Authentic Indian Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Authentic Indian Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Discover the secret to creating the most mouthwatering Chicken Tikka Masala: a tantalizing yogurt marinade followed by intense charring on a sizzling grill.

Chicken Tikka Masala is a beloved dish that combines tender, charred chicken with a rich, creamy tomato-based sauce. While its origins are debated, one thing is certain: it’s absolutely delicious when done right.

The perfect Chicken Tikka Masala should be a symphony of flavors. The sauce should balance intense spices with a gingery kick, rounded out by rich cream and butter, and brightened by tomatoes and citrus. The chicken should be smoky, juicy, and tender, with each bite revealing layers of spice intensified by the grill.

Mastering the Art of Chicken Tikka

Key #1: Embrace the Grill

The grill is your secret weapon for achieving that authentic tandoor-like char at home. If you don’t have access to a grill, a grill pan or broiler can work in a pinch.

Key #2: Salt is Your Friend

Don’t skimp on salt in your marinade. It helps the chicken retain moisture and allows flavors to penetrate deeper into the meat.

Key #3: Time it Right

Avoid over-marinating your chicken. The acids in yogurt and lemon juice can start to “cook” the meat, leading to a dry result if left too long. Aim for 5 hours or less of marinating time.

Key #4: Size Matters

Opt for smaller chicken pieces or Cornish hens. They cook faster, reducing the risk of drying out on the grill.

Crafting the Perfect Masala Sauce

The foundation of a great masala sauce lies in its aromatics and spices. Start with a base of charred onions, garlic, and ginger for a smoky depth. Add a carefully balanced spice mix, canned tomatoes, and finish with cream and fresh cilantro for a sauce that’s both complex and bright.

Bringing It All Together

The key to perfectly marrying the chicken and sauce lies in a two-step cooking process. First, grill the chicken just until it’s deeply charred but still undercooked inside. Then, finish cooking it gently in the sauce. This method ensures juicy, tender chicken infused with smoky flavor, and a sauce that’s enhanced by the grilled meat.

Ultimate Chicken Tikka Masala


  • 5 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, legs, or a mix), skin removed
  • 3 tablespoons toasted ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons toasted paprika
  • 2 tablespoons toasted ground coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 12 cloves garlic, grated on the medium holes of a box grater, divided
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated on the medium holes of a box grater, divided
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 3/4 cup fresh juice from 4 to 6 lemons, divided
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume
  • 4 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly mashed
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  1. Place chicken pieces on a cutting board flesh-side up. Score deeply at 1-inch intervals with a sharp knife. Transfer to a large rimmed baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, mix cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Set aside 3 tablespoons of this spice mixture. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining spice mixture, 8 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons ginger, yogurt, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and 1/4 cup salt. Pour this marinade over the chicken, ensuring every piece is well-coated. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours, turning occasionally.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, heat butter or ghee over medium-high heat. Add onions, remaining garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, until dark and beginning to char in spots, about 10 minutes. Add reserved spice mixture and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and half of the cilantro, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer for 15 minutes, then puree using a hand blender or tabletop blender.
  4. Stir in cream and remaining lemon juice. Season with salt to taste, then set aside.
  5. Grilling method: Light one chimney of charcoal. When coals are ash-covered, spread evenly over half of the coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Remove excess marinade from chicken and grill over hot side, flesh-side-down, until well charred (5-7 minutes). Flip and char second side (4-5 minutes). Transfer to cutting board and rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Broiler method: Line a broiler pan with foil and preheat broiler to high, with rack 6 inches below element. Remove excess marinade from chicken and place on foil-lined pan, flesh side up. Broil until charred (about 8 minutes). Transfer to cutting board and rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove chicken from bone and cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to the sauce. Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until chicken is just cooked through (about 10 minutes). Garnish with remaining cilantro and serve with rice or naan.
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1045 Calories
60g Fat
19g Carbs
106g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 1045
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 60g 77%
Saturated Fat 25g 124%
Cholesterol 510mg 170%
Sodium 1171mg 51%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 6g 20%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 106g
Vitamin C 27mg 134%
Calcium 263mg 20%
Iron 8mg 47%
Potassium 1600mg 34%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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