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Chicken, Economical, Gluten Free, Main Dishes, Spicy

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

by Nick

I’ve been in a cooking frenzy lately.  I’ve been cooking so much, in fact, that I was starting to dread some of the recipes I’ve been testing… just being honest!

This recipe though reminded me what I love about cooking. It’s pretty much the definition of a slow meal. You can’t cook it quickly. There are no shortcuts (okay, there are a few shortcuts).  It will take you five hours total to make this, but most of the time is idle time and nothing about it is particularly hard or stressful.

Some people might see the total time as a deal-breaker for a recipe, but sometimes it can be a benefit. There’s something great about starting dinner right after lunch and having your house smell amazing for the entire afternoon. It’s the kind of smell that will make a visitor want to stay for dinner. It will make you very  very  hungry.

I sort of fell in love with this recipe as I made it and so I even went an extra step and made some homemade naan bread for it. That’s sort of unnecessary but if you’re feeling ambitious it’s a fun project.

Yield
Serves 6-8.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup clarified butter (ghee) or veg oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or a few dried chiles
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Basmati Rice
  • Onion Naan:
  • 3/4 cup milk, warm
  • 1/4 ounce active dry yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Clarified butter (ghee) or vegetable oil, for cooking

Helpful Equipment

Directions

FOr the naan:
1) Heat milk until it's about body temperature (100 degrees F.) Transfer to small bowl and whisk in yeast and sugar. Let sit for a few minutes until it starts to foam.
2) Stir together flour and salt. Then mix in minced onions, yogurt, and melted butter.
3) Stir in warm milk and mix until combined. Dough should be slightly sticky. If it is very sticky, add more flour by the tablespoon or if it is dry, add milk by the tablespoon.
4) Once dough is pulled together, knead it for a few minutes in the bowl, then transfer to a clean lightly-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 2 hours.
5) Punch dough down and divide it into 9-10 dough balls. Use floured hands to work with the dough. Let dough balls rest for 10 minutes.
6) Heat a heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Once hot, brush with oil or ghee. WOrking with one dough ball at a time, stretch it out and lay it in the pan. It's okay to have some thicker parts and if it is slightly misshaped. Let naan cook for 2 minutes per side until it's lightly charred. You should be able to cook two at once in a 12 inch skillet.
7) You can keep the naan warm in a 250 degree oven until serving or they are also okay at room temperature.

For the Chicken Tikka Masala:
1) Mix together garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Divide mixture in half. Add half to a bowl with yogurt and salt and add in chicken. Marinate for at least 3 hours in the fridge.
2) When ready to make the sauce, add ghee or veggie oil to a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, tomato paste, smashed cardamom and smashed chile peppers. Cook for five minutes until onion is soft and paste is darkened.
3) Add remaining half of original spice mixture along with tomatoes and juices. Bring to a simmer and scrape up any bits stuck to pan. Simmer for a few minutes.
4) Add in cream and cilantro (stems are okay). Simmer on low until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
5) Preheat broiler in your oven and line a baking sheet with foil. Lay out marinated chicken on a few wire racks. Broil chicken until nicely charred for about 10 minutes per side.
6) Let chicken cool. Then dice into bite-sized pieces and add to sauce.
7) Simmer chicken in sauce for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. SErve chicken over rice with cilantro and onion naan (optional).

Original recipes from Bon Appetit.

Marinating the Chicken

That’s a long list of ingredients, no doubt, and might make it a very ambitious project for a new cook.  It definitely highlights the benefits of a good pantry though. The only things I had to buy to make this recipe was chicken, some tomato sauce, onions, some butter, ginger, and some cream.

The really long part about this recipe is the marinade. The chicken just needs to sit in the marinade for at least three hours. You could go longer even, but I did three hours with good results.

spice

Lots of good spices.

Stir together the ground spices (garam masala, turmeric, coriander, and cumin) with the ginger and garlic. You’ll use half of this very amazing spice mixture for the chicken and half for the sauce later.

garlic

Chopped ginger and garlic.

Just mix the spice mixture with some yogurt and salt and then add all  your chicken to the marinade. Cover this and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

chicken

At least three hours…

Skipping ahead, when you’re ready to cook the chicken, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay out the chicken on a wire rack.  Preheat your broiler to HIGH heat. Broil the chicken for about 10 minutes per side.

This won’t really cook the chicken all the way through, but it will give it some awesome char on each side.

charred

A bit raw still, but charred nicely.

While your chicken is charring, you can work on the sauce!

The Sauce

This sauce takes some time also to cook down and develop good flavors. You should start it at least an hour before you plan to eat.

sauce

Basic Indian flavors.

