You can't go wrong with this chicken tikka masala recipe. If you have found yourself often reaching for the takeout menu because you don't think you can make curries at home, you are wrong! This masala recipe is the ideal example of an easy make at home Indian dish to help you get started cooking more curry and masala dishes. With great flavor, a creamy sauce, and delicious tender bits of chicken, this recipe is one you'll make on a regular basis.
Chicken Tikka Masala
I will never forget my first experience with tikka masala. My first introduction to Indian cuisine was in my early 20's when I was working for a wonderful Indian couple. On a regular basis, she would bring in curries for us to have at lunch. Since they were vegan, my first tikka masala was made with potatoes, tofu, and chickpeas. My love affair with Indian cuisine began that day.
Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of different recipes. I have made homemade palak paneer all the way to this favorite tikka dish. There are different levels of heat and creaminess throughout the different regions of India. So, while this is a nice adaptation of an authentic recipe, it may differ from what you are most familiar with eating. Regardless, you will absolutely love this meal!
What is the Difference Between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala?
The core difference between the two is with the amount of tomato and cream in each. A butter chicken will be creamier with less tomato in the base, while tikka masala has more tomato and less cream.
You will also note that butter chicken is less likely to have garam masala as a spice blend and more likely to use turmeric and curry powder.
What is the Difference Between a Masala and a Curry?
Masala is what most call a "warming" blend of spices. This particular blend of herbs and spices has more heat and likely a larger concentration of chili. Curry is an earthier and mild blend of spices that may or may not be paired with additional chili for heat.
I have used both in many dishes, but for this recipe, there will only be garam masala included alongside other spices and herbs. While they are not interchangeable in all recipes, you will find them used together on many occasions throughout Indian cuisine.
What Does Chicken Tikka Masala Taste Like?
This is a tomato and cream sauce with a variety of warm spices offering a kick of heat with savory undertones. It is slight acidity from the tomatoes is mellowed with the cream sauce. The garam masala spice blend is both full of heat from chili but also the earthiness of the coriander, cardamom, and cloves.
Do You Make Curry With Chicken Breasts or Thighs?
For this version, I prefer to use boneless skinless chicken thighs. I find the result to be tender but juicy meat that isn't dry from slightly longer cooking time.
Often, when cooking with chicken breasts, you will find they dry out too fast or become tough when simmered in a sauce like this. Chicken thighs work better, plus they offer a flavor that really adds to the overall richness of this dish. Fat adds more flavor, and dark meat is a bit higher in fat than other chicken thus giving off a richer flavor.
Can I Adjust the Spice Level of This Recipe?
You can definitely adjust the spice level to your preference. I include added chili powder and paprika alongside the garam masala. For some sensitive palates, this may be a bit too much.
For others who like more heat, you can increase the amount of chili powder or garam masala. Another option is to dice and saute down a chile pepper alongside the onion and garlic.
What Goes with Tikka Masala?
Traditionally, chicken tikka masala is served with steamed white rice or biryani. I like to serve with a curried vegetable on the side, but you can also serve with any steamed or roasted vegetable.
Some of my favorites are broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. They really work well with the richness of curry sauces. You might also like to serve this 5-ingredient potato curry alongside the tikka masala, rice, and vegetables for a full meal. This combination is ideal for serving family-style so everyone can add what they prefer to their plate.
Ingredients for Marinade
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs
- Plain yogurt
- Garma Masala
- Chili powder
Ingredients for Tikka Masala Sauce
- Oil for cooking
- Garam masala
- Tomato puree
- Chili powder
- Heavy cream
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala from Scratch
In a large bowl, combine the pieces of chicken with plain yogurt, minced garlic, grated ginger, garam masala, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and salt until well blended.
Cover and set aside for 30 minutes to overnight.
In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat then pour the chicken (in the marinade) into the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes stirring occasionally. The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point.
Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
Now, to the skillet, add the butter and onions. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add in the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, paprika, coriander, and cook for 1 minute while stirring.
Pour in the tomato puree, chili powder, and salt, then stir to combine.
Add in the heavy cream, sugar, and water stirring to combine the mixture.
Now, add the chicken back into the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for another 7-8 minutes or until the sauce is starting to thicken and the chicken is fully cooked. Stir regularly while this cooks.
Serve your chicken tikka masala over rice with your favorite vegetables and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro over the top!
For more great Indian recipes, make sure you bookmark or pin our Thai chicken coconut curry recipe, spicy red lentil curry recipe with spinach, peanut chicken curry recipe, authentic chicken karahi curry, or this classic Indian green curry.
If you want to create a truly authentic recipe, you can make your own homemade garam masala recipe by grinding cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper. I bought a stone mortar and pestle on Etsy to use for making my own spice mixest like this.
Ingredients for Chicken Marinade
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
- 1 cup plain yogur
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp salt
Ingredients for Sauce
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, shredded
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp coriander
- 20 oz tomato puree
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken with yogurt, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and salt and mix until the chicken is coated then cover and set aside for 30-minutes up to overnight;
- Once the chicken has marinated, you will heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and then cook the chicken for 4-5 minutes stirring regularly;
- Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside (it will not be fully cooked);
- Add the butter and onions to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes;
- Then add in the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, paprika, coriander, and continue cooking for an additional 1 minute;
- Reduce the heat to low and pour in the tomato puree, chili powder, and salt then stir;
- Mix in the heavy cream, sugar, and water then stir to combine;
- Simmer stirring occasionally for an additional 7-8 minutes or until the sauce is starting to thicken and the chicken is fully cooked;
- Serve with rice and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro over the top.
Adjust the heat by adding more or less chili powder as desired.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 666Total Fat: 51gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 221mgSodium: 874mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 4gSugar: 16gProtein: 33g