Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice

++ UPDATE   A few friends asked if this recipe is difficult. Actually, Chicken Tikka Masala does take a bit of of time, but each step is easy-peasy. 

I absolutely adore Chicken Tikka Masala and have ever since my very first mouthful at the Amherst (Massachusetts) Food Fair. It turns out Chicken Tikka Masala is NOT a real dish from India anymore than certain dishes served in Chinese restaurants are recognized as truly ‘Chinese’. It matters not.  If it’s delicious, who cares if it’s authentic?

Chicken Tikka Masala features chicken (obviously!) usually marinated in yogurt and spices, then broiled or grilled and mixed with a sauce of tomatoes, cream, cilantro and several spices.

Recipes for Chicken Tikka Masala vary enough to make your head spin, so I combined several different recipes and the end result could, I believe, rival my favorite Indian restaurant, Pintus, here in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

In India, meals are often served on large platters, and (depending upon the household) people use pieces of Naan to pick up small portions. I highly recommend buying yourself some authentic Naan (bread) to enjoy with your Chicken Tikka Masala.

P.S. Years ago my family and I traveled to Pakistan and India. We enjoyed our trip immensely.  Perhaps a month or so after I was preparing some type of curry. My twin sons walked in and exclaimed, “What are you cooking? It smells like Pakistan in here.”  I took that as a compliment!!

++  This recipe can be prepared the day before, then, at serving time, all you have to do is reheat it gently and prepare some Basmati rice.   

Ingredients                                  Serves 4 – 5

++ Adapted from

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced –  OR –  use a garlic press
  • 4 tsp. finely minced – or grated – fresh peeled ginger
  • 4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. garam masala  (Most stores now sell it in the spice area.)
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  •   ++  This makes 1/2 cup total.  Use 1/4 cup to marinate chicken.  Cover & refrigerate the other 1/4 cup for later.
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk plain yogurt.  (NOT Greek.  And – if you can only find ‘low fat’ plain yogurt, that’s OK.)
  • 1 Tbs. Kosher salt – or – use 1 Tbs. regular salt    (I thought 1 Tbs. salt was a mistake – but it was absolutely fine!)
  • 2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thirds lengthwise
  • 3 Tbs. Ghee (clarified butter)  OR   3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbs. tomato paste   (Freeze the rest in 1 Tbs. size portions in a small freezer bag.)
  • 6 cardamon pods – crushed   (I wrapped the cardamon pods in some plastic wrap and hit them with a hammer a few times.)
  • 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes  OR  1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans (14 oz. each) Hunt’s Fire Roasted DICED Tomatoes with Garlic
  • 1 pint  (2 cups)  heavy/whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro   (I used my mini food processor.)   ++ Plus a few sprigs for garnish.
  • 1/2 cup yogurt     ++ If you plan to make this a day ahead – use  3/4  cup yogurt for this step !!
  • Basmati Rice & Naan (bread)   –  for serving

Combine 6 cloves garlic, minced, 4 tsp. finely minced – or grated – fresh peeled ginger, 4 tsp. ground turmeric, 2 tsp. garam masala, 2 tsp. ground coriander, 1 tsp. paprika and 2 tsp. ground cumin in a small bowl.

Chicken Tikka Masala - My Yellow Farmhouse1

Using a metal soup spoon, ‘smosh down’ the spices, garlic and ginger a bit.  (The ginger might seems a bit fibrous – that’s OK.)  Chicken Tikka Masala - My Yellow Farmhouse2

Whisk 1 1/2 cups yogurt, 1 Tbs. salt and HALF the spice mix (1/4 cup) together in a large bowl.  Cut chicken breasts into thirds lengthwise.

Chicken Tikka Masala4 - My Yellow Farmhouse

Add cut up chicken to bowl and turn to coat with yogurt mixture.  Cover and chill between 4 – 6 hours.     ++ Cover and chill remaining 1/4 cup spice/garlic mix.

Chicken Tikka Masala5 - My Yellow Farmhouse

Do This Part After Chicken Has Marinated

In a large, heavy pot heat 3 Tbs. olive oil –  OR Ghee – over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup minced onion, 1/4 cup + 1 Tbs. tomato paste, , 6 cardamon pods, crushed, 3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (OR 1/2 tsp.  cayenne pepper). Cook, stirring often, until tomato paste is darkened and onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup spice/garlic mixture and cook, stirring often, until bottom of pan starts to brown – about 4 minutes.


Add 2 cans (14 oz. each) Hunt’s Fire Roasted DICED Tomatoes with Garlic. Mash diced tomatoes down a bit with a potato masher.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often and scraping browned bits from bottom of pan, until sauce thickens, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Chicken Tikka Masala6 - My Yellow Farmhouse

Now add 2 cups heavy/whipping cream and 3/4 cup chopped cilantro. Continue to simmer (uncovered) for between 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chicken Tikka Masala7 - My Yellow Farmhouse

While sauce is simmering, remove chicken from refrigerator and take out of marinade. Give chicken pieces each a little shake to remove some of the marinade.

Preheat broiler to HIGH.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside. Arrange chicken strips on rack in a single layer.

Chicken Tikka Masala8 - My Yellow Farmhouse

Set oven rack at highest position.  Broil chicken pieces until they begin to brown, between 5 – 7 minutes.    ++ Chicken will NOT be thoroughly cooked – it will finish cooking in the sauce.

Chicken Tikka Masala - My Yellow Farmhouse

Place chicken on cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Chicken Tikka Masala10 - My Yellow Farmhouse

Add chicken to sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, between 8 – 10 minutes.  Serve atop Basmati rice.     Enjoy !!

Chicken Tikka Masala - My Yellow