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Chicken Tikka Masala

This easy chicken tikka masala recipe is so much better than take out! Tender marinated bits of chicken are smothered in a buttery, flavorful sauce that is out of this world delicious. Serve it over a heaping scoop of rice with a side of naan!

Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Chicken Tikka Masala is a longtime fav. It’s one of those meals that, when done right, you can smell and taste in your memories. I’ve had some A+ chicken tikka masala in my day – you know, the kind you dream of. And, I’d put this recipe right up there with the best of them.

If you think you don’t like Indian food, or you’ve been too timid to try – listen up – start with these two: Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala. I am telling you, you are going to fall in love. And, when you think back on all of the big flavor, you’re going to be able to taste it all over again!

What is Tikka Masala?

Tikka Masala is a classic Indian dish. It’s chicken marinated in yogurt and Tikka paste (which is the most flavorful mix of spice flavor around) that’s then charred and simmered in a luscious tomato and spice sauce. The signature orange color comes from the spice mix, which features turmeric.

Is tikka masala spicy or sweet?

Tikka masala is slightly spicy with a bit of sweetness from the sauce. The cream in the sauce cuts the heat from any spices so overall this is not a very spicy dish.

Is tikka masala the same as butter chicken?

Tikka masala is spicier and has a bigger flavor. Butter chicken is milder and slightly sweet. Also for butter chicken, your chicken bits are cooked in butter, while in tikka masala, they cook in oil.

A bowl of cut chicken breasts marinating

What You’ll Need

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to make chicken tikka masala from scratch. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.

For the chicken marinade:

  • Chicken breasts – Boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs, cut into bite-size cubes
  • Plain yogurt – The yogurt tenderizes the meat and also helps it absorb flavor.
  • Garlic
  • Spices – Garam masala, turmeric, ground cumin, sweet paprika, coriander, salt, chili powder, and ground ginger

For the Tikka Masala Sauce:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Unsalted butter
  • Yellow onion – You can also use a white onion in a pinch, but don’t use a red onion.
  • Garlic
  • Spices – Garam masala, sweet paprika, ground cumin, turmeric powder and ground ginger.
  • Kosher salt
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Heavy cream – You can also use half and half.
  • Sugar
  • Fresh cilantro – Chopped for garnish

What Cut of Chicken Should You Use?

I prefer to use boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Chicken breasts are leaner, but the thigh meat is usually more tender and flavorful. You can make a decision based on what’s more important to you. If you do use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I would marinate the chicken longer. The marinade will break down the chicken and make it more tender once it’s cooked.

Top view of tikka masala sauce in a skillet

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala

Are you ready to make chicken tikka masala right in your kitchen? Here’s how to do it:

  • Marinate the chicken. In a large bowl combine the chicken pieces with yogurt, garlic, spices, and salt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for at least 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
  • Cook the chicken. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the marinated chicken pieces to the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and continue to cook the remaining chicken. Add more oil, if needed. Remove the chicken pieces from the skillet and set them aside. Keep them covered.
  • Saute onions. Wipe down the skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet. When the butter is melted, stir in the onions, salt, and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes, or until onions are soft.
  • Add garlic and spices: Add garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Stir in sweet paprika, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for 20 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add tomato sauce. Stir in tomato sauce and water.
  • Simmer. Bring the mixture to a simmer; cover and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add heavy cream. Remove the cover. Keeping the sauce set over medium heat, whisk the heavy cream into the prepared sauce. Whisk until it’s thoroughly combined.
  • Add sugar and butter. Whisk in the sugar and butter. Stir until the butter is melted.
  • Add chicken. Add the chicken back to the skillet. Simmer for an additional 6 to 8 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thickened and bubbling.
  • Serve. Serve your chicken Tikka Masala over rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Should You Blend the Sauce?

Blending your sauce is optional, but I recommend it! I blend mine with my immersion blender until the sauce is creamy. If you don’t have a hand blender, you can use a normal blender, but blend the sauce in several batches.

If you don’t have a blender or a hand blender, you can simply skip this part. The sauce will be just as flavorful and delicious without blending.

