This is the best chicken tikka masala recipe! It's so easy and delicious - and you'll love the tender marinated chicken covered in a creamy tomato sauce bursting with Indian spices and fresh cilantro. This delicious meal is low-carb, keto-friendly, and gluten-free. No need for takeout - make your own!
- This recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala is always a hit
- Why You'll Love Tikka Masala Chicken
- Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients
- How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala
- Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe Tips
- What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala
- Tikka Masala Chicken Storage
- How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala FAQs
- Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
This recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala is always a hit
The classically famous Indian take out dish made at home for the family or a crowd that is marinated, grilled, and devoured!
What is Chicken Tikka Masala?
Chicken tikka masala is a traditional Indian dish that is made using chunks of marinated chicken that are grilled or pan-seared and then covered in a creamy tomato and yogurt-based sauce with Indian spices.
Tikka means chunks of meat, and masala is a gravy or sauce. So Chicken Tikka Masala really translates to chicken chunks of meat in a creamy sauce.
What Does Chicken Tikka Masala Taste Like?
It has a broad flavor profile, which is common in many Indian dishes. It has a smoky, mild spice, creamy, and rich tomato and yogurt-based sauce with garlic, ginger, and earthy spices, including paprika, garam masala, cayenne pepper, and fresh cilantro.
Why You'll Love Tikka Masala Chicken
Delicious Flavor! Indian food is known for being super flavorful and always keeping your palate surprised. I love the balance of sweet, spicy, smoky, salty, and rich--the perfect umami experience right at home in your own kitchen!
Healthy. This recipe is gluten free, low carb, keto, sugar free, and can be made dairy-free if coconut milk is used instead of yogurt and heavy cream. Serve with cauliflower rice to keep it low carb, or serve the traditional way with rice if preferred.
Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this chicken tikka masala recipe:
- Plain Greek Yogurt: use full-fat, low-fat, or keto to fit your dietary needs.
- Lemon Juice: one lemon yields about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. In this recipe, you will need half a lemon.
- Ground Cumin
- Garam Marsala: a classic Indian spice blend that combines paprika, coriander, bay leaf, cumin, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and more. Many varieties are out there, but they are all delicious, the same!
- Cayenne Pepper: add more or less for your desired heat level.
- Ground Black Pepper
- Ginger Paste: substitute fresh minced ginger if you cannot find it in paste form.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: you can use boneless skinless chicken thighs if you would like to.
- Garlic: mince your own or use store-bought pre-minced garlic to save time.
- Jalapeno: added for extra heat--remove the ribs and seeds for less heat or leave them in to make it extra spicy.
- Canned Tomato Sauce: use homemade if you have some on hand!
- Heavy Cream: you can also use canned coconut milk or half and half.
- Fresh Cilantro: added to the recipe and used as garnish at the end.
For exact ingredient quantities, please see the recipe card below!
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Substitutions and Variations
- Use 4 to 5 boneless skinless chicken thighs in place of the 3 chicken breasts.
- Use cinnamon and omit garam masala if you cannot find it at the store.
- This recipe is medium spicy as it is. You can omit the jalapeno or cut the jalapeno, cayenne, and black pepper in half to reduce the spice. Double it up if you like things spicier!
- Use canned coconut milk in place of the heavy cream and Greek yogurt if desired.
- Other spices you could add are mustard powder, bay leaves, turmeric, or red pepper flakes.
- Use other proteins such as steak, shrimp, or goat.
- Cook your chicken in a cast iron skillet or air fryer instead of the grill for any time of year.
Chicken Tikka Masala Spices
There are wide varieties of spice blends for chicken tikka masala, but you will usually find earthy aromatic spices such as coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, and red chili powder. Other flavors are lemon, garlic, ginger, and cilantro.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala
1. Mix together yogurt, lemon juice, half of the cumin, garam masala, cayenne pepper, pepper, ginger, and half the salt.
2. Add chicken, stir, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard the remaining marinade.
4. Preheat a grill or skillet. Grill the chicken until the juices run clear.
5. Saute garlic and jalapeno in butter. Add remaining seasonings, tomato sauce, and cream. Simmer until the sauce thickens.
6. Add the grilled chicken and cilantro. Heat until warmed through. Adjust seasonings to taste and enjoy!
How to Serve
Garnish with the extra chopped cilantro or fresh diced tomatoes if desired.
