chicken tikka masala

tika masala

I was not a fan of Indian food when I first tried it. My college room mate and I ordered from a campus Indian restaurant one summer and I probably ate about three bites before I gave up. I have no idea what I ate that night (my guess: rice?), but many years later BF took me to Tandoori Times Too and introduced me to chicken tikka masala, and naan, and fluffy basmati rice, and how great Indian food really can be.

For those of you who haven’t had it, this dish starts with chicken that has been marinated in a yogurt mixture, which is then cooked, chopped, and added to a tomato sauce. But not just any tomato sauce. This sauce is creamy, spicy, and features the infamous Garam Masala. The garam masala is so integral to this dish that the average grocery store spice was not enough for me. I refused to make my tikka masala with anything less than authentic Indian garam masala. Lucky for me, my good friend Pooja had some from her home in India that she was willing to share with me. Ain’t she a doll? 😉

Normally the sauce is more brown than red, Pooja said that’s because I need to cook the onions longer next time. They should be brown and caramelized instead of translucent. (Oops – still not bad for my first try!) So make sure you brown your veggies very well so that you have lots of flavorful brown bits to scrape up from the bottom of your pan for both color and flavor. I know this tikka masala isn’t the most photogenic thing I’ve ever made- but I promise your belly won’t be disappointed.

Chicken Tikka MasalaAdapted from Pioneer Woman 


  • 3 whole (to 4) Chicken Breasts
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground Coriander
  • Ground Cumin
  • ½ C plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled & minced
  • Garam Masala
  • 1 can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 – 1 ½ C heavy cream
  • 2 cups Basmati Rice, cooked to package directions


  • Chili Peppers
  • Turmeric
  1. Place chicken breasts on a plastic cutting board or in a bowl. Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle lightly with coriander and cumin. Add yogurt and toss to coat.
  2. Broil chicken 10-12 inches below a broiler for 5-7 minutes per side until it is slightly blackened. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat, add diced onion and saute until browned. Once the onions are browned, add the garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of salt.
  4. Once combined, add 2 1/2- 3 tablespoons Garam Masala. Yes, I know it seems like a lot. Just do it. If you want spice, throw in a diced chili pepper.
  5. Add tomatoes (juice and all) and continue cooking and stirring, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and allow the sauce to simmer about 5 minutes. (I tented mine with foil to avoid a tomato-y mess)
  6. While the sauce is simmering, cook your basmati rice according to package directions. You can add turmeric or saffron if you wish.
  7. After the Tikka Masala sauce has had a chance to simmer for a little bit, add in the 1 – 1 ½ cups of heavy cream. If desired, you can now puree the sauce in a food processor, blender, or with an immersion blender to make it smooth. Chop your chicken breast into desired size and stir into the sauce. Let simmer a few minutes longer.
  8. When ready, serve with naan (I get mine frozen at Trader Joes), and/or basmati rice.


*Don’t be afraid to spice liberally, depending on your preference.

*My oven was being a big, fat jerk, so my chicken took longer to cook. Just use your eyes and your nose to know when it is done. Don’t forget to flip it half-way through!

*If you wanted, you could use leftover cooked chicken breast in place of the freshly-broiled chicken breast. No worries.

*I get my naan at Trader Joes in the freezer section, but many grocery stores have it located near the pita bread.

*Make sure to brown your onions!!!