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Chicken Tikka Masala

97 reviews / 4.7 average

Chicken Tikka Masala – creamy, perfectly spicy, and ready in 30 minutes! you won’t believe how easy it is to make this at home!

Chicken Tikka Masala – at home – on the couch – in 30 minutes. THIS IS HAPPENING.

Welcome to the most creamy, luscious, medium-spicy, weeknight-manageable, must-have-it-NOW chicken tikka masala.

It is everything you want tikka masala to be: packed with flavor, with just enough browned bits on your chicken to keep it interesting, tangy but also rich, with that signature bronze-orange tikka masala color. Scoop it up over hot rice with a shower of fresh cilantro and you are in tikka masala biz-ness.

Chicken tikka masala in a pan.

The Secret Ingredient

Okay, you might have opinions about this, but personally I like to approach chicken tikka masala as a five ingredient recipe:

  • Chicken
  • Yogurt
  • Tomato sauce
  • Cream
  • Masala paste

Let’s talk about the masala paste. In order to approach this as a five ingredient recipe, we need to establish that one of the “ingredients” is a MASALA PASTE with lots of fragrant and punchy and deeply flavored ingredients.

You make this masala paste once, it is done in about five minutes, and then it lives in your freezer so that forevermore you will have the ability to make this chicken tikka masala as a – you guessed it – quick, easy, five ingredient recipe.

Masala Paste on a spoon

Are you following?

So the first order of business here is making the masala paste. Today. Right now. End of story. One five minute batch of masala paste = many batches of this five ingredient CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA with hardly any thought or effort.

If you can, if you will, if you need good recipes that taste like your favorite Indian restaurant just came into your house, please make that masala paste which will transform into this sauce which will cover this chicken which makes the simplest chicken tikka masala happen in your life, in your very own home, on your very own couch in your very own sweats because HELLO.

Only the best for tikka masala.

Chicken tikka masala in bowls with rice.

Ways To Make Chicken Tikka Masala

This recipe is written to be done on the stovetop, but you could make it in the Instant Pot or a slow cooker for a more hands-off approach. I prefer the traditional stovetop version, but all ways are very delicious.

Check out the notes section of the recipe below for specific instructions for both!

Check Out Our Video For How To Make Chicken Tikka Masala:

This recipe is one of our favorite Indian dishes. Recipes can vary from place to place and restaurant to restaurant, but it is typically always served with hunks of chicken that are marinated in spices and yogurt and then served in a creamy curry sauce. While we don’t have a tandoori oven at home, typically the chicken would be roasted first. For a more in-depth look at Indian food including influences, methods, definitions, and more, check out this amazing post called Indian Cooking 101 by our friend Anu from Simmer to Slimmer!

Print
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A bowl of chicken tikka masala sauce on a bed of white rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 68 1x

Description

Chicken Tikka Masala – creamy, perfectly spicy, and ready in 30 minutes! you won’t believe how easy it is to make this at home!


Ingredients

Scale

Chicken Tikka Masala:

  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup masala paste (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 12 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream (sub a 14-ounce can of regular coconut milk)
  • 12 teaspoons kosher salt
  • rice and cilantro for serving

Masala Paste:

  • 2 onions (about 3 cups when chopped)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon each chili powder, turmeric, and cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • a small pile of cilantro stems
  • juice of one lemon

Instructions

  1. MASALA PASTE: Pulse all ingredients into a food processor until smooth. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the paste for this recipe – freeze the rest for your next batch! Boom!
  2. MARINATE CHICKEN: Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Marinate with 1-2 tablespoons of masala paste and the yogurt for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
  3. COOK CHICKEN: Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Cook the chicken in batches, undisturbed, until each piece is nice and browned on the outside. Remove from pan and set aside. (Chicken does not need to be fully cooked at this point.)
  4. SAUCE: Add 2-3 tablespoons of masala paste to the same skillet. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato puree and browned chicken; simmer for 10-15 minutes. (Chicken should now be fully cooked.)
  5. FINISH: Stir in cream or coconut milk. Season with salt. Let stand for a while so the sauce will thicken up a bit. Serve over rice with cilantro. HEAVEN.

Notes

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala: Same ingredients and instructions for steps 1 and 2. At step 3, add chicken, masala paste, and tomato puree to the Instant Pot, and cook at high pressure for 8 minutes. Use the quick release. Add cream in at the end.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: Same ingredients and instructions for steps 1 and 2. At step 3, add chicken, masala paste, and tomato puree to the slow cooker, and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Add cream in at the end.

Tomato Puree: You can buy canned tomato puree at a lot of grocery stores. Otherwise just plain tomato sauce (it’s just a little thinner) or use canned tomatoes and run them through the food processor or blender till smooth. The idea is just plain pureed tomatoes without seasoning. 

Dairy Free Chicken Tikka Masala: Coconut milk or light coconut milk can be used and it’s delicious! It will just be slightly less thick and creamy.

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: chicken tikka masala, masala paste, Indian restaurant, chicken dinner recipe

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Nutrition Facts are for 6 servings, not including rice.


One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of best healthy gluten-free recipes. Check it out!

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Recipe rating

340 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Rebecca

    This dish is so delicious! I doubled the masala paste and it came out so flavorful! I was honestly a little doubtful because I have yet to have good Indian food that wasn’t made by an Indian friend, but this recipe is definitely up there and will be on repeat in my house. And there is SO much masala paste left over! I’m thinking I will make the sauce with meatballs next






  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Leah

    This was terrific. When I took the lid off my food processor I was hit with that divine masala smell! I did double my masala paste in the tomato puree. I also used coconut milk and let it slow simmer in my cast iron until it was dark and thick then set it aside for a few hours and reheated at dinner. Yummy! Thank you for sharing!