Indian food uses clarified butter a lot (called ghee) and so I recommend making a small batch of it for cooking. You can also use vegetable oil though if you want (a shortcut!). If you need help making clarified butter, you can check out my instructions on it. I didn’t even strain it for this recipe. I just melted down some butter over low heat and then let the  solids settle to the bottom and scooped off the top as needed.

butter

Liquid gold.

Roughly grind or crush your chile peppers and cardamom. You can also use ground cardamom (1/2 teaspoon) and red pepper flakes (1/2 teaspoon).

Add that mixture, plus some ghee (or oil) to a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and tomato paste as well and cook it until the onion is soft, about five minutes. It’s okay if there is some bits stuck to the pan.

Then add the tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes) to the pan and use the juice to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Let that simmer for a few minutes and then add in the cream and cilantro. Stir that together and let it simmer for 30 minutes or so over LOW heat.

Then you can stir in all the chopped chicken that you charred earlier. Let this all cook together for 20 minutes or so to finish cooking the chicken and combine flavors.

finsihed

Maybe dice the chicken a bit smaller than I did.

The Naan

As a bonus, I made some onion naan for dinner also. It’s a pretty easy dough to pull together honestly. Just mix together a small pinch of sugar, the yeast, and warm milk until it foams (a few minutes).

Then stir together the flour, salt, yogurt, butter, and onions. It will look like a lot of onions in the dough, but that’s good.  Then add in your milk mixture and stir until it comes together in a dough.

naan

A lot of onion in there.

Knead the dough a few times and then transfer it to a clean lightly-oiled bowl. Let this rise for 2 hours.

Then punch it down and use lightly floured hands to divide the dough into 9-10 small balls. The dough will be pretty sticky so use lots of flour.

dough

After rise and such.

Cook the naan in a hot cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the pan with some ghee or vegetable oil before adding the dough. I just stretched the dough out with my hands before tossing it in the pan. Nothing fancy!

cast iron

My tandoori oven.

The naan will need to cook for about 2 minutes per side and should char lightly from the heat.

You can keep the naan warm in a 250 degree F. oven or just serve it immediately.

Serve the chicken over rice and garnish with cilantro. Serve the naan on the side!

done

Finally!

This is one of those meals that looks some simple: some sort of red sauce with chicken over rice, but the flavors are deep and really complex.

It’s a really amazing dinner and worth every minute of work.

Start with basic ingredients and make the classic authentic Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala. Guaranteed dinner winner.

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41 comments on “Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

    1. Yea… no sugar-coating it! It’s a bit of a process, but totally worth it if you like this kind of meal and have a spare saturday/sunday afternoon. :)

  1. What does ghee do that regular butter doesn’t? What’s the purpose of that extra step of clarifying it?

    BTW: Only thing missing in the pantry was cilantro garnish, have everything else and I’m making this soon!

    1. The issue is with the butter solids. Butter is like 20% solids meaning the dairy proteins and stuff. These tend to burn at relatively low temperatures. If you just toss some butter in a pan and stick it on high heat, the butter will melt and then burn and what is burning is technically these proteins.

      So by clarifying the butter, you remove almost all of these (or all of them if you are super-thorough). Then your butter can take much higher temperatures because it is just the butter fats (oil basically). So you can add it to a very hot pan without worry and cook stuff at very high temps in it.

      Sometimes recipes call for clarified butter that don’t need it. For example, the original naan recipe said to use clarified butter but I have no idea why that would matter. I just used normal melted butter for it, but then used clarified butter to actually fry the breads since it was going to be in a super-hot pan.

      Hope that helps! Good luck man!

      1. Thanks, Nick. I didn’t think it was getting that hot to worry about burning the butter solids.

        When using whole cardamom pods, do you only use the seeds inside, or do you somehow grind the whole thing!?

  2. This looks amazing! Chicken tikka masala is one of my favorite restaurant dishes…I will have to try it some weekend day soon! :)

  3. Chicken Tikka Masala was one of my favorite dishes ever growing up but of course it was always eaten in an Indian restaurant. Your homemade recipe looks unbelievably good! I can’t wait to try this at home….what a great weekend meal, friends would love to be part of the “end result”! I have one question though….I am a vegetarian now and I want to try it either with tofu or tempeh. I know you have cooked with both-do you think either one would work ok as a substitute in this recipe? Thanks so much!

      1. Sounds great. Will definitely try soon! Thanks for your advice. Forgot to say earlier that the Naan also looks fantastic. If you’re going to spend a good chunk of time making an amazing meal, why not go the whole way, right? :)

        1. try paneer, a sort of indian cheese, instead of tofu, it holds up pretty well in the sauce and is super yummy!

  4. This looks fantastic. I’m just wondering, Nick, if you aren’t a bit like me. I try so many new recipes, that if not for the blog, I’d forget what I made that worked. I eat a lot of simple lunches, but when it comes to cooking from scratch, I very seldom repeat recipes that often. Maybe once or twice a year. The rest of my cooking time is spent in pursuit of new stuff.

