Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Updated: May 9, 2024, By Swasthi

This Chicken Tikka Masala is spicy, creamy, flavorful and crazy delicious! You won’t want to stop with one serving! My perfected & time-tested recipe helps you make it better than the restaurants. I also share plenty of options to grill the chicken – in Oven, air fryer, on a griddle or skillet. Cooking this flavor-packed curry is easier than you think. Serve it over fluffy Basmati Rice, Cumin Rice or with Butter Naan, Roti, Chapati, Paratha or any flatbread of choice.

Chicken tikka masala



What is Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken Tikka Masala is a classic curried dish with soft tender chunks of char-grilled chicken, simmered briefly in a delicious & super aromatic sauce/gravy. The dish comprises of 2 components – first is tikka and the other is the masala, which is the gravy or sauce in which the tikkas are simmered.

The word “Tikka” literally means “a piece or chunk” and here the tikkas are grilled chunks of chicken that are first marinated in spiced & herbed yogurt and then char-grilled to perfection. These smoky and aromatic tender chunks are simmered in a creamy, delicious and flavorsome onion tomato masala, known as Tikka Masala. The finished dish has a super addictive smoky flavor, tastes creamy and supremely delicious!!!

This world popular dish has its origin from Northern India, where tikka kebabs were cooked in a tandoor consisting of live charcoal or wood fire. These are served as an appetizer with coriander/ Cilantro Chutney and Mint Chutney. However tikka masala sauce/gravy is said to be a fusion Indian-British curry, popularized by the Indian Chefs, working in Britain.

As you research, you will find many stories on the origin of this dish and a few dozens of variations to cook this dish.

Chicken Tikka Masala Vs Butter Chicken

A lot of people think Chicken tikka masala and Butter Chicken and Chicken Jalfrezi are same but in fact they are not. While tikka masala is on the spicier side, is made with boneless chicken and has a chunky sauce due to the usage of chopped onions. It is also cooked in oil and sometimes a small amount of butter is used.

But authentic Indian Butter chicken has no onions and can be made with bone-in chicken and is essentially cooked in butter. The main characteristic of an authentic Butter chicken is its smooth silky sauce and is low on the spice levels, with sweet notes but not prominently sweet tasting.

My Recipe

My recipe is easy enough for beginners and gives you the best chicken tikka masala that actually tastes better than in any restaurant. You can easily tweak the spice levels by following my notes and tips below.

Here are the key differences between the Indian and the British Chicken Tikka Masala: My recipe works well for both the versions

The Indian version has whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms. 2 interesting ingredients you always find is the bell pepper & onions in the tikka skewers. However I have not added them here just to keep the recipe simple. You won’t find any of these in the British curry.

The Indian dish uses cashews to give that creamy and naturally sweet flavor. Very little quantity of cream is used at the end mostly to garnish and to adjust the flavors. The British version has a lot of cream and no cashews are used.

Indian masala makes use of fresh tomatoes (chopped or pureed) so your dish has more fresh flavours. The British chicken tikka masala is essentially made with passata/ bottled or canned tomato puree which imparts umami flavors. Some recipes even use canned tomato soup & tomato paste.

Indian Vs British Tikka Masala

To summarise, Indian chicken tikka masala has fresh flavors due to the use of fresh tomatoes. It’s creamy, rich and delicious and won’t make you feel bloated as there is a very small amount of cream used. Cashews impart a magical creamy texture and flavour without making you feel heavy.

The British tikka masala has more deep flavors due to the use of passata and you will love this if you love the delicious umami flavour. But this requires plenty of cream to balance the taste of passata else you will only taste tomatoes in the curry.

Over the years I have tested this recipe with fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes – fire roasted, bottled tomato puree/passata from different brands. So I have updated the recipe for both the versions and note that all brands of tomato puree or canned tomatoes won’t work here.

Avoid using canned tomatoes with citric acid added to it. This results in a metallic taste in the dish. I use passata from Mutti brand. It is sweet (no added sweetener) and won’t make your dish overly sour/tangy.

