Chicken Tikka Masala


Chicken Tikka Masala is a beloved Indian dish that has gained international fame for its rich and creamy tomato-based sauce and tender, marinated chicken pieces. This dish combines the flavors of smoky, char-grilled chicken tikka with a luscious, spiced masala sauce, creating a harmonious blend that is both comforting and exciting. Perfect for a family dinner or entertaining guests, Chicken Tikka Masala is sure to impress with its vibrant flavors and beautiful presentation.

The origins of Chicken Tikka Masala are often debated. Some believe it was created by Indian chefs in the United Kingdom, while others argue it is rooted in traditional Indian cuisine. Regardless of its origin, Chicken Tikka Masala has become a staple in Indian restaurants around the world, celebrated for its complex and delightful flavors.

At the heart of Chicken Tikka Masala is the marinated chicken, which is traditionally cooked in a tandoor oven. The marinade typically consists of yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and a blend of spices such as cumin, coriander, and garam masala. This combination not only tenderizes the chicken but also infuses it with a depth of flavor that is enhanced by the high heat of the grill or oven, resulting in beautifully charred, smoky pieces of chicken tikka.

The masala sauce, which means “spice mixture” in Hindi, is equally important. It is made by sautéing onions, garlic, and ginger, then adding a blend of spices including cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala. Crushed tomatoes are then added to create a rich, tangy base, which is simmered until thickened. The final touch is the addition of heavy cream or coconut milk, which adds a luxurious creaminess and balances the spices with a subtle sweetness.

Chicken Tikka Masala is more than just a dish; it is a sensory experience. The vibrant colors, aromatic spices, and complex flavors come together to create a meal that is both satisfying and memorable. The versatility of the dish also allows for various adaptations to suit different dietary needs and preferences, making it accessible to a wide range of people.

This dish is perfect for those who enjoy cooking and experimenting with spices. The process of marinating the chicken and preparing the masala sauce provides an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the different spices and techniques used in Indian cuisine. For those new to Indian cooking, Chicken Tikka Masala is an excellent introduction, offering a balance of familiar and exotic flavors.

In addition to being delicious, Chicken Tikka Masala is also a nutritious option. Chicken is a lean source of protein, while the tomatoes in the sauce provide vitamins and antioxidants. Using Greek yogurt in the marinade adds probiotics and calcium, while the spices offer various health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties from turmeric and digestive benefits from cumin and coriander.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of making Chicken Tikka Masala, providing detailed instructions and tips to ensure that your dish turns out perfectly every time. Whether you are cooking for yourself, your family, or a gathering of friends, this recipe will help you create a memorable meal that is sure to delight and satisfy.


For the Chicken Marinade:

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for heat)
  • Salt to taste

For the Masala Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for heat)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish


Step 1: Marinate the Chicken
In a large bowl, combine the plain yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, minced ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, garam masala, paprika, cayenne pepper (if using), and salt. Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight for the best flavor.

Step 2: Cook the Chicken
Preheat your grill or broiler. Thread the marinated chicken pieces onto skewers or place them directly on a grill rack. Grill or broil the chicken for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and slightly charred. Alternatively, you can cook the chicken in a hot skillet with a little oil until browned and fully cooked. Set aside.

Step 3: Prepare the Masala Sauce
In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the vegetable oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, until softened and golden brown. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, until fragrant.

Step 4: Add the Spices
Stir in the ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, paprika, garam masala, and cayenne pepper (if using). Cook the spices for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and well incorporated with the onions.

Step 5: Add the Tomatoes and Simmer
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the flavors have melded together.

Step 6: Add the Cream
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the heavy cream or coconut milk. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until the sauce is rich and creamy. Season with salt to taste.

Step 7: Combine and Serve
Add the cooked chicken pieces to the masala sauce, stirring to coat the chicken evenly. Simmer for a few minutes until the chicken is heated through. Serve the Chicken Tikka Masala hot, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro.

Cooking Note

For an extra smoky flavor, you can add a few drops of liquid smoke to the masala sauce. This mimics the traditional tandoor oven cooking method used in Indian cuisine.

Serving Suggestions

Chicken Tikka Masala pairs beautifully with:

  • Basmati rice or jasmine rice to soak up the delicious sauce.
  • Warm naan or roti for dipping and scooping.
  • A side of cooling cucumber raita or a simple green salad.
  • A refreshing beverage like a mango lassi or iced tea.


  • Marinating the chicken overnight will result in the best flavor and tenderness.
  • For a dairy-free version, use coconut milk instead of heavy cream and dairy-free yogurt for the marinade.
  • If you prefer a thicker sauce, let the masala simmer longer to reduce and thicken.
  • Use fresh, high-quality spices for the best flavor. Toasting whole spices and grinding them yourself can enhance the dish even more.

Prep Time:

30 minutes (plus marinating time)

Cooking Time:

30 minutes

Total Time:

1 hour (plus marinating time)

Nutritional Information:

  • Calories: 400 per serving
  • Protein: 25g per serving
  • Sodium: 600mg per serving


Q1: Can I use chicken breasts instead of thighs?
Yes, you can use chicken breasts, but they may not be as tender and juicy as thighs. Adjust the cooking time as needed to avoid overcooking.

Q2: How spicy is Chicken Tikka Masala?
The spice level can be adjusted to your preference. Reduce or omit the cayenne pepper for a milder dish, or add more for extra heat.

Q3: Can I make this dish ahead of time?
Yes, Chicken Tikka Masala can be made ahead and reheated. The flavors tend to deepen and improve after a day, making it a great option for meal prep.

Q4: What can I use instead of heavy cream?
Coconut milk is a great alternative to heavy cream, providing a similar creamy texture with a hint of coconut flavor.

Q5: How do I store leftovers?
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.


Chicken Tikka Masala is a flavorful and satisfying dish that brings the vibrant tastes of Indian cuisine to your kitchen. The combination of marinated, grilled chicken and a rich, spiced tomato-cream sauce creates a dish that is both comforting and exciting. Whether you’re preparing it for a special occasion or a weeknight dinner, Chicken Tikka Masala is sure to impress with its complex flavors and beautiful presentation.

This dish is not only delicious but also adaptable to various dietary needs and preferences. With simple substitutions, it can be made dairy-free or adjusted for different spice levels, making it a versatile addition to your recipe collection.

Enjoy the process of making Chicken Tikka Masala, from marinating the chicken to simmering the fragrant sauce. The result is a restaurant-quality meal that you can proudly serve to family and friends. The vibrant flavors and aromatic spices will transport you to the heart of India, offering a delightful culinary experience.

In summary, Chicken Tikka Masala is a classic dish that never fails to impress. Its rich, creamy sauce and tender chicken pieces make it a favorite among many, and its versatility ensures it can be enjoyed by everyone. Whether you’re new to Indian cooking or a seasoned enthusiast, this recipe is sure to become a staple in your kitchen. Enjoy the flavors, savor the experience, and share the joy of Chicken Tikka Masala with your loved ones.

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