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Chicken Tikka Masala from Scratch

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Make this chicken tikka masala from scratch today. Red or natural… Your choice.

Like most chicken tikka masala recipes out there, this is my cheat version that can be made in less than 30 minutes in one pan. If you would like to make a chicken tikka masala like those you find at Indian restaurants, that chicken tikka masala recipe is right here. Having been asked on numerous occasions for curry house style recipes that don’t require a base curry sauce, I came up with this one pan chicken tikka masala that will get you restaurant quality results.

 

Chicken tikka masala from scratch

Make it natural or bright red. Your choice and both are easy to prepare.

What is the difference between this ‘from scratch’ recipe and the base sauce method?

Time. That’s about it as they both taste the same and both are easy to prepare. The curry house base sauce method can be cooked in about 10 minutes with the prepared base sauce.

This chicken tikka masala recipe takes about 30 minutes but you don’t have to have the base sauce on hand. 

Which cut of chicken?

Although chicken breast is what is used at most restaurants, I prefer thigh as it has more flavour. It’s also usually the cheaper option. 

You can used prepared chicken tikka for this recipe. You could also try leftover cooked chicken. For that matter, you could simply add raw chicken and just cook it through in the sauce but you will need to add a bit more stock or water to help it cook. 

Do I have to use chicken?

If you want chicken tikka masala you do. But if that isn’t important to you, this sauce goes with pretty much any protein. Try beef, lamb, paneer… If it sounds good, it will be. Just like when you go out for a curry and you order the tikka masala sauce, you can most definitely add your protein of choice. 

About this chicken tikka masala recipe…

I wrote my first cookbooks about British Indian restaurant style cooking. So I really wanted people to be able to recreate curry house style curries like chicken tikka masala at home and not feel like they are getting second best!

Since writing ‘The Curry Guy’, however, it has become clear that many people wanted an easier version that could be prepared in one pan.

I didn’t want to just cook the curry without base sauce as that simply would not get the best results. So I came up with this method which has the classic, smooth tikka masala sauce just like you find at the best curry houses.

Do I have to blend the chicken tikka masala sauce?

Absolutely not! I do recommend blending though if you want your curry to look and taste like those you find at Indian restaurant.

If you want, you can skip blending the tikka masala sauce. Your curry will still taste great.

How to make this chicken tikka masala recipe your own…

The measurements of spices and ingredients used are all exactly as I have seen chicken tikka masala cooked at curry houses around the UK.

That said, exact measures are rarely used and differ from chef to chef. 

You could tweak the amounts of ingredients to your own taste. If you prefer a sweeter chicken tikka masala, add more sugar. If you don’t like mild curries, try adding some chillies. It won’t be a mild chicken tikka masala but it will be closer to the flavour your prefer.

Really, there are no rules when preparing a chicken tikka masala. The best curries are those you prepare to your own personal taste preference. 

You could also add more cream for a creamier consistency or leave it out completely. Some people prefer to add yoghurt instead for a healthier curry.

If doing this, be sure to stir in plain natural yoghurt, one tablespoon at a time so that it doesn’t curdle.

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: Using a good, sharp chefs knife makes cooking a lot more enjoyable. I highly recommend purchasing one knife you enjoy using rather than a knife set of inadequate knives.
  • A good blender: One of the things that makes British curries what they are is that smooth sauce. As I mentioned above, the blending isn’t essential for this chicken tikka masala recipe but it does make the sauce more authentic.
  • A stainless steel of aluminium pan: At curry houses, the pans of choice are aluminium. These are inexpensive 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!

Can other curry house curries be cooked in one pan?

You bet! I have a lot of curry house curry recipe on my blog that can be cooked in one pan. Try some of these.

How do I substitute other main ingredients for the chicken?

For the quickest option, use pre-cooked meats such as tandoori lamb. You could use raw meat but you will need to add more water or stock and let it cook until tender.

You could also add paneer to the tikka masala sauce and I have two popular options for you.

  • Fried paneer: To fry paneer, add a little oil to a pan and fry the cubed paneer all over so that it is nicely browned on all side. Fried paneer doesn’t fall apart as easily as raw paneer does. You could also marinate the paneer before frying as I did here. That is a recipe that is cooked over fire but you could use the same marinade and fry the cheese too.
  • Raw paneer: You will get excellent results using raw paneer cubes too. If doing this, add it right before serving. Just heat it through and you will get deliciously soft pieces of paneer. Don’t over cook it though as raw paneer has a tendency to fall apart.

Step by step photographs…

Ingredients for chicken tikka masala from scratch

Gather all of your ingredients before you start cooking. It’s easier that way.

Adding chopped onions to frying pan

Pour the oil into a pan over medium high heat. When visibly hot, stir in the chopped onions.

Stirring garlic and ginger paste into the pan

After about 5 minutes, the onions will be soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for 30 seconds.

