Flavorful Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

I discovered Indian food in college and my life has been better for it. Somehow, it was only recently that I discovered the magic that is Chicken Tikka Masala. The first time I tried to make it at home, Jake and I invited our friend Todd over and it was pretty awful. It tasted mostly like cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Yikes. We never used that recipe again. Ever since then, I was on a hunt to find a great recipe. A coworker told me if the recipe doesn't have garam masala, it isn't worth it.

While I've had this dish throughout India, this isn't something I'd consider authentically Indian. Some reports suggest that it was invented by a Bangladeshi chef in Britian while others have claimed it was invented in South Asia with a British palate in mind. What I love about this dish is that it's almost a fusion dish that mixes the styles of meat with gravy (that you might encounter in British cooking) with spices you'd find commonly thoughout South Asia, such as cardamom, coriander, and garam masala. 

A few notes about where you might be able to find all the spices if you can’t find them at your local market

  • Local Indian market (I was surprised to learn there’s two within a few miles of my house)
  • Whole Foods
  • Sprouts
  • Penzey’s

I especially love buying new spices I don’t own from the bulk spice section because it lets me buy a small amount until I know I really like that spice.

Also, regarding garam masala, you can definitely make it at home if you have a spice grinder. We haven’t perfected this spice blend so buy the Punjabi-style garam masala from Penzey’s.

Different ways to char the chicken

  • Cut chicken into cubes, place on skewers, than grill
  • Cut chicken in half and grill, then cut on a cutting board once done
  • Cut anyway you’d like, broil on a wire rack in the oven

Of all the methods, I’ve recently switched to grilling the chicken breasts or thighs whole. I find this saves me a lot of time in preparation and cooking. But you’ll see below I historically have used skewers. Personally, I would only recommend using the wire rack in the oven if you don’t have access to a grill as it makes a mess that is more difficult to clean.

Chicken Breast versus Chicken Thighs

This recipe calls for 2lbs of chicken breasts but you can easily switch that out and buy chicken thighs too. 

Batch Cooking Tips

We love this recipe so much we make 2x so we can have leftovers. Our favorite is to serve it with basmati rice and roasted cauliflower. You can also serve with naan bread. Yummy. 

We batch cook and freeze our chicken tikka masala in our 1cup and 2cup portions:

  • For the 1cup tray: fill each cube with remaining chicken tikka masala
  • For the 2cup tray: have leftover rice, then use the 2cup tray. First add in chicken tikka masala up to the 1cup line, then fill with rice, and freeze.

Full directions below. Recipe is adapted from Alison Roman over at Epicurious.

Gather and prep ingredients for yogurt marinade

Note: This picture (and the recipe below) is for the original amount that uses 2lbs of chicken. Because we love this recipe so much, the pictures from here on out will be for a double recipe (or 4lbs of chicken breast) even though the actual recipe below is at 1x.

Place yogurt in a large bowl, then add spice mixture and mix together

Add chicken to yogurt mix, stir together. Cover with clear wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

There have been plenty of times where I didn’t have time to prep the yogurt marinade in the morning. What I’ll do is prepare it at night and then let it marinate for the day, then grill the chicken in the evening when I’m making dinner ready.

Heat butter in a large pot, add onion, cardamom, and chilis

 

Use butter or ghee instead of vegetable oil for more flavor. I often add the onions first and cook them for 1-2 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes and cardamom and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato paste, stir for 2 min

The bottom of the pot will start to turn brown as the tomato paste cooks

Add remaining garlic, ginger, ground turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin

Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes, or until bottom of pot begins to brown

Add crushed tomatoes and stir

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 8-10 minutes. Sauce should thicken.

Add parsley and cream, then stir. Simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Cover with lid and simmer for 30-40 minutes

Note, as I mentioned above, I ended up doubling the recipe because I love this dish so much. However, I've found that 3 cups of heavy cream is typically enough (if you double the original recipe, you'd use 4 cups). I recommend just adding 3 cups at first, tasting the sauce, and then deciding if you want to include the 4th cup (assuming you're going to double the recipe).

Place chicken pieces on skewer sticks, then grill

If you don't have skewer sticks, see note above about the various ways to char the chicken.

Add chicken to sauce, cook for 8-10 minutes

Serve with basmati rice and roasted cauliflower


Freeze leftovers in individual portions for later


Can't wait to have these again for lunch at work!

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Recipe Adapted from Alison Roman's CTM over at Epicurious (Chicken Tikka Masala)

Note: You will need to marinate the chicken for 4+ hours ahead of time. The recipe also calls for skewer sticks and a grill, though you can easily prepare this dish in an oven as well.

INGREDIENTS:

For the Chicken Marinade

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and fine grated
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1.5 cups whole-milk yogurt, plain (not Greek)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons butter (or ghee)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red chili pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and fine grated
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

To Serve: steamed basmati rice and fresh cilantro

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Make Yogurt Marinade. In a large or medium bowl, add yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt, and chicken. Mix together. Cover with clear wrap and place in the refrigerator. Chill for 4-6 hours.
  2. Prepare Tikka Masala Sauce. Heat butter (or ghee) in a large heavy pot over medium heat until melted. Add onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and chilis. Cook and stir for 4-5 minutes or until the tomato paste has darkened. Then add remaining garlic, ginger, ground turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes, or until the bottom of the pot begins to brown.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes (with juice) and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Stir often and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pot until sauce thickens (about 8-10 minutes)
  4. Add cream and chopped cilantro. Let the sauce simmer for 30-40 minutes with a lid on. Stir occasionally.
  5. Char Chicken. Place chicken pieces on a skewer stick and grill until chicken starts to blacken/char in spots (it will likely not be cooked through) for 10 minutes. If you don't have skewer sticks/grill, then place on a rimmed baking sheet with foil on top of a wire rack and cook in the oven with a broiler on.
  6. Add chicken to the sauce and let simmer for 10-15 minutes so that the chicken can cook through.
  7. Serve warm with rice and cilantro. 

Make sure to check out our other recipes too: Freezer Friendly Recipes

Ready to make individual portions of Chicken Tikka Masala? Get your Souper Cubes® trays today!


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