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!
Chicken Tikka Masala
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.
How to make Chicken Tikka Masala
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.
Tikka Masala is deceptively easy!
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).
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.
We looked at existing recipes by authors both well known (Madhur Jaffrey and Heston 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!
Difference between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken
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 which Butter Chicken does not have. Also, the sauce of Tikka Masala is more intense and complex. 🙂
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). Hope you enjoy! – Nagi x
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Marinade:
- 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, ground coriander, paprika (sweet, normal or smokey)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- Pinch black pepper
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 - 2 tbsp oil (Note 3)
Curry Sauce Spices:
- 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.
* 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: See in post. 7. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings (excludes rice, naan etc).
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Miserable, sulky post-swim hose down. No feeling sorry for him! He just spent the last hour swimming and rolling in sand!!!