A made-from-scratch Chicken Tikka Masala recipe with the signature yoghurt marinated chargrilled chicken smothered in an incredible spice infused curry sauce. It’s astonishingly straightforward – and no hunting down hard to find ingredients. To say this curry is stunning is an understatement!
“I had a mouse in the house!”, I wailed to my friends at the dog park yesterday, very near tears at the memory. “I was so terrified, I barricaded myself in the bedroom.”
My friends responded with sympathy. Then someone asked the obvious question – “Didn’t Dozer chase it out of the house?”
“Errrr….” I hesitated, contemplating whether to preserve what little remains of Dozer’s dignity. “Well actually, it came into the living room, I freaked out and leapt to my feet on the couch. Dozer launched himself at it once but then he leapt up onto the couch with me!”
You can just imagine the peals of laughter echoing all across Pittwater as everyone pictured this 40kg/80lb dog standing on the couch pressed up against me, both of us quivering in fear.
So embarrassing. (For him, of course. Perfectly acceptable for me.😂)
It doesn’t sound fun to be barricaded in the bedroom, having left the back doors wide open with the hope that the mouse would find its own way out rather than bringing in all his mates for a party (and thankfully, I think he did depart). But actually, it was very productive. I answered a stack of messages and made the video for this Chicken Tikka Masala sitting in bed!!! 🙂
There are various tales about the origins of Chicken Tikka Masala, and most are along the lines of the following: That a British aristocrat was served Chicken Tikka (chicken on skewers chargrilled in a tandoor) and sent it back to the kitchen, complaining it was dry. In response to which the enterprising chef added a curry sauce and sent it back out again where it was well received.
And thus, one of the most popular curries in the world was born. 🙂 And even though it’s not a traditional Indian dish, the roots of it certainly are!
Proper Chicken Tikka Masala served at good Indian restaurants is made with yoghurt marinated chicken which is then chargrilled so it has that gorgeous smokey flavour.
Regretfully, I don’t have a tandoor sitting in the middle of my kitchen. So this recipe aims to replicate the flavour using my good old stove.
We start off with a Chicken Tikka yoghurt marinade for chicken thighs. Thighs, my friends. Not breast! We need juicy meat for this recipe because we’re going to blast it with some serious heat to replicate the char grilled flavour of Chicken Tikka!
Leave it to marinade for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Then heat your pan until it’s smoking hot – and I mean smokin’ hot!! – then cook those chicken pieces so the yoghurt coating gets chargrilled.
After that, we make the sauce, then toss the chicken back in to bring all the flavours together. And this is the vision that you will be bestowed with – your very own homemade Chicken Tikka Masala, made from scratch. With the signature deep orangey red sauce, wafting with aromatic curry flavour, smothering chicken with a beautiful chargrilled flavour.
This isn’t your everyday mid week meal. The ingredients list in the recipe looks alarmingly long, but it’s deceptive because there are duplicate ingredients. And we’re making a serious curry here! We can’t skimp on flavour!
And though the list might be long, here’s the best news – no hunting down unusual ingredients. You can get every single ingredient from the major supermarkets here in Australia (Woolies, Coles, Harris Farms, most Aldi’s and large IGA’s).
For curry lovers everywhere, it’s truly worth making your own curry from scratch at least once in your life. Like Thai Red Curry, a store bought curry paste (even a really great one) simply doesn’t compare. If I were to make this using a jar of paste, I would pimp it up quite a bit with fresh garlic, ginger and spices, and it would be not much less effort than making it from scratch!
I really hope you love this. This is a recipe that my brother and I developed together, tag teaming with the recipe until we “got it right” (meaning, as close as possible to good Indian restaurants).
Happy weekend! – Nagi x
PS In case you are wondering about the difference between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken, the main thing is the char grilled flavour of the chicken. Also, the sauce of Tikka Masala is more intense and complex. 🙂
PPS Chewy, truly restaurant style naan still alludes us. But we have not given up! Until then, try this No Yeast Easy Soft Flatbread. Perfect to use as naan.
Spice level: Low. Marinade time: 3 - 24 hrs. Recipe VIDEO below.
Make this iconic curry at home!!! It's a stunner - and although there's an extensive looking list of ingredients, it's astonishingly straight forward. Far better than paste in a jar, less oily than restaurants, and you can get everything you need from supermarkets here in Australia!
Real chicken tikka is chargrilled yoghurt marinated chicken smothered in a spice infused tomato cream curry sauce. It's not possible to get the kind of smoky surface char that can be achieved with a tandoor in order to to reach the kind of temperatures needed for true chicken tikka. This recipe replicates the flavour as closely as possible by creating a similar char on the stove. We found this worked even better than using a gas BBQ or standard charcoal grill (it's hard to get char on yoghurt marinated meat without super high heat).
