Chicken Tikka Masala

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A classic chicken tikka masala, made completely from scratch! This curry is rich, creamy & absolutely jam packed full of flavour.

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chicken tikka masala curry

A classic chicken curry, made completely from scratch!

This chicken tikka masala is surprisingly easy to prepare & is full of chunks of perfectly cooked, marinated chicken thigh which is served in a lightly spiced, creamy tomato based sauce. This makes for a fantastic midweek meal or impressive weekend dinner.

To keep things traditional, serve this curry over some steamed basmati or for something a bit different, use it to make our chicken tikka masala pies!

What Is Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken tikka masala is a curry that consists of marinated & roasted chicken thighs that are chopped into bitesize pieces then served in a lightly spiced, creamy tomato based sauce. This curry is full of onions, garlic, fresh ginger, red chilli, tomatoes & plenty of herbs & spices like cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, turmeric & garam masala.

Ingredient Notes

  • Chicken Thighs – We’re using skinless chicken thighs for this curry. You can cook these with the bone in or out, it’s up to you. Just make sure to discard any bones before adding the meat into the sauce!
  • Tikka Paste – We’re making a homemade tikka masala paste with coriander & cumin seeds, smoked paprika, turmeric, garam masala, fresh ginger, garlic, red chilli & oil.
  • Garam Masala – This is Indian spice mix is a vital ingredient for tikka masala & is available to buy in most supermarkets.
  • Tomatoes – You’ll need tomato paste & passata for the curry sauce. If you haven’t got passata, you can blend tinned tomatoes then sieve, instead.
  • Cream – I’d recommend using single cream for just the right amount of richness. If you’d like to make this curry even richer, use double cream instead.

How To Make Chicken Tikka Masala

We’re making this every aspect of this curry from scratch for maximum flavour! Here’s a quick breakdown of the recipe…

Tikka Masala Paste

Our homemade tikka masala paste is packed full of flavour & surprisingly easy to make!

First, we toast cumin & coriander seeds then grind into a fine powder. Then we make our paste by blitzing the seeds in a blender, with toasted smoked paprika & garam masala, turmeric, fresh ginger, garlic, a red chilli & groundnut (or veg) oil, until smooth. If the paste is a bit thick, it can be thinned out with a splash of cold water.

Once made, the curry paste can be used straight away or kept in the fridge for several days.

Chicken Marinade

The key to making a really chicken tikka masala, is marinating the meat in a well flavoured, yoghurt based marinade. Here’s how we make ours…

For our marinade, we mix together yoghurt, lemon juice, table salt & some of our tikka paste. We then add in whole skinless chicken thighs, cover & leave in the fridge. To make our chicken super tender & to give it the best possible flavour, it’s important to let it marinade for at least 2 hours. I wouldn’t marinade any longer than 6 hours though as the texture of the chicken might start to turn mushy.

The Curry

Now onto the curry. Here, we cook the sauce on the stove & roast the chicken in the oven then once both are cooked, we bring them together.

Tikka Masala Sauce

To make the curry sauce, we fry sliced onion in oil, butter & a good pinch of salt until soft & translucent (this will take at least 10 minutes) then stir in tomato paste & cook for another minute or two, to caramelise slightly. Next, we stir in the rest of our tikka masala paste & cook until fragrant, which will take another couple of minutes.

Now we add tomato passata & some water into the onions then bring the sauce to a simmer & cook for 15-20 minutes, until thick & cooked out (the sauce will be darker in colour & the tomatoes will have a deeper, cooked flavour). Next, we stir in a small amount of honey, lemon juice & chopped coriander then blitz the sauce with a blender until smooth. Make sure to season the sauce with salt at this point as well.

To finish the sauce, we stir in single cream then bring to a simmer & cook for 2-3 minutes, to thicken slightly before adding in the chicken.

Chicken Thighs

For this curry, we’re going to be roasting the marinated chicken in the oven whilst the sauce is cooking out.

