Chicken tikka masala might be my favorite Indian dish! Today, I’m sharing how to make it at home.Jump to Recipe
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Chicken tikka masala is on every Indian menu. It’s the dish I always tell people to start with when they’re not sure about Indian food: it’s hearty and comforting, fragrant and spiced without too much heat.
Confession: I didn’t try Indian food at all until I went to college. My mom doesn’t love curry, so we never had anything resembling it growing up. That, combined with the fact that there weren’t a ton of options nearby as a kid, meant that I had a bit of a late start in the wonderful world of Indian food. But once I found it, I was HOOKED.
I don’t want to mislead: I don’t know if this qualifies as a weeknight meal in my mind. It takes at least an hour to prep and cook, and that’s an hour of paying active attention and stirring every few minutes. So maybe this is more of a Sunday dish when you can enjoy the experience rather than rushing through. But it makes a TON of food, so it’s worth the time and can feed you lunch all week long!
I took a couple of deviations from the most traditional recipe. For one thing, I added green bell peppers to the sauce: traditionally this would be served as one dish among many on the table, but I do not have my stuff together enough to manage a traditional Indian spread. So instead of making several veggie sides, I toss in some peppers to add a vegetable to my dinner.
At most of the restaurants in the US and Europe that I’ve had chicken tikka masala, it’s served with chunks of chicken breast. Here, I opted for chicken thighs because it stays juicier. My final adjustment is using coconut milk instead of cream — this isn’t required, but it makes it less calories without sacrificing that essential creaminess.
For marinating, plan for at least 3 hours, but longer is better. I often try to do this 24 hours.
Play with the spices! In my opinion, this recipe is very mild. Feel free to amp up the spices as you want – I wanted to offer a starting point that was fairly accessible to everyone.
Chicken Tikka Masala
For the marinade:
- 1.5 lbs chicken thighs boneless
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 ½ tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp ginger dried
For the sauce:
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 ½ onions
- 1 ½ Tbsp ginger fresh
- 1 serrano pepper
- 6 cloves garlic
- 3 ½ Tbsp garam masala
- 1 ½ Tbsp paprika
- 500 grams tomato sauce (about 18 oz)
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 2 green bell peppers
- 2 13 oz cans coconut milk
- cilantro to garnish
- Marinate the chicken: in a shallow bowl, combine the yogurt with marinade spices and stir well to combine. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and toss in the yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours, but better overnight or for 24 hours.
- When you're ready to cook, prep the ingredients. Mince one onion and dice the remaining half. Dice the peppers and grate or mince the garlic, serrano pepper, and ginger. Preheat the oven to broil.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the one minced onion and cook 5 minutes over medium-low heat to soften. Add the garlic, serrano pepper, and ginger and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook another 20 minutes until the mixture has softened and browned.
- Cook the chicken: lay on a wire rack over a baking sheet and broil for 8 minutes or until a thermometer inserted reads 165°F. When it's done, set aside.
- Add the garam masala and paprika and stir, cooking another minute or two until fragrant. Add a tablespoon or two of water if things start to stick.
- Add the tomato sauce, then transfer the entire mixture to a blender and blitz until smooth.
- Return to the pan and add the green peppers and remaining onion. Simmer on low for 30 minutes over medium-low. It should thicken into nearly a paste consistency.
- Add the coconut milk and stir well. Add salt to taste, then add chicken.
- Serve with basmati rice, naan, and top with cilantro.
What’s your favorite Indian take out??