Serve with an extra lemon wedge on the side to add extra acidity.
Drizzle with coconut milk or extra plain Greek yogurt for serving.
Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe Tips
You can skewer the chicken first and then brush on the marinade. This method is less messy but may not cover or coat all the chicken well.
Prepare the marinade and get the chicken marinating a day or two ahead of time. This will help make the chicken more tender, juicy, and flavorful.
The flavors in this dish are very forgiving, so feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste preference. Adjust your salt and pepper at the end before serving.
What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala
Serve this chicken tikka masala over hot cooked rice or cauliflower rice if you are trying to keep it healthy. The rice options I would suggest would be jasmine or basmati rice.
Pair with freshly warmed and toasted naan bread--great for soaking up every bit of the masala!
Serve with your favorite steamed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or green beans.
Keep it light by pairing this meal with a small side salad and your favorite dressing.
Tikka Masala Chicken Storage
Once cooled, transfer your chicken to an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala FAQs
The key characteristics between the two are butter chicken has a smoother sauce with no chunks and is not as spicy as tikka masala. Tikka masala also has a chunkier sauce with onions, tomatoes, garlic, etc. Tikka masala also uses skinless, boneless chunks, whereas, with butter chicken, you may see bone in pieces.
No, they aren't the same thing, but they are similar. Indian dishes use a lot of the same spices, but the way they are made may be different. Tandoori refers to the method of cooking bone in chicken pieces. Tandoori also has a dry rub as compared to tikka masala, using boneless chicken pieces, and is served in a creamy yogurt and tomato-based sauce.
The best way to cut spice is by adding extra dairy, if possible. This can be with extra plain Greek yogurt, cream, or coconut milk to try and cut it. I also preface when making a spicy dish by adding heat slowly or starting with half the spice level and adding more as you wish.
Tikka means chunks or hunks of meat--so chicken chunks in a masala sauce or gravy. You can use other meat such as steak, goat, or shrimp.
Chicken tikka masala is a very popular world-famous Indian dish!
Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
- 4 long skewers
- 1 grill pan or grill (use a skillet if you don't have a grill)
- 1 large skillet
- 1 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin (divided)
- 1 teaspoon garam marsala
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use ¼ teaspoon if you like it mild, use 2 if you like it spicy)
- 1 teaspoon salt (plus extra to adjust salt level at the end)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper (plus extra to adjust taste at the end)
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste (or, 1 tablespoon minced ginger)
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into 1 to 2" pieces; chicken thighs may be used)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 teaspoons garlic (minced)
- 1 jalapeno pepper (seeds and rib removed (unless you like it spicy), finely chopped. Use half if you like mild)
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream (canned coconut milk may be substituted)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
- In a large bowl combine yogurt, lemon juice, half of the cumin, garam masala, cayenne pepper, pepper, ginger, and half of the salt.
- Add chicken, stir, cover, and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. Longer is fine.
- Preheat a grill to high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard any remaining marinade.
- Grill until the juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.
- In a large skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Add garlic and jalapeno and saute for 1 minute. Add remaining cumin, salt, and paprika. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the grilled chicken and heat until warmed through. Adjust salt and pepper level to taste.
- Don't miss all of our helpful hints, substitution ideas, cooking tips, and other delicious recipes that can be found in our post. Check it out!
- VARIATIONS: Use 4 to 5 boneless skinless chicken thighs or 3 chicken breasts. Use cinnamon in place of garam masala if you don't want to make a special purchase. This recipe is medium spicy - cut the jalapeno, cayenne, and black pepper in half if you prefer milder dishes - double if you like it hot; Canned coconut milk can be used in place of heavy cream.
- The less messy method is to skewer the chicken first and then brush the marinade on, but it doesn't cover or coat all of the chicken as well.
- If you don't have a grill or grill pan, use a skillet.
- Prepare the marinade and get the chicken marinating 1 (or even 2) days ahead of time.
- This is a very forgiving dish - adjust any ingredient to your taste preferences. Adjust salt and pepper at the end before serving.
- SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve over hot cooked rice with a side of warm toasted naan bread. Top with fresh cilantro or fresh chopped tomatoes if desired. Lemon wedge can be served on the side.
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