To cook, take the chicken thighs out of the marinade & place onto a lined baking tray, making sure that each piece of meat is well covered in marinade. Roast at 220°c/428°f until just cooked through. This will take around 15-20 minutes

Let the chicken rest whilst you finish off the sauce then chop into bitesize pieces (discarding any bones). Once the sauce is finished, stir in the chicken & any juices then cook for 3-4 minutes, to warm the chicken back through.

Serving Suggestions

This chicken tikka masala works great with all classic curry side dishes, from steamed rice & naan, to bombay potatoes, dhals, bhajis & pakoras. For something a bit different, you could serve this curry with triple cooked chips or use it in a batch of homemade pies.

Chicken Tikka Masala Tips & Tricks

  • Toast the spices – Toasting the spices for the tikka masala paste brings out their flavour. Make sure not to burn them though, as they’ll turn bitter – a couple of minutes of toasting is all they need.
  • Use seeds instead of ground herbs – Grinding toasted coriander & cumin seeds into a powder adds more flavour than using ground.
  • Marinate the chicken – Make sure to give the chicken plenty of time to marinade for tender meat & maximum flavour! 2-6 hours of marinading is best.
  • Roast at a high temperature – Roasting the marinated chicken thighs at a higher oven temperature helps char the outside, adding flavour.
  • Don’t overcook the meat – Nothing ruins a curry like overcooked meat! The key for this curry, is to cook the chicken in the oven until it’s just cooked then chop into pieces & stir through the finished sauce. Chicken is fully cooked when it reaches 75°c/167°f so a digital food probe comes in handy here!

Frequently Asked Questions

What cut of chicken is best for tikka masala?

Chicken thighs are the best choice for tikka masala as they’ll stay tender & won’t dry out once cooked. Make sure to use skinless chicken thighs.

How long will chicken curry keep for?

Any leftover chicken curry should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge & will keep for up to 3 days.

Is chicken tikka masala a hot curry?

Chicken tikka masala tends to be quite a mild curry but can be made hotter if you’d prefer. To do this, use a hotter or extra chilli in the tikka paste.

What is the best way to reheat curry?

Leftover curry can be reheated either on the stove or in a microwave. Make sure that the temperature of the meat reaches at least 75°c/167°f. If the sauce gets too thick, it can be thinned out with a splash of water or stock.

Can chicken tikka masala be cooked on a barbecue?

The marinated chicken thighs for this curry can be grilled on a barbecue instead of roasted in the oven, to give them a well charred crust & even more flavour!

Cooking Chicken Tikka Masala On An Aga

With all of my recipes, I include cooking instructions for conventional ovens, fan ovens & also Agas. Here’s how to cook this recipe in an Aga…

Use the simmering plate for every aspect of the sauce. Cook the chicken in the roasting oven, on the second from top set of runners.

Equipment Used

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Chicken Tikka Masala

A classic chicken tikka masala, made completely from scratch! This curry is rich, creamy & absolutely jam packed full of flavour.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Marinating Time4 hours
Total Time5 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 6 Portions
Author: Ben Racey

Equipment

  • Blender/Food Processor
  • Pestle & Mortar
  • Frying Pan
  • Large Saucepan
  • Baking Tray
  • Stick Or Jug Blender

Ingredients

  • 1 kg Skinless Chicken Thighs See Notes

Tikka Masala Paste

  • 2 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 2 tsp Coriander Seeds
  • tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • tsp Turmeric
  • 30 g Piece Of Fresh Ginger A 3" Piece
  • 1 Small Red Chilli See Notes
  • 8 Cloves Garlic Peeled
  • 75 g Groundnut Oil Or Veg Oil
  • Cold Water If Needed

Marinade

  • 250 g Greek Yoghurt
  • 50 g Tikka Masala Paste
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Table Salt

The Curry

  • 2 tbsp Groundnut Oil Or Veg Oil
  • 30 g Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Large White Onion Peeled & Thinly Sliced
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • Tikka Masala Paste
  • 400 g Passata
  • 250 ml Water
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 25 g Coriander Finely Chopped
  • 300 ml Single Cream

