Chef John's Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

I probably get more requests for Indian food than any other ethnic cuisine
so I was very excited to be posting this recipe for chicken tikka masala; until I found out it's actually a British recipe. This is usually done with heavy cream
but I like to use coconut milk instead; the subtle sweetness it provides works beautifully with the spices in the dish. Serve with steamed rice.

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons garam masala

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee), or more as needed

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup tomato paste

4 cloves garlic, finely grated

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger, or more to taste

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1 (13 ounce) can coconut milk

1/2 cup chicken broth, or as needed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt and ground black pepper to taste


① Place chicken in a bowl and drizzle vegetable oil over chicken; toss to coat.
② Whisk kosher salt, garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, ground turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom together in a small bowl. Season chicken with spice mixture and turn to coat evenly.
③ Melt clarified butter in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Cook chicken thighs in hot butter until browned on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut chicken into bite-size pieces.
④ Reduce heat under the skillet to medium-high. Stir onion into skillet; saute until onion softens and turns translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir. Saute until paste caramelizes, about 5 minutes. Stir garlic and ginger into tomato-onion mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
⑤ Pour the crushed tomatoes into the skillet and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits of food off of the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon. Pour in coconut milk and chicken broth; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors blend and sauce is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.
⑥ Stir chicken, any accumulated juices from the chicken, cilantro, and red pepper flakes into tomato mixture; bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until chicken is cooked through and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

  • Chef’s Note:
  • You can substitute tomato puree for the crushed tomatoes, if desired. You can also use 1 2/3 cups heavy whipping cream instead of the coconut milk.
  • Nutrition Facts

    Per Serving: 625calories;48.2g fat;19.2g carbohydrates;33.5g protein;122mg cholesterol;1325mg sodium.


    • Posted: 08/24/2018 11:13


      This is a great recipe. \n\nAfter reading the recipe, I felt it had too much tomato paste and crushed tomatoes. So I reduced the tomato paste to one tablespoon and the crushed tomatoes to 3/4 cup.\n\nI blended the spices and checked the aroma. I felt something was missing so I added between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves a bit at a time. That improved the aroma and ultimately the taste. \n\nEveryone loved the chicken tikka masala. We often visit a local Indian restaurant and they almost always include chicken tikka masala in the buffet. My husband says the chicken masala I prepared is as good, if not better than, the restaurant version.\n\nI have always thought that mushrooms should be included and the next time I make chicken tikka masala, I'll use mushrooms in addition to the chicken.\n\nThank you Chef John.

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