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.
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!
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.
Table of Contents
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1/2 medium red onion cubed
- 1 serrano green chile quartered
- 10 raw cashews
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 lime juiced, (1-2 tbsp juice)
- 2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
- 2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
- 2 yellow onions chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced (1-inch piece)
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tsp garam masala (See Note 1)
- 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder (See Note 2)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 3 roma (plum) tomatoes chopped or 14 oz chopped tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream or 14 oz coconut milk
- 1 lemon
- 2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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).
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.