Today’s chicken tikka masala recipe was our very first attempt at making Indian cuisine.
Many people had told us, “Go for it, you won’t be able to go wrong with Indian cuisine!”. We weren’t actually buying that though, until we made our first leap out of the box, and onto the field.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take us long to figure out that what people had been saying to us was actually true.
Without any artificial preservatives, this chicken tikka masala promises you a surprisingly rich-tasting Indian dish. Infused with flavors from the spice blend and sauce, the chicken is tender, juicy, and bursting with aromas.
What Is Tikka Masala?
Chicken tikka masala is a dish made by cooking chunked marinated chicken in an orange spiced curry.
Chicken tikka masala has been acknowledged as “The true natural dish of Britain” for decades. Although the origin of this dish is still in dispute, we found some interesting history around it.
Back in the 17th century, due to population growth, India witnessed an increase in agricultural production. One aspect of which was the rise of breeding farms.
More chickens meant more chicken dishes came to the family table, including chicken tikka.
It wasn’t until much later, during British rule, that British cuisine adopted the dish. But it was only after the 1950s that chicken tikka traveled almost 5000 miles to go viral in the UK.
Flip forward to the 1960s when a British chef decided to add yogurt, tomatoes, and more spices to the dish. All to prevent the chicken from drying out.
Unintentionally, the dish became even more delicious. That was when it was finally westernized with today’s name, “chicken tikka masala”.
Is Chicken Tikka Masala Healthy?
Chicken tikka masala rarely comes to mind first when people think of “healthy” foods. It’s so creamy, well spiced and often a bit greasy when ordered at restaurants.
However, there is always room for people to alter a chicken tikka masala recipe to their needs and interests. It’s actually the added food-flavoring materials, rather than essential ingredients, that tell us whether this dish is wholesome or not.
Our chicken tikka masala calls for boneless and skinless chicken breast. It is known to be a great source of lean protein and beneficial for weight loss.
Four ounces of a raw, skinless, and boneless chicken breast provides 136 calories and 25.4 grams of protein. As protein is an ultimate metabolism booster, your body will naturally burn more extra calories when it is digested.
This chicken tikka masala recipe also uses all fresh ground spices and whole foods. We believe without any diet restrictions, it’s totally okay for you to enjoy this dish without any feeling of guilt.
Chicken Tikka Masala Nutrition
For such a creamy and buttery dish, it’s not surprising that chicken tikka masala is high in fat. However, when working with this recipe, we managed to keep it within a healthy limit.
One single serving of chicken tikka masala provides 497 calories. Most of which come from the chicken breast, Greek yogurt, heavy cream, coconut milk, butter, and tomato sauce.
Carbohydrate content is 54 grams in one single serving of this chicken tikka masala recipe. This amount comes mostly from the cooked rice that we serve together with the chicken.
Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala
Chicken tikka masala and butter chicken are both made with a tomato sauce base. That’s why they’re often mistaken for each other.
Both dishes are Indian-inspired. However, if you’re a frequent guest at authentic restaurants, it isn’t so difficult to differentiate between these two.
Butter chicken is a curry with a sauce that is generally creamier than tikka masala. As suggested in the name, the word “butter” refers to the fatty and creamy mouthfeel that each bite leaves.
Chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, is more tangy and intense in taste. It comes with more notes of flavor by adding heaps of spices and dried herbs into the mix.
While most chicken tikka masala recipes use boneless chicken (and sometimes skinless), butter chicken recipes prefer bone-in chicken pieces. Though, as time goes on, the matter of having bones in or not doesn’t matter much anymore.
No surprise, we also have a dish with a very similar name: honey butter chicken. However, it follows a whole different style of cooking— check it out!
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala
Make the marinade: In a large bowl, whisk the chicken with: 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, almond powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder, chili powder, lemon juice, and Greek yogurt.
Coat the chicken with the marinade: Coat the chicken with the marinade. Let the chicken marinate for 15 minutes.
Toss chicken with olive oil
Bake the marinated chicken: Transfer it to a baking tray and bake at 400℉ for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove and set aside.
Make the tikka masala sauce (1): Heat a cast-iron pan on medium heat, add onion, butter, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder, and stir for a minute.
Make the tikka masala sauce (2): Continue to add green bell pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of cumin powder, garam masala, 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of coriander powder to the pan. Stir for a minute.
Make the tikka masala sauce (3): Add tomato sauce and water to the pan. Let simmer for 3 minutes, stir frequently.
Add chicken: Add the baked chicken chunks into the pan, mix with the sauce. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
Add heavy cream and coconut milk: Pour heavy cream and coconut milk into the pan, whisk to combine with the rest.
Serve: Sprinkle fresh chopped coriander and serve immediately.
Is Chicken Tikka Masala Spicy?
In this chicken tikka masala recipe, we only made it mildly spicy so it’s adaptable and agreeable for more people.
In fact, the level of spiciness for this dish is super easily adjusted. You can replace red chili powder with cayenne powder for added heat.
However, if you or someone you’re cooking for really doesn’t like spicy food, simply omit all the spicy agents. That being said— chili powder, garam masala, and paprika.
Note that leaving out all the spices will significantly alter the flavor. Therefore, you may want to have the final taste carefully tested before serving.