  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Laura

    Love. this. recipe. My husband said it was probably “my favorite recipe ever”. So happy that I have a ton of paste left over so I can make this again so many times 🙂

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kali

    If I make this with the instant pot or slow cooker, should the chicken still be cut up in bite sizes? Worried about overcooking (especially with the slow cooker)

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Adrienne

    Very good! I did the instant pot version. I used up whatever veggies I had in the fridge (carrot, cauli) then put in chopped kale at the end. Tasty!






      1. Pinch of Yum Logo
        JJ

        This recipe is delicious! I love that you can freeze the paste in separate zip lock bags, then just pull one out when you’re ready to make a quick, easy, 5 ingredient tasty meal that’s a hit with the whole family! I added chick peas for a little added substance and protein yummmmy thank you!






        1. Pinch of Yum Logo
          Krista @ Pinch of Yum

          Totally, JJ! I love having little bags of the paste ready to go in the freezer!

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Hanan alazmi

    This recipe looks delicious,Iam in love with indian food🤤,will it be good if i cook meat instead of chicken??i love your recipes thank you for sharing!






  7. Pinch of Yum Logo
    J

    This was delicious! It took me a whole lot longer than you stated due to having to brown the chicken. That is the only reason I am giving it 4 instead of 5 stars.






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Ellie

    This is seriously one of my favorite recipes of all time. My boyfriend and I have made it like, 12 times over the past 6 months? We like to serve it with roasted, spiced cauliflower to cut through the richness of the cream. MAKE THIS! you will not regret it!!!






  9. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Britta

    I have been a follower for quite some time. Wonderful ideas on food. This Tikka Masala is to die for. We have not had Indian take out in awhile and this is just as good if not better! Not overly spicy so I added cause I love me some spice. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo

    When making double the recipe I:

    Use 1 can of coconut milk instead of 2
    Use 2 tsp of salt
    Garam Masala paste from our local Sprouts store instead of making my own

    Came out really well!

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Pascale

    Hi,
    My sauce ended up really grainy. I am guessing from the yogurt- how do i prevent this?

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I had the same issue as a couple other of your readers did as well. With having way too much liquid in the pan when I was trying to brown the chicken. I noticed in your video you do not have all that liquid. Do you strain your yogurt and Pat it dry to avoid all the excess liquid? Can you help me with this this was my only problem with the recipe. We absolutely loved it!






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      Hi, Connie! That’s right – when we go to cook the chicken, we sometimes lightly blot the chicken pieces so that there’s not excess liquid on them. This can help with the extra liquid issue you mentioned.

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Taylar

    Creating a paste for later was a genius idea to whip this up anytime! Definitely keeping that tip. Our dinner was so yummy! Thanks for such a great recipe!






  14. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jodi

    In the middle of making the paste…has anyone used Whole Garam Masala? Trying to figure out if I need to grind it first (I think yes?)?!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Sue

      Oh gads YES, gring it to dust!

      Ms Yum – You helped me fix a batch of masala veggies I did that came out *way too raw* the way it was. Thanks!
      I tend to lean more towards Nepali/Himalayan food rather than Indian. Somehow it’s more creamy with a LOT less cream AND you can order mild/medium or hot. So far the auth eww antic spices I’ve used are black cardamon; dried kasuri methi leaves; ajwan seeds & kashmiri chili powder. Use all of them with caution until you figure out what amount you want.
      One version of chicken lakhani uses… (ready for this?)…FIVE SPICE POWDER !! Again, use with caution – it can be overwhelming with too much.
      Love your site,
      Sue

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo
      CurryW

      Graham masala is a ground blend of spices. Whole spices of cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and cardamon pods are toasted in a pan to release their aromatic flavors, then ground to a powder.

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kalee

    I’m in the process of letting my chicken marinate as we speak! I’m so excite to try this. My husband was purring from the couch by the smell of the masala paste, alone!

    I do have a question, though! How would you recommend freezing storage wise, and do you do so in 1/4 cup increments?






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      We think that’s a great idea to store it in 1/4 cup increments – makes it easy for future chicken tikka masalas! We’d suggest freezing it in a freezer-safe jar for easy access.

  16. Pinch of Yum Logo
    ADAM N.

    I found this recipe of yours years ago and my wife and I love it. But have you changed it? I remember it used to call for Almonds in the Masala Paste? We liked that but cant remember how much was used. Also the heavy cream is new.






  17. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Genevieve

    Hi
    You say to cook in a large nonstick skillet but you show cooking the chicken in an enameled Dutch oven, which I think would be better for browning anyway. I don’t have a deep nonstick Skillet but I do own Dutch ovens. I’m going to cook now but I would like to know what you think is best. Sheltering in place in the suburbs of NYC.. thank you !

  18. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Melanie

    Hi,
    Can’t wait to make this recipe!! LOVE Indian food!!
    Do you recommend white , yellow, or purple onions?
    Thank you!

  19. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This recipe was amazing. My boyfriend of two years said, “I never knew you could make Indian food” as he helped himself to thirds. I made a smaller portion of the recipe and used tomato sauce instead as I did not have tomato puree and used coconut milk. It was a little thin so I added a little bit of cornstarch which thickened it up to a perfect thickness. It was so so good and I can’t wait to make it again. I also made your chocolate chip cookies for dessert! Love your recipes as they are straight forward, delicious and I usually have the ingredients on hand!






  20. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Chris

    Hi
    What exactly is Tomato Purée .. does it come in can or do you make it from canned tomatoes ? If it comes in can , what brand ? I’m making list for grocery home delivery and not sure I can get this …thx!