Tikka Masala Macaroni & Cheese From Preeti Mistry

March 20, 2021
5 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Chef Preeti Mistry’s mac and cheese first won me over with that tomatoey tinge and tikka masala spicing. But the part that really confounded me was the extreme creaminess without a béchamel in sight. How? In part we can thank the full-fat dairy (don’t skimp), and also the fact that the recipe wasn't a mac and cheese to begin with. It started as a butter chicken recipe at Preeti’s first restaurant Juhu Beach Club—they thought it would have a great second life as a mac and cheese (and it has).

As Preeti writes in Julia Turshen's cookbook Feed the Resistance, “This macaroni and cheese is on the 'Comforting' menu at my restaurant, where we give a dollar from every bowl to a particular non-profit organization. This one specifically supports Destiny Arts Center. We have worked with them for the past four years to support their amazing efforts. They are an incredibly powerful organization that teaches both self-defense and dance to young people on a sliding-fee scale. And more than that, it is a place where young people can express themselves creatively and explore the many issues they may be dealing with in their lives, such as racism, sexism, physical abuse, homelessness, drugs, or gangs. In the more than 25 years they have been around, the high school graduation rate among kids that are fully integrated in the program is 100 percent. We love them.”

A few more tips: The sauce big-batches well, freezes well, and holds well in the fridge, so you can scoop out big, spicy spoonfuls through the week to sauce your noodles (or anything else you’d like to tikka mac-ify) as you go. Even the fully sauced mac holds up valiantly, as long as you don’t blast it in the microwave or oven longer than necessary. If you can’t find any of the spices or would just rather use a ready-to-go blend, Preeti recommends the mustard fenugreek masala they developed with Spicewalla (but use two heaping teaspoons, since it will be spicier).

Recipe adapted slightly from Feed the Resistance by Julia Turshen. Check out Preeti’s original Butter Chicken recipe in The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook by Preeti Mistry and Sarah Henry.

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What You'll Need
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Tikka Masala Macaroni & Cheese From Preeti Mistry
  • 8 green cardamom pods
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 1 3-inch [7.5-cm] cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Indian red chile powder (Kashmiri chile powder)
  • 4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • one 6-ounce (170g) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups (480ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (227g) sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (170g) gouda cheese, coarsely grated (plus more for sprinkling on top, optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups (170g) cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound (453g) uncooked elbow macaroni, shells, or other small shape
  1. Place the green and black cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, and fenugreek seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring the spices, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the toasted spices to a clean coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground (or use a large mortar and pestle). Stir in the chile powder and set the mixture aside.
  2. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it melts, add the ginger and garlic and cook until sizzling and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved spice mixture, tomato paste, cream, and 1/2 cup (120ml) of water. Whisk everything together until the tomato paste dissolves. Let the mixture heat up until bubbles form around the edge, about 5 minutes, and then whisk in the sour cream, the cheddar cheese, and the gouda cheese. Cook, stirring now and then, until the cheeses melt and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with 2 teaspoons salt, decrease the heat to low, and keep the sauce warm.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season it generously with salt. Add the macaroni and cook according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the cheese sauce and stir well to combine.
  4. Either serve right away (it will start very loose and deliciously creamy and thicken more as it sets, and as leftovers). Or, optionally, transfer the mixture to a broiler-safe baking dish. Heat your oven broiler. Top the pasta mixture with the additional grated gouda to taste and broil 3 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

