This Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe is a delicious British Indian recipe made with a rich and creamy tomato curry sauce loaded with bold spices and chicken.
This Chicken Tikka Masala recipe is an easy family favorite, loaded with bold flavors and a creamy sauce that you won’t be able to get enough of!
I LOVE this Tikka Masala Recipe!
My first experience with Indian food wasn’t the greatest. I was in high school and had no idea what I was ordering. I don’t remember what I ordered, but I don’t remember loving it either. Maybe it just wasn’t a great restaurant, I don’t know, I’ve never been back.
However, as I’ve gotten older and the more I’ve traveled, I have grown to truly love Indian food. My reintroduction to it came at Epcot, I’d never had butter chicken before, but as soon as it hit my mouth, I was instantly in love and wanted more.
After a few visits to the UK, I now love curries of all kinds, and Chicken Tikka Masala is easily one of my favorite meals EVER.
But it’s not butter chicken that I love the most. It’s actually Chicken Tikka Masala. While very similar, the two dishes are different. And one of them didn’t originate in India!
What Is Tikka Masala?
Chicken Tikka Masala is a curry dish that’s made with chunks of tender chicken drenched in a creamy and spicy tomato based sauce. There are many ways to make it, and we love this recipe because it is fast, easy, and flavorful.
Where Did It Originate?
Glasgow, Scotland. Yep, that’s right, or at least most believe that to be the case. Rumor has it that sometime in the 1960s, Pakistani chef Ali Ahmed Aslam, the chef at Shish Mahal restaurant, made Tandoori chicken too dry, and a customer sent it back, so he mixed it up with tomato soup, cream, and additional spices. And chicken tikka masala was born.
What’s The Difference Between Butter Chicken And Chicken Tikka Masala?
Well, since there are endless variations of each of them, this one is a little harder to pinpoint. Both are tomato cream sauce with chicken and spices, but they actually taste quite different. Here are some of the key differences between the two dishes.
- Bone-in chicken (traditionally)
Chicken Tikka Masala:
- Boneless Chicken
Preparations have changed over the years and across the world, but they do remain different recipes of different origins and flavors.
I haven’t been to India (yet), and I can only imagine that however tasty American and UK versions of these recipes are, they will never quite touch the real thing. Have any of you seen (or read) The Hundred-Foot Journey?
It’s such a beautiful story about an Indian immigrant family, food, and love. You must watch it if you haven’t already, and I bet you’ll be craving this Chicken Tikka Masala by the end of it!
So the recipe I have for you today isn’t what I would call authentic, but I would like to think that it’s a great American take on the classic chicken tikka masala, and the best part is that I’ve made this EASY. Seriously, this deliciously spicy and creamy dish only takes around 30 minutes to make! And it reheats well!
And yes, we’re kind of cheating a little. Normally, you’d use chicken tikka in chicken tikka masala, which is chicken that’s been marinated in yogurt and spices and then grilled. But as a busy woman who lives in what is currently frigid Maine, I won’t be doing any grilling anytime soon.
I’m also the worst at planning meals ahead, which means I tend to forget to marinate things. And well… dishes. But I promise the masala part of this recipe (the sauce) has enough flavor that your taste buds will still be doing a happy (spicy) dance!
Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Main Ingredients
- Spices – And a whole lot of ’em! You’ll use a good mix of coriander, garam masala, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric, cardamom, cayenne, and cinnamon in this dish. As I said before, this recipe packs a ton of flavor!
- Chicken Breasts – You’ll want to use boneless skinless breasts in this recipe. After cooking them in a pan, you can cut them into whatever-sized chunks you’d like before adding them to the masala sauce.
- Tomato Sauce – This is NOT pasta sauce. This is straight-up tomato sauce out of a can! This gives the masala its delicious tomato base.
- Heavy Cream – Heavy whipping cream is fine, too, if that’s all you can find. But half and half, light cream, and milk just won’t do. You want this recipe to be rich and creamy!
- A Large Pot – Even if you don’t fill it, I find it easiest to cook this recipe in a large pot like this one. You want to make sure to have a large surface area to heat the sauce.
- A Skillet – You’ll want to cook the chicken separately in a skillet. I like this non-stick pan for easy cooking and cleanup.