  5. Totally trying this. Can you find the following at regular grocery stores or do you have to hit a specialty store?

    cardamom pods, crushed
    teaspoons ground coriander
    2 teaspoons garam masala

    Thanks!
    A

    1. You should be able to find those at any regular store Allison. They are pretty common spices these days. If you have a way to grind spices, I recommend getting whole cardamom and whole coriander because they will keep forever and you can grind them as-needed. IF not though, you can use the ground version of those spices which should also be available. Good luck!

  6. I actually love long cooking times. There’s something about just winding down and being able to relax in the kitchen. This sounds delicious!

  7. Nick, I mean, not to knock you or anything, but I find the logic that this is five hours of work a bit faulty, because basically you are doing this:

    20 min – broil chicken
    5 min – prep ingredients for sauce
    40 min – cook sauce
    20 min – finish cooking the chicken

    That sums to about 110 minutes allowing 5 minutes for extra fuss.

    The point I want to make is that marinading shouldn’t actually be counted as recipe “work” time, because following this logic, a decent rye bread takes something like 62 hours to make, which is laughable. I’m also absolutely sure the chicken could just sit in the fridge overnight, taking away even the waiting time.

    I mean no disrespect, Nick, just found this post to be a bit misleading. Keep it up though, at least it is interesting.

    1. Yea… that’s always hard to quantify, but the general methodology that I use when I write recipes is “Active Time” and “Total Time”. Active time being a rough estimate of how much actual work you are doing…even for this recipe as you say there’s some time where you are just waiting on stuff to simmer. You could theoretically be doing something else.

      So I estimate active time at about an hour.

      The idea with total time is that if you start with nothing you could have dinner done five hours later if you’re making this recipe.

      It’s possible though that a better way to list it is Total time: 2 hours + Marinade time because you’re right that you could just start it the day before.

      In general, I figure if people read the recipe they can probably intuit what I mean either way.

      No disrespect taken! Thanks for the comment. :)

  8. Hey Nick — this recipe is amazing! Any ideas on the best ways to make it dairy-free? I could still use ghee, but trying to avoid yogurt and cream for family members. Thanks! Caroline

    1. Hey Caroline, Well, you could definitely substitute coconut milk for the cream in the sauce recipe I think. I guess you could try it with leaving the yogurt out of the marinade and just adding in some olive oil or something. That’s my best guess on it! Good luck!

  9. This looks awesome. If you are ever in a pinch and need a significantly quicker version, I’ve had this (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-tikka-masala/) on standby and it’s always been great. You can knock it out after getting home from work, which helps. That said, you’d better believe I’m trying your version very soon! Thanks again for posting all the great recipes!

  10. This recipe looks great, I will be making it tomorrow – and for anyone who cooks vegetarian (which I do often), this would be great with Paneer which you can *totally* make at home. Just look up recipes – mine uses milk, lemon juice, and some cheesecloth/clean towel for straining.

  11. HELP NICK – I’m making this right now and am confused by your instructions – hoping you can clarify. In the spice mixture part you say: “You’ll use half of this very amazing spice mixture for the chicken and half for the sauce later.” Not sure if you mean half of the dried spices and half the garlic/ginger or just spices. More importantly, unless I am missing it, I can’t figure out where you add this spice mixture later in the dish anywhere. Please clarify asap. Thanks so much.

        1. This was AMAZING! I used brown basmati rice which paired perfectly. I also used 2% Greek yogurt and half and half for the cream. The flavors were so wonderful. Will definitely make again. Didn’t try the Naan this time to save on carbs but will definitely try at another time. Great recipe!

  12. This is one that has been on my “try soon” list for years and I just haven’t gotten around to it. Normally my excuse is that I have no garam masala, but I was just given a set from Penzy’s that has it in there. Perhaps I’ll finally do it this coming weekend.

  13. Well, I made this — followed the recipe to the letter. It was delicious. But I think a little too tomato-ey after all was said and done. I think cutting back on the tomato paste may help a bit. Definitely would make again and…in fact…already made another batch of curry for next time :)

  14. Hey Nick – i love your site!

    You think it would matter if i let the chicken sit in the yogurt mixture for say, 8 hours?

    Thinking about letting it chill out while Im at work.

    Thanks!

  15. This.Was.AMAZING!!! I have tried to make homemade Indian sauces many many times to no avail, and this one finally got it right. I used firm tofu and chickpeas for a veg version and did the chicken for the bf, he was just as enamored as I was! I didnt have as much luck with the naan but I think it had to do with my yeast, it just wasnt getting bubbly, so they ended up being slightly doughy but still tasted good. Cant wait to make this again and keep adding some different veggies!

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