Instructions

Tikka Masala Paste

  • Add the coriander & cumin seeds into a frying pan then set over a medium-low heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until toasted & fragrant then transfer to a bowl & leave to cool slightly.
  • Add the garam masala & paprika into the empty frying pan & set back over the medium-low heat. Fry for a minute, stirring frequently then tip into a separate bowl.
  • Peel the ginger & chop roughly. Cut the chilli in half & remove the seeds then roughly chop as well.
  • Next, add the toasted seeds, garam masala, paprika, turmeric, fresh ginger, chilli, garlic & oil into a blender then blitz until smooth. If the paste is a touch thick, add in a tbsp or so of cold water.
  • Set 50 grams of tikka masala paste aside for the marinade then keep the rest in the fridge, for later.

Marinade

  • Place the yoghurt, tikka masala paste, lemon juice & salt into a mixing bowl then mix together.
  • Add the chicken into the marinade then mix, to coat. Cover the bowl with clingfilm then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 6.

The Curry

  • Once your chicken has marinated, preheat an oven to 220°c/200°c fan (428°f/392°f).
  • In the meantime, get the curry sauce on. To do this, first place a large saucepan over a medium-low heat & add in the 2 tbsp of oil & allow to heat up for a minute or two.
  • Add the butter into the pan then once melted, add in the sliced onion with a good pinch of salt. Cook until soft & translucent, stirring regularly. This will take at least 10 minutes.
  • Next, add in the tomato paste, cook for 2 minutes then stir in the rest of the tikka masala paste. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
    Make sure to stir the onions frequently to stop them catching on the bottom of the pan!
  • Stir in the passata & water then bring the sauce to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until you have a thick, well cooked out sauce. This will take 15-20 minutes.
    Use the water to rinse out any passata left in the container it came out of.
  • Whilst the sauce is cooking, take the chicken out of the marinade, place onto a lined baking tray then bake in the preheated oven until just cooked through. This will take 15-20 minutes.
    Once cooked, let the chicken rest for 10 minutes or so, whilst you finish the sauce.
    A digital food probe comes in handy here! The chicken's internal temperature should be 75°c/167°f once cooked through.
  • Add the honey & lemon juice into the curry sauce then season the sauce with salt, to taste. Add in half of the chopped coriander then blitz smooth with a blender.
  • Stir the single cream through the sauce then set the pan over a medium-low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer then cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened to your desired consistency.
  • Whilst the sauce is thickening up, cut the chicken into bitesize pieces, discarding any bones. Then once the sauce is ready, add in the chicken, along with any juices. Continue cooking for 3-4 minutes until warmed through.
  • Stir the remaining coriander through the sauce then serve immediately.

Notes

1. To Cook On An Aga – Use the simmering plate for every aspect of the sauce. Cook the chicken in the roasting oven, on the second from top set of runners.
2. Chicken – Make sure to use skinless chicken thighs for this curry. You can either leave the bones in & take them once cooked or take them out whilst raw, it’s up to you!
3. Chilli – For a subtle kick of heat, I like to use a small red (mild) chilli but feel free to use a hotter chilli if you’d prefer.
4. Oil – For this recipe, you can use either groundnut oil or a vegetable oil like sunflower or canola oil will work as well. 
5. Garam Masala – This is an Indian spice blend & is available to buy in most supermarkets.
6. Storage – Any leftover curry should be stored in the fridge & eaten within 3 days of being made. Curry can be reheated on the stove or in a microwave. Make sure the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 75°c/167°f.
7. Blender – If you have a nutribullet blender, these are excellent for blitzing curry paste. Alternatively, a jug blender or food processor will do the job as well!
8. Passata – Passata is made of pureed & sieve tomatoes and is available to buy in most supermarkets. If you can’t get any, you can blitz tinned tomatoes in a blender until smooth then pass through a sieve.

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