More similar recipes
Chicken Madras
Lamb Curry
Rogan Josh
Chicken Bhuna
Chicken Korma

Indian tikka masala with bell peppers
Indian chicken tikka masala with bell peppers

Photo Guide

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala (Stepwise photos)

Chicken Marinade

1. Dice chicken to 1 to 1½ inch pieces and add to a large mixing bowl. Pat dry with a few kitchen tissues to make sure there is no excess moisture. For this recipe, you will need about 1½ lbs. (700 grams) boneless chicken thighs or breasts. A little more or less is just okay. Add the following:

  • ½ to 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt
spices for marinade

2. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon oil. Try to avoid lime juice here. For authentic Indian tikka flavors, use mustard oil.

oil and lemon juice

3. Add 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (or grated) and 1 tablespoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves).

ginger garlic and kasuri methi in the chicken tikka marinade

4. Add ½ cup Greek yogurt / strained yogurt or Hung curd. You won’t use the runny yogurt with whey here because that will let out a lot of moisture and ruin your tikkas. If you do not have it, you can make your own from my post here – Strained yogurt or Hung Curd. But note that you have to make this 12 hours in advance because this takes time.

add thick curd or Greek curd

5. Mix up everything well. Cover with a cling wrap and let it rest for a minimum of 8 hours & up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. If you are in a rush you may cook them after 3 hours but longer the better as they really become juicy and soak up all the flavors well.

resting chicken marinade

Make The Tikka Sauce

6. Pour 3 tablespoons oil or ghee or a mix of both to a pot or pan. When it turns hot, add 1 ½ cups onions (1 large or 2 medium) and sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt. Saute on a medium heat until they turn deep golden. We don’t want the onions to be half cooked here.

saute onions

7. Add 1 chopped green chilli (optional) and 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (or grated). If you don’t have it, you can make your own by following this Ginger garlic paste recipe. Saute for about 40 to 60 seconds until you begin to smell the ginger garlic.

add ginger garlic

8. Turn the heat to low, add

  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
add spices

9. Stir well quickly. We don’t want to burn the spices.

heating spices

10. Immediately add the tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, you will chop or puree 500 grams (1.1 pounds) ripe red tomatoes in a blender to a smooth puree. Or use 1¼ cup (10 oz) bottled tomato puree/ passata.

Tip: If you want a smooth gravy, you may use chopped tomatoes here and puree it later in the next steps.

pour tomato puree

11. Cook this on a medium high heat stirring often until the masala thickens as shown in the picture. This step takes some time so be patient and cook down the tomatoes as the curry develops a flavor at this stage. You may check the video in the recipe card for consistency.

cooking tikka masala in a pan

12. Bring 1 to 2 cups of water to a rolling boil in another pot. Pour 1 cup hot water (if using heavy cream) or 2 cups if using cashew cream. Give a good mix.

pour hot water

13. Cover and simmer on a low heat until the sauce becomes fragrant and thick. Optionally to cut down the acidic taste from canned tomatoes, cool down and blend it to a smooth puree and return the gravy to the pot.

simmering tikka masala in a pan

Grill the Chicken Tikka

14. While the tikka masala cooks, grill your chicken tikka. Thread the chicken on to the skewers and place them on a prepared tray. Place the tray in the middle rack, in a preheated oven at 240 C or 460 F for 9 to 10 mins.

grill chicken tikka in oven

15. Later turn them with the help of a tong and bake for another 9 to 10 mins. If they look dry in between you can baste the tikkas with the marinade. To char your chicken, broil for 2 mins or until slightly charred.

To Air fry, place the tikkas in your tray or basket. Air fry for 6 mins at 200 C or 400 F. Turn them to the other side and air fry for another 6 mins.

To Cook them on the skillet/ pan, Pour 1 tablespoon oil to a heavy bottom skillet or cast iron pan. When the pan is hot, you will place the tikkas in the pan one by one, spacing them apart. Cook for 3 to 4 mins on a medium high heat and turn them to the other side. Cook on the other side until your chicken is almost cooked and charred. I have a picture of this at the end of this step by step photo section.

grilled chicken tikka in air fryer

Make Chicken Tikka Masala

16. Pour ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream or thickened cream. Or make your own cashew cream. For this, make a fine powder of 30 whole cashews in a grinder, then pour 1/3 cup water and grind to smooth puree. You will get ½ cup thick cream similar to thickened cream. Pour 2 to 3 tbsps water to the grinder and swirl gently and pour that to the tikka masala. If you do not have a powerful grinder, read my tips below.

pour cream to the chicken tikka masala

17. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar and give a good mix.

add sugar

18. Let it simmer until thick and aromatic.

simmering tikka masala gravy before adding grilled chicken

19. Add all of the grilled chicken tikka and 1 tablespoon kasuri methi. Make sure your curry has reached a thick and almost serving consistency before you add chicken. Taste test and add more salt, garam masala or sugar if required to balance the flavors.

