Chicken Tikka Masala

I love Indian food. And I love making curry. Though the sometimes long-ish list of spices can frighten some people away, it’s really not hard to make–and in my experience, it’s hard to mess up.

When I graduated from college, I spent a wonderful year living with 4 fantastic roommates in a quite janky 5-bedroom white house in Bloomington, Indiana, on a street that lacked both streetlights and a sidewalk. But given that I was only spending $220/month on rent, I wan’t complaining–especially since Laurel took care of the ‘situation’ when mouse droppings mysteriously appeared in our kitchen drawers. The house was dubbed the ‘ihug’ –International House of Unbelievable Girls–thus called because we hailed from Spain, Guatemala, and Hawaii. We had weekly roommate meetings in which we discussed household business, prayed for each other, and divvied up kitchen duty so that the 5 of us each cooked a meal for everyone to share one night per week (Monday – Thursday + Sunday).

It was a perfect arrangement, since on most nights you could come home to a hot meal after a long day at school or work. Plus, the same person who cooked was responsible for clean-up, so there were no frustrations with “this person is a messy cook” or “that person always burns stuff to the bottom of the pot.” One night a week and you were done with kitchen duty, baby. It was a lovely, harmonious year. I’d do it all over again–except that would mean I wouldn’t be married. Which is not so cool, considering I’ve become quite addicted to the arrangement.

The point is, that year at the ihug was the first time I had really cooked on such a regular basis and on such a large scale. Large being . . . well, 5 people. So ‘kind of large’ scale, I guess. Or even ‘regular scale’ depending on your perspective. But I digress!

One of my first culinary love-affairs during this time was with Indian food. I found a couple Indian cookbooks on the bargain table at Border’s, stocked up on all sorts of ingredients that seemed quite exotic to me, from fenugreek to asaphoetida to ghee to cardamom pods–and I cooked! My first dish–potatoes and green beans simmered in a spicy sauce–was so spicy I could hardly eat it. But as I learned from my mistakes and forged ahead, my experiments became more and more successful. And I started truly loving Indian food.

It’s surprising to me that I’ve barely made any Indian food in the past year, since starting this blog, with the exception of the amazing (and cheap) Dhal Makhani. I have a lot of ground to cover if I plan on sharing all of the incredible recipes I’ve found and made over the years. So I’m gearing up for a new and more Indian-food-heavy season in my kitchen with this Tikka Masala, based on Pastor Ryan’s version, which I found on the P-Dub’s website a couple years ago and didn’t hesitate for one second to make. Why? Well besides being BFF’s with the P-Dub (in my mind at least–don’t shatter the illusion), this curry is creamy. It’s rich. The chicken is tender. It’s not over-the-top spicy. I want to eat it on a very regular basis in my life. Make it! Don’t fritter away any more curry-less days like I have.


(Serves 6)

3-4 chicken breasts
Kosher salt
3 pinches ground coriander
3 pinches ground cumin
½ cup plain yoghurt
2 TBS butter
1 large onion
1 TBS salt
5 cloves garlic
2-inch piece fresh ginger
1 chili pepper
3 TBS garam masala
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 TBS sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Season the chicken breasts generously with kosher salt, cumin and coriander on both sides.

Coat them completely in yoghurt (I used Greek, but regular works just fine). . .

. . . and place them on a metal cooling rack over an aluminum-lined baking sheet. The metal cooling rack is an important bit, because it keeps the chicken elevated and allows the hot oven air to circulate all around the meat . . . at least that’s how I explain it to myself. See you local scientist for a more accurate explanation.

Broil the chicken for 5-7 minutes on each side, until slightly blackened in spots. Remove it from the oven and set it aside. Pretend I took more pictures.

Dice the onion.

Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add the diced onion.

Cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened and starting to brown.

While the onion is cooking, mince the garlic and ginger . . .

. . . and de-seed and mince the chili pepper.

