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Recipe: At-home Chicken Tikka Masala

Posted Feb 16 2011 5:07pm

Indian is my favorite cuisine, hands down (Mexican coming in second).  So what kind of home cook would I be if I didn’t take the time to master a few staple Indian dishes?  So far I have mastered a few spice mixes, chutneys, sauces, one bread, and a few meat dishes.  Cooking Indian food is much easier than you would expect; and you could probably whip up a meal tonight with some things you have in the fridge.  

Chicken Tikka Masala is the first dish most Westerners think of when they think of Indian food.  I have had frequent cravings for the mix of spices ever since I first tasted a masala sauce back in high school.  My Chicken Tikka Masala recipe is actually a hybrid of a Channa Masala and Chicken Tikka recipe, and it stands alone very well as a vegeterian dish if you choose to omit the chicken, and wonderfully as a vegan dish if you omit the cream.

Masala dishes are typically served with naan bread and/or Basmati rice.  Both are very easy to prepare.  In this case I decided to bake garlic naan (very quick and simple, but for another post) and an herb-spiced rice.  The dish would also work nicely served with quinoa or sans the grains.  My version of the dish has been modified from Cook’s Illustrated.

Recipe after the jump :)

Chicken Tikka

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

Masala Sauce

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 green peppers, diced
  • 6 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 or 2 (28oz) cans chickpeas
  • 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c cream
  • 1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

If you can’t get your hands on garam masala (found at Indian grocers or the international aisle at your grocery store), it is just a simple blend of spices.

Garam Masala

  • 1/3 c ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 c ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c ground black cardamom seeds
  • 1/4 c ground clove
  • 3 tbsp ground green cardamom seeds


  1. Prep the chicken: Combine half of the cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt and dust both sides of the chicken with the mixture.  Refridgerate for 60 minutes.  In another bowl combine other half of the cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt.  Add spice mixture to yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger; set aside.
  2. For the sauce:  Heat oil a large pot; add onions, green peppers and carrots (cook 8-10 min over medium heat).  Add garlic, ginger, chiles, garam masala, tomato paste and chickpeas; stir frequently until fragrant.  Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and black pepper; bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occassionally.   Stir in cream and return to simmer.  Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper middle position (6 in from heating element) and heat broiler.  Dip chicken into yogurt mixture and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Broil chicken until thickest parts register to 160 degrees and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
  4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce.  Stir in cilantro.

Herb-spiced Rice

  • 4 c rice
  • 4 c water
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook rice normally.  Once cooked, add butter and garlics, stir frequently until melted.  Add turmeric and fresh cilantro. 

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