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Chicken Tikka Masala

I’ve started working on ideas for an Indian Cooking Box and I have a neighbor from Northern India who is an excellent cook. She was able to explain (over Facebook messenger nonetheless!) how to make the perfect chicken tikka masala and it’s too good not to share.

There are a couple secrets to this dish. First, you can add a small amount of red food coloring to the marinade to give your chicken that pink color you see in restaurants. Second, adding cashews to the sauce and then blending it smooth adds a level of nutty, creaminess that will have you licking your plate clean.

I served this with my Indian rice recipe and it made enough for 8-10 servings (yay, leftovers!)

I used chicken thighs in this recipe because I find them more juicy and tender than breasts, but go ahead and use whichever you prefer.

First, you need to marinate the chicken for about four hours. You mix up whole milk yogurt, paprika, chili powder, flour, oil, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and a couple drops of red food dye (optional).


Once marinated, line a baking tray with foil and place your wire cooling rack on top. Put the marinated chicken on the rack and broil until blackened areas start to appear (the chicken will not be completely cooked through). This process cooks the marinade into the chicken.



In a large saucepan, melt ghee (or any oil) and cook an onion and hot green pepper until browned. Add a large can of peeled tomatoes (I crush them first with my hands), cashews, red pepper flakes, garam masala, fenugreek powder (optional), and salt.


Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 5 minutes to allow the ingredients to heat up.

Pour sauce into a blender and blend until smooth.


Add the blended sauce back into the saucepan. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and add into the sauce. Simmer until chicken cooked through.


Turn the heat down to low, add in some butter and cream. Mix and taste. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with chopped cilantro and Indian style rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala
  • 2 lbs chicken (skinless, boneless) thighs or breasts
  • 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (not greek)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 inch ginger grated
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1-2 drops red food dye optional
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 onion sliced thin
  • 1 hot green pepper chopped
  • 1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, crush with hands
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, roasted cashews
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek powder optional
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  1. Combine the ingredients yogurt through to black pepper to create a marinade. Add in the chicken and allow to marinate for 4 hours in the fridge.

  2. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top. Place your chicken on the rack in a single layer (or use a broiling pan). Broil until blackened areas appear on the chicken. (About 10 minutes). The chicken will not be cooked through.

  3. In a large saucepan, melt the ghee or butter on medium heat. 

  4. Add the onion and pepper and cook until browned.

  5. Add the peeled tomatoes, cashews, red pepper flakes, garam masala, fenugreek powder, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

  6. Pour sauce into a blender and blend until smooth.

  7. Pour the sauce back into the saucepan. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces and add into the saucepan.

  8. Simmer until chicken in cooked through

  9. Reduce heat to low and add butter and cream. