Ultimate Chicken Tikka Masala

August  7, 2011
12 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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. —The Editors

  • Prep time 9 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
  • 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
  • Sauce
  • 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
  • 2 pinches Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano whole peeled plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 sprigs Fresh cilantro for garnish
In This Recipe
  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.

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