Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala

I absolutely love Indian food. I love fancy Indian restaurants. I love Philadelphia's self-serve Indian buffets. I loved when my college roommate used to come back from holiday breaks with homemade roti and curry from her Guyanese grandmother. I loved the Indian food from the hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Madras, India that our auto-rickshaw driver took us to for lunch.

I still love to look at my photos from that amazing trip — wish I blogged then so I would have thought to photograph the grub!

Back to the food! Indian food has such depth of flavor between all of the spices, chutneys, and sauces. And I also find the variety of vegetarian options quite appealing.

And naan. Oh, the naan!

I've always been skeptical about making Indian food at home, assuming that it wouldn't match up. In my search for freezer-friendly food pre-baby, I stumbled across a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala. I thought I would give it a shot since the ingredient list wasn't too intimidating.

The only ingredient that seemed "exotic" was the garam masala — an amazing blend of spices that can include peppercorns, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, bay leaves, etc. (different regions use different concoctions). All of the spices and herbs are ground together for an amazing aroma and flavor. If you are going to try this recipe, this is the one ingredient you don't want to skip or sub out! Most supermarkets have a foreign foods aisle, and it would probably be with other Indian spices/sauces.

In the end, this recipe was delicious! You could probably swing making this all in one day, but I like having the steps divided out into two days for maximum tenderizing and flavor-absorption.

It turned out to be a great freezer meal too. You may want to double the recipe and then freeze half (if you're going through the effort, why not maximize the output!). I portioned out the chicken/sauce in a container that held enough for my husband and me. Then, I defrosted overnight and heated it in a saucepan over medium heat — maybe 10 minutes? It is a delicious (and easy) burst of flavor on a chilly weeknight!

Chicken Tikka Masala (serves 6-8)
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Chicken Tikka:
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
3-4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain yogurt (I used low fat, and that worked fine)
1 tbsp. canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated

Masala Sauce:
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. garam masala
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
4 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped


Day 1: Marinate the chicken and make the sauce. 
Using a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken breasts just until they are an even thickness. Combine the cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the spice mixture, pressing gently so it adheres. Place the chicken in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger. Pour the yogurt mixture over the seasoned chicken, making sure to fully coat both sides. Cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6 hours).

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, stirring frequently, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste, and garam masala, and stir until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and let cool. Transfer the cooled sauce into a storage container and refrigerate.

Day 2: Heat the sauce and cook the chicken
Pour the sauce in a dutch oven and warm over medium heat. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Cover and remove from heat. While sauce heats, adjust your oven rack so it's about 6 inches from the broiler. Cover a baking sheet with foil or parchment, and place the chicken breast in a single layer. Broil chicken until a thermometer register 160 degrees and the exterior is lightly charred in spots, about 10-15 minutes (more or less depending on thickness), flipping halfway through.

Let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes and then cut into 1-inch chunks. Stir chicken into warm sauce (be sure to remove sauce from heat before adding chicken — you don't want to overcook it). Add cilantro and serve over rice or with naan.

Click here for a printable recipe! 


  1. We've made this before- it's fantastic! Love the India pictures- oh how I wish we had better digital cameras back then. I have the saddest collection of photos of such a wonderful time (I love the picture you got of the kids, though!).

    1. Amy, can you even imagine the photos we'd have if we were digital then?? I came away with 1000 pics anyway, and that was on film! What a time...seems so long ago now! :)

  2. Chicken Tikka Masala is a fav fav in any restaurant in India and abroad.
    I am from India - and love all the various food from the various different regions. Please be my guest to enjoy India Khana (food) at my humble home :)
    Love the pictures of the rickshaw and the kids.
    I miss Mumbai - been away from home for almost 7 years now. Your post brought back a lot of memories.
    BTW - that chicken tikka masala looks awesome - loved the color and the texture.

    1. I'm so happy that you enjoyed the photographs! I wanted to post more, but didn't want to get carried away. I love looking back and seeing all of the beautiful colors and smiling faces! Thanks for stopping by!! :)

  3. Looks great! You should try homemade paneer. Surprisingly easy and oh so delicious!


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