
  • Greek Yogurt Adds a creamy richness as it tenderizes the meat. 
  • Chile Peppers Serrano chiles give the marinade a spicy boost, while Indian Kashmiri chiles add a fruity smokiness. Use other chiles as desired. 
  • Herbs and Spices – Between the marinade and curry sauce, this recipe boasts an incredible list of aromatic herbs, spices, and seasonings including ginger, garlic, fenugreek, kosher salt, cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, curry powder, paprika, and cilantro. Feel free to adjust as needed to suit your tastes.
  • Ghee or Oil This clarified butter, or any high smoke point oil, will prevent the dish from burning.
  • Tomatoes – You’ll want to chop around 3 average-sized Roma tomatoes. Or for convenience, you can use a 14-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, drained.
  • Heavy Cream – Gives the curry sauce that lovely smoothness and creamy richness. For a dairy-free option, full-fat coconut milk works just as well.

Tip From Kevin

Did you know…

Cashews are used in this curry sauce as a thickener. When cashews are ground they turn into a smooth paste due to the oil content. Be sure to use raw nuts if possible, not roasted or smoked. Raw nuts have a neutral flavor, and they blend into a creamier consistency as well. Almonds and walnuts are a good substitute for the cashews as well.

overhead: a metal bowl full of chicken tikka masala recipe with forks and a blue napkin to the side

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. Make the Marinade. Use a food processor to puree the Greek yogurt, serrano chiles, cashews, ginger, garlic, lime, and ½ the red onion until smooth. Remove the lid, toss in the turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt, fenugreek leaves, garam masala, and Kashmiri chili powder. Pulse the mixture several times to blend well. 
  2. Marinate the Chicken. Combine the chicken and the marinade in a large bowl. Mix well to evenly coat, cover the bowl, and place it in the refrigerator. Let the chicken marinate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. 
  3. Saute the Onions. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the ghee or oil, then add in the chopped onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become soft and translucent, usually about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. 
  4. Add Spices & Stock. Now you can stir in the garam masala, curry powder, chili powder, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, and sugar. Stir the spices around well enough to coat all of the onions with the blend. Add the chicken stock and the chopped tomatoes. Stir well, bring to a simmer, then whisk in the cream or coconut milk.
closeup: chicken tikka masala recipe in a metal bowl
  1. Cool & Blend. Remove the sauce from heat. Once cooled, transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Mix in the fenugreek leaves and set aside. 
  2. Sear the Chicken. Place a large skillet over high heat along with the ghee or oil. Add the marinated chicken to the heated pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side. A slight char on the edges of the chicken is ideal.
  3. Add Sauce & Simmer. Reduce the heat to low and carefully pour the masala curry sauce over the chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is tender. 
  4. Garnish & Serve. Spoon chicken and sauce over a bed of basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with a side of fresh naan bread and extra garam masala if desired.
extreme closeup: chicken tikka masala with sauce and fresh herbs showing

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I serve with chicken tikka masala?


Check out a few of these simple ideas to turn this chicken tikka masala recipe into a fun and filling meal. 

– A steaming pile of Basmati, Jasmine, or Jeera Rice.
– Vegetable sides like Aloo Gobi Matar, Cauliflower Curry, or this Jalfrezi Stir Fry
– A fresh batch of Roti Flatbread, Pita Bread, or Garlic Naan Bread.

Is butter chicken the same as chicken tikka masala?


No. While both dishes have many similarities, they are definitely distinct. 

Butter Chicken, as the name implies, has a rich sauce made with butter, heavy cream, tomato purée, and a touch of sugar. Spices usually include ginger, garlic, turmeric, and garam masala. It is richer and slightly sweeter than tikka masala. 

Tikka masala, on the other hand, lacks the butter of butter chicken and is made with heavy cream, chopped tomatoes, and spices like paprika, coriander, cumin, and garam masala. It is tangier, smokier, and creamier than butter chicken.

How spicy is chicken tikka masala?


Traditionally, chicken tikka masala is intensely flavorful, but only mildly spicy. The spices included in this creamy, tomato-based curry dish are earthy, aromatic, and warming. 

However, it is easy to adjust the spice level to fit your tastes and you will often find this option at restaurants. For example, I added serrano chile to this chicken tikka masala recipe to give it a tad more heat. 

Feel free to increase or decrease the amount or switch out the variety of chile peppers to get the dish just how you like it. Using more garam masala is another perfect way to dial up the heat.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

5 from 2 votes
Chicken tikka masala is a curry dish featuring tender marinated chicken in a bath of a perfectly spiced tomato cream sauce.
Servings: 6
Prep: 35 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Marinate Time: 4 hours
Total: 5 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts cut into 2-inch cubes

Marinade

Curry Sauce

Garnish/Serving

Instructions 

Marinade for Chicken

  • In a food processor, puree 1/2 red onion, serrano chile, cashews, yogurt, ginger, garlic and lime juice until smooth. Remove lid and add the Kashmiri chili powder, fenugreek leaves, salt, cumin, garam masala, coriander and turmeric. Pulse several times until blended well.
  • In a large bowl add the chicken, marinade and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to marinate for 4 hours minimum, maximum overnight.

Make Curry Sauce

  • Heat the ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and cook for about 30 seconds.
  • Next add the curry powder, garam masala, chili powder, salt, paprika, cumin, ground coriander and sugar. Stir this around in the pan to coat the onions. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and then add the cream or coconut milk.
  • Place the cooled sauce in a blender or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Stir through the fenugreek leaves and set aside.

Tikka Masala

  • Heat the ghee/oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the marinated chicken and cook for 3-5 minutes per side. This will slightly char on edges. Pour the masala curry sauce over chicken and lower heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes and chicken is tender.
  • Garnish with cilantro leaves and a pinch of some more Garam Masala. Serve over rice and garlic naan bread.

Video

Notes

  1. Use more or less Garam Masala depending on your taste for heat. This is not a very hot dish, the spice blend is more flavor than heat. I think sometimes people confuse spicy with heat and there is a difference!
  2. Kashmiri chili powder can be substituted by using 3 parts smoked paprika to 1 part cayenne powder (for example, ¾ tsp smoked paprika to ¼ tsp cayenne).

Nutrition

Calories: 482kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 213mg | Sodium: 997mg | Potassium: 776mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1846IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 137mg | Iron: 3mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): chicken tikka masala

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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Recipe Rating




6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Well done! I realize Indian food ingredients can sometimes be intimidating, but this looked so good and I made it. Off to try your other Indian dish, thanks!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this last night. Amazing. I loved the heat but would add a little more next time. The house smelled incredible!