Chicken Tikka Masala

This Chicken Tikka Masala recipe features succulent pieces of chicken that are marinated in a yogurt sauce mingled with fragrant Indian spices, then skewered, grilled, and simmered in a luxuriously creamy curry sauce!  The flavors are absolutely incredible and this is guaranteed to rival your favorite restaurant or takeout version!

Along with Butter Chicken and Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular and most requested Indian dishes!

chicken tikka masala recipe best authentic Indian curry

What is Chicken Tikka Masala?

The origin of Chicken Tikka Masala is somewhat vague but is believed to be a blend of Indian and British influence.  While the dish “Chicken tikka” is of Indian origin, “chicken tikka masala” is thought to have been created by immigrants from former East Pakistan (now Bangledesh) in the 1960’s during a time when chefs of Indian restaurants throughout the UK were creating a series of “inauthentic” Indian dishes to cater to the Western palate.

The Scottish claim the city of Glasgow as the origin of chicken tikka masala where its creation is attributed to the Pakistani chef of the Shish Mahal restaurant.  A few years later in 1971 the chef’s son recounted the story to the BBC:

On a typical dark, wet Glasgow night, a bus driver coming off shift came in and ordered a chicken curry. He sent it back to the waiter saying it’s dry. At the time, Dad had an ulcer and was enjoying a plate of tomato soup. So he said why not put some tomato soup into the curry with some spices. They sent it back to the table and the bus driver absolutely loved it. He and his friends came back again and again and we put it on the menu.

Attempts have been made at giving Glasgow EU protected geographical status for chicken tikka masala but have been unsuccessful thus far.

Chicken Tikka Masala has not only become Great Britain’s most popular Indian dish, it’s one of most popular foods period and has been elevated to the status of one of Great Britain’s official national dishes, an emblem of Britain’s heritage of absorbing multi-cultural influences.

It was during the years I lived in England that I was first introduced to the dish and it has remained one of my favorite Indian dishes ever since.  After sampling many versions of this dish throughout Great Britain and elsewhere, I have developed what I believe is the one of the very best chicken tikka masala’s you’ll ever taste!

chicken tikka masala recipe best authentic traditional Indian curry

Tips for Making the BEST Chicken Tikka Masala

There are several factors that go into making the very best tasting chicken tikka masala.  Here are 7 essential keys:

  • Use the freshest spices you can find.  We also STRONGLY recommend that you make your own garam masala.  It’s easy and absolutely nothing can compare to the flavor of the spice blends made fresh from whole spices that are toasted and ground.  It makes ALL the difference in the flavor outcome of the dish.

Here is the link to our homemade garam masala.

garam masala recipe homemade authentic traditional best

  • Use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  This comes down to personal choice but brown meat has far more flavor and remains moist and succulent after it’s cooked.
  • Marinate the chicken overnight.  It’s tempting to rush the process but for the best results let that chicken marinate the full amount of time to allow those flavors to penetrate the chicken.
  • Grill or roast the chicken.  This will add a wonderful depth of flavor to your Chicken Tikka Masala.  Pan frying the chicken cannot replicate the smoky, slightly charred flavor of grilled or roasted chicken.  For the absolute best results cook it over a charcoal grill.  For an easier and still very tasty alternative you can broil it in the oven.  Slide the marinated chicken onto skewers, lay them on a roasting rack or lined baking sheet, and broil them until they’re lightly charred.

grilling chicken for chicken tikka masala

  • Caramelize the onions.  This will accentuate both the flavor and the sweetness of the onions, adding a wonderful contrast to the spices in the dish.
  • Use the right ratio of tomato puree to cream.  You don’t want too strong of a tomato flavor nor do you want it too diluted.  What we’re after is the perfect balance of flavors and we’ve achieved that in this carefully kitchen-tested Chicken Tikka Masala recipe.
  • Wait Until the Next Day (if you can manage it).  The fragrance of this dish simmering on the stovetop will drive you to the brink of madness and you’ll want to dive straight into the saucepan with a fork.  To be sure, it will taste fabulous straight off the stovetop.  BUT if you can muster the self-control, this dish tastes even more amazing the next day after the flavors have had more time to develop!

chicken tikka masala recipe best authentic Indian curry

Can I Make This Ahead of Time?

Yes!  Not only is it good reheated, it tastes even BETTER the next day after the flavors have had time to develop.  We encourage you to WAIT!

Can you Freeze Chicken Tikka Masala?

Yes you can.  But don’t add the cream until after you thaw and reheat it because milk and cream tend to become grainy and separate when they’re defrosted and reheated.  To remedy this make the dish as instructed but do not add the cream.  Instead, thaw and gently reheat the chicken tikka masala, stir in the cream and simmer for a few minutes to heat through.

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Let’s get started!

In a large mixing bowl, make the marinade by combining the yogurt, lemon juice, oil, spices, garlic and ginger.  Add the chicken pieces and stir to thoroughly coat.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.

making yogurt marinade

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and arrange them on a lined roasting rack or a lined baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 500 F.  Roast the chicken on the top rack under the broiler for 10-12 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is lightly charred on the edges.

*Reserve the juices that dripped to the bottom of the rack and add them to the sauce along when you add the grilled chicken.

grilling the meat

While the chicken is roasting, heat the ghee in a large saucepan and cook the onions over medium-high heat until they’re caramelized.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another two minutes.

cooking onions and garlic

Add all of the spices and cook for another minute or two.  Add the tomato paste.

adding spices

Add the tomato puree, water, salt and sugar.

adding tomatoes

Bring the sauce to a simmer, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Stir in the cream.

adding cream

Remove the grilled/roasted chicken pieces from the skewers and add them to the sauce along with the reserved drippings from the roasting pan.

Bring the sauce back to a simmer, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in the chopped cilantro.  Add salt to taste.

adding the meat

Garnish the Chicken Tikka Masala with some more chopped cilantro and serve with hot basmati or jasmine rice and naan bread.  A side of refreshing Cucumber Raita also makes the perfect accompaniment.  For dessert you can’t beat a simple and refreshing Mango Lassi or some Fruit Chaat.


chicken tikka masala recipe best authentic traditional Indian curry

For more delicious Indian recipes be sure to try our:

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet on December 30, 2019

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