Add them to the softened onions along with the tablespoon of salt. That’s right–it’s a whole whoppin’ tablespoon–but don’t worry. It’s the perfect amount.

Cook the shebang for another minute or two, until the garlic and ginger are fragrant.

Add the garam masala and cook for about one minute.

Plant yourself by the stove and stir it constantly so that the spice doesn’t burn.

Yes, it looks a little dark and funky at this point, but the smells . . . oh my heavens, the smells. At this point my husband came at a swift trot into the kitchen:”What’s smelling so good??” he asked, peering over my shoulder.

I love it when my husband comes into the kitchen at a swift trot.

You will get similar results.

Except not with my husband–more likely with your own posse instead.

I can’t send my spouse out to trot all over creation and smell everyone’s tikka masala sauce without having him sign off on the idea first.

Add the can of crushed tomatoes (alternately, you can use diced tomatoes for a lighter and chunkier sauce or pureed tomatoes for a thicker, smoother sauce–in fact, I used pureed tomatoes this time ’round).

Scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze, add the sugar . . .

. . . and simmer the sauce over medium heat for about 10 minutes. You can cover the pot partially to avoid splattering if you’d like. I’d like.

Chop the broiled chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks.

If it’s still slightly pink, please don’t freak out–it will finish cooking in the sauce.

Add the heavy cream to the tomato sauce.

Go ahead and pour some straight down your gullet as well–you know you want to. I can see it in your eyes.

Mmmm, things are starting to look real good. They always do when heavy cream makes its grand entrance.

Dump in the chicken, too.

Stir everything around, and cook over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes.

Taste the sauce and re-season if needed.

Chop up the cilantro . . .

. . . and stir it into the sauce.

Unless you’re one of those weirdos who thinks it tastes like soap. And don’t worry–I’ll find it in my heart to love you despite your freakish dislikes.

Serve this hot little dish over rice!

It’s so tasty, guys. Even if I did cut that piece of chicken into a frighteningly perfect cube. Is that wigging out anyone else here?

And whether or not you’re put off by the geometrically distinct chicken chunks, the yellow basmati rice makes such a pretty bed for them. You won’t regret putting this on the menu!

Click here for printer-friendly version: Chicken Tikka Masala

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29 Responses to Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. Looks really delicious. Tikka Masala is one of my favourite curries, so tasty! Thanks for sharing the recipe, it looks great.

  2. I know your apartment must smell amazing when you make this.

  3. Sissi says:

    I also love Indian food (especially when it’s very hot!) and the only thing I regret is not cooking it often enough. The one served in restaurants is usually literally swimming in fat….
    Chicken Tikka Masala was announced on the list of British national dishes, so when I went to London for the first time in my life I ordered it. Even though I had it in a very dodgy Indian restaurant, it was really good! (Although not hot enough for my taste) Your Tikka Masala looks fantastic! I should try making it one day at home.

  4. Hi Jenna!! Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most magical dishes ever. It’s my favorite new recipe I experimented with over the summer. Glad to see a familiar face enjoying it as well!

  5. Kristy says:

    Jenna, this Tikka Masala looks wonderful. I love all the photos detailing the process, that will make it so much easier when I try this dish. And I also love the color of that sauce – just beautiful!!

  6. Sarah says:

    this looks so yummy…and i don’t even really like indian food! well, it’s okay but not my fave. you know what i’m saying… :) maybe i’ll be brave and try it!

  7. Me lovva some Masala! Yours looks so good! Hmm, may have to get my Indian on in the kitchen this week!

  8. Veronica says:

    As far as I understand, the people who dislike cilantro can’t help it–something about their makeup makes them taste it differently than the rest of us, kind of like some people get odiferous pee (TMI?) from eating asparagus (me) and some don’t. Please don’t shatter this illusion b/c I really have problems forgiving people for not liking things (esp onions!) that I like. LOL! Seriously, it’s really hard for me to fathom, despite me personally not liking goat cheese (actually detesting to the point I get nauseous even thinking about it), which others adore. You’re prob one of them. Don’t hate me! Anyway, LOVE chicken tikka masala. It’s been a while since I’ve made it or any Indian food…then again, it’s been a while since I’ve cooked period. All I’ve been doing is baking! But I’m looking forward to my weekend (starts tomorrow) so I can actually cook real food again. Yay!