Close up view of chicken tikka masala in a skillet

Tips for the Best Chicken Tikka Masala

This chicken tikka masala is smooth, aromatic, and better than anything you’re going to find in a restaurant. Here are a few tips to make sure your dish comes out perfectly every time:

  • Use plain yogurt in your marinade, not Greek. You want the fat from the plain yogurt and Greek yogurt is a bit too thick.
  • Do not skip the chicken charring! I know, you could just cook the chicken in the sauce, but you don’t want to do that. You do not want to miss out on the flavor you can get from the simple step of cooking the chicken in a bit of hot oil.
  • Feel free to adjust the spice level. You can make your tikka masala extra hot or mild by adding or subtracting cayenne pepper.
Homemade chicken tikka masala in a bowl with rice and naan

What Goes with Tikka Masala?

I like to serve my chicken tikka masala over long grain white rice like jasmine or basmati. Then, I top it with chopped fresh cilantro. If you don’t have fresh cilantro or you don’t love the flavor, you can swap it for chopped fresh parsley or scallions. You’re also going to want some naan or flatbread on the side to sop up the sauce. ?

Chicken tikka masala in a bowl with rice and naan and a metal spoon

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

  • Fridge: Allow your leftovers to come to room temperature before storing. You can store them in an airtight container in your fridge for about 3 days.
  • Freezer: You could also store your leftovers or a whole batch of this chicken in an airtight freezer safe zip-top bag in your freezer for 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
  • To Reheat: When you’re ready to reheat, simply add the chicken tikka masala to a pan and warm it over medium-low heat.

More Easy Chicken Recipes

Looking for more ideas? I have tons of chicken dinner ideas for you to explore! Here are some of my favorites:

ENJOY!

A bowl of chicken tikka masala with rice and naan

Chicken Tikka Masala

Katerina | Diethood
This simple stove top Chicken Tikka Masala recipe is rich and creamy with huge flavor. The tender marinated bits of chicken are charred, juicy, and delicious.
5 from 11 votes
Servings : 6
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients
  

For the Chicken and Marinade
  • 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs, cut into bite size cubes
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
For the Chicken and Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato puree/tomato sauce
  • cups water
  • cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish

Instructions
 

For the Chicken and Marinade
  • In a large mixing bowl combine chicken pieces with yogurt, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, sweet paprika, coriander, salt, chili powder, and ground ginger; mix until well combined.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
For the Chicken and Sauce
  • Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add half of the marinated chicken pieces to the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes per side; remove from skillet and continue to cook the remaining chicken. Add more oil, if needed.
  • Remove chicken pieces from skillet; set aside and keep covered.
  • Wipe down the skillet and set it over medium-high heat.
  • Add 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet; when butter is melted, stir in the onions, salt, and ginger.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until onions are soft.
  • Add garlic and cook for 20 seconds.
  • Stir in sweet paprika, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon salt; continue to cook for 20 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Stir in tomato sauce, then water.
  • Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and reduce heat to low. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove cover.
  • This part is optional, but recommended: using a hand blender, blend the sauce until creamy. If you don’t have a hand blender, use a normal blender, but blend the sauce in several batches. SKIP THIS PART IF you don’t have a blender.
  • Keeping the sauce set over medium heat, whisk heavy cream into the prepared sauce; whisk continually until thoroughly combined.
  • Whisk in the sugar and butter. Stir until butter is melted.
  • Add chicken back to the skillet; simmer for an additional 6 to 8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thickened and bubbling.
  • Serve over rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Notes

NET CARBS: 9 g

Nutrition

Calories: 344 kcal | Carbohydrates: 12 g | Protein: 28 g | Fat: 21 g | Saturated Fat: 12 g | Cholesterol: 111 mg | Sodium: 1472 mg | Potassium: 830 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 6 g | Vitamin A: 1557 IU | Vitamin C: 10 mg | Calcium: 90 mg | Iron: 2 mg | Net Carbs: 9 g

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: chicken tikka, chicken tikka masala recipe
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