Chicken tikka masala is a spicy, creamy, chicken curry. Popular in Britain (and around the world), I first had it at an Indian take out place in Boston. I’ve since learned how to make my own version, and friends have asked me for a recipe. I’ve never written a recipe before, I usually just write rough guides on how to make food, so here goes nothing.

This is an easy recipe that uses a lot of pantry ingredients. The more advanced versions have making your own spice mix, but we won’t need to do that here. This can come together in an hour, and serve 2 or 3 people.

Ingredients

For the chicken and marinade you’ll need:

  • 1½ pounds of chicken breast, cubed
  • 4 ounces of plain yogurt
  • Half a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons of garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika

For the sauce, you’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 4 ounces of plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of tumeric
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 1½ cups of chicken stock
  • 14½ ounces of canned tomato (usually 1 can)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 bay leaf (dried or fresh)
  • a handful of curry leaves (dried or fresh)
  • fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Don’t sweat the measurements too much, it’s a curry and they tend to be forgiving so you can get away with say, 14 or 15 ounces of canned tomatoes rather than 14½.

Preparation

  1. First we marinate the chicken (which should be cut into bite sized cubes, or perhaps a bit larger). Put the chunks of chicken in a bowl and add yogurt, salt, pepper, chilli powder, garam masala, and smoked paprika.
  2. Squeeze all the juice out of your half-lemon into the bowl, and then massage the marinade into the chicken. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes (this is a quick recipe – if you want to marinate it longer, don’t put any lemon juice in before marinating or the excessive acidity will break the proteins down).
  3. Once you’re ready to cook the chicken, pre-heat the oven to around 400°F.
  4. Put the meat onto skewers, and place the skewers onto a sheet-lined baking pan. Cook the chicken skewers in the oven for about 15 minutes, turning the skewers around 7½ minutes in. The internal temperature should be around 175°F once they’re cooked. If you don’t have a meat thermometer don’t sweat it, since we’re going to continue cooking it in the curry anyway so you don’t have to worry about the chicken being undercooked. Remove the chicken from the oven and put it aside while we cook the sauce.
  5. Peel and chop the large red onion. You don’t have to dice it too finely, it’ll all melt into the curry anyway.
  6. To make your paste, you need to mash up the garlic, ginger, and chilli. You can either do this with a food processor, or do it in an old-school rustic way with a pestle and mortar.
  7. In a large pot (like a Dutch oven), heat your olive oil on the stove on a medium heat. When the oil is hot enough, drop the cumin in, then the curry leaves (this might sputter a bit so be careful), and your spice paste. Bring the heat down to low to prevent the paste from burning and let the flavors seep into the oil.
  8. Next, put the onions in and brown them slowly and stir often until they’re translucent and fragrant.
  9. Then, add in the chilli powder, garam masala, and turmeric. Sprinkle some of the salt and stir in the tomato puree.
  10. At this point it should be smelling pretty good. Add the canned tomatoes, and then pour in the chicken stock. Bring the heat up to a boil. Stir well. Add the sugar into the bubbling pot, and drop in the bay leaf.
  11. Remove the chicken from your skewers and toss them into the pot. Add the yogurt.
  12. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes.
  13. Once it’s been simmering for half an hour or so, stir in the heavy cream. Simmer on for about 5 more minutes.
  14. Taste the curry, and add additional salt if you need to.
  15. You’re ready to serve! Garnish with coriander leaves.

It took me a while to experiment to get the recipe right, but I hope this works out for you as it does for me.

Chicken tikka masala with some homemade naan on the side. That’s not a coffee mug, it’s a soup bowl.

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