Chicken Tikka Masala

Restaurant-style Chicken Tikka Masala couldn’t be easier! Juicy chicken thighs are marinated then broiled until golden brown, before getting smothered in a creamy fragrant tomato cream sauce. Ready in less than an hour, this easy, healthy Chicken Tikka Masala is one you’ll make again and again!

Healthy comfort food doesn’t get much better than a curry! My Chickpea Curry is a vegetarian one-pot wonder and my Instant Pot Butter Chicken is so tender and flavorful!

Chicken Tikka Masala in a white bowl with white rice and a fork.

The BEST Indian Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

This is the Best Chicken Tikka Masala! It is so flavorful, creamy, and loaded with spices. For this recipe, I like to use chicken thighs instead of breasts. This helps to keep the chicken extra juicy and moist. I marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes (or preferably overnight) to make it super tender. The chicken gets marinated in yogurt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and Indian spices. The yogurt and lemon juice help to tenderize the chicken and keep it extremely moist. It is DELICIOUS!

I love how quick and easy this chicken masala recipe is! I usually prep the marinade the night before, and then throwing it together for dinner takes less than an hour. The flavor is absolutely incredible! It tastes as if it came straight from an Indian restaurant.

I’ve also made this recipe in an Instant Pot and a Slow Cooker as well. The slow cooker version is a great idea for busy families, just set it and forget it until dinner time! I’ve included instructions for both appliances below.

Ingredients for this Tikka Masala Chicken Recipe

  • Chicken: For this recipe, I chose boneless chicken thighs. They are more tender and juicier than chicken breasts, and packed full of flavor, absorbing all of the spices!
  • Yogurt: Plain yogurt is used as the base of the marinade. Yogurt helps to make the meat deliciously tender. It’s SO good!
  • Lemon Juice: Just a little acidity, this tart kick balances the other flavors.
  • Seasonings: Plenty of amazing Indian spices are in both the marinade and the tikka masala sauce. Garam masala, cayenne for a little heat, cumin, turmeric, and paprika all make up the incredible aroma of chicken tikka masala.
  • Butter: Butter adds a little richness to the sauce. You could substitute ghee which is a clarified Indian butter if you have it on hand.
  • Onion & garlic: 4 cloves of garlic to be exact! Under the layer of spices is a delicious buttery onion and garlic taste.
  • Ginger: Ginger adds a little heat and flavor. You’ll find ginger everywhere in Indian cuisine – from dinners to desserts to teas!
  • Tomato Sauce: Chicken tikka masala is known for its luscious tomato sauce so I added in a can of tomato sauce. If you don’t have tomato sauce on hand, passata will work, or a can of diced tomatoes. You could even blend the diced tomatoes to make them into a sauce!
  • Cream: Heavy cream adds more richness and creaminess to the sauce. It is SO good! You could add in coconut cream instead (the hard cream at the top of a can of coconut milk, save the coconut water for smoothies!).

How to make Chicken Tikka Masala

  • Marinate chicken: Add all of the marinade ingredients to a large ziplock bag. Toss to coat the chicken. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

  • Broil chicken: Preheat the broiler and set the oven rack to the highest position. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the chicken including the marinade onto the prepared baking sheet. Broil for 8 minutes or until golden brown, make sure to keep an eye on it. You do not need to flip the chicken.

  • Bloom spices: Meanwhile, start your sauce by heating a large pot over medium-high heat and adding in the butter. Once melted add in onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add in garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, garam masala, and turmeric. Saute for 1-2 minutes or until garlic is golden brown and the spices are fragrant.

  • Simmer sauce: Next, add in the tomato sauce and cream. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Add the chicken to the pan and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

  • Serve: Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with fresh chopped cilantro for garnish, if desired.

Storage & Reheating Instructions

  • Store this Chicken Tikka Masala in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat it in a pot on the stove until piping hot.
  • Freeze Chicken Tikka Masala in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Thaw completely before reheating.

