This creamy chicken tikka masala features robust flavors, bright colors, and melt-in-the-mouth chicken pieces. It comes together in no time and uses simple, easy-to-find ingredients.
If you love ordering Indian food now and then but have never thought of cooking it yourself, this chicken tikka masala is the perfect recipe to start with.
Like our paneer tikka masala, it’s made with yogurt-marinated chicken, and the sauce is truly creamy.
The best chicken tikka masala
Thanks to a 6-month stay in India, I fell in love with many dishes, especially chana masala and this chicken masala. This was the first recipe I learned during my time there and it is now a weekly staple! You won’t believe how easy it is to make at home.
- It’s super juicy. Marinating chicken thighs in yogurt tenderizes them and results in juicy chicken.
- It has a rich, creamy sauce. Just like in a chicken vindaloo, this tikka masala sauce is ultra-flavorful and decadent and made with curry paste, tomatoes, chicken broth, and heavy cream.
- Good for meal prep. Chicken tikka masala pairs well with rice and is a great meal prep for the entire family.
Butter chicken vs chicken tikka masala
There are a lot of similarities between these two dishes, from the chicken to the tomatoes to the cream. However, the main differences revolve around the other key ingredients.
- Butter chicken has a much creamier sauce and less spice added to it.
- In tikka masala, the chicken is marinated beforehand in yogurt and Indian spices.
Both dishes are cooked stovetop and have a creamy sauce/gravy. Murgh Makhani has butter and ghee in it, whereas the chicken tikka masala has more spices.
If you’ve made any of our Indian recipes before, you’ll likely already have the ingredients on hand. While you can make the tikka masala curry paste from scratch, we take a shortcut and use a pre-made kind. Here is what you’ll need:
- Chicken thighs. Boneless and skinless.
- Yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt for marinating the meat.
- Tikka masala curry paste. A flavorful paste made with different spices and tomato puree.
- Curry leaves. To give the dish its signature curry flavor.
- Brown onion. Chopped.
- Garlic. Minced.
- Chili pepper. Seeded and chopped.
- Chicken broth. Homemade or store-bought.
- Heavy cream. For a rich and smooth sauce.
- Tomatoes. Canned diced tomatoes.
- Tomato paste. To create a rich flavor base for the sauce.
- Olive oil. To sauté the vegetables.
How to make chicken tikka masala
You can marinate the chicken 4 hours in advance, or if you want this made up quickly, you can do so in 10 minutes. Ready to cook up a tikka masala?
Step 1 – Marinate the meat
Add the chicken thighs to a large bowl along with the yogurt and half of the tikka masala curry paste. Mix well. Cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 10 minutes or up to four hours.
Step 2 – Cook the sauce
Heat oil in a non-stick pan and cook the curry leaves until fragrant. Add the chopped onions, garlic, and chili, and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the remaining tikka masala paste, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and paste. Simmer everything on low heat for around 15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Step 3 – Cook the chicken thighs and add them to the sauce
While the sauce cooks, heat some oil in a different pan and cook the chicken thighs until they are golden on both sides. Add the chicken to the sauce and simmer everything for around 10 minutes. Stir through the heavy cream and serve immediately.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Char the chicken pieces on the grill or in the oven to achieve a tandoori flavor without using a tandoor (like our tandoori chicken).
- Don’t cook the chicken in the sauce for too long to avoid overcooking it.
- Fresh ginger is another classic Indian flavor that you can add to chicken tikka masala. Dried ginger will work too.
- Garnish this dish with slivered almonds for some crunch and a beautiful look.
To store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze. Freeze chicken masala for up to 3 months. Note that the sauce may undergo slight texture changes once you defrost it. Thaw frozen chicken tikka masala in the fridge.
To reheat. Reheat this dish on the stove over medium heat. Add a splash of heavy cream or chicken broth if needed.
More Indian recipes to try
- Chicken curry with coconut milk
- Tandoori chicken
- Lamb vindaloo
- Vegetable korma
- Shrimp curry
- Chana masala
Frequently asked questions
As a general rule, chicken tikka masala is only mildly spicy. You can make it as spicy as you like by using more chili.
If you don’t have tikka masala paste, use garam masala instead. You can add turmeric, cumin, and ground coriander to the dish.
Boneless and skinless chicken breasts work perfectly well for chicken tikka masala. They are a better choice if you prefer leaner meat.
Chicken Tikka Masala
- 2 lbs chicken thighs cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup tikka masala paste divided
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 curry leaves
- 1 large brown onion chopped
- 1 small chili de-seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 14 ounces diced tomatoes canned
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- In a large bowl, add the chicken thighs, yogurt, and half the tikka masala curry paste. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes (or up to 4 hours), to marinate.
- Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a non-stick pan and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the curry leaves and cook until fragrant. Add the onion, chili, and garlic and cook for two minutes or until translucent. Add the remaining tikka masala curry paste, along with the broth, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
- In a separate pan, add the remaining oil. Cook the chicken until golden and crisp on the outside. Add the chicken to the sauce and simmer everything together for 10 minutes.
- Stir through heavy cream and serve immediately.
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