photo of chicken tikka masala with basmati rice

Ready to take a flavorful journey to India without leaving your kitchen? Just try our beginner-friendly Chicken Tikka Masala recipe! Impress your loved ones with this popular Indian dish that combines juicy chicken, aromatic spices, and a rich, creamy tomato sauce. Get ready to indulge your taste buds and satisfy your craving for exotic flavors.

A delicious and visually appealing Chicken Tikka Masala dish that serves 4-6. Each bite offers a delightful balance of spice, heat, and umami flavors, perfectly complemented by a side of fluffy basmati rice or naan bread.

photo of chicken tikka masala recipe dish ready

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

In short: Marinate chicken breast pieces in a blend of Indian spices and yogurt, then grill or bake them until tender. Simultaneously, prepare a creamy tomato sauce infused with aromatic spices and herbs.
Combine the chicken and sauce, and let it simmer until the flavors meld together.
Serve with steaming hot rice or naan bread, garnished with fresh cilantro and a dollop of cooling raita (optional).
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 People
Calories 430 kcal


  • Large bowl for marinating chicken
  • Grill or baking sheet for cooking chicken
  • Blender or food processor for pureeing tomatoes
  • Medium saucepan for simmering sauce
  • Wooden spoon or whisk for mixing
  • Spice measuring spoons
  • Cutting board and knife for preparing herbs
  • Colander or strainer for removing excess liquid
  • Serving platter and utensils


  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes adjustable
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes diced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper optional
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
  • Naan bread or basmati rice for serving


  • Preheat your grill or oven to medium-high heat.
  • In a large bowl, mix together yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, smoked paprika, garam masala, coriander, turmeric, chili flakes (if using), and salt.
  • Add the chicken pieces to the marinade and coat them evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
    chicken tikka masala marinating
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it on a grill or baking sheet. Discard the remaining marinade.
  • Grill or bake the chicken until it’s cooked through and slightly charred, about 6-8 minutes per side.
    closeup photo of grilling chiken
  • While the chicken cooks, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook until they’re translucent and starting to caramelize, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add minced garlic, grated ginger, garam masala powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and cayenne pepper (if using) to the saucepan. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in diced tomatoes, heavy cream or half-and-half, and a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a plate and cover it with foil to rest. Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with steaming hot basmati rice or naan bread. Offer raita (a yogurt-based side dish) as an optional accompaniment.


Nutritional Facts Per Portion (approximate):

Calories: 430
Protein: 36g Fat: 24g
Carbohydrates: 32g
Fiber: 4g
Sugar: 10g
Sodium: 450mg
Keyword chicken, masala, tikka

Recommended Pairing Drink:

Pair your dish with a glass of Mango Lassi — a sweet and creamy yogurt-based drink that pairs well with the rich and savory flavors of chicken tikka masala. The sweetness of the mango complements the spiciness of the dish, while the creaminess of the yogurt helps to cool down the palate.

Alternatively, a Pinot Grigio — a crisp and light white wine that pairs well with the bold flavors of chicken tikka masala. The acidity in the wine helps to cut through the richness of the dish, while its fruit notes complement the spices and herbs used in the sauce.

Recommended Pairing Dishes:

Garlic Naan Bread: Is a type of Indian flatbread that is flavored with garlic and often served with various curries. It pairs well with chicken tikka masala because its soft texture and subtle garlic flavor complement the rich and creamy sauce without overpowering it.

Basmati Rice: Is a popular side dish in Indian cuisine, known for its nutty flavor and fluffy texture. It pairs well with chicken tikka masala because it absorbs the flavorful sauce nicely, while its mild flavor doesn’t compete with the spices and herbs in the dish.

Saag Aloo: Is a spinach and potato curry that is commonly served alongside chicken dishes in Indian cuisine. It pairs well with chicken tikka masala because its mild flavor and creamy texture complement the bold and spicy flavors of the dish, while its earthy notes complement the herbal undertones in the sauce.

