Cast Iron

Chicken Meatball Tikka Masala

August  9, 2010
5 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I invented this as a meatier, heartier version of a vegetarian recipe I love: my chana bateta. The meatballs and their sauce get flavored with garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, and cayenne (pictured above). You make the dish by first baked spiced chicken meatballs, then smothering them in a smooth, creamy masala sauce. I bet your could try eating them in an Indian meatball hero with saag, but I've always served them simply with long-grain white rice. (If you're not into spice, you'll probably want to omit the serrano, or at least remove its seeds.) - SmallKitchCara —Cara Eisenpress

Test Kitchen Notes

The sauce is delicious and the meatballs are very flavorful—my husband couldn’t stop eating them! Note: I added the serrano chile with the shallots, garlic and ginger. - Cecilia —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the meatballs
  • 1 pound ground chicken thigh meat
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the masala sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 serrano chile, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Form into small golf-sized balls (you should get 24-26), and arrange them about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Peak inside and make sure they’re no longer pink before eating.
  4. Make the sauce: Combine the diced tomatoes and tomato paste in a mini food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
  5. Heat the oil over high heat in a large cast iron pan until smoking. Add the mustard seeds and cover immediately, and wait til they stop popping (15 seconds). Turn the heat to medium-low and add the shallots, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring nearly constantly, until the shallots are quite golden. Add the cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and cook for another minute or so, to toast the spices. Pour in the pureed tomato, and cook down for 3-4 minutes. It should be reduced to an almost paste-like consistency.
  6. Pour in the coconut milk, the salt and sugar, and about 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil.
  7. Simmer covered for 5-10 minutes, to let the flavors meld. Taste for salt and spiciness.
  8. Add the meatballs and the cilantro to the sauce. Toss well, heat the meatballs through, and serve.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Manhattan Tart
    Manhattan Tart
  • rinkatink
  • Robin O'D
    Robin O'D
  • AntoniaJames
  • AntoninDevourChoc
I'm the founder, editor, and head chef at the blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen (, a site dedicated to easy-to-execute recipes and stories from a quarter-life kitchen. I'm also the author of In the Small Kitchen published in 2011.

22 Reviews

Manhattan T. March 21, 2014
These were great and the sauce, though more scant than we'd have liked, was delicious. I used a small 8oz can of tomato sauce instead of paste/canned tomatoes and was happy with the consistency but will double next time and add a bit more coconut milk (Trader Joe's sells a nice, not too sweet light version). I also skipped the additional sugar and went light on the salt, thanks to AntoniaJames' review. Three of us dispatched nearly the whole pound of meatballs, setting some aside for a teenager's lunch. I made the meatballs and sauce in advance (one must prioritize to go wine tasting before dinner!) then combined the two for 15 min. or so to simmer. Really enjoyed this and will happily make again.
rinkatink March 15, 2013
I was linked to this recipe via the Home Cooking board at Chowhounds on the topic of Chicken Tikka Masala. This was absolutely delicious and I fully plan to make this again in the future. I doubled the recipe per the comments below and opted to stew seasoned raw chicken thigh chunks in the sauce after stirring in the remaining liquids at the 6th step. I have a major sweet tooth and like my curries to bear some sweetness - added in two tablespoons of brown sugar and it was perfection. I have a bowl of leftovers in the fridge that I'm considering throwing into a quiche later today...