add grilled chicken tikka and kasuri methi to the masala gravy

20. Mix and cook covered, until the chicken is soft and tender. This takes only 2 to 3 mins.

perfectly cooked chicken tikka masala

30. Garnish with 2 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or thickened cream and 3 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves.

garnish with cream and coriander leaves

Serving Suggestions

Serve chicken tikka masala with Tandoori Roti, Butter Naan, paratha, roti or over Jeera rice or plain Basmati Rice. This meal goes well with kachumber salad, onion salad and Sweet and salt lassi or Mango Lassi. Vegetarian dishes like Aloo Gobi, Cabbage stir fry and Bombay potatoes go well.

Chicken tikka masala served in a white bowl

Expert Tips

Blend vs no blend: If using canned tomatoes I highly recommend blending the sauce as it really tones down the acidic flavor of the canned tomatoes. But if using fresh tomatoes, you may simply blend the tomatoes and use. This way your gravy turns out slightly chunky.

Yogurt: Use Greek yogurt or strained yogurt also known as Hung curd in Indian cuisine. Using runny yogurt makes your marinade runny and will drain all of the spicy marinade to the pan when you grill them. The chicken won’t have any flavors. So make sure your marinade is thick.

Yogurt is the key ingredient here. It tenderizes, prevents the chicken from drying out while grilling at high temperatures and adds a unique flavor.

Red Chilli Powder: Use Kashmiri red chilli powder as it is low on heat levels. You will use Indian Chilli powder which is simply pure 100% ground dried red chilies. You can substitute this with paprika. Again you have many kinds here, use smoked paprika. Adjust the quantity to suit your taste.

Chicken Thigh Vs Breasts: You can use chicken thighs or breasts. But note that breasts need long marinade time, a minimum of 8 hours is recommended. Without this they are most likely to dry out and turn chewy. If you are in a rush, use chicken breasts and marinate for a minimum of 3 hours.

Cooking tikka on Skillet or Pan: If you want to cook the tikkas in a skillet or pan, ensure your marinade is thick and not runny else your tikkas will ooze out plenty of moisture and all the masala will come over to the pan and not stay on the tikkas.

Here is a picture of the tikkas grilled in a pan. For the authentic Indian restaurant version, use bell peppers and onions in your marinade. But grill the chicken and bell peppers separately not in the same batch.

grilling in oven or stove top for making chicken tikka masala recipe

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

chicken tikka masala recipe

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

4.99 from 478 votes
Chicken tikka masala is a classic Indian/British dish with soft tender chunks of grilled chicken in a delicious & super aromatic gravy. This recipe will give you the best! Serve it with Butter naan or with Basmati rice.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Resting8 hours
Total Time1 hour
Servings6
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

  • 1½ lbs. (700 grams) chicken boneless (Preferably thighs, or breasts)
  • ½ cup (120 ml) Greek yogurt (hung curd)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (use less for low heat)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kasuri methi
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon oil (mustard oil if you have)

For the tikka masala

  • 3 tablespoons oil (or ghee)
  • 1½ cups (150 grams) onions (fine chopped, 1x – 1 large or 2 medium)
  • 1 green chilli (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (use less for low heat)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1.1 lbs. (500 grams) fresh tomatoes (pureed/chopped or 10 oz., 1¼ cup tomato puree/ passata, read notes)
  • 1 cup hot water (double if using cashews)
  • 1 tablespoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • ½ cup heavy cream/whipping cream (or 1x – ⅓ cup whole raw cashews, 30, refer notes)

For Garnish

  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream (or any cream)
  • 3 tablespoons coriander leaves (fine chopped)


Instructions

Chicken Marinade

  • Cube chicken to 1 to 1½ inch pieces. Add them to a mixing bowl. Make sure there is no excess moisture in your chicken. If you want you may pat dry with a few kitchen tissues.
  • Add red chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, salt, lemon juice, oil, ginger garlic paste, yogurt and kasuri methi. Skip the lemon juice if your yogurt is sour.
  • Mix well. Cover with a cling wrap and refrigerate for minimum of 8 hours and up to 48 hours. If you are in a rush, you may cut down to 3 hours.

