This is a chicken tikka masala recipe just like those you find at the best curry houses.
There’s no doubt about it, chicken tikka masala is a firm favourite at Indian restaurants. The smooth, mild and creamy sauce is out of this world delicious. Use the information below and you’ll find that your homemade chicken tikka masala is far better than anything you’ll get at a busy restaurant.
Is chicken tikka masala Indian or British?
I get asked often in my curry classes how chicken tikka masala came to be in the first place.
British Indian restaurants prepare curries that are a lot different to what you’ll find in India. That said, the past few times I visited India, I found chicken tikka masala on the menus just like those you find in the west. Indian food made its way to the UK and we sent it back again with a British touch. Many chefs in India are now learning how to make BIR (British Indian restaurant) style curries for tourists and the curious.
The origin of chicken tikka masala…
There are many stories about the origin of chicken tikka masala. Some say that it is simply a curry house version of the world famous butter chicken which became popular in New Delhi back in the 50s. This could be true as the two curries are quite similar.
Another theory is that it was developed in a curry house in Glasgow. The story goes that a customer sent his chicken curry back because he found it too dry.
Wishing to please his customer, the chef added tomato soup and cream to the curry. Those were the days before the essential base curry sauce which is now used at all curry houses and in this chicken tikka masala recipe. The customer loved it and the curry was added to their menu.
There are many other stories and the real truth of its origin will probably never be known. One thing is certain… people love it worldwide now.
What is the difference between this chicken tikka masala recipe and others?
Most Indian cookbooks and blogs show how to make chicken tikka masala using more authentic Indian cooking methods. Finely chopped onions are fried and water or stock added instead of using the base sauce.
Although this does make a good curry, it’s nothing like the restaurant style chicken tikka masalas you find at curry houses. Using a base sauce is essential for getting the correct flavour and sauce texture.
I do have a chicken tikka masala recipe that doesn’t use base sauce which you might like to try and compare the two.
All of the authentic Indian restaurant style chicken curry recipes on my site use a base curry sauce. My ‘go to’ recipe is here. It isn’t difficult to prepare and really does make a big difference in the final curry.
Most restaurants use tandoori style chicken for chicken tikka masala. Here is my recipe.
Personally, I think the tandoori chicken tikka is a must!
Make this chicken tikka masala recipe your own…
When if comes to curries, the best curries are those that are made to your own personal taste preferences.
Many chicken tikka masala recipes out there call for a lot of sugar, for example. I don’t like really sweet curries so I keep the sugar to a minimum. There is no reason why you can’t add more to taste though.
This is a curry that is also quite mild. If you prefer a spicier curry, try adding some chopped green bird’s eye chillies. You really can tailor this chicken tikka masala recipe so that it is the best in the world to you.
Useful kitchen equipment…
You can prepare this chicken tikka masala recipe using whatever you have on hand. Following is some of the equipment I use;
- A good chef’s knife: If you are using tandoori chicken tikka, as I suggest you do, a good, sharp chefs knife important. One excellent quality knife is much better than a selection of useless knives. You know the ones I’m talking about.
- A stainless steel of aluminium pan: At curry houses, the pans of choice are aluminium. These are cheap pans that get fantastic results when cooking curry house style curries. Not only do they heat up really quickly but they are also not non-stick. As the curry sauce sizzles over the high heat, it caramelises to the pan. You can scrape those caramelised bits back into the sauce. We are talking delicious here!
- A good blender: One of the things that makes British curries what they are is that smooth sauce. Although you could blend the base sauce in a countertop blender, I prefer using a hand blender for ease and less mess.
How to get the most out of this chicken tikka masala recipe…
If you have stale spices in your cupboard, throw them away. Once spices have been ground, the tend to lose their potency within a couple of months.
Using the freshest, roasted spices is something that just isn’t possible at most busy restaurants. So if you do, you are on your way to cooking up a chicken tikka masala that is far better than you will get when eating out.
If you’re in a rush, though, a good quality shop bought curry powder that is still in date will do the job.
Can this chicken tikka masala recipe be frozen?
Most definitely yes! One thing I do suggest though is not adding the cream if you are planning on freezing your curry. Cream doesn’t freeze well so you should freeze the chicken tikka masala before adding the cream. Then defrost and bring to heat and add the cream just before serving.
Following are a some step by step cooking photos for this chicken tikka masala recipe.
Using ghee or oil…
Although oil is usually used at curry houses, this chicken tikka masala recipe will benefit from the buttery flavour of ghee.
Ghee isn’t used as much these days because it is more expensive. You can purchase small tubs of ghee that will last you for at least 20 curries.
Adding the base sauce…
The base sauce should always be added in small amounts. The reason for this is simple: You want it to cook down and caramelise to the pan. As it does this, you scrape it into the pan for extra flavour. If you add too much base sauce at once, it is difficult, but not impossible to get that caramelisation.
I would like to mention here that you will not achieve caramelised sauce if you are using a non-stick pan because the sauce won’t stick and sizzle.
Let’s talk chicken…
Tandoori chicken is what is added most often at restaurants to chicken tikka masala. This adds another layer of delicious flavour to your chicken tikka masala.
I have seen many chicken tikka masala recipes that simply call for raw chicken that is added to the pan and either fried or cooked in the sauce. That, to me, is not chicken tikka masala. It will still taste good though so if you must, then take the easy route.