Occasions Where This Recipe Would Be Great:

  • Casual dinner parties
  • Family gatherings
  • Potlucks
  • Special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries
  • When you crave a flavorful and satisfying meal
photo of couple eating chicken tikka masala

Useful Pro Tips:

  • To enhance the flavors, use high-quality spices and herbs.
  • Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours, or overnight if possible, to ensure that it is tender and flavorful.
  • Grill the chicken over high heat to get a nice char and smoky flavor.
  • Simmer the chicken in the sauce for at least 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • Adjust the level of spiciness to your liking by adding more or less chili flakes.
  • Use a combination of spices and seasonings to create a complex and flavorful sauce.
  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with rice or naan bread for a complete meal.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and reheated within 3 days.


What is Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken Tikka Masala is a vibrant, flavorful dish, known for its complex blend of spices, tangy creaminess, and tender chicken.
It’s made by marinating chicken pieces in a blend of aromatic spices and yogurt called a “tikka”.
These tikkas are then skewered and grilled for a smoky flavor.
The masala is a tomato-based creamy sauce flavored with garam masala, turmeric, cumin and more. The grilled chicken tikkas are added to this sauce, resulting in an absolutely delicious dish known as Chicken Tikka Masala. This dish is best served with naan bread or jasmine rice for a complete meal.

What are the origins of Chicken Tikka Masala?

There’s a lot of debate about the true origin of this dish. Although widely regarded as an iconic Indian dish, the true origins of Chicken Tikka Masala remain somewhat controversial. While the basic recipe comes from the Indian subcontinent, in the Punjab region, the version of chicken cooked in a creamy, mildly spiced tomato sauce known as chicken tikka masala is said to have been invented in Britain by Indian immigrants in the 1960s or 1970s.
Some stories suggest that it was created by a chef trying to salvage a batch of dry chicken tikka by adding a tomato-based sauce, while others claim that it was invented as a way to appeal to British palates unaccustomed to the spiciness of traditional Indian curries.
Regardless of its exact birthplace, Chicken Tikka Masala has become a beloved favorite in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other parts of South Asia, as well as among fans of Indian cuisine worldwide. It’s a fusion dish that combines Indian flavors with British culinary sensibilities.

Is Chicken Tikka Masala healthy?

Chicken Tikka Masala can be quite healthy, depending on how it’s prepared. The sauce typically contains antioxidant-rich spices such as turmeric, cumin, and coriander, while the yogurt and chicken provide protein. However, this dish can be high in fat and calories because of the cream used in the sauce. You can make it healthier by replacing the cream with a lower-fat option and controlling the amount of oil used.

The healthfulness of Chicken Tikka Masala depends on other factors, like portion size, quality of ingredients, and cooking methods. In general, homemade versions tend to be healthier than restaurant versions because you control the amount of oil and spices used. Optimizing ingredients such as lean proteins, whole spices, and low-fat dairy products further enhances the nutritional value. Moderation and balanced meal planning remain key considerations.

Is Chicken Tikka Masala hot?

tikka masala Hot image

The spiciness of chicken tikka masala can vary. While the Traditional Chicken Tikka Masala can be quite hot, depending on the amount of cayenne pepper or red chili powder used in the recipe, there are ways to adjust the heat level to suit individual preferences. Also, the creaminess of the dish helps to balance the heat.
The beauty of making this dish at home is that you can reduce or eliminate the cayenne pepper if you prefer a milder taste. In addition, serving raita (a yogurt-based side dish) or providing extra yogurt on the side can help counteract the heat of the spices.

Can I make Chicken Tikka Masala in a slow cooker?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, using a slow cooker can help tenderize the chicken and infuse the sauce with deeper flavors. Simply marinate the chicken as usual, place in the slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. When the chicken is almost done, add the tomato-based sauce and continue cooking for another 30 minutes to an hour. This allows the flavors to meld beautifully, making it a great option for busy days or parties.

What kind of chicken is best for Chicken Tikka Masala?

pohto of grilled chicken and sauce

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs work well for Chicken Tikka Masala because they have enough fat to stay moist during cooking. You can also use bone-in chicken cuts, such as drumsticks or wings, but keep in mind that they may take longer to cook through. Feel free to experiment with different cuts of chicken to find your preference.

How can I customize Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken Tikka Masala offers many options for customization, so you can tailor the dish to your liking. Consider trying these variations:
Spice level: Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper, red chili powder, or add other spices like ground cinnamon, cardamom, or cloves to create unique flavor profiles.
Protein Substitutions: Replace chicken with other proteins such as shrimp, paneer (Indian cheese), or tofu for a vegetarian option.
Sauce changes: Experiment with alternative dairy substitutes like coconut milk, cashew cream, or Greek yogurt to change the richness and flavor profile.
Additions & Omissions: Feel free to add different vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, or zucchini to the sauce or omit elements like ginger or garlic to suit your personal taste.
Marinating twists: Mix things up by combining yogurt with unusual suspects like honey mustard, lemon juice, or pomegranate molasses for added depth.
Remember, the beauty of home cooking is the ability to express your culinary personality, so don’t hesitate to put your own spin on this classic!

Can you make Chicken Tikka Masala ahead of time?

Yes, you can prepare certain components of Chicken Tikka Masala ahead of time to save time. For example, you can marinate the chicken, cook the sauce, and even cook the chicken pieces in advance.
On the day of serving, simply reheat everything and combine according to the recipe. This makes it a convenient option for large gatherings or special occasions.

Can Chicken Tikka Masala be frozen and reheated?

Yes, Chicken Tikka Masala is an ideal dish for batch cooking and freezing. Make sure it’s completely cold before transferring it to airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.
You can store it in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
If you’re reheating a small amount, simply microwave for 30 seconds to one minute until heated through.
For larger portions or when reheating for a crowd, transfer the contents to a saucepan or Dutch oven and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions in the oven by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet and baking at 350°F (175°C) for about 10-15 minutes. Be sure to check for hot spots and adjust cooking times accordingly.
You may need to add a little water or cream to bring it back to the right consistency, as the sauce can thicken while freezing.

What does “masala” mean in Chicken Tikka Masala?

In the case of Chicken Tikka Masala, it refers to a blend of spices used to make the creamy, rich tomato sauce in which the chicken tikka (marinated, grilled chicken pieces) is cooked.

What’s the difference between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken?

Both dishes are incredibly popular and may seem similar, but there are important differences. Chicken Tikka Masala has a more complex, layered flavor profile due to the variety of spices used and the grilled chicken pieces. On the other hand, Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is typically creamier and sweeter, with a buttery flavor, and the chicken is usually cooked in a tandoor or oven before being added to the sauce.

What can you serve with Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken Tikka Masala goes well with Indian breads such as naan or roti, as well as with a side of basmati rice. You can also serve it with some crispy papadums or a side salad. For a complete Indian meal, consider serving it with saag paneer (spinach and cheese curry) or dal makhani (black lentil curry).

Can I make a vegetarian version of Chicken Tikka Masala?

Yes, you can replace the chicken with plant-based proteins such as tofu or chickpeas, or vegetables such as cauliflower and bell peppers to make a vegetarian version of Tikka Masala. The key is to keep the spices and technique the same to capture the flavor of the traditional dish. Just substitute your vegetarian alternative for the meat and follow the same steps.

What accompaniments go well with Chicken Tikka Masala?

There are many delicious side dishes that complement Chicken Tikka Masala perfectly. Some popular options include steamed basmati rice, garlic naan bread, roti, raita (a yogurt-based side dish), sautéed spinach or kale, and papadum (thin, crispy Indian crackers). Feel free to mix and match based on personal preference or dietary needs.

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