- 600 g/ 1.2lb chicken thigh (boneless, skinless), cut into 3cm / 2.2" cubes (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, full fat best (Greek is fine)
- 6 cloves garlic , minced (~1.5 tbsp)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp garam masala (Note 2)
- 1 tsp each salt, cumin, coriander, paprika
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pinch black pepper
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 - 2 tbsp oil (Note 3)
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp garam masala (Note 2)
- 2 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/8 tsp cardomon powder
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 tbsp / 65ml vegetable oil (Note 3)
- 30g / 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped (brown, white or yellow)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 6 cloves garlic , crushed or grated
- 1 tbsp paprika (not smoked)
- 400 ml / 1 2/3 cups tomato passata (tomato puree)
- 400 ml / 1 2/3 cups water
- 100 ml / 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp cream (thickened or pure is fine)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 50g / 3 tbsp unsalted butter
Combine all ingredients except chicken in a bowl and mix. Add chicken and turn well to coat.
Cover with cling wrap and leave in fridge to marinate overnight (3 hours minimum).
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non stick pan over high heat until smoking. Add half the chicken and spread out. Leave for 2 minutes or until charred. Turn each piece and cook the other side until charred - don't worry if not cooked inside. (Note 4, also Video helpful here) Remove into bowl.
Scrape out charred bits left in pan and discard. Add more oil if required and cook remaining chicken.
Wipe skillet with paper towels (or do this part in a pot as you need a lid). Turn heat down to medium high.
Add oil and butter. When butter is melted, add onions, ginger and salt.
Cook, stirring constantly to ensure it doesn't burn, until the ginger is starting to turn golden and the onions smell sweet, about 5 - 7 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and paprika, and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the Curry Sauce Spices, and cook a further 2 minutes, stirring.
Add tomato passata and water, and mix. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to low.
Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour curry into a bowl, then use a stick blender to puree until smooth (Note 5).
Return sauce to skillet. Add cream, sugar and butter. Stir to melt the butter.
Add chicken, stir. Simmer for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
Optional: Sprinkle with a pinch of extra garam masala at the end.
Serve over rice, sprinkled with coriander/cilantro if desired. Try this No Yeast Flatbread as a quick naan!
1. Please don't try this with chicken breast! The high temp cooking required to achieve the char grilled crust on the chicken will overcook it and dry it out.
2. Garam Masala is a spice mix that is found in major supermarkets in Australia (Woolies, Coles etc) that is commonly used in Indian cooking. It smells like curry powder.
3. Or canola, coconut, grapeseed or other neutral flavoured oil with a high smoke point. NOT olive oil.
4. Try to keep the charred coating on the chicken, but don't fret if most gets stuck to the pan - you still get the flavour. This is the reason I use a non stick pan - less risk of charred crust sticking to pan (though you can make this in a well seasoned cast iron pan which is brilliant for getting that charred crust).
5. Don't skip the blending. When all those caramelised onions cooked with the garlic and ginger gets whizzed up with everything else, it's magic. It's one of the steps that we felt made "all the difference" - and restaurants do this too. It's all about the silky smooth curry sauce!
I transfer into a bowl because it's difficult to use a stick blender in a skillet. If you're making this in a pot, you can probably tilt the pot to use a stick blender. Or let cool slightly and do this in a blender - do not blitz piping hot sauce in a blender, it might blow the lid off and curry sauce will hit your ceiling!
* Indian cooking uses a lot of oil. Don't be tempted to skimp on the butter and oil for this recipe, it really affects the resulting richness of the dish at the end. We were quite surprised at the difference it made. AT MOST you can reduce the cooking oil by 1 tbsp and omit the butter at the end (but taste it first!). And even using the full amount of butter + oil, it only works out at about 1.7 tbsp per serving which isn't as obscene as one might expect. 🙂
* You can use ghee instead of the oil/butter used to sauté the onion. I find oil + butter produces a similar end result. I do use ghee sometimes - if I have it on hand (which I usually don't).
* The dish is deliberately saucy because it's SO GOOD!
* The salt level looks high but curries need it. Generally, intense flavours = more salt required.
5. Storage / make ahead - Chicken can be marinated for up to 48 hours in the fridge, or pop it straight into the freezer then it will marinate while defrosting overnight in the fridge. Cooked curry will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freezer for 3 months (defrost then reheat in microwave or on stove with splash of extra water). However, unlike stews, curries are at their prime freshly made, when the spices are at their most aromatic. A good trick to freshen up curries is to add a pinch of garam masala when reheating.
6. Recipe references: This recipe is the result of a mountain of reading, researching, tasting and cooking we did in pursuit of the ultimate tikka masala recipe for the home cook.
We visited some of our favourite Indian restaurants in Sydney just to taste the chicken tikka masala, and recounted our memories of curries we experienced in the UK and India (my brother, not me, I haven't been). We looked at existing recipes on the internet by authors both well known (Madhur Jaffrey andHeston Blumenthal) and unknown, including many Indian food bloggers. We even watched Youtube videos in Hindi and went to the library and dug up faded old Indian cookbooks!
We pulled out the best bits from every source of inspiration as well as adding our own ideas to come up with this recipe!
7. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings (excludes rice, naan etc).
More Curry For Curry Lovers
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
LIFE OF DOZER
Miserable, sulky post-swim hose down. No feeling sorry for him! He just spent the last hour swimming and rolling in sand!!!