31 Reviews

Priya S. October 26, 2022
so easy and good. tested it for thanksgiving and it's in! used salted butter, so reduced salt by .5t. also added .5t sugar. next time - going to use 1/2 smoked gouda and swap half of chili powder for smoked paprika.
lutom April 8, 2022
I made this for dinner last night and it was a winner. I wasn't able to find kashmiri chile powder so I subbed in 1pt sweet paprika, 1pt smoked paprika, and 1pt cayenne which worked well. Otherwise I made as written and it was a hit. I warmed up some of the leftovers for lunch today and as promised it reheated beautifully - almost better the next day since the spices had a chance to marry together. It's only my partner and I so I made the full batch of sauce and freezed half for another time - really looking forward to the day I get to pull out the remaining sauce and eat this again! Thanks for a great recipe :)
judy March 15, 2022
This looks wonderful. I have to admit that I have simply put my toasted spice blend into my béchamel sauce and then gone on with the rest of the usual recipe for Mac and cheese. It is wonderful. I did this on a suggestion from Maneet Chouhan on A chopped episode (I think) where she referenced that Curry Mac and cheese was delicious. And it is. This may be a genius recipe, but it is too complicated for me. Oh a nice addition to this is Indian spiced (your choice) poached chicken torn apart and baked into the Mac and cheese when running. that extra cheese layer for browning under the broiler. Don't forget to garnish with coriander leaves. So good. Maybe a little tamarind chutney, too.
ozbaker May 9, 2021
Didn't care for this version of mac and cheese. I used all the ingredients except for the black cardamom pods. I thought the sauce was very flavorful but would prefer it with something other than noodles. The amount of sauce to macaroni was way too much IMO. Even my husband who loves all things Indian as well as mac and cheese didn't like it.
stickerbook March 27, 2021
Delicious! Didn’t have tomato paste so I blended 3 tomatoes which did the trick. Also no gouda. The sauce was quite thin when it was done but after mixing with the macaroni and standing for 10mins, it thickened up quite a lot. Yummy!
Sandra B. March 21, 2021
I made this tonight with Fiber Gourmet high fiber rotini. Really delicious!
joyce March 16, 2021
so so yummy! i've always wanted to make a spiced, fragrant version of mac and cheese, and this hits the spot much more so than when i've made a mac and cheese with green chiles. i wasn't able to find black cardamom or kashmiri chili powder at the market, so i just used a couple more green cardamom pods, and subbed a mix of cayenne and hot paprika for the chili powder. also didn't have enough cream so topped up with milk. i would say it serves 4 hungry people, and 8 people if you have some sides.
allekas March 14, 2021
This was a huge hit at our house. The only sub I made was to use sweet smoked paprika in place of Kashmiri chili powder. I didn't trust my spice grinder to take on the cinnamon stick nor the cardamom pods and I'm lazy so I toasted seeds from 8 green cardamom and 2 black (my black seeds were huge and sticky otherwise I would have doubled too) and then added 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon to the grinder when I added all of the toasted bits. Also 170 grams of sharp cheddar looked almost 2x as big as the 170 grams of gouda so I eyeballed them to be similar quantities to compensate for the apparent vortex in my kitchen. The result was perfectly tasty. I served with kale sauteed in white wine and garlic slices which was a spot-on complement. My husband asked that we serve this when we are able to have dinner parties with our friends again. Fingers crossed!
Richard C. March 14, 2021
Once again....Genius Recipes has done us well!!.The spice blend was a new twist for us.. WE LOVED IT!!.We will be eating the leftovers all week for sure!! Thank you so much Kristen and Preeti!!!
Emily March 11, 2021
Any advice on how much individual ground spices or a good curry blend ingredients 1-5 would convert to?
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
Hi there, in the Author Notes above I mentioned that Preeti recommends the mustard fenugreek masala from their collaboration with Spicewalla (note that the 3 pack of spice blends is 16.99, or $43 if you add the cookbook). In Julia Turshen's cookbook Feed the Resistance, she says she has used 1 tablespoon of garam masala + 1 tablespoon of red chile powder from the grocery story—it won't be the same as this blend, but Julia says it gave her excellent results, too.
Sandra B. March 21, 2021
I ordered the spice blend just for this recipe—it is worth it!
Caroline W. April 30, 2021
Hi Kristen. How did you use the spice blend? I just received Chef Preeti Mistry's three-spice pack from SpiceWalla. It includes: Sambar Masala; Smokey Black Cardamom, and Mustard Fenugreek. You say in the author's notes: "Preeti recommends the mustard fenugreek masala they developed with Spicewalla (but use two heaping teaspoons, since it will be spicier)." Do I just use the Mustard Fenugreek or do I combine it with the Sambar Masla and Smokey Black Cardamon? If so, how much each. Thank you! I can't wait to make this!
Caroline W. May 1, 2021
Hi Sandra what proportions of the spice mix did you use from each tin? I just got my 3-pack yesterday and I’m not sure how much to use. Thank you!
Sandra B. May 1, 2021
I used 2tsp of the mustard fenugreek blend
Caroline W. May 1, 2021
Thank you!
Emily March 11, 2021
What is Kashmiri chile powder? Is there a good substitute I can find in a big chain grocery store?
Heidi S. March 11, 2021
I had the same question. Here is an excellent article on various chili powders: when I make this, I'm going to use paprika. If you think about it, an entire tablespoon of something "hot" would be a disaster.
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
Hi there, see my note above about substitutions—you can certainly start with less chile and add more to taste in the sauce.
lutom April 8, 2022
I subbed in 1tsp sweet paprika, 1tsp smoked paprika, 1tsp cayenne for the 1tbs of kashmiri chile powder and it was great!
Chris March 10, 2021
I’m looking forward to making this, but want to clarify the amounts of the cheeses. The ounces & grams don’t match - 4 ounce = ~ 114 grams, not 170 & 6 ounces = ~ 16
Chris March 10, 2021
~ 168 grams. So which is the correct measurement? Thanks for your help.
Chris March 10, 2021
To continue - 6 ounces = ~ 170 ounces. So, which amount is correct? Thanks for your response.
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
Thank you for pointing this out, Chris—I've corrected and updated the recipe to be clearer.
Chris March 12, 2021
Thanks for the clarification, Kristen.
Alan March 10, 2021
What type of cheddar cheese is used in this recipe? There are levels of sharpness of cheddar and and it's not mentioned.
S March 11, 2021
I believe she said "Sharp" to stand up to the flavor of the spices, but is really up to you if you don't like sharp use any other flavor. Cooking is an art, be creative, baking is a science.
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
Sharp cheddar is great to be able to taste it prominently among the spices, but if all you have is something more mild, it will still be delicious.
Tracy T. March 10, 2021
Can you make this with Tikka Masala spice to make it easier? We are military living overseas and don’t have access to exotic spices.
scoot87501 March 10, 2021
Hi-You don't permission, just go ahead and try it. It is bound to be delicious if a bit different.
Kristen M. March 12, 2021
Hi Tracy, check out my response to Emily about substitutions above. Hope you enjoy this recipe!