The Best Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is thought to have been created by a Bangladeshi chef in Glasgow in the 1960s. It's a spicy, tomato-based dish seasoned with garlic, ginger, fenugreek and garam masala. In this recipe we used fenugreek leaves for their nutty and slightly minty flavor. If you can't find them, substitute dried mint leaves and a pinch of ground fenugreek. Garam masala is a popular Indian spice blend that usually includes black and white pepper, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, bay, cumin and coriander. It's pretty easy to find in your local grocery store and most national spice companies.
Save Recipe
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 4 hr
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Share This Recipe

Ingredients

Chicken Marinade:

1 1/4 cup whole milk yogurt

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger 

4 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (see Cook's Note) 

1 teaspoon garam masala  

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 cloves garlic, finely grated 

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 pounds) 

Sauce:

4 tablespoons ghee (see Cook's Note)

1 large onion, sliced 

2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and chopped 

Kosher salt 

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger 

4 cloves garlic, finely grated 

2 teaspoons dried whole fenugreek leaves (see Cook's Note) 

2 teaspoons garam masala 

1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder 

1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika 

One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes 

1/4 cup heavy cream  

Chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, for serving 

Basmati rice, for serving 

Naan, for serving 

Directions

  1. For the chicken marinade: Whisk together the yogurt, ginger, salt, chili powder, garam masala, pepper, turmeric and garlic in a large bowl until combined. Toss the chicken in the spiced yogurt marinade until evenly coated. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 24. (Overnight works best.)
  2. For the sauce: Melt the ghee in a large Dutch oven or wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and serrano, season with 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and beginning to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until very fragrant and the ginger starts to turn golden and sticks to the bottom of the pot, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fenugreek leaves, garam masala, chili powder and paprika and cook, stirring occasionally, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up into pieces with a spoon, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced by half and the tomatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes.  
  3. Let the hot sauce cool for about 5 minutes or so, then transfer it to a blender filling no more than halfway. (If your blender is small, you may need to work in batches.) Remove the center cap from the lid and place it on the blender. Cover the lid with a kitchen towel to catch splatters, and pulse until smooth. Add 1/4 cup heavy cream and puree until creamy. Pour into a clean pot and bring to a simmer. Season with salt.    
  4. Meanwhile, position a rack directly under the broiler and preheat to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside.  
  5. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the rack. Broil until the chicken starts to brown in spots, 3 to 6 minutes per side (it will not be cooked through). Remove from the broiler. When cool enough to handle, cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces. Add the chicken to the simmering sauce, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. 
  6. Top the chicken and sauce with cilantro. Serve with rice and naan. 

Cook’s Note

Kashmiri red chili powder is mildly spicy with a bright red color. Look for it in Indian and Asian markets. Ghee is clarified butter used in Indian cooking. It's available in Asian markets and specialty grocery stores. We use fenugreek leaves for their nutty and slightly minty flavor. If you can't find them, substitute dried mint leaves and a pinch of ground fenugreek.