Adding spices and tomatoes to the frying pan

Add the ground spices and the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and then stir in 125ml (1/2 cup) water or unsalted chicken stock

Blending chicken tikka masala sauce

Allow the sauce to cool some and then blend until smooth.

The smooth sauce…

If you are blending the sauce as I recommend, it needs to be super smooth if it is going to be as good as curry house style chicken tikka masala.

Just blend until it is really smooth and you will be very happy with the results!

Adding blended sauce to pan

Pour the blended sauce back into the pan over medium high heat. It will be too thick so add some water or stock to thin it some.

Adding chicken to the pan

Now add the pre-cooked chicken. You can also add raw chicken but you will need to cook it longer.

Any cooked chicken will work for this recipe. Following are a few of my favourite tandoori style chicken recipes…

Each of these tandoori chicken recipes will taste amazing in your chicken tikka masala.

Tandoori Chicken Tikka 

Malai Chicken Tikka

Afghan Chicken Tikka

Pakistani Chicken Tikka

Hariyali Chicken Tikka

adding cream to chicken tikka masala

Stir in the cream and this is how your chicken tikka masala will look. Add salt to taste and a little lemon juice.

How do I make bright red chicken tikka masala?

That’s easy. At many curry houses, the chefs still add red food colouring powder to the chicken tikka masala sauce to make it red.

That’s really all there is to it. There really isn’t any flavour in the red food colouring. It’s simply done for show.

Chicken tikka masala from scratch

Chicken tikka masala with red food colouring added.

Chicken tikka masala from scratch

Dig in! If you like it red, add that food colouring. The preference at my house is a bit of a mix.

 

If you like this chicken tikka masala recipe, you might like to try some of these too…

Chicken Dopiaza from Scratch
Beef Madras from Scratch
Chicken Vindaloo from Scratch
Rogan Josh from Scratch
Chicken Korma from Scratch
Chicken Chilli Garlic Curry From Scratch

Yield: 4

Chicken Tikka Masala from Scratch

Chicken tikka masala from Scratch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ghee or rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk powder
  • 1 tbsp curry powder or garam masala
  • 1 ½ tbsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tbsp tandoori masala
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 200g tinned (canned) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste stirred into 3 tbsp water
  • 800g (1 ¾ lbs) cooked chicken tikka or cooked or raw chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tsp red food colouring powder (optional)
  • 200ml (scant 1 cup) single cream (more or less to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 4 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro) finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala

Instructions

  1. Heat the ghee or oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. When visibly hot, stir in the chopped onions and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. You could even fry them on a lower heat for longer which will bring out their natural sweetness but do not brown them.
  2. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry over medium high heat for about 30 seconds to cook out the rawness.
  3. Now stir in the ground almonds, coconut milk powder, curry powder or garam masala, paprika, tandoori masala, cumin and ground coriander. Stir this around in the pan to coat the onions.
  4. Because of all the spices used, it will look quite dry in the pan. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and about 125ml (1/2 cup) unsalted chicken stock or water. Bring to a simmer and then take off the heat to cool some.
  5. Place the cooled sauce in a blender and blend until really smooth. Pour the blended sauce back into the pan. It will look way to thick right now so add about 250ml (1 cup) unsalted chicken stock or water and bring to a rolling simmer.
  6. Add the cooked chicken. If using raw chicken, you will need to ensure it is cooked through. When the chicken is heated/cooked through, it’s time to fine tune this curry!
  7. If your sauce is too runny, cook it down. If it’s too thick, stir in a little more water or stock until you are happy.
  8. Stir in the cream and add lemon juice. Add the kasoori methi by rubbing it between your fingers into the sauce and season with salt to taste.
  9. Dust with the garam masala and garnish with the chopped coriander (cilantro).

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I hope you enjoy this chicken tikka masala from scratch recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. 

Dave T.

Saturday 1st of October 2022

Hi Dan, I see you use ground almonds not almond powder or flour. Does this give a grainy texture?

Dan Toombs

Thursday 13th of October 2022

No it doesn't seem to but if you are worried, use powder. Thanks Dan

BW

Saturday 24th of September 2022

Great recipe, Dan but what happened to the tomato paste? It's in the ingredients list but not the instructions.

Dan Toombs

Friday 30th of September 2022

Sorry about that, I will get that amended. It just goes in towards the end with the spices. Thanks very much. Dan

Thomas Callan

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

Wow loved this chicken tikka masala Dan. I've made the one from your curry bible. This is so easy. The only thing I did was use raw chicken and cut down on the stock, used 100mls of double cream (heavy)and used 50gms creamed coconut block. Brilliant. Can't wait to try some other curries from scratch.

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

Sounds great. Thanks for letting me know. Dan

Will Harrison

Friday 5th of August 2022

This uses coconut milk powder ,but your recipes using base sauce use coconut flour why is it different

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

Lately I have been using coconut milk powder but you can definitely use coconut flour for this recipe. Thanks Dan

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