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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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. 😍
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:
Chicken Tikka Masala
- 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
- 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
- 1½ cups water
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish
- 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.
- 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.
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.
29 comments on “Chicken Tikka Masala”
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!
That’s wonderful! I’m very happy you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂
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!
That’s great! I’m very glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂
That’s great! I am very glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂
I’ve got the chicken marinating right now! After reading the other comments, I’m so excited to make it tonight!
That’s great! I hope you enjoy it! Thank YOU! 🙂
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.
I am very glad you enjoyed it! Thank YOU! 🙂