Thank you so much for this recipe!
Sallie-o! June 3, 2012
Definitely trying next week! I don't think I know of a grocery or butcher around here where I've seen ground thigh meat - I'm sure it's more moist and rich. Will have to do some checking around...
Robin O. January 27, 2011
The whole family enjoyed this very much. I doubled the sauce for an easy meal down the road. Thanks!
Cara E. February 3, 2011
Glad you liked them, Robin!
AntoniaJames November 11, 2010
I made this again, the night before last. This time (and for the first time!) I actually made both the meatballs and the sauce!! I made a double batch of the sauce, and froze half, before adding the meatballs. We love this stuff. The meatballs are terrific. I love that they are baked. They just take care of themselves while you make the sauce! I found the one teaspoon of salt to be too much for my taste, so I added only a tiny bit to the sauce, to help break down the onions while they were cooking. I'll use less next time. Also, I don't add any sugar to the sauce, but that's also a matter of taste. I've made this many times, and each time I add the juice of a lime, but again, this is a matter of preference. My coconut milk seems a bit sweet, as do the cooked tomatoes, so the lime tones the sweetness down. One more thing. Since only two of us were eating, and since I like a lot of sauce when eating a dish like this, I set aside some of the meatballs, plain, for lunch the next day. I mixed them in with my favorite brown rice combo, with some leftover steamed string beans, and some Moroccan Carrot Salad from Amanda's "Essential New York Times Cookbook" (leftover from the weekend). It was delicious!! ;o)
AntoniaJames November 9, 2010
This sauce freezes beautifully. I made a double batch a few weeks ago and Mr. T managed to make himself a lovely dinner while I was traveling early last week. I put the sauce in a ziplock bag, and in a separate bag some cooked "brown rice medley" from Trader Joe's (great stuff . . . . brown basmati, black barley and daikon radish seed, and nothing else). He added fish, and made a salad. Sent me a text saying "Nice dinner." I'll be making this again, probably with the meatballs, tomorrow!! ;o)
AntoniaJames October 20, 2010
Last night this was raised from "in the rotation" status to "extra special, worthy of limited freezer space" status. I doubled the recipe for the sauce and froze half. It was my best batch yet. Here are my notes: Didn't have enough shallots so I used a medium large onion for the double batch. Used ghee instead of oil. Amazing!! Didn't have any tomato paste, so I pureed half a large can of diced tomatoes (for the double batch), leaving the other half as is, and cooked down the sauce to a thicker consistency. I like the texture of the sauce with a few chunks of tomatoes. Added the juice of a lime before serving. Added fish (cut up) at the end, instead of meatballs, and cooked them in the sauce right before serving. Mr T commented, "This sauce is delicious!!" I agreed. One of these days I'll have to try the meatballs. Just love, love, love this sauce. (Can you tell?)
lapadia October 20, 2010
Yes AJ, I can tell, and I love reading your feedback! I have the recipe printed and placed in my folder of recipes to definately try.
AntoninDevourChoc August 25, 2010
This stuff rocks.
AntoniaJames August 25, 2010
Made this again last night, at the request of my younger son, who's heading off to college in a few days. This is the third time in two weeks that I've made it. Again, I used fish, which I added at the very end after adding and heating the coconut milk. I used 2 large green (unripe) tomatoes this time, with the tomato paste. Their sweet-tart flavor worked beautifully. Served it with a yummy mint-coriander chutney (lacto-fermented) that I made a month or so ago, so I didn't add the fresh cilantro at the end. When using fresh tomatoes, I add the juice of half a lime to keep the sauce from being too sweet. This recipe is so good!! ;o)
Cara E. September 10, 2010
Oooh love the idea of the green tomatoes. I'm so glad you're using this recipe and figuring out so many variations!!
AntoniaJames September 10, 2010
Making it again tonight, most likely with meatballs (my first time actually following the recipe)!! We love this. ;o)
wanderash August 24, 2010
Wow! This is fabulous. I followed AJ's lead and used fresh chopped tomatoes; I smashed them in the pan as they cooked. After I brought the coconut milk and water to a boil, I put two salmon fillets in the pan and cooked them with the lid on, in the sauce. Divine! I will definitely make this again and next time double the sauce-- it was just enough for 2.
AntoniaJames August 24, 2010
I'm making it again tonight, as it was specially requested by my younger son, who heads off to college in a few days. Will report later on the variations this time. We're doing fish again, as my son loves it. I agree. "Wow!" ;o)
mklug August 20, 2010
This is my new go-to sauce. One day I'll try your actual recipe, because the meatballs sound out of this world (and simple--I've never made meatballs), but right now I'm living in the middle of nowhere (and bereft of a meat grinder), so ground chicken thigh is not in my cards...maybe turkey could substitute? Sometimes the local store has that. Super recipe--love it! Thank you for sharing it!
AntoniaJames August 19, 2010
I made this sauce, again (second time in ten days!!) but this time used it with shrimp. It was outstanding! I used fresh tomatoes, because I had extra on hand. I coarsely chopped three and just put them in the pot, bypassing the puree step. Also, I added the juice of half a lime at the same time that I added the shrimp, to cut the sweetness from the tomatoes. (Next time I use fresh tomatoes, I'll test before adding the sugar.) Also, right before serving, added a tablespoon or so of half and half, again because I just had some handy and wanted to make the sauce just a bit richer. It was a great touch, smoothing out the sauce a bit; I doubt that would be necessary with the original recipe, with its additional fat from the meatballs. This is one of my top 2010 new recipes, to date, no doubt about it. My whole family thanks you, SmallKitchCara!!! ;o)
AntoniaJames August 12, 2010
I made the sauce the other night and used it with fish (which I just cut into bite sized pieces and cooked right in the sauce for about two minutes . . . talk about easy.) This is, hands down, the best masala recipe I have ever tried. Thank you, SmallKitchCara, for all the work that went into getting this right, and for sharing it with us!! ;o)
Cara E. August 16, 2010
Blushing from the compliments! Making this with fish is a fantastic idea...can't wait til I get a chance to follow your lead!
lapadia August 9, 2010
This sounds great, can't wait to try, we buy chicken thighs alot!
AntoniaJames August 9, 2010
My family is going to go absolutely nuts over these. Wow. What a fabulous recipe. ;o)
Cara E. August 10, 2010
Glad to hear it! My guests go pretty nuts when I make these.