Make Tikka Sauce

  • Heat oil or ghee in a pot or pan. Add onions and sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt. Saute until deep golden.
  • Add ginger garlic paste and green chilli. Saute until aromatic, for 40 to 60 seconds.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Add red chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala and cumin powder. Stir well quickly.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook on a medium high heat until the onion tomato masala becomes really thick. (If using fresh tomatoes, it takes about 7 to 8 mins and tomato puree/passata takes only 2 minutes)
  • Pour hot water and mix well. Bring to a rolling boil and cover. Simmer until thick, for about 12 to 14 mins.
  • Optional – Cool down and blend to a smooth puree. Return it to the pot and heat up. This step cuts down the acidity from canned tomatoes.

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala

  • Grill in Oven : While the gravy simmers, thread the chicken to the metal skewers or soaked bamboo skewers and place them in a prepared tray. Bake them in a preheated oven at 460 F or 240 C for 9 to 10 mins. Turn them to the other side with a tong and grill then for another 9 to 10 mins. To char the chicken, broil for 2 to 3 mins or until slightly charred.
  • Or In a Skillet: Pour 1 tbsp oil to a skillet and heat it well. Place the chicken tikka one by one, spacing them apart. Cook on a medium high heat for 3 mins, turn them to the other side with a tong and cook for another 3 mins, until charred and not essentially fully cooked. Remove to a plate and Cook in batches.
  • Or In the Air fryer: Thread on skewers and place them in the basket or in the tray. Air fry for 6 mins, at 400 F or 200 C. Turn them with tongs and air fry for another 6 mins. If they dry out, you may baste with marinade and continue for another 2 mins, until slightly charred.
  • After 12 to 14 mins of simmering the tikka masala sauce, add sugar and the cream (or cashew cream, check notes to make your own). Stir well and cook for a few minutes until thick, creamy and aromatic. (Check video for consistency)
  • Add the grilled chicken tikka and crushed kasuri methi. (Make sure your gravy has reached a thick gravy consistency/serving consistency, before adding chicken). Stir and cook for 2 to 3 mins until chicken tikka is soft and tender. Taste test and add more salt, garam masala and sugar if needed.
  • Turn off and garnish with cream and coriander leaves. Serve chicken tikka masala with Butter Naan, roti, paratha, Basmati rice or Jeera rice.


Notes

  1. You can start with chopped tomatoes if you intend to puree the sauce/gravy.
  2. Avoid using Canned tomatoes with citric acid added to it.
  3. Avoid using sour yogurt. If it is even slightly sour, avoid using lemon juice.
  4. To make the cashew cream, powder cashews finely in a grinder jar and pour ⅓ cup water to it. Grind to a smooth thick creamy paste. You will get half cup cashew cream. Later pour 3 tbsps water and swirl the jar and pour that as well to the gravy. If you do not have a powerful grinder, you may soak the cashews in ⅓ cup hot water for 15 mins, grind them with the same water to a smooth puree. I have tried and both work equally well. 
  5. If cooking tikkas on the pan, they don’t need to be fully cooked but must be almost there. If you try to fully cook, they may dry out, turn hard and chewy.
  6. To make this authentic Indian, add 1 bay leaf, 3 to 4 cardamoms, cloves, 2 inch cinnamon to the hot oil before sautéing the onions. Also add bell peppers and onions to the marinade before grilling them. Use mustard oil for the tikkas.
  7. Make this ahead by splitting the recipe. Marinate chicken the previous night. Also make the gravy till the tikka sauce the previous day. The next day grill the tikkas and heat the gravy, add the cream and simmer. Later add the tikkas. 
  8. To mimic the smoky flavor of the Tandoor, you may smoke your chicken tikka masala. For that, Place a small piece of foil or a tall steel cup on the finished chicken tikka masala. Hold 1 to 2 inch piece of natural wood charcoal with a tong and burn it on direct fire until red hot. Later place it on the foil kept over the curry or in the steel cup. Quickly pour ¼ tsp ghee on the hot coal. Immediately cover the pot and smoke for 4 to 5 mins. For stronger flavor, add another ¼ tsp ghee on the coal and repeat the smoking. If you overdo this, it will have very strong smoky flavors, so be cautious. You may check my Dal Makhani video to see how I actually do it.
  9. To make more servings, start with 2 cups of water if using cashews, (or 1 cup water if using only heavy cream). As you cook, add half cup more at a time only if required (for 2x & 3x). Taste test the gravy after cooking, onions should be tender and soft but not crunchy or partially cooked. If they are undercooked, pour more hot water and simmer until well cooked.
  10. For 2x and 3x, double and triple the quantity of cashews and water for cashew cream. Cashews have a thickening property, if you reduce the quantity of water your curry won’t turn thick.