How to make Easy Chicken Tikka Masala
Step 1: Combine the spices in a small bowl and set aside.
Step 2: Add the butter and onions to a large pot and cook until the onions are tender and translucent.
Step 3: Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn, for about a minute. A tablespoon of garlic paste can be used in place of the minced garlic.
Step 4: Add half of the spice mixture from step 1 and stir with the onions. This gives the spices a chance to express their oils and bring out BOLDER and smoother flavors.
Step 5: Add in the tomato sauce (the canned kind, not marinara) along with the heavy cream and remaining spices and simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes until thickened.
Step 6: Slice the chicken breasts into cutlets and then season with salt and pepper and cook in oil in a skillet. Cut the chicken into chunks and add to the sauce and simmer for a few minutes before serving.
How to serve the Best Tikka Masala Recipe
This dish is best served right after cooking. Enjoy this chicken tikka masala over rice and serve with a side of naan bread which is perfect for sopping up the sauce. Garden salads or cucumber salads also make wonderful side dish to this dinner recipe.
Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe storage
Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoyed with a few days. Reheat in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds, stirring halfway through.
Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe FAQs
Yes, traditionally chicken tikka masala falls in the spicy family of curries. However, it is not so hot that you can’t taste and enjoy the lovely flavors within the dish. You can adjust the recipe to your desired heat level by adding more or less cayenne pepper.
This recipe has a plethora of spices that mix wonderfully with the cream and tomato sauce for a robust and delicious dish. It has a creamy yet mildly acidic base with a bit of heat and bold flavors like garlic and coriander. You’ll find a touch of cardamom and cinnamon add a cozy flavor.
There are actually several differences. The biggest being that chicken tikka is a tandoori-style dish with a simple yogurt marinade made with lemon, garlic, ginger, and some chili powder. It’s usually enjoyed straight from the grill on skewers.
Chicken Tikka Masala is made with garam masala, a blend of cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. You’ll find that chicken tikka masala generally has more spices than chicken tikka. It’s also served in the creamy tomato sauce.
Both are used in Indian cuisine, but masala spices tend to evoke coziness and curry powder is a more earthy blend – both delicious but very different in flavor.
More Delicious Chicken Recipes!
- Cajun Chicken Pasta
- Spicy Bourbon Chicken
- Chicken Fajita Rice
- Chicken & Rice Casserole
- Garlic Chicken
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Best Tikka Masala Recipe
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ to 2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper see notes
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large white onion diced
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 15 ounces tomato sauce canned (not marinara)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 large chicken breasts about 1 – 1¼ pound
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil olive oil or vegetable oil may be used
- Combine 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, ½ to 2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper, and ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Add the diced 1 large white onion and 2 tablespoons salted butter to a large pot over medium heat and cook until onions are translucent, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
- Add 2 cloves garlic (minced) and saute for 1 minute, stirring frequently so as not to burn. If more butter is needed, feel free to add a little.
- Add in half of the spice mixture and stir to combine.
- Add 15 ounces tomato sauce 1 cup heavy cream, and the remaining spices and stir to combine.
- Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently. The cook time can vary depending on the type of pan and stove you're cooking on, but generally between 10 and 15 minutes.
- While the sauce is cooking, slice 2 large chicken breasts into two cutlets each, creating four equally sized pieces, and season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Add 1 tablespoon avocado oil to a large pan and cook the chicken breasts over medium heat until golden brown on both sides and the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Chop the chicken into chunks and add it to the sauce. Let lightly simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Serve over basmati rice with naan bread.
- Chicken Tikka Masala is generally spicy, but you can control the amount of spice in the dish with how much cayenne pepper you add. I would recommend about 1/2 teaspoon if you like things a little milder and then work your way up from there a 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Remember that the heat will build, so if you have leftovers, they’re likely going to be hotter than when you first made the dish.
- If you have the time, you can cut the chicken into chunks before cooking instead of cooking as cutlets and cutting after.
- If you want a more authentic chicken tikka masala, go ahead and marinate the chicken overnight with 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and the half of the spice mixture you would have added with the tomato sauce in step 5. Add the chicken to skewers and bake at 500 degrees F for 15 minutes.