Friday, June 17, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala has got to be one of the most popular and well known Indian dishes out there. Consequently, it's also really difficult to find a "truly-authentic-this-is-really-how-it's-made" recipe, as even those who would seem to be authentic cooks all make it differently.

I'm not too bent out of shape that this recipe doesn't have an Indian pedigree. It's really good and you can make it a lot of different ways, depending on the time you have and the effort you want to put into it. 

The other good thing about this recipe is that you don't have to go to the Indian market to get any of the ingredients (maybe garam masala if your grocery store doesn't have it). 

I've made this tikka masala a bunch of times and I don't think I've done it the same way twice. I always end up trying one little thing different to try to change one thing or another. 

I originally used this recipe, but modified it a bit. I'll give options for some steps so that you can see where I've been with this and you can make yours how you want. I took the rice from The Pioneer Woman

Chicken Tikka Masala

1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
14.5oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 inch minced ginger

1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro

1 cup of basmati/jasmine rice
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup frozen peas


Let's marinate the chicken. 

You want to do this the night before or in the morning. The longer it marinates, the better. 


Cup of yogurt (full fat)

Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

Spices and salt

Tablespoon of fresh ginger
2-3 chicken breasts. 

Here you can change things up a bit. I've cut them in to really big chunks, left them whole, or as per below, smaller cubes. It's up to you, but after this time around, I think I'm going to stick to larger pieces. When you cook the chicken later, it's actually a bigger pain in the butt to have small pieces, though there's more penetration of the marinade. Tough call, but laziness sometimes wins. 

Small cubes
In the bag.
Go ahead and prep the garlic and jalapeno. 

You can use a serrano chile here if you want. It's more traditional, but a bit spicier. Since we're feeding a child, I go with the jalapeno. Just make sure you trim the insides and dice everything finely. 

Nice dice.

Ok, this is the first time I tried this method. Sometimes I find this recipe too chunky, but it's not bad. I just wanted to try it this way. It turned out being easier to prepare too, so I'll give laziness another point, but in the end, it might be better doing it the long way. 

I put the onion into the food processor. If you want to do it the chunky way, dice the onion finely. 

I added a can of diced tomatoes to the mix. Again, for chunky, just keep the tomatoes whole for now.

Also add some minced ginger. About an inch. For chunky, mince this finely.

Buzz the whole thing until it's pretty smooth.

This end the prep for this meal. Pretty easy.

When it's time for service you have yet MORE options for cooking your chicken. 

It's traditional to cook the chicken over a regular grill. You can broil the chicken in a broiling rig of some sort, or you can cook it on a grill pan.

Usually, the chicken is cut in larger chunks and threaded onto skewers for cooking. I took the easy route and just cooked it directly on a grill pan.

You want to remove as much marinade as you can from each piece (another reason I'll go for the larger hunks next time).

Toss them into a VERY hot pan. Do not touch them. We want to get a char on one side, then flip them. 

The chicken will exude a lot of moisture, effectively killing our goal of getting charred bits on our chicken. I actually removed the chicken from the pan and drained off the liquid. Then I put the pan back on high heat and finished the chicken. 

Again, all of this could be avoided if you use larger pieces and a grill or a broiler. This is the long way, but in my defense, it still tastes really good, so if you go this route, you'll be happy. 

Faux grilled chicken
Put the chicken aside until the end.

When it's time for service, begin by adding the butter to a pan over medium heat.

When it comes up to temp, add the garlic and jalapeno. Saute for 1 minute. Do not let the garlic burn.

(*If you aren't using the puree method, add the diced onions now and saute until soft over med-low heat.)

Next, add the cumin, paprika and salt. If you want heat, add cayenne pepper now to taste. I left it out for this.

Fry the spices for another minute or two.

Add the tomato/onion/ginger puree.

(*If not using the puree method, add the diced tomatoes and ginger now)

Add the can of tomato sauce.

Let this whole mixture come to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Some of the liquid will evaporate and the sauce will thicken a bit.

In the meantime, start the rice. Add the turmeric, salt and butter to your pan then cook your rice per package instructions. I do mine in a sauce pan, if using a rice cooker, just toss it all in.

Get half a cup of frozen peas on hand.

After the gravy has cooked down a bit, add the heavy cream and coconut milk. I love this combination as it adds some sweetness and creates a nice texture. 

Stir to combine and let this simmer for a few minutes, minmum, for the flavors to meld. 

I usually let this go for a while. Maybe 30 more minutes. I find the longer you cook it, the better it is, so if you have the time, allow it to continue to cook for a while before service.

When your rice is done, toss in the peas and cover. The heat from the rice will heat them up just fine.

When you are ready to serve, toss in 2 teaspoons of garam masala. This is common to finish with the spice as it has a different flavor than when cooked for a long time. I like it.

Add back in the chicken and stir to combine. Let it cook for a few minutes to heat the chicken through. Again, you can extend this step too if you want, but usually I'm ready to eat. I usually cook my parathas during this final step. 

I know there are a lot of ways to prepare this dish, but overall I was very happy with this puree method. It was a lot faster and less prep and it tasted really good. Hopefully I didn't confuse you too bad with the asterisks 

Garnish with some chopped cilantro and consume.



  1. Is this the dish you made for the first DFW event? If it is I can say it is AMAZING.

  2. Yes! It's a slightly different texture, but for all intents and purposes, it's the same. (I actually refer to that DFW post when I make it.)


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