Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

My husband and I love Indian food. It was one of the first cuisines we started trying to master when we first got married. We loved eating at Indian Restaurants, and as quick meals serve up the ready-made-packs of Indian food too.

I found a comprehensive Indian cookbook on sale at Barnes and Noble, and Billy took off with it. He wanted to make an Indian meal out of this book every couple of weeks even up to weekly. I wasn't getting much use out of it, besides a lovely Indian stew, and assisting Billy with the different types of bread.

Over the span of a few years, we still love the Indian packets from Trader Joe's, and going out to eat it for special occasions, but when money is tight and you still want the luxurious sauces and flavors, making it at home is the way to go.

Not many people will try Indian food. I think a lot of them can more easily take that chance if they know and like curries from neighboring cuisines, such as Thai. One rogue circumstance happened though, that proved my theory wrong about slowly "getting there."

We were in Texas visiting his family in June. It is known that they don't usually venture out into different cuisines (not saying all of them have this aversion). But it was Billy's birthday while we were out there, and as a treat for Billy, we made Chicken Tikka Masala. We weren't sure if it would be received well, but we definitely knew it was a hit once we all began eating. No one was really saying much, but you could hear the occasional "Mmmm" or "Wow, this is really delicious..." Maybe because Billy was trying to emphasize as we cooked that it was a chicken and rice type of meal, with a spicy tomato sauce. Maybe it was received well just because we were all there together, having a good time as family.

Either way, it was a hit and it just goes to show that this meal is a great starter for those of you not really accustomed to Indian food. Enjoy this meal over basmati rice and serve with garlic Naan bread.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Active Time: 1 1/2 hours Inactive: 2-4 hours
Serves: 4 - 5
Cook's Notes: Check out Serious Eat's original post for in depth process photos and reviews. The bone-in chicken is essential for moist meat in this recipe, we highly recommend using it. Take note that 1/4 cup salt is not a misprint, trust us on this one! Lastly, we've subbed in basil for the cilantro, and it tastes great that way too, if trying, use about 5 sprigs.
Adapted from Serious Eats Gluten Free Option, sans Naan of course
Kitchen Tested
Gluten-Free Option

5 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, legs, or a mix), skin removed
3 tablespoons toasted ground cumin
3 tablespoons toasted paprika
2 tablespoon toasted ground coriander seed
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 cloves garlic, grated, divided
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated, divided
2 cups yogurt
3/4 cup fresh juice from 4 to 6 lemons, divided
1/4 cup salt
4 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1, 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly mashed
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 cup heavy cream
Serving options: Basmati Rice and Naan Bread

How To:
1) Prep chicken. Score chicken about 1/2-inch deep every inch or so. Place pieces of chicken in a glass dish deep enough to hold the marinade.

2) Prepare the spice mix. Combine the cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Place 6 tablespoons of spice mixture into a separate bowl, reserving the remaining 3 tablespoons.

3) Make the marinade. In the bowl with the 6 tablespoons of spice mixture, add 3/4 amount of garlic, 3/4 amount of ginger, yogurt, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and salt. Stir and combine well. Pour over the chicken pieces in the glass dish. Toss chicken well in the marinade and rub it into the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let it marinade up to four hours. If you're in a rush, we still have had wonderful results with 10-minute marinated chicken.

4) While meat is finishing marinating, prepare the sauce. Over medium high heat, add butter or ghee. The best pan to use is either a cast iron skillet or a dutch oven. Melt the butter for 3-4 minutes until foaming begins to subside. Add onions and the rest of the garlic and ginger. Stir the mixture occasionally until browning begins, about 10 minutes. Add in the reserved spice mixture, about 3 tablespoons, and allow to heat up to release the spices into the mixture. Add in tomatoes with their sauce, and half amount of cilantro. Use a metal or wooden spatula to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan, and also use to finely break up any large pieces of tomato. Simmer for 15 minutes. If you desire a smoother consistency, you may also blend the sauce.

5) Cooking the chicken: Use either the grill or the broiler setting in your oven. Use high heat for either. Cook the chicken for about 5 -7 minutes on the first side, and turn pieces. (Marinade may be reserved to be added to the sauce.) Cook on the other side for about 4 - 5 minutes. If using the broiler, set chicken on baking sheets lined with foil. The goal is to try to achieve charred bits on the chicken, and the meat may not be cooked all the way through.

6) Towards the end of cooking the chicken, stir in the cream and the remaining lemon juice in the sauce in the cast iron skillet.

7) Once the chicken has been charred a little bit, transfer to a cutting board, and cut the chicken into pieces discarding the bones. Add the chicken pieces into the sauce on the stove top. Add any reserved marinade if desired to the sauce. Cook for another 15 minutes, to finish cooking the chicken. Check for doneness, and sprinkle remaining cilantro over the top. Serve over Basmati rice with Garlic Naan bread.

Want to add Vegetables? I like to cook veges (red bell pepper, carrots, peas etc.) separate with olive oil or coconut oil until crisp-tender. Add to the chicken and sauce mixture in the last few minutes and stir to combine.


  1. Mmm, this looks delicious! I'm saving this recipe to share once I'm home again and can make it for my husband. We too love Indian food, and before we met we both lived in India for awhile. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  2. Sounds so fun! I would love to visit India someday.. Thanks for stopping by :)


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