Learn to make Chicken Tikka Masala at home! It’s easier than you may think. This version includes chicken that’s dipped in a flavorful yogurt marinade and broiled until cooked through. The tomato cream sauce can be prepared simultaneously or up to four days in advance. When it comes to chilly winter evenings, you won’t find anything more warming than this aromatic chicken tikka masala recipe served over basmati rice. Not only does it taste incredible, it will make your kitchen smell amazing!
While I know it’s not technically an authentic Indian dish (more on that below), I often find myself gravitating toward chicken tikka masala when I see it on a menu. I can’t help it, it’s so good. Yogurt-marinated chicken that’s been chargrilled to perfection and served in an aromatic tomato cream sauce? I accept.
I’m not lucky enough to have a tandoor at home, so I can’t make a completely authentic version of this recipe. However, the broiler does a perfectly good job of creating juicy chicken that’s slightly charred. For this version, I made sure to stick with easy-to-find ingredients (though I do offer the optional suggestion of using ghee if you can find it or feel so inclined to make it, since it really makes the flavors pop!)
How to make chicken tikka masala
If this recipe seems like it has a lot of ingredients and steps, please don’t be intimidated! None of the steps are complicated, so it’s just a matter of getting everything measured out and ready to go before you start. Here’s what you do:
- Combine the spices and sprinkle them onto the chicken. Cover and refrigerate. Meanwhile, mix together yogurt, ginger, garlic, and oil (this will be the sauce the chicken is broiled in). Let all of that sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Prepare the sauce by cooking the onions in a large saucepan, then adding the remaining ingredients in stages. The sauce can be prepared up to four days in advance if you don’t want to make everything at once.
- Dip the chicken in the yogurt mix and broil until cooked through. Cut into bite sized pieces and combine with the sauce. Serve over rice!
- You can finely mince the garlic and ginger using a knife, but I prefer using a microplane zester with this recipe. It grates them so finely that the juices release and they basically turn into a paste, incorporating with the sauce more effectively.
- You can use vegetable oil (or grapeseed or canola oil), but I highly recommend getting your hands on some ghee if you want this recipe to taste especially awesome. Ghee is basically brown butter, and it’s a staple of Indian cooking. You can also save money by making your own.
Are chicken tikka masala and butter chicken the same?
Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken have similar flavor profiles and tomato-cream sauces, but they’re actually two different dishes. While butter chicken originates from northern India, chicken tikka masala is a British invention! This article from Tasting Table covers the differences in more detail.
Can chicken tikka masala be frozen?
Yes, this recipe freezes very well. The key to freezing this and any recipe is to eliminate as much surface air as possible where ice crystals form (that’s what creates the freezer taste), and to use frozen leftovers within 2-3 months. I’m as guilty as everyone else of letting food get lost in the freezer for too long, but after awhile, ingredients start to break down and taste bad.
If you don’t think you’ll be using leftovers within 3 weeks, I recommend using freezer bags and pressing out as much air as possible. Not only does this help keep the ice crystals away, but it takes up much less space than storage containers.
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Chicken Tikka Masala
For the chicken
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (boneless skinless thighs may be substituted)
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (low fat yogurt may be substituted)
- 2 tablespoons melted ghee or vegetable oil
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced (3 teaspoons, I used a microplane zester)
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (I used a microplane zester)
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (2 teaspoons, I used a microplane zester)
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (I used a microplane zester)
- 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- Basmati rice for serving
- In a small bowl, combine coriander, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mix, pressing to adhere. Place chicken in a shallow pan, cover with plastic film, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together yogurt, ghee, garlic, and ginger in a large bowl. Cover and set aside so the flavors have a chance to blend.
- Heat the ghee in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottom saucepan set over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly caramelized, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, pepper, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, and salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and remove pan from heat, covering to keep warm.
- While the sauce is simmering, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position, and preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil. Using tongs, dip each piece of chicken into the yogurt mixture, then arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. The chicken should be coated with a thick layer of yogurt. Discard any excess yogurt mixture. Broil until the thickest parts of the chicken register 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10-18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.
- Wait 5 minutes, then cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and stir into sauce. Stir in cilantro. Serve over basmati rice.
- Leftovers will keep in an airtight container the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 3 months. (I add a bit of extra cream when reheating leftovers; the sauce thickens up slightly).
More Chicken RecipesIf you enjoy this recipe, you may also like my Chicken Massaman Curry and Chicken Marsala!
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