Video

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 483 Calories from Fat 342
% Daily Value*
Fat 38g58%
Saturated Fat 12g75%
Trans Fat 0.2g
Polyunsaturated Fat 7g
Monounsaturated Fat 16g
Cholesterol 120mg40%
Sodium 728mg32%
Potassium 555mg16%
Carbohydrates 10g3%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 26g52%
Vitamin A 1482IU30%
Vitamin C 20mg24%
Calcium 82mg8%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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About Swasthi

I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me

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5 stars
My wife has made this tikka masala a bunch of times now. Turns out excellent every single time. We usually double the chicken for a big batch of tikkas and store the excess. We use it through the week in salads or top our pizzas and bread. Excellent and everyone should try this out.

5 stars
Dear Swasthi,
Your recipes helped me prepare an amazing Indian dinner to celebrate my Mum’s 75th birthday. Made tikka masala, dal tadka, yellow rice, cucumber salad, and butter naan, everything from your website. Every dish turned out delicious and the naans were very soft. Thank you for sharing your talent with the world. Much Love, Pammy

5 stars
This is the real deal. The only Tikka recipe you’ll ever need.

I recommend blending after adding water to the curry and reducing. It really ties everything together.

5 stars
Marvelous recipe! I made it today. It was delicious! I loved your site!

5 stars
Amazing recipe! So much better than the recipes I had tried before. I used tomato paste to cut down the cook time. I subbed heavy cream with pureed tofu and it worked like a charm.

This turned out really well but it was quite a bit of work and prep. Great for a weekend but probably a lot for a work day. I put the chicken in skewers in the oven and it was super tender. The tikka was perfect without the green peppers – just enough spice. I wasn’t sure how much sugar to add so I just did a tablespoon and that was enough. We will definitely do this again. Thank you!

As written, how is the spice level? My kids usually order spice level 0. Are there any alterations that can lower the spiciness? Thanks!

5 stars
Sorry forgot the Five Stars

Quite possibly the best recipe on the internet!!! Take your time and enjoy the exquisite,authentic and amazing flavours that leave the greatest taste in your mouth

5 stars
Really a lovely recipe. Even my vegetarian husband enjoyed the sauce! I added a bit of wine and used lot of kasuri methi (2 tbsps). Will definitely make again.

4 stars
Hi Swasthi, we LOVE this recipe, but I was wondering what to do to substitute the cashews — we have a nut allergy in the family and used to use the substitution you provided, but we can’t seem to find it anymore. Thank you for the recipe and I hope we can make it again this weekend!

5 stars
Came out great, though the i used crushed canned tomatoes, next time i will use fresh.
I loved it

5 stars
Unfortunatly, I used fresh tomatoes and they made the whole batch bitter. I cooked and cooked 40 mins, and still, there’s a sharp bitter aftertaste. Darn it.

5 stars
Very very nice

5 stars
Omg I just cooked this for lunch my husband said he loves it more than the restaurant and my kid approves too and she said it’s so good so it’s husband approved and kid approved and I think it tastes wonderful so it’s me approved ❤️

5 stars
I’ve made this twice and will definitely make it again! The second time I made this, the marinated, oven-grilled chicken was so good on it’s own, I didn’t have enough chicken left to make the sauce, because I kept eating it. I love the sauce and dipping warm naan into it is pure delight.

5 stars
I’ve never left a comment on a recipe blog before, but this recipe is so good I had to. I’ve made it a few times and each time it’s come out better than any restaurant version I’ve had. Thank you for publishing it!

5 stars
Just made this, and it was fabulous. I only made two small alterations: grapseed oil for mustard oil and poppy seeds for nigella seeds, neither of which were on hand. Next time, I will use both. I live in a small US town and must order certain ingredients on line. We have one very fine local Indian restaurant, where I have eaten several times. I’m sure they would be impressed!

5 stars
I want my Indian food really really spicy, like habanero level spicy.

What can i do to achieve that?

Hello! Could I please have a recommendation for what brand of kashmiri chili powder i should get? There are a lot of options on amazon and im not sure which to buy

Thank you!!

Excited to make this – is it okay to grill the tikkas on the BBQ?