Adding food colouring.
Personally, I don’t have any problems with adding a little colouring to my food. You don’t have to add it because it add no flavour. If you want to get that bright red colouring that chicken tikka masala is famous for, you are going to have to use red food colouring as I did above.
There are a few chicken tikka masala recipes out there that suggest using beet root powder. I don’t personally do this as it just doesn’t look right. If anything, I would suggest you either use food colouring or just cook the chicken tikka up and serve it with it’s natural colouring.
What do you serve chicken tikka masala with?
Basmati rice or naans are always a good bet! You will find quite a few naan recipes on my blog. Some of my favourites are instant curry house naans and keema naans which can both be cooked in a pan. In the warmer months, you might likr to cook your naans on the barbecue as this recipe.
You might also like to serve this chicken tikka masala with other curry house style curries. I have included links to some of my favourites below.
Here are more curry house curry favourites you might like to try!
Do I have to use chicken? Substituting other proteins…
You know when you go out for a curry, there is usually a selection of different meats and cheese that can go into your sauce. This is the case at home too. You could substitute tandoori lamb for the chicken for example. Or, if you would like to make a vegetarian tikka masala, try either fried paneer cubes or simply add the paneer raw.
This chicken tikka masala recipe is all about the sauce. What you add to that sauce is up to you.
Flavour boosting ideas…
Just like tandoori chicken add another layer of flavour to your chicken tikka masala, there are also other things you can do.
One of my personal favourites is to prepare my base curry sauce with chicken stock instead of water. Another way to really achieve excellent flavour when using tandoori chicken is to add the meat juices that accumulate under the cooked chicken.
You should also think about what else you might like to add. Chopped chillies, , more salt, sugar, freshly roasted garam masala and lemon juice all help achieve a good combination of spicy, savoury, sour and sweet flavours.
Do I have to use cream?
Nope. Most chicken tikka masala recipes call for cream but you could leave it out and still have an amazing curry. You might also like to consider add plain natural yoghurt instead of the cream.
If adding yoghurt, you should whisk it in, one tablespoon at a time so that it doesn’t curdle.
This looks like it takes a lot of time in the kitchen!
I’m not going to tell you differently. Making the perfect chicken tikka masala takes some forward preparation. The thing is, once that work is done, you can whip up a curry house style curry in less than 10 minutes.
That’s right! Get your base sauce cooked and make some tandoori chicken tikka. The rest is a breeze.
The good news is that it really isn’t a lot of work. The base sauce and tandoori chicken freeze well to so I usually make large batches. Then you can simply take out what you need and enjoy a curry house style chicken tikka masala whenever you want!
Following are a few of my favourite tandoori chicken recipes.
Each of these tandoori chicken recipes will taste amazing in your chicken tikka masala.
One last note about this chicken tikka masala recipe.
This is a curry house portion of the chicken tikka masala recipe that featured in my cookbook ‘The Curry Guy’. In the book, the recipe served 4 but this recipe serves 1 to 2 just like when you order a curry at an Indian restaurant.
I developed this chicken tikka masala recipe after numerous visits to Indian restaurant kitchens. This is the real deal!
- 3 tbsp ghee or rapeseed (canola) oil
- 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
- 1/2 tbsp sugar (more or less to taste)
- 1 tbsp ground almonds
- 1 tbsp coconut flour
- 70ml (1/4 cup) tomato puree
- 1 tbsp mixed powder
- 1 tbsp tandoori masala
- 1/2 - 1 tbsp paprika
- 300ml (1 1/2 cups) base curry sauce
- 300g (11 oz) tandoori chicken
- 100ml (scant 1/3 cup) single cream (more or less to taste
- 1 tsp red food colouring powder (optional)
- Juice of one lemon (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro) to taste
- Heat the ghee/oil in a frying pan over medium high heat
- When visibly hot, add the garlic and ginger paste and stir well to cook out the rawness.
- Stir in the coconut flour, sugar, ground almonds, mixed powder, tandoori masala and paprika and again stir well.
- Pour in the tomato puree and bring to a simmer. Then add about a ladle of base curry sauce. You will need to top this up from time to time. If the curry is looking too dry, add more base sauce. If too saucy, cook it down.
- Bring this all to a bubbling simmer and then add the pre-cooked tandoori chicken. Stir well to coat the meat with the sauce. Remember to add more base if it is looking dry. Scrape around the edges of the pan as the base sauce caramelises to the side. This will add a delicious flavour to your chicken tikka masala.
- Now add the food colouring if using.
- Continue stirring to colour the sauce adding more of the heated curry sauce when required
- Simmer for about a minute and pour in the cream.
- Stir in the fresh coriander, season with salt to taste and finish with a squeeze of lemon the dried fenugreek and the garam masala.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 489Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 106mgSodium: 489mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 14g
This nutritional info is just an estimate.
Other ways to make this recipe your own…
As with all curry house style recipes, you can make this chicken tikka masala to taste.
In fact, it doesn’t need to be a chicken tikka masala at all. It’s all about the sauce!
Just like when you go out for a curry and see tikka masala on the menu, you can decide which main ingredient to use. Try substituting tandoori lamb, paneer and/or king prawns in this curry.
All are delicious.