    • Jenna says:

      I’ve heard that too about cilantro-haters–I think they’re called ‘supertasters’ or something. Their taste buds are more . . . sensitive? Developed?
      Anyway, I definitely get the asparagus pee (the first time I noticed it I was like WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME???). And I have to admit that I have my weird dislikes too–like radicchio. Can’t stand the stuff. And raw shrimp–I tried to eat it at a suchi place once–gross! And softshell crab really wigs me out because of its shape, but I really do like the flavor.
      Enjoy your return to cooking, you Baking Queen!

  9. Layla says:

    You might like this website Jenna:
    Also I enjoyed hearing the positive experience you had with your roommates, that’s incredible that it worked out with all 5 people.
    My husband & I tried to have a roommate, it was such a horrible experience that he refuses to ever try having one again. I’d tell you some stories but literally don’t want to taint your blog (or ruin readers appetites) with how disgusting he was…

    • Jenna says:

      Oh no! Bad roommate experiences are the worst. I’ve heard lots of stories (one of my sisters had a rough experience during college) and I am SO GRATEFUL for that year of peace and harmony!
      Anyway, thanks for the link–I sense lots of tasty recipes lurking within . . .

  10. Sarah K. says:

    I just settled down to a nice lunch at my desk and pulled up your blog for some light lunch reading. I laughed out loud because what am I having for lunch? Chicken Tikka Masala! Mine’s the frozen kind from Trader Joe’s though. I’ll have to try this one. We love Indian food. Also, Steven is one of those weird people that doesn’t like cilantro. He says it tastes like metal.

  11. biz319 says:

    I love chicken tikka masala. I made it for the first time a couple years ago and love the complexity of flavors going on – although I make mine really spicy – I am crazy like that!

  12. bevweidner says:

    Just looking at this has me in TEARS.

  13. Twinky says:

    I have not yet delved into Indian cuisine, but this does look yummy!! Where do you find the special spices/ingredients?

    • Jenna says:

      I was fortunate to have access to awesome international grocery stores in Bloomington when I started my ‘spice collection,’ and in Delaware (on the Kirkwood) there were no less than 2 Indian grocery stores! Yup. But garam masala is just a mix of other spices (cinnamon, etc.) that you could blend yourself. I should make you guys some Indian when you visit!

  14. Tracy says:

    I made tikka masala once and I don’t know what was up with the recipe, but it was not good at all. I’m bookmarking your recipe to try since it looks delicious and I really want to give it another chance!

    • Jenna says:

      I hope you have a good experience with this one! My sister Heidi happens to not like this recipe–but it could be because of her garam masala, which maybe wasn’t the best. Anyway, I loved it, and I hope you do too!

  15. JamieAnne says:

    Indian food intimidates me. This looks lovely.

  16. Kimby says:

    And the translation for janky would be…? :) This sounded like a fun, fantastic year in your life, Jenna — thanks for writing about it! I liked your Borg chicken cube, too. :)

  17. Tandy says:

    the cooking duties in the IHUG sound like a win! When we are on holiday who ever cooks does not clean – which means hubby cooks every night :)

  18. ihug sounds like a great place to live! I also started having to cook one night a week for our family of 5 – you get very good at the big one pot meals. I love the step but step instructions here, makes it very easy to tackle.

  19. Holly says:

    Ahh the ihug. If we were back together again, I would force you to make this recipe for us! I love me some tikka masala. And I would make these awesome shredded pork tacos. They’re so good, but after making them I feel like I should be done cooking for the week. Come to think of it, it’s a PW recipe from her cookbook.

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