Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Chicken Tikka Masala

103 reviews / 4.7 average

Chicken Tikka Masala - creamy, perfectly spicy, and ready in 30 minutes! you won't believe how easy it is to make this at home!

Chicken Tikka Masala - at home - on the couch - in 30 minutes. THIS IS HAPPENING.

Welcome to the most creamy, luscious, medium-spicy, weeknight-manageable, must-have-it-NOW chicken tikka masala.

It is everything you want tikka masala to be: packed with flavor, with just enough browned bits on your chicken to keep it interesting, tangy but also rich, with that signature bronze-orange tikka masala color. Scoop it up over hot rice with a shower of fresh cilantro and you are in tikka masala biz-ness.

Chicken tikka masala in a pan.

The Secret Ingredient

Okay, you might have opinions about this, but personally I like to approach chicken tikka masala as a five ingredient recipe:

  • Chicken
  • Yogurt
  • Tomato sauce
  • Cream
  • Masala paste

Let's talk about the masala paste. In order to approach this as a five ingredient recipe, we need to establish that one of the “ingredients” is a MASALA PASTE with lots of fragrant and punchy and deeply flavored ingredients.

You make this masala paste once, it is done in about five minutes, and then it lives in your freezer so that forevermore you will have the ability to make this chicken tikka masala as a - you guessed it - quick, easy, five ingredient recipe.

Masala Paste on a spoon

Are you following?

So the first order of business here is making the masala paste. Today. Right now. End of story. One five minute batch of masala paste = many batches of this five ingredient CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA with hardly any thought or effort.

If you can, if you will, if you need good recipes that taste like your favorite Indian restaurant just came into your house, please make that masala paste which will transform into this sauce which will cover this chicken which makes the simplest chicken tikka masala happen in your life, in your very own home, on your very own couch in your very own sweats because HELLO.

Only the best for tikka masala.

Chicken tikka masala in bowls with rice.

Ways To Make Chicken Tikka Masala

This recipe is written to be done on the stovetop, but you could make it in the Instant Pot or a slow cooker for a more hands-off approach. I prefer the traditional stovetop version, but all ways are very delicious.

Check out the notes section of the recipe below for specific instructions for both!

Check Out Our Video For How To Make Chicken Tikka Masala:

This recipe is one of our favorite Indian dishes. Recipes can vary from place to place and restaurant to restaurant, but it is typically always served with hunks of chicken that are marinated in spices and yogurt and then served in a creamy curry sauce. While we don't have a tandoori oven at home, typically the chicken would be roasted first. For a more in-depth look at Indian food including influences, methods, definitions, and more, check out this amazing post called Indian Cooking 101 by our friend Anu from Simmer to Slimmer!

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A bowl of chicken tikka masala sauce on a bed of white rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala


Description

Chicken Tikka Masala - creamy, perfectly spicy, and ready in 30 minutes! you won't believe how easy it is to make this at home!


Ingredients

Units Scale

Chicken Tikka Masala:

  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup masala paste (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream (sub a 14-ounce can of regular coconut milk)
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups rice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro

Masala Paste:

  • 2 onions (about 3 cups when chopped)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon each chili powder, turmeric, and cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • a small pile of cilantro stems
  • juice of one lemon

Instructions

  1. MASALA PASTE: Pulse all ingredients into a food processor until smooth. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the paste for this recipe - freeze the rest for your next batch! Boom!
  2. MARINATE CHICKEN: Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Marinate with 1-2 tablespoons of masala paste and the yogurt for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
  3. COOK RICE AND CHICKEN: Get your rice started cooking according to package directions. Then, heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Cook the chicken in batches, undisturbed, until each piece is nice and browned on the outside. Remove from pan and set aside. (Chicken does not need to be fully cooked at this point.)
  4. SAUCE: Add 2-3 tablespoons of masala paste to the same skillet. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato puree and browned chicken; simmer for 10-15 minutes. (Chicken should now be fully cooked.)
  5. FINISH: Stir in cream or coconut milk. Season with salt. Let stand for a while so the sauce will thicken up a bit. Serve over rice with cilantro. HEAVEN.

Notes

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala: Same ingredients and instructions for steps 1 and 2. At step 3, add chicken, masala paste, and tomato puree to the Instant Pot, and cook at high pressure for 8 minutes. Use the quick release. Add cream in at the end.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: Same ingredients and instructions for steps 1 and 2. At step 3, add chicken, masala paste, and tomato puree to the slow cooker, and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Add cream in at the end.

Tomato Puree: You can buy canned tomato puree at a lot of grocery stores. Otherwise just plain tomato sauce (it's just a little thinner) or use canned tomatoes and run them through the food processor or blender till smooth. The idea is just plain pureed tomatoes without seasoning. 

Dairy Free Chicken Tikka Masala: Coconut milk or light coconut milk can be used and it's delicious! It will just be slightly less thick and creamy.

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: chicken tikka masala, masala paste, Indian restaurant, chicken dinner recipe

Nutrition Facts are for 6 servings, not including rice.

Frequently Asked Questions For This Chicken Tikka Masala

How can I make this dairy-free?

Coconut milk or light coconut milk can be used and it’s delicious! It will just be slightly less thick and creamy.

What is the best way to freeze and thaw the masala paste?

I’d freeze the paste into single portions of ¼ cup (an ice cube tray or just Ziploc bags would work well). Thaw the portion of sauce in the fridge overnight or in a bowl of cold water.

Can you freeze this after cooking?

Yes, it should work! Just seal in an airtight bag.

What is tomato pureé?

Tomat pureé is a little thicker than tomato sauce, but otherwise very similar - the tomatoes are cooked and then blended together.

What vegetables would go well with this?

A side of steamed or roasted green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower would be delicious alongside this.

Can you buy masala paste?

I’ve never tried using a pre-made one, but it looks like you can purchase one on Amazon! (affiliate link)

How could you make this vegetarian?

Some pan-fried tofu or paneer would work, or a can or two of chickpeas!

How can I make this spicier?

Add more cayenne to the paste!


One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of best healthy gluten-free recipes. Check it out!

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364 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Just made the Chicken Tikka Masala from Skillful Cook, and it was absolutely phenomenal! The flavors were rich and perfectly balanced, making every bite a delight. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, making the cooking process a breeze. This recipe has definitely earned a spot in my regular dinner rotation. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful and comforting dish.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    How can you make this dairy free – do you use coconut milk instead of yogurt AND cream?

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Is the chili powder called for supposed to be Indian red chili powder, or what is sold as chili powder in the US? I guessed US type chili powder, and it was delicious, but we would like a little more heat. I will make this again!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    This recipe is impossible to make authentically without the addition of fenugreek. Add a tablespoon (or two) to the masala paste and just before the end add a heaping tablespoon of powder (or preferably a half cup of leaves— called “methi” in Indian grocery stores) 5 mins before serving. Fenugreek is the magic here.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    We love this recipe. I always add a little bit of chicken broth concentrate just to give a flavor boost.

    Question: how well do you think the finished product, made with coconut milk not cream, will freeze? Has anyone done this? Does coconut milk change consistency when frozen?

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Respectfully, it might make sense to remove this from your “5 ingredient” list – this has 19 ingredients. If someone’s looking for a recipe that’s super quick and easy to make with only a few ingredients, it’d be helpful to be able to find a recipe quickly that matches the qualifications they need. Not sure if you delete critical comments on here, but I’m surprised no one else has ever mentioned the fact that the ingredient list is almost 400% above what your site markets it as.

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    I made this last night and loved it! But I have a question. You have another recipe for this masala paste that includes almonds. We’re they omitted here intentionally?

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hands-down our favorite tikka masala recipe. It’s a go-to. We make the paste in advance, double the recipe and freeze it so it’s always on hand. Sometimes we swap out the chicken for paneer. Amazing!

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love this dish but i’m 12 years old and I wonder if this will be easy to cook because I want to be chef when im older but I need some help with the cooking instructions. I don’t know how long to cook it for.

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Made this tonight for dinner with a few minor modifications – chicken thighs and used light coconut milk because that’s what we had on hand. Seriously delicious. As another noted, 4 stars instead of 5 because it took almost and hour with masala prep, etc

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    This had more of a tang than a rich flavor that I like for tikka masala. I think it’s because I used Greek yogurt. I would recommend specifying in the recipe to use regular plain yogurt. I used the IP method but may try to stovetop version next time and really let it simmer on low for awhile to develop the flavors.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Same. Way too tangy. I read an article that explains how to counter this….cOOK the tomato purée longer, at least 45 minutes. Also really caramélisé your masala paste, before adding the purée. Additionally, you can add caramelized onion.

      I’m currently cooking the sauce longer, and adding caramelized onions, and blitzing in the blender before adding the chicken back in.

      As it turns out, there’s no such thing as a quick curry (that’s tasty), but having the masala paste on hand will shorten the process in the future.

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m going to make this and I’m sure I’m gonna enjoy it!! Typically I’m not a cilantro fan, usually sub with parsley in recipes. So is it a strong flavor is the masala paste or subtle? Could it be subbed with parsley in your opinion? Thanks.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Eva! I don’t taste the cilantro at all in the masala paste, especially when it’s mixed in with the yogurt, cream, and tomato puree.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have to say, this has become a go-to staple in our house! I LOVE having the extra paste in my freezer–it makes such a quick delicious meal that it so easily customizable (veggies, proteins, etc.). Thanks for an amazing addition to my rotation!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    This dish is so delicious! I doubled the masala paste and it came out so flavorful! I was honestly a little doubtful because I have yet to have good Indian food that wasn’t made by an Indian friend, but this recipe is definitely up there and will be on repeat in my house. And there is SO much masala paste left over! I’m thinking I will make the sauce with meatballs next

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was terrific. When I took the lid off my food processor I was hit with that divine masala smell! I did double my masala paste in the tomato puree. I also used coconut milk and let it slow simmer in my cast iron until it was dark and thick then set it aside for a few hours and reheated at dinner. Yummy! Thank you for sharing!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love. this. recipe. My husband said it was probably “my favorite recipe ever”. So happy that I have a ton of paste left over so I can make this again so many times 🙂

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    If I make this with the instant pot or slow cooker, should the chicken still be cut up in bite sizes? Worried about overcooking (especially with the slow cooker)

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Very good! I did the instant pot version. I used up whatever veggies I had in the fridge (carrot, cauli) then put in chopped kale at the end. Tasty!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        This recipe is delicious! I love that you can freeze the paste in separate zip lock bags, then just pull one out when you’re ready to make a quick, easy, 5 ingredient tasty meal that’s a hit with the whole family! I added chick peas for a little added substance and protein yummmmy thank you!

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          Totally, JJ! I love having little bags of the paste ready to go in the freezer!

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    This recipe looks delicious,Iam in love with indian food🤤,will it be good if i cook meat instead of chicken??i love your recipes thank you for sharing!

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was delicious! It took me a whole lot longer than you stated due to having to brown the chicken. That is the only reason I am giving it 4 instead of 5 stars.