Chicken Tikka Masala in a white bowl with white rice, naan, and a fork.

What to serve with Chicken Tikka Masala

I love to serve this Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe with basmati rice and garlic naan to make it a meal. My Healthy Cilantro Lime Brown Rice would also taste great with this recipe, and if you’re pressed for time, my One Hour Focaccia is perfect, just skip the rosemary and parmesan. For a low-carb option serve with cauliflower rice!

Slow Cooker Option

If you would like to make this Chicken Tikka Masala in the slow cooker simply follow the directions listed above, but wait to add the heavy cream until the very end. Cook the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker on high for 3-4 or low for 4-6 hours or until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce has thickened. Stir in heavy cream. If you want the sauce to be a bit thicker add 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the heavy cream before adding it to the slow cooker chicken tikka masala. Cook on high for 30 minutes in the slow cooker to thicken.

Instant Pot Option

You can make this Chicken Tikka Masala in the Instant pot as well. Using the sauté option, briefly cook chicken in the instant pot or under the broiler in your oven to get color on it. (You don’t want the chicken to be fully cooked) Add it to the Instant Pot along with the sauce ingredients except for the heavy cream. Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and serve! If you want the sauce to be a bit thicker add 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the heavy cream before adding it to the Instant Pot chicken tikka masala. Simmer on saute mode uncovered for 5 minutes to thicken.

Butter Chicken vs. Chicken Tikka Masala – What’s the difference?

Both dishes have similar spices and flavors. However, Butter Chicken which originated in India is creamier and has a richer mouthfeel. Whereas Chicken Tikka Masala which originated from Britain is more of a tomato-based thinner sauce. Both dishes usually involve marinated chicken pieces broiled or grilled until browned then simmered in a fragrant creamy sauce.

Is Chicken Tikka Masala Indian or British?

It is speculated that Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1970s by a Bangladeshi chef. He added a mild tomato-cream sauce to his chicken tikka (skewered chunks of chicken tikka meat, no sauce) to please a customer, and Chicken Tikka Masala was born!

However, Chicken Tikka Masala is thought of as England’s National dish, and not Scotland’s (their’s is haggis).

What’s so special about Chicken Tikka Masala?

To me, this dish is so special because it tastes as if it came straight out of the kitchen of your favorite Indian restaurant. The deliciously mild spices and tomato-cream sauce are just perfect! It is one of the best healthy comfort foods to make at home.

Chicken Tikka Masala in a white bowl with white rice and a fork.

Here are more delicious Chicken Recipes to enjoy!

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Chicken Tikka Masala

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken thighs marinated then broiled until golden brown. Served in a creamy fragrant tomato cream sauce.

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chopped cilantro for garnish if desired

Instructions

Images:
  • Add all of the marinade ingredients to a large ziplock bag. Toss to coat the chicken. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Preheat broiler and set oven rack to the highest position. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
    Spread the chicken including the marinade onto the prepared baking sheet.
    Broil for 8 minutes or until golden brown, make sure to keep an eye on it. You do not need to flip the chicken.
  • Meanwhile start your sauce by heating a large pot over medium high heat and add in butter.
    Once melted add in onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, garam masala, and turmeric. Saute for 1-2 minutes or until garlic is golden brown and the spices are fragrant.
  • Next add in the tomato sauce and cream. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
    Add the chicken to the pan and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with fresh chopped cilantro for garnish, if desired.
Nutrition Facts
Chicken Tikka Masala
Amount Per Serving
Calories 536 Calories from Fat 342
% Daily Value*
Fat 38g58%
Saturated Fat 20g125%
Cholesterol 266mg89%
Sodium 647mg28%
Potassium 702mg20%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 38g76%
Vitamin A 1864IU37%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
Calcium 154mg15%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Chicken Thighs, Chicken Tikka Masala, Easy Weeknight Dinner

 

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