Sauce for Tikka Masala
Tikka masala sauce is a cream-based sauce made with onion, butter, tomato paste, garlic, and ginger. Like many other curries, it also has a vibrant color and spicy aroma.
The tomato sauce to heavy cream ratio is what decides the overall color and consistency of the masala sauce. In this chicken tikka masala recipe, we set it at 2:1.
Vegetable Tikka Masala
The first good thing about vegetable tikka masala is that nothing needs to be marinated: one step omitted! The second thing is that it can be made suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Vegetable tikka masala usually calls for chickpeas, cauliflower, or carrots to make up for the absence of meat. Other options to consider are paneer, tofu, or green peas— if you want to make it a little more Indian.
The spicy creamy sauce is made from the same aromatic spice mixture and a combination of onion, garlic, and ginger. Coconut yogurt and coconut cream can take the place of all dairy products.
For a meat-free version of chicken tikka, we believe the nutty flavor of chickpeas will do a good job. Add more of your favorite vegetables to work with the chickpeas and enjoy.
Canned coconut milk is preserved cold for storage and transportation, therefore, after being stored at room temperature, it easily separates.
The cloudy simmered liquid will split into another layer at the bottom and dissociate with thick coconut milk. If you use canned coconut milk like us, shake it up before use so the two layers mix back together.
For a richer and creamier masala sauce, feel free to add in either coconut milk or heavy cream. Also, use half and half instead of heavy cream to reduce the fat content if you want to.
When making a big batch of chicken tikka masala, don’t try to speed things up by overcrowding the pan. Divide the chicken into smaller batches and simmer each of them separately so they absorb the sauce perfectly.
If you’re a supertaster and have a strong appreciation of the aroma of Indian spices, lengthen the marinating time. Let the chicken sit overnight in the marinade for a bold-flavor result.
How to Freeze Chicken Tikka Masala
Leftover chicken tikka masala still tastes great the next day when stored in the fridge.
All you need to do is put it in a glass food storage container and cover tightly with a lid. If stored in the freezer, chicken tikka masala will remain safe and edible for a longer period.
When reheating, simply pop the glass container into the microwave. There you have it, smoking hot again to enjoy!
What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala
For people who aren’t familiar with Indian cuisine, it could be tricky to pick a side for this dish. In reality, making chicken tikka masala a complete meal doesn’t take that much effort.
The simplest side dish option would either be bread or rice. Naan bread would be the most authentic bread choice for this.
In the meantime, rice is a versatile ingredient and seems to go well with every cuisine. White, brown, wild, coconut or infused— you pick what you fancy to complete this fantastic dish.
In this recipe, we chose to eat chicken tikka with hot steamed long-grain rice. To call it a whole meal, we paired it with a hearty pico de gallo and refreshing simply orange juice.
1. Pico de Gallo
Pico de gallo is fresh, crunchy, and tangy, with a hint of spiciness from the chili. You get a wealth of diverse texture and flavors in one simple bowl of this salad.
Accidentally mix more pico de gallo than you need for one meal? Don’t worry, you can keep the leftovers in the fridge to save it for your next meal.
The overall flavor of pico de gallo is fresh, mild, and lean. Therefore, it’s super versatile with the ability to complement any protein-rich dish and not just chicken tikka masala only.
2. Simply Orange Juice
Two-ingredient simply orange juice is the final touch to wrap up all the savoriness you get from the main dish. The sweet and tart flavor of the freshly squeezed orange juice complements the whole meal beautifully.
Below is how we created a whole meal with chicken tikka masala so it adheres to our healthy limits. We hope that you’ll have a good time cooking!
Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
- 10 oz skinless boneless chicken breast cut into chunks
- 3/4 tsp salt divided
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper divided
- 3 tsp coriander powder divided
- 1 tsp almond powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon divided
- 3 tsp paprika divided
- 4 tsp garlic powder divided
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ginger powder divided
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder divided
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz onion sliced into strips
- 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp Hunt’s tomato paste
- 6 oz green bell pepper sliced into strips
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 cup homemade tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 tsp fresh coriander chopped
- 3 cups cooked long grain rice
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; Purchases made via these links may benefit us at no additional cost to you. Read our Affiliate Disclosure.
- Preheat the oven to 400℉.
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken chunks with a marinade made of: 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, almond powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder, chili powder, lemon juice, and Greek yogurt.
- Toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 minutes.
- Bake the chicken: Transfer the marinated chicken to a baking tray, and brush with olive oil. Bake at 400℉ for 10 minutes. You can start on the sauce while it is baking. When the timer goes off, remove and set aside.
- While waiting for the chicken to bake, make the sauce. Heat a cast-iron pan on medium heat and add in the following ingredients successively: onion, butter, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder. Stir around for a minute.
- Continue to add to the pan: green bell pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of cumin powder, garam masala, 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of coriander powder. Stir them around for a minute.
- Next, add tomato sauce and water to the pan, let it simmer for 3 minutes, stir frequently.
- Add the baked chicken chunks into the pan, mix together with the sauce. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
- Lastly, pour heavy cream and coconut milk into the pan, whisk them well to combine with the rest.
- Sprinkle fresh chopped coriander on top and serve immediately with hot steamed rice.
Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. Thank you!