Tikka Masala

This is a quick and fairly simple way to make something with the flavors of an Indian curry. I have tried it with the meat from the legs and thighs of a whole chicken as well as with the breast meat. My preference is to use breast meat, but either are great. Using dark meat is the best choice if you are making multiple things and may need to keep the Tikka Masala on the stove a little longer after cooking to keep it warm. This is because white meat can dry out and become less tender with extended cooking times.

Marinading the chicken overnight or for several hours is preferable. I have made this with a short 30 minute marinade time and it was still great, but the chicken flavor was more pronounced and did not take on the flavors of the sauce as well as a longer marinade. However, in my view it is not that large a difference in taste to say that an overnight marinade is necessary.


Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

Equipment Notes

  • 3qt sauté pan (10in diameter with high sides at least 3in)


Garlic / Ginger Mixture

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2in ginger (about equal to the garlic)

Spice Mixture

  • 2t chili powder
  • 1t salt
  • 1t cumin
  • 1t garam marsala
  • (Optional) 1t turmeric
  • (Optional) 1t chili flakes


  • 1T garlic / ginger mixture
  • Half the spice mixture
  • 2T full-fat yogurt
  • 1T lemon juice

Sauce / Chicken

  • 1lb boneless and skinless chicken parts of your choice, diced into about 1in cubes.
  • 2T ghee (or neutral oil)
  • 2T neutral oil
  • (Optional) 1/2t cumin seeds
  • (Optional) 2 dried chilies
  • 1/2 (about 1C) large onion, finely diced
  • (Optional) 1T chili of your choice, finely diced
  • Remaining garlic / ginger paste
  • 2T water
  • 2C (or 1 can) crushed tomatoes
  • 1T honey
  • 1t salt
  • 1/2C heavy cream


  1. Use a microplane to grate the garlic and ginger. A small food processor may also be used, but in that case you may want to add 2T water and make it into a paste. Alternatively, you may dice things very finely and grind using a mortar and pestle, or press and slide across them with the flat side of a knife.
  2. Place the chicken pieces and marinade in a bowl, and mix well making sure all parts of the chicken pieces are coated. Cover and put in the refrigerator overnight if possible. Otherwise marinate as long as you can even if that is just as long as it takes to prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Add the ghee or 2T oil to a pan and turn the stove element to medium-high. Heat until the ghee starts to bubble or the oil starts to simmer, and a piece of the chicken immediately starts to sizzle when placed in the pan.
  4. Add all the chicken making sure it is evenly distributed and all pieces are touching the bottom of the pan. Cook untouched for 3 minutes. Using tongs or a spatula, flip all the pieces and cook another 3 minutes. There will most likely be pieces of chicken and other things stuck to the bottom of the pan and that is to be expected. The pan will be deglazed later and all that flavor will be incorporated into the sauce.
  5. Remove all the chicken pieces and place in a bowl or other container.
  6. Lower the temperature of the stove to medium low and add 2T oil to the pan along with the cumin seeds and dried chilis if you are using them. Cook 2 minutes stirring constantly so the chilis do not burn. Remove the chilis.
  7. Add the remaining ginger / garlic mixture, 2T water, and the rest of the spice mixture. Cook 2 minutes stirring constantly and scraping any bits that will easily come off the bottom of the pan. The next step will fully deglaze the pan, so do not worry about scraping too much.
  8. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Scrape the remaining chunks off the bottom of the pan and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  9. Add the cream, honey, and salt. Mix and taste for seasoning. For a smoother sauce, you may then pour the sauce into a blender and puree for about 30 seconds or until the sauce is the consistency you want, or pour into a bowl and use an immersion blender. (You may be able to use the immersion blender directly in your pan, but in my case that just shoots sauce all over the kitchen.)
  10. Put the sauce, chicken, and any juices from the chicken back into the pan, and simmer for 5 minutes or until everything is warm.


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