Dressings & Marinades,  Gluten Free,  Indian,  Main Course,  Poultry,  Recipes

Chicken Tikka Masala

While Chicken Tikka Masala is most often associated with India, it’s actually one of Britain’s favorite curry dishes.

Tender marinated chicken pieces charred and then simmered in a heavenly creamy, rich and moderately spicy sauce.

Sometimes your tastebuds need (and deserve) a trip around the world.

Jump to Recipe

When I set out to prepare a well-known dish such as Chicken Tikka Masala, I spend a good bit of time reading, recreating and recording the process.

As I researched the history of this delightful dish it became clear that the aromatics and the spices were the stars.

What I’ve also found is that there are really two recipes within one….the marinade and the sauce. And both include the same key ingredients.

So for my recipe breakdown below, you’ll see I added a Spice Blend first. This allows you to measure once and use twice and also keeps the ingredients list far less intimidating.

The Marinade

Chicken Tikka Masala begins by marinating chicken pieces in yogurt, aromatics and spices. I used chicken thighs because they love to quickly take on a punchy marinade and remain nice and juicy when cooked. I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes to marinate but an hour or two will nicely intensify the flavors.

The Method

Working in batches, the marinated chicken pieces are pan seared in a smoking hot skillet with ghee until nicely charred, about 2 minutes per side.

Reserve the chicken, wipe the pan to remove any black bits and begin to build the curry sauce.

The Sauce

The sauce begins with sautéed diced onion and freshly grated ginger, followed by minced garlic, a generous amount of spices, and tomato puree.

At this point the aromas wafting through your house will be incredible, fortunately you’re only 15 minutes away from serving!

The sauce is simmered and then pureed in the blender (or remove to a bowl and use an immersion blender).

Return the sauce to the skillet, swirl in the cream and ghee (or butter), and return the charred chicken pieces to the sauce to heat through.

Just like that you’ve recreated Chicken Tikka Masala at home.

Serve Chicken Tikka Masala over basmati rice or with naan bread and a generous sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

This dish is comfort in a bowl. Warm spices, creamy sauce, tender chicken all beautifully balanced. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and share a comment below.

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All my best,

Chicken Tikka Masala

Libby with Lemony Thyme
Warm spices, creamy sauce, tender chicken all beautifully balanced in this flavorful dish.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Marinade Time 1 hour
Course Entree
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4


For the Spice Blend

  • 2 Tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika not smoked
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more for extra spicy flavor

For the Marinade

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 cup plain full fat yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic about 3 cloves
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Spice Blend see above

For the Sauce

  • 4 Tablespoons ghee divided
  • 1 large onion fine diced
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic about 6 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Spice Blend see above
  • 1 14 ounce can tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup water if needed

To Serve

  • 1 1/2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves chopped
  • naan bread optional


For the Spice Blend

  • Combine ground spices in a jar with a lid and shake to combine.

For the Marinade

  • In a large bowl, combine 1 cup yogurt with 1 Tbl. freshly grated ginger and 1 Tbl. freshly minced garlic. Add 2 1/2 Tbl. of Spice Blend, stir to combine. Add chicken pieces and stir to thoroughly coat all pieces. Cover bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes but up to 3 hours.
  • Heat a large cast iron or heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 Tbl. of ghee, heat until smoking. Working in batches, sear the chicken pieces in a single layer, about 2 minutes per side. They should become blackened and charred. Remove pieces to a plate. Add more ghee and sear another batch. Repeat until all chicken has been charred on both sides. Reserve.

For the Sauce

  • Wipe the skillet to remove any black bits. Heat skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbl. ghee and sauté onion and ginger, stirring constantly until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic and salt and cook an additional minute. Sprinkle in remaining spice blend, stir to coat onions and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in tomato puree, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer sauce to a blender and puree until smooth or transfer to a bowl and use an immersion blender. Return sauce to pan, stir in cream, 1 Tbl. ghee or butter. Add water, up to 1/2 cup, to achieve desired thickness. Bring to a low simmer, return charred chicken pieces to sauce to heat through.

To Serve

  • While making the sauce, prepare basmati rice according to package instructions. To serve, place a serving of rice in each bowl, with 1/4th of the chicken tikka masala. Sprinkle with a generous amount of chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with side of naan bread (optional). Enjoy!


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