Chicken Tikka Masala is made from tender, juicy pieces of grilled chicken swimming in an unbelievably rich, flavorful creamy tomato yogurt sauce. Why get takeout when making Indian food at home is so easy?
What Is Chicken Tikka Masala?
The easiest way to describe chicken tikka masala is that it’s marinated grilled chicken pieces cooked in spicy tomato yogurt masala sauce.
As it’s growing popular globally, you can find chicken tikka masala on the menu in almost any Indian restaurant.
The dish combines two essential cooking elements in Indian cuisine: the chicken tikka and the masala.
Chicken tikka is grilled chicken that has been marinated in spices and cream. The masala refers to the spices and tomato-based sauce. The masala occasionally uses yogurt in addition, as in this chicken tikka masala recipe.
Where Is Chicken Tikka Masala From?
No clear evidence can track the origin of chicken tikka masala. However, it seems that Indian restauranteurs in Britain likely developed this famous chicken curry dish back in the 1960s.
Legend has it that this dish was created when British cooks found the chicken tikka pieces were too dry to enjoy with naan bread. Hence, the chef quickly made a creamy masala sauce and put the chicken pieces in.
The dish has grown in popularity and become a favorite Indian restaurant menu item you can find in almost any Indian restaurant.
Chicken Tikka Masala vs. Butter Chicken
According to Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible, chicken tikka masala is very much like the Indian tandoori chicken in butter tomato sauce, which is now better known as butter chicken.
Both consist of pre-grilled chicken that is then cooked in masala sauce.
However, we can point out some differences between them:
- Chicken tikka masala uses boneless chicken; the marinated poultry is usually skewered before cooking it on a grill.
- The tikka’s tomato-based sauce uses plain yogurt to add creaminess.
- For butter chicken, you can use bone-in or boneless chicken. Like any tandoor grilled meat, the butter chicken marinade uses Kashmiri red chili powder to add a vibrant red color to the chicken.
- Butter chicken’s masala sauce also has chopped tomatoes as a base, but it adds cashew nuts and heavy cream.
- When it comes to spices, these chicken dishes use the same basic Indian spices, but butter chicken is more complex as it uses a greater variety of spices and herbs, i.e., fenugreek leaves (methi), cardamom pods, etc.
Why You Should Make Chicken Tikka Masala at Home
- Culinary Adventure: Making chicken tikka masala at home gives you a culinary experience of Indian cooking by experimenting with spices, marinating, and cooking techniques. You’ll understand the importance of every step of the cooking process.
- Customized Flavor: Oftentimes, Indian restaurants make their chicken tikka masala very spicy. When you make it at home, you have complete control over every ingredient and can adjust the spiciness, creaminess, and saltiness levels. You can ensure total personal preference for the result.
- Quality Ingredients: The quality of every element used will be according to your liking. You can choose organic chicken and tomatoes, freshly ground spices, and quality herbs. With all these carefully selected ingredients, you can create a superior dish in taste and nutrition compared to some restaurants’ versions.
- Cost Effective: Cooking at home is considerably cheaper than eating out. You can cook in larger portions and save the leftovers for later use, which makes it more budget-friendly.
- Portion Control: Homecooked food gives you control of portion sizes. Even if you cook in bulk, you adjust the amount you eat and leave the rest for later use. This way, you can reduce food waste and promote mindful eating.
- Quality Time With Loved Ones: Cooking and eating together with family and friends brings a sense of togetherness.
- Allergen Awareness: Making this chicken tikka masala at home will give you the advantage of knowing exactly what you put in your food. You can rest assured that the dish will be safe from any allergens.
- Impress Guests: If you like hosting dinner gatherings, you can impress your guests with this homemade delicious chicken tikka masala and showcase your culinary skills.
- Sense of Achievement: Creating this delicious and authentic dish from scratch will give you a sense of achievement.
How To Make Chicken Tikka Masala
See printable recipe card at the bottom of the page for all measurements and nutritional information.
Prepare The Chicken Tikka
To make four servings, cut two boneless chicken breasts or three boneless chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces and place them in a mixing bowl. Add salt and fresh lemon juice to the chicken pieces. Use a fork to prick the poultry and rub the seasonings. Leave it to marinate for at least 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, add to the chicken minced ginger, pressed garlic cloves, ground cumin, paprika powder, cayenne pepper, heavy cream, and garam masala. Stir well until all chicken pieces are covered with the spices mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
When it’s time to cook the chicken, put the meat on skewers, brush with oil, and arrange the skewers on a shallow baking tray. Place the tray in a preheated 350ºF oven until the chicken is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165ºF and lightly charred. It should take about 12-15 minutes.
You can also grill this tikka in a grill, air fryer, or instant pot.
Make the Masala Sauce
Heat canola oil in a lidded large pan at medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add sliced onion, and fry until golden brown. Add grated ginger and pressed garlic cloves. Stir fry for about a minute until the ginger and garlic release a strong aroma.
Add coriander powder, ground turmeric, cayenne pepper, and paprika powder.
Stir fry for about 15 seconds before adding one tablespoon of plain yogurt. Stir fry again until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process three times by adding one tablespoon of yogurt at a time.
Chop tomatoes and put them into the spices mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes turn soft and pulpy. Try mashing them with the back of a wooden spoon.
Then add chicken stock and salt to the mixture. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce is thick. Stir in garam masala and check the flavors. Add more salt if needed.
Combine The Two
When chicken tikkas are cooked, reheat the sauce, stir in the chicken, and let it simmer for a minute or two. Serve immediately over Basmati rice, and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Pro Tips To Make This Recipe
- Fresh Ingredients: Make sure you choose fresh, high-quality produce for every ingredient.
- Marinating Time: Marinate the chicken pieces for at least a few hours, ideally overnight. This allows the spices to penetrate inside the meat, developing full flavor and making the meat tender.
- Cooking Time: Take care in grilling the chicken. Ensure the poultry is cooked through and still succulent. The key is to cook the meat within the right amount of time. Cooking 1-inch cubes of chicken pieces on skewers, takes approximately 12 minutes. You can cook 1-2 minutes longer at max. Otherwise, the chicken will get hard and dry. As for the masala sauce, make sure it is simmered until it reduces and turns thick.
- Layering Flavors: When adding the chicken pieces to the sauce, let them simmer to allow the spice flavors to develop in the meat.
What To Serve It With
This velvety chicken tikka masala is best served with Indian flatbread, such as naan bread or chapati. It is also delicious to enjoy with plain white Basmati rice.
If you throw a dinner party and want an Indian food spread for your guests, pair this chicken tikka masala with lamb karahi, aloo palak, chicken biryani, and naan bread. Don’t forget to serve yogurt raita and some chutney to accompany your menu.
What To Do With The Leftovers
If you cook this chicken curry in large portions, refrigerate any leftovers as they keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week. The dish also freezes well for up to 6 weeks.
To Thaw and Reheat
Fully thaw the dish before reheating it until it is piping hot. Once the food has thawed, you must not refreeze it and must consume it within three days.
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This article originally appeared on Pink When.