Chicken Tikka Masala

Heaven on a plate

We’re trying not to eat out as much as we used to. Unfortunately, there are some things that I never thought I would be able to make at home…until now. Chicken tikka masala is easily my favorite (not-really-traditional) Indian dish. It looks complicated and there are a ton of ingredients, but you should have most of them in your kitchen already.


For the Marinade:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • juice of half a lemon

Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts. Combine cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl to make a rub. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken liberally with the spice mixture and press gently to make sure it adheres. They should be well coated. If you can see chicken meat, put some spice on it! Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside (for now).

Spice mixture

In a large bowl (or whatever dish you plan on marinating your chicken in – I used a square Pyrex with a lid), combine yogurt, garlic, ginger and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chicken, making sure it’s well coated, cover tightly and refrigerate. It needs to marinate for at least an hour and ideally overnight.

Marinade - please use whole milk yogurt. For me?

For Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons oil (butter, olive oil, etc. – I used grapeseed)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (see notes)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juices
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (see notes)
  • salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream

You Will Also Need

  • several long skewers, soaked
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

After your meat has been marinating a sufficient amount of time and you’re ready to make dinner, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion until softened, stirring frequently. Add garlic, ginger, tomato sauce and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant – about 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced – about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream. Cover to keep warm until chicken is cooked.

While sauce simmers, preheat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes per side. Let cool slightly, remove from skewers and place on a serving dish. Cover in warm sauce and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Hello Gorgeous!


  • My recipe is a mish-mash of about three different ones I found on-line. Chicken tikka masala can be prepared about a million (slight exaggeration) different ways. You will need a yogurt marinade for the chicken and the sauce is always going to have tomatoes and cream, but you can change up the spices however you like. I like this version because it tastes almost exactly like what I can get at my favorite Indian restaurant.
  • Fresh Ginger: Buy a hunk of root and keep it in the freezer. It’s easy to peel, you can just grate whatever amount you need (still frozen!), rewrap and throw back in the freezer.
  • Garam Masala: Apparently, you can buy a spice blend in the store but I could not find it at any of the ones that I frequent. Fortunately, it can be made pretty easily with stuff you probably already have on hand. This is how I made mine: 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cayenne, one bay leaf (crumbled), pinch of ground cloves, pinch of ground nutmeg and salt. This makes a little more than a tablespoon so I just used all of it in my sauce.
  • Sugar: I used this tiny amount to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Feel free to omit it if you want to avoid sugar but think of it this way: this is 2 teaspoons for an entire pot of sauce.
  • A note on the chicken: you don’t have to cut it up before you grill it, especially if you don’t have skewers. Leave it whole and either grill it like that or put in a foil lined pan and broil it.
  • Final note (phew): This made a lot (and I do mean a lot) of sauce. I will probably make a second batch of chicken or just eat it straight out of the pot like a slightly spicy (and chunky!) tomato soup.

About Kirsten

Wife, mother, writer and all around knerd. Maker of cookies, scarves and really big messes.

Posted on January 21, 2011, in Recipes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. 1) you need to not be so far away so we can cook together
    2) your food photos (and kitchen) are gorgeous and I’m jealous
    3) I need to make this for Richard, he looooooves Indian food and our Betty Crocker Indian cookbooks stink (not sure why I bother with cookbooks anymore since it’s so easy to find recipes online)

    • 1) Yes!
      2) Geez, thanks. I’m not going to lie, it usually takes about ten tries for one decent picture.
      3) I have a cookbook buying problem and yet, I only use one or two with any regularity. I think I like not having to find a place to put my computer while I’m cooking but it is definitely much easier to find recipes on-line and then just modify them.

      Also, Lorelei loved this. It wasn’t too spicy for her so maybe the boys will like it too – not sure how adventurous they are with food. Since I know you’re trying to eat less meat, the sauce is really good on it’s own or just with basmati rice. So so good.

      • Oh I know I have so many cookbooks! There are only 2 I use with any regularity. I’m lucky that our laptop lives on a shelf next to the kitchen so I can cook from the internet all the time (which I do). And the boys love spicy/exotic stuff so I’ll have to add it to the menu soon 😀

  2. This looks so good I may just have to make it. Thanks for the tip about the ginger root in the freezer. Why didn’t I think of that. Ginger adds to so many things and the fresh root is so good.

    Gorgeous photos, btw.

  3. This looks amazing! I miss the Indian restaurant close to my old job and have been looking for a recipe. Yours sounds and looks great, and not complicated. Thanks!

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