I've been to India three times and I've never eaten chicken tikka masala there. I don't recall seeing it on a menu there either. Then again, I had a hard time finding samosas in India as well. Apparently, they are popular in the Southern regions of India and I've mostly traveled in the north. According to Wikipedia, the origin of chicken tikka masala is actually uncertain though most of us associate it with Indian food as we know it in the United States. Wikipedia says it's either from India or from South Asian chefs in London. Either way: thank you creators of chicken tikka masala!
I have made chicken tikka masala many times in many ways. I've been experimenting with various versions for months until I hit my stride with the recipe I'm sharing here. I truly believe we are all capable of making excellent, high-quality food right in our own kitchens. Don't be intimidated. You can follow along with my video below and make this easy restaurant-style chicken tikka masala from your own home.
Chicken Tikka Masala can be mild or spicy - you choose!
I'm a whimp. I don't like a spicy chicken tikka masala. I like it mild - always have. The thing is, in order to get a more vibrant color in your final product, you do need to add some kind of chili powder. Most regular chili powders add too much spice for me. Then I kept seeing articles about kashimiri chili powder. This wonderful powder will add a nice flavor and color to the dish without the spiciness. It's a revelation. I couldn't find it at the grocery store or my local Indian market so I ordered it on Amazon - you can find it here: Red Kashmiri Chili Powder if you're interested.
So go forth and cook! Remember you're not alone in the kitchen - I'll be with you every step of the way. We should cook for ourselves and our loved ones as much as possible. Shared meals are shared experiences. They are an opportunity to tell stories, laugh and appreciate life.Print
Easy Restaurant-Style Chicken Tikka Masala
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 6 portions 1x
This is the only chicken tikka masala recipe you’ll ever need. It's creamy and tomatoey and the chicken is sooo tender and flavorful.
- 3.75-4 lbs boneless chicken thighs
- 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon of dried fenugreek leaves (kesoori methi)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely diced (2 -3 cloves of garlic)
- 1 teaspoon ginger (approx. 2 inches of ginger, finely diced)
- juice from ½ of a lime
Broiling the chicken
- 2-3 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely diced (about 2-3 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon ginger, finely diced (about 2 inches)
- ¾ cup finely diced shallot or onion
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon red Kashmiri chili powder
- 1 10.75 ounce can of tomato puree
- 1 ¾-2 cups of water
- ¾-1 cup heavy cream
- 2-3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
- Salt to taste
- 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek
- 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
- 2 cups of rice
- cook according to package instructions (see note below)
- First we need to make a marinade for the chicken. Finely dice your garlic and ginger. Add to a bowl with the yogurt, garam masala, cumin, salt, dried fenugreek leaves and lime juice. Blend well and set aside.
- We’re using boneless chicken thighs and I like to take a couple of minutes to trim the fat from around the edges.
- After the fat is trimmed, I usually cut the thighs into three pieces then cut each of those pieces in half. So six pieces of chicken per chicken thigh. Some will be too big and you’ll need an additional cut. Just try to make sure your pieces are the same size.
- Add all your cut chicken to the marinade and mix together very well. You want to make sure all the pieces of coated in the marinade. Cover and let marinate for at least two hours. I usually marinate over night.
- Once the chicken is marinated, lay out the chicken pieces on a sheet pan. You want to put a pinch of ghee on top of each piece of chicken. Make sure your broiler is on high and cook the chicken for about 4 minutes. Then take the chicken out, turn the chicken pieces over and broil the other side for 4 minutes. We want to get a little char on that chicken. I did this in two batches.
- Plan your time here and remember to cook your basmati rice according to the package instructions.
- FOR THE SAUCE: While the chicken is cooking, you can start to make the sauce. Finely dice your shallot or onion, the garlic and the ginger (see note #3).
- Melt some ghee in a pan and add the shallots. Cook a few minutes on low-to-medium heat until lightly browned.
- Add the ginger and garlic cook until fragrant – a minute or two. Add a bit more ghee if needed here.
- Add the spices: garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, Kashmiri chili powder. Give a good stir until well combined – we want to toast the spices a little but be careful not to burn them. Should stir for a minute or two.
- Add the can of tomato puree and mix it together well. Add a cup or so of water here to thin out the sauce. Cook 3-4 minutes while stirring. Add a pinch of salt to taste here.
- Add half the dried fenugreek and stir.
- Add all the chicken along with any pan juices. Do not discard the pan juices – they belong in the sauce. Cook the chicken in the sauce for about 5-8 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the ghee rises to the top of the sauce – it’s ready.
- Add water, if needed, to the sauce if it is too thick. Only add a little at a time to adjust the thickness.
- Last step – add the heavy cream and the rest of the dried fenugreek, stir and let simmer on low a couple of minutes. If you're using sugar add it here. Serve over basmati rice immediately.
- Kashmiri red chili powder is a revelation. I don’t like a spicy chicken tikka masala and Kashmiri chili powder is mild. I wrote about it in the blog post.
- Even though you will follow the package instruction for making the basmati rice I have two tips. First, you’ve got to thoroughly wash that rice. I usually rinse it 3-4 times before cooking it and it really makes a difference in the flavor. Second, you’ve got to add butter (or olive oil) and salt to the rice before cooking. A tablespoon of butter or olive oil and ½ teaspoon or so of salt per 2 cups of rice.
- The garlic and ginger for the sauce: if you want to do this step ahead of time when you’re chopping the other garlic and ginger for the marinade – go for it. You can set it aside in the fridge and take it out when you’re making the sauce. Also, if you have a microplane feel free to use that instead of a knife.
- Tomato puree vs tomato sauce. I have made chicken tikka masala with either canned tomato puree or canned tomato sauce. It tastes good both ways, but it is slightly better with the tomato puree in my opinion.
- I don’t use turmeric in my chicken tikka masala. Personally, I don’t think it does anything and my coloring is always wonky when I’ve used it.
- I used ¾ cup of heavy cream for the sauce, but the sauce can hold up to a cup – probably even a little more. It’s a personal preference. If you want a little more cream you can add it.
- I have made chicken tikka masala with heavy cream, yogurt and coconut milk. Nothing can compare to the heavy cream. I thought both versions I made with yogurt and coconut milk (instead of heavy cream) were horrible. I don’t consider either of these options a good substitute for heavy cream. There, I’ve said it.
- Most of these ingredients can be found at your local Indian market, with the exception of the Kashmiri chili powder. They don’t have it at the stores near me. I ordered that on Amazon and there is a link to it in the blog post.
- The tablespoon of sugar is optional, but like anything with tomatoes it can cut the acidity a bit and add a nice balance to the sauce. I'm fairly certain they add sugar to this sauce when ordered at an Indian restaurant.
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