Chicken Tikka Masala

When I posted the Mango Lassi recipe, it really put me in the mood for more Indian flavors. I like Indian food a lot and the flavors are complex. I often find myself asking, “What am I tasting?”. A local Indian restaurant is helping to answer that question by emailing recipes to their customers. One of their recent emails included the following recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala.

I have had chicken tikka masala a number of times at Indian restaurants and I have even had a wonderful tikka masala that my daughter, Tricia, made for me on Mother’s day. However, I really wanted to try this recipe to see how it compared to the recipe that Tricia had used.  The end products tasted very similar, except that I have had to significantly lower the amount of salt used in the restaurant recipe. I like a light hand on the salt.

For me, I like salt to enhance the flavor of something, not announce, “HERE I AM! CAN YOU TASTE ME?”  Some of my other family members disagree and think that I don’t salt foods enough. I think that they have killed their palates by over salting. I learned to use less salt while I was pregnant with one of my babies because I was holding tons of water and it was driving my blood pressure up. At first everything tasted bland, but then it was amazing how much more of the food I could taste once I backed off on the salt.

Getting just the right amount of salt into food can sometimes be tricky and it is definitely a personal taste preference. On most foods, I figure that people can add salt at the table, and certainly my family has no problem adding their own salt. My only request is that they taste their food before they reach for the salt shaker. Sometimes I get the salt just right and off they go murdering the dish with the salt shaker before they have even tasted what they are salting.

Now that I have gone off on a salt tangent, I’ll get back to the recipe at hand. This recipe takes a little bit of time in the beginning, but I had fun making it because it used several techniques that I don’t often use in one recipe. I felt as though I was immersing myself in Indian culture. Maybe I ought to have worn my saree and put a red dot on my forehead while I cooked! John had brought a saree back for me some years ago when he had made a trip to India on business. I don’t ever wear it because it is made out of silk…and where exactly am I going to wear a saree in America anyway? Still, I like having it!)

Print green and blue-2Chicken Tikka Masala

Classic Indian flavors come together for a very flavorful tikka. Marinated in a yogurt sauce, bite-sized pieces of chicken are threaded onto skewers, then grilled on an outdoor grill or broiled in a standard kitchen oven. The chicken is then added to a creamy, tomato-based sauce spiced with ginger, cumin, paprika and cilantro.


For the Marinade
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper (The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper.)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste (The original recipe called for 4 teaspoons salt.)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the Chicken

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 long skewers
For the Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (don’t add it, if you want a milder flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (The original recipe called for 3 teaspoons salt.)
  • 4 ounces minced onion
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat a grill to high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread marinated chicken onto skewers. Discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.  Alternatively, chicken can be broiled in an oven, using the same timing as for an outdoor grill. (I broiled mine in the oven.  It worked great!)
  3. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic, ginger, onion and jalapeno for 2 minutes.
  4. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and teaspoons salt.
  5. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  6. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Recipe adapted from the India Fusion Restaurant
Servings – 4

Chicken Tikka Masala Collage 2

  1. Ginger root, unpeeled. Ginger comes with several root branches. Just break off what you need, and put the rest back in the refrigerator.  I have found that ginger root keeps well for several weeks.
  2. Peeling the ginger root. I peel it with a vegetable peeler, taking off the thin skin. Ginger is very fibrous so don’t keep peeling and peeling thinking that you will get past the fibers. Just take off the thin skin.
  3. Slice crosswise.
  4. Stack a few of the sliced pieces.
  5. Cut down through the sliced pieces, making narrow strips.
  6. Cut across the strips making tiny little minced pieces.
  7. The finished product.
Add all of the marinade ingredients, except for the lemon juice, in a bowl.
Blend them with a whisk or mixing spoon.
Now stir in the lemon juice.
Add the cubed chicken, mix well, and put in the refrigerator to marinate for 1 hour.  It’s okay if you let it marinate longer.
After the chicken mariates, thread it onto skewers.  You can use wooden or metal skewers, either one is fine.  The marinade is thick and will be coating the chicken.  This is what it is supposed to do, so don’t try to wipe it off.  Cover a baking sheet with foil, then place a wire rack in/on the baking sheet.  Spray the rack with a cooking spray such as Pam; or you can put a little oil on a paper towel and wipe the wires with it.  Now put the chicken skewers on the wire rack.  Place the pan in the middle of the oven and broil the chicken about 5 minutes on each side.  Be careful not to overcook it.  A little brown char on the chicken tastes good, but don’t take it to the black stage!
While the chicken is cooling, make the sauce.  There was a lot going on in my kitchen the day that I made the chicken tikka masala and I didn’t think to get a picture of the two minute cooking process for the onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper.  But…I did get a picture of the sauce after everything was mixed together!  This sauce is very easy.  Cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the sauce has thickened, remove the chicken from the skewers and add it to the sauce.
Stir in the chicken and serve over Basmati rice.  Basmati is one of my favorite rices.  It has such a wonderful rich flavor.  For this dish I used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Basmati Tumeric Rice.  (Recipe follows.)  But, plain basmati rice is delicious as well.
Basmati Turmeric Rice
Adapted from recipes by The Pioneer Woman
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 4 cups water

Mix all together in a sauce pot.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Lower heat to low, put lid on pot, and cook rice for about 20 minutes until done.

You can also make this in a rice cooker or even your microwave.  For microwave cooking, put the ingredients in a microwave safe dish.  Cover.  Cook on high for about 20 minutes.

A nice accompinament to this meal is a leavened Indian flat bread called Naan.  The recipe for Naan is below the recipe for the Basmati Turmeric Rice.


  1. says

    Wow…..I love making Tandoori Chicken….although it’s best done in a clay oven…tikka to…I’ll definitely try this one to go with your naan.

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