Ultimate Chicken Tikka Masala

By • August 7, 2011 • 6 Comments

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Author Notes: I love Indian food, but for a long time I struggled getting this dish just right. This recipe is an amalgamation of numerous recipes and tricks I've picked up. The result is delicious. The chicken is juicy and extremely tender, and the sauce is just the right flavor and consistency. Enjoy!kevin.townsley

Food52 Review: WHO: Kevin.townsley lives in Toronto and plays the viola.
WHAT: A take-out favorite, made even better at home.
HOW: Marinate your chicken in yogurt and spices; simmer a sauce of caramelized onions, cream, and more spices; grill your chicken and fold it in.
WHY WE LOVE IT: There's a certain smugness and satisfaction that comes with cooking a favorite take-out dish at home -- and making it even better. This is a perfect example. We love how balanced the recipe is; the richness of the cream cuts through the heat of the spices and the acid of the tomatoes, and the chicken, wonderfully, never dries out. Put down that phone -- this is so much better than ordering in.

Serves 8

Tikka Marinade

  • 1 cup plain Greek or whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 3 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ginger minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in 1.5 inch cubes
  • Skewers


  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 large onion cut into thin half wheels
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 2 serrano chilies roasted, seeded, and diced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • One 28-ounce can San Marzano whole peeled plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish
  1. Mix all of the marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Fold in the chicken, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Heat the oil in a large casserole.
  4. When the oil is hot, turn the stove to medium and add the onion. Brown the onions until they are caramelized. This takes about 20 minutes of constant stirring, and you might get lazy and want to shortchange this step. Resist the temptation and do it properly. This is the most important step for bringing rich flavor to your sauce. Also, if you want a little more onion in the dish try adding a second smaller onion and cut it into larger wedges, This adds some nice textual variation to the dish.
  5. Next, add the garlic and chilies, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Now add the cumin, paprika, and garam masala. Fry these spices with the onions for a minute to release their flavor. Add salt and pepper directly prior to adding tomatoes. This helps draw the flavor of the onions, spices, and tomatoes together.
  7. Next, add the chopped tomatoes and mix well. It is alright to add the juice contained within the tomatoes themselves, however, be very conservative with the remaining juice in the can. You may find you want to add a little for volume, and that's fine, however, if you add too much your sauce will be very watery.
  8. After the tomatoes have cooked with the spices for a few minutes add the heavy cream, thoroughly mix, and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally.
  9. While the sauce is simmering, take the chicken out of the refrigerator, and place on wooden skewers.
  10. If you feel like making the effort you can grill the chicken outside on a charcoal grill (using real wood charcoal). This is the best way. However, it adds a decent amount of time, and if you're cooking more than one dish, it can be a huge pain running in and out of the house. The other option is a stove top grill iron. Lightly coat the iron with oil, and once it is hot enough, cook the chicken skewers.
  11. Once the chicken is fully cooked, take it off of the grill and put it to the side to cool for 8 to 10 minutes. This seals in the flavor and ensures the tenderness of the meat.
  12. By now the sauce should have thickened nicely. Remove the chicken from the skewers and fold it into the sauce. Raise the heat slightly and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat, and serve over basmati rice. Garnish with some fresh cilantro. See my recipes for spicy creamy peas and vegetable korma, they make excellent side dishes.
  • This recipe is a Wildcard Contest Winner!
  • This recipe is a Community Pick!

Tags: chicken, curry, indian, juicy, marinade, savory, spicy, Tender, tikka

Comments (6) Questions (0)


1 day ago Kate

Any options besides a stove top grill iron (which I don't have)? How would this work under the broiler?


1 day ago sticksnscones

It sounds perfectly delicious! Could one substitute coconut milk for the heavy cream?


over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I made just the grilled chicken component of this a few weeks ago; everyone raved about it. In fact, I'm making it again tonight! I used some of the marinade on some firm fish (mahi mahi), and it was fantastic, too. Will probably make the entire dish at some point later in the year. Thanks for an excellent recipe! ;o)


over 2 years ago Turtle Wexler

I made this and it was the best Chicken Tikka Masala I've ever tasted-- bracingly hot (my cayenne is super-strong) and all-around lovely. Where are those recipes for vegetable korma and spicy creamy peas? I checked your profile, but didn't see them linked.


over 2 years ago kevin.townsley

I apologize for the delay. I've been pretty busy with school, and putting recipes on here fell off my radar. I'll go ahead and put those two recipes on tonight, and since I have some time this week, I'll see about making them and getting some good pictures. It's hard to get people to try your dishes without pictures, so thank you for giving this one a shot!


over 2 years ago kevin.townsley

Just a quick note. I specify San Marzano whole tomatoes for a reason. They are high quality, and the taste can't be matched. Some recipes call for tomato puree. I strongly recommend against that option. Puree is often made of poor quality tomatoes, and the taste overpowers the dish.