Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

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

In addition, explore more of my Indian favorites and definitely try our Jeera Rice for a simple yet delicious side, or dive deeper into the rich tastes with my recipes for Mulligatawny Stew and Chicken Korma.

A bowl of chicken tikka masala served with rice and naan.


 

Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

My love affair with Chicken Tikka Masala began during a trip to Australia back in my early college days. Amidst my enjoyment of local favorites like chicken satay and maki, this is when I first encountered tikka masala, and I was instantly smitten. The bold flavors had me hooked from the first tasty bite! My co-travelers were so confused that I had never tried Indian food. They didn’t realize I was from IndianA, not India. 😆

Thus, friends, brace yourself for a flavorful meal with this fantastic recipe! My from-scratch Chicken tikka masala features yogurt-marinated, pan-fried chicken seasoned with an incredible spice mix and cooked in a creamy tomato sauce that’s worth a finger-licking moment. This recipe stands tall among the best Indian-inspired foods I’ve ever tasted, and it’s probably one of the most popular curries in the world.

If you’re new to Indian cuisine or hesitant to try it, this is your perfect starting point. Begin with the beloved classics and favorite Indian dishes like butter chicken, rogan josh, and this easy chicken tikka masala. I promise you’re going to fall in love with the rich flavors that will have you reliving the experience long after your plate is clean!

What is Tikka Masala?

Chicken Tikka Masala is a classic Indian dish featuring chicken marinated in yogurt and Tikka paste, a richly flavorful spice blend, then charred and simmered in a lush tomato creamy sauce. The dish’s signature orange hue comes primarily from turmeric in the spice mix. While Tikka Masala has a hint of spice and sweetness, the cream in the sauce beautifully balances the heat, making it not overly spicy. In contrast to butter chicken, which is milder, sweeter, and cooked in butter, chicken tikka masala offers a spicier taste fried in oil.

Homemade chicken tikka masala in a bowl served over rice and naan.

What You’ll Need

To recreate this favorite Indian restaurant dish at home, gather the following ingredients from your local grocery stores. You’ll likely have most of these in your pantry already, except perhaps for the more specific curry spices. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.

For the chicken marinade

  • Chicken breasts – You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs and cut them into bite-size cubes.
  • Plain yogurt – The yogurt tenderizes the meat and also helps it absorb flavor.
  • Garlic – I use around six cloves of fresh garlic, but garlic powder could also work here.
  • Spices – To give the chicken a vibrant and deep flavor, we will use several spices, including garam masala, turmeric, ground cumin, sweet paprika, coriander, salt, chili powder, and ground ginger.

For the Sauce

  • Vegetable oil – Used for frying because of its neutral flavor. Substitute with Canola or sunflower oil.
  • Unsalted butter – Adds richness to the sauce, but you could use Ghee for a more authentic flavor.
  • Yellow onion – White onion is okay as well, but don’t use a red onion.
  • Garlic – Substitute a couple of teaspoons of garlic powder if fresh is unavailable.
  • Spices – Garam masala, sweet paprika, ground cumin, turmeric powder, and ground ginger.
  • Kosher salt – To enhance all the flavors.
  • Tomato Sauce – You’ll need a can of tomato sauce or use tomato puree.
  • Heavy cream – Provides a creamy, rich texture to the sauce. Coconut milk or Half & Half are great alternatives.
  • Sugar – Balances the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Fresh cilantro – Chopped cilantro makes for a nice and herby garnish

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala

Follow this step-by-step guide to make the best chicken tikka masala at home. With a great recipe and simple instructions, even novice home cooks can recreate this popular curry that’s so darn delicious!

  1. Marinate. 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.
  2. Cook the chicken. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces to the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the skillet and continue to cook the remaining chicken. Set aside the cooked chicken and keep it covered.
  3. Saute onions. Wipe down the skillet and add 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the onions, salt, and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and spices: Add garlic and stir in sweet paprika, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for 20 seconds or until fragrant.
  5. Add tomato sauce. Stir in tomato sauce and water. For a more concentrated tomato flavor, you can also add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.
  6. Simmer. Bring the mixture to a simmer; cover and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add heavy cream. Remove the cover and blend the sauce with an immersion blender, then whisk in the heavy cream until it’s thoroughly combined.
  8. Add sugar and butter. Whisk in the sugar and butter. Stir until the butter is melted.
  9. 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 bubbly.
  10. Serve. Serve it over basmati rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.
Close up view of chicken bites cooking in a thick tomato sauce.

Recipe Tips

  • Yogurt: Use plain yogurt in your marinade, not Greek. Plain yogurt has the ideal fat content and a thinner consistency, which is better for marinades than the thicker Greek yogurt or sour cream.
  • Chicken: I prefer using boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. While breasts are leaner, thighs tend to be more tender and flavorful. Choose based on your personal preference for leanness or flavor. If you opt for chicken breasts, consider marinating them longer to help tenderize the meat.
  • Blend: Blending the sauce to achieve a creamy texture is optional, but recommended. Use an immersion blender for convenience, or a standard blender in batches if needed. If you don’t have a blender, you can skip this step. The sauce will still be flavorful, though less creamy.
  • Charring the Chicken: Don’t skip charring the chicken! Although it might seem easier to just cook the chicken in the sauce, charring it in hot oil adds flavor.
  • Spice Level: Adjust the spice level to suit your taste. For a hotter or milder tikka masala, modify the amount of cayenne pepper.

Serving Suggestions

I like to serve chicken tikka 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’ll also want naan, lavash bread, or any pita bread on the side to sop up the sauce. What would also be good is some Indian samosas and a side of this refreshing cabbage cucumber salad.

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

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

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 or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating. To reheat, simply add the chicken to a pan and warm it over medium 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:

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5 from 12 votes

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Enjoy this easy Chicken Tikka Masala recipe featuring tender, yogurt-marinated chicken charred to perfection and smothered in a rich, spice-infused curry sauce for a truly unforgettable meal.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

For the Chicken 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 Curry 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
  • 15 ounces can of tomato puree or tomato sauce
  • cups water
  • cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • chopped fresh cilantro or parsley,, for garnish
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Instructions 

For the Chicken 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 Curry 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 or until charred; remove from skillet and continue to cook the remaining chicken. Add more oil if needed. Remove chicken pieces from the 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. 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.
  • 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.

Nutrition

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

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.

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28 Comments

  1. Dani C says:

    This was wonderful! I only had Greek yogurt, so I mixed in some oil to thin it and add some fat. Still a little thicker than desired, but it worked. I did add red pepper flakes at the table for those who like it spicy. Used chicken breasts and marinated it all day. Chicken was super tender. This is definitely a keeper!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      That’s wonderful! I’m very happy you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂

  2. Beth says:

    This turned out so fantastic! We’ve shamefully only eaten tikka masala from a jar before, and this was like a restaurant dish. We’ll be making it often. Thank you!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      That’s great! I’m very glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂

  3. Lesli Chavali says:

    I’ve got the chicken marinating right now! After reading the other comments, I’m so excited to make it tonight!

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      That’s great! I hope you enjoy it! Thank YOU! 🙂

  4. S.M. Barnes says:

    I made this today and used lamb instead of chicken. The flavors were AMAZING! I served with red lentil dahl and some naan and my meal was complete. Plenty of leftovers to share with my neighbor and lunch tomorrow. This recipe will definitely stay in regular rotation for meal planning.

    1. Katerina Petrovska says:

      I am very glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