Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

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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 absolutely delicious. Serve it over a heaping scoop of white rice for a quick dinner idea!

A bowl of chicken tikka masala with rice and naan

A Classic Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

I love me some luscious Indian food! 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, rich, and creamy tomato and spice sauce. The signature orange color comes from the spice mix, which features turmeric.

A bowl of cut chicken breasts marinating

What is the Difference Between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala?

These two Indian classics are both big time favorites! Butter chicken and Tikka Masala might look similar on your plate but the big difference is going to be in the flavor.

Tikka masala is spicier and has a bigger flavor. Butter chicken is more mild and slightly sweet. In butter chicken, your chicken bits are cooked in – you guessed it – butter, while in tikka masala, they cook in oil.

Recipe Ingredients

For this recipe, you start by cubing your chicken and marinating it in a mixture of yogurt, garlic, and Tikka spices.

Here’s what you’ll need for the chicken and marinade

  • boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs, cut into bite size cubes
  • plain yogurt
  • garlic
  • spices: garam masala, turmeric, ground cumin, sweet paprika, coriander, salt, chili powder, and ground ginger

After marinating the chicken for at least 30 minutes, you cook the chicken in hot oil and assemble the sauce.

Here’s what you’ll need for the Tikka Masala sauce:

  • vegetable oil
  • unsalted butter
  • yellow onion
  • garlic
  • sweet paprika
  • garam masala
  • ground cumin
  • turmeric powder
  • ground ginger
  • salt
  • tomato puree/tomato sauce
  • heavy cream
  • sugar
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

What Cut of Chicken Should You Use?

For my chicken tikka masala, 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

  1. Marinate: In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken pieces with yogurt, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, sweet paprika, coriander, salt, chili powder, and ground ginger. Mix until everything is well combined.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside for at least 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
  3. Chicken: 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 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Add tomato sauce: Stir in tomato sauce and water.
  7. Simmer: Bring the mixture to a simmer; cover and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. 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.
  9. Add sugar and butter: Whisk in the sugar and butter. Stir until the butter is melted.
  10. 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.
  11. Serve: Serve your chicken Tikka Masala over rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Close up view of chicken tikka masala in a skillet

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.

Tips for the Best Homemade Chicken Tikka

This chicken tikka masala is smooth, aromatic, and better than anything you’re going to find in a restaurant. Follow these simple tips to make sure it’s the best of the best.

  • I recommend using a cast iron skillet instead of a regular non-stick pan. This will create the perfect sear/charring on your chicken pieces.
  • 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.
  • Use plain yogurt in your marinade, not Greek. You want the fat from the plain yogurt and Greek yogurt is a bit too thick.

Homemade chicken tikka masala in a bowl with rice and naan

Serving Suggestions

I 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. 😍

If I add a dessert for afterwards, I like for it to be cool and fresh like this Fruit 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

ENJOY!

Tools Used in this Recipe

5 from 8 votes
A bowl of chicken tikka masala with rice and naan
Chicken Tikka Masala
12
12
12
8
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins
 

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.

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 6
Calories: 344 kcal
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
  1. 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.

  2. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.

For the Chicken and Sauce
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  2. 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.

  3. Remove chicken pieces from skillet; set aside and keep covered.

  4. Wipe down the skillet and set it over medium-high heat.

  5. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet; when butter is melted, stir in the onions, salt, and ginger.

  6. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until onions are soft.

  7. Add garlic and cook for 20 seconds.

  8. Stir in sweet paprika, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, ground ginger, and ¼ teaspoon salt; continue to cook for 20 seconds or until fragrant.

  9. Stir in tomato sauce, then water.

  10. Bring mixture to a simmer; cover and reduce heat to low. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  11. Remove cover.

  12. 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.

  13. Keeping the sauce set over medium heat, whisk heavy cream into the prepared sauce; whisk continually until thoroughly combined.

  14. Whisk in the sugar and butter. Stir until butter is melted.

  15. 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.

  16. Serve over rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Recipe Notes

NET CARBS: 9 g

Nutrition Facts
Chicken Tikka Masala
Amount Per Serving
Calories 344 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 12g60%
Cholesterol 111mg37%
Sodium 1472mg61%
Potassium 830mg24%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 3g12%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 28g56%
Vitamin A 1557IU31%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 90mg9%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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22 Responses
  1. S.M. Barnes

    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.

  2. TuqaSeleem

    I tried this out today and it came out delicious. I had tried out this dish before at a restaurant and it came out just like the restaurant dish. thank you so much for uploading this. I have discovered your website around a week ago and this is already my second dish to try out and I’m excited to try out more. thank you for uploading this delicious recipe and i hope you are keeping safe and healthy.

  3. Sara Welch

    This was such a great recipe; served this for dinner last night and it was easily a new favorite recipe! Looking forward to leftovers, indeed!

  4. Stephanie

    This looks so much better than what I get when we go out. Definitely going to put this on next week’s menu!

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