Chicken Tikka Masala

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The quote "the way to one's heart is through their stomach" has never been more fitting for a recipe. My southern heart loves a good Indian dish. When I first met my husband John, I told him about my taste for Indian food, leading us to numerous dates filled with spice. It wasn't until we were married that the truth came out – John was never a fan of Indian food at all! That is until my recipes convinced him otherwise! Today, our entire family can enjoy dishes like this Chicken Tikka Masala and laugh about the little white lie that started it all. 

Indian food has a reputation for its curry. Did you know that curry is actually the Indian word for sauce? Though I include curry in some of my dishes, I use very little of the spice, making them enjoyable for all.. One of my favorite elements of Chicken Tikka Masala is the sauce. The slow-cooked sauce is filled with garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes, and cream. Think of it as an Italian vodka sauce with a twist! This hearty dish feeds a crowd and is even better the next day. 

Share your own Chicken Tikka Masala with us on Instagram with the tag #inapinchmasala.


What You’ll Need:

For the Chicken:

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

½ cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice

for the Spice Mixture:

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons cumin

1 ½ teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon cayenne

For the Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

1 large white onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

28 ounce canned tomato puree

¾ cup water

½ cup heavy cream or half and half

1 ¼ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

½ cup fresh chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish if desired


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10 Easy Steps:

  1. Combine all of the spices- coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg, garam masala and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cut the chicken thighs into 1 ½ inch pieces.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the chicken thighs, yogurt, olive oil, lime or lemon juice, garlic and half of the spice mixture; making sure the chicken is coated. Let chicken marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. While the chicken is marinating, start making the sauce. In a large sauté pan or dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until onions are soft and translucent.
  5. Add in the grated fresh ginger and garlic and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add in the remaining half of the spice mixture, the tomato paste, tomato puree, water, salt and pepper.  Let simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally.
  6. Turn the oven broiler to high heat. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack on top. Spray the baking rack with cooking spray. Place the chicken pieces on the rack.  Broil for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until the chicken begins to get some char. Remove from oven. The chicken will not be fully cooked.  It will continue to cook in the sauce.
  7. Add the chicken to the sauce and continue to let simmer for another 30 minutes; stirring occasionally. 
  8. After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and add in the cream and chopped cilantro; stirring until combined. 
  9. Serve immediately over rice, with Carrie’s Indian Roasted Okra and Tomatoes, or with garlic naan bread. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice if desired.
  10. Enjoy!


Carrie’s Tips:

If serving over rice, add cumin seeds to the rice

Double the spice mixture and save half of it in a ziplock bag or covered glass jar. That way you won’t have to make the spice mixture when you make this dish the next time

This hardy recipe feeds a crowd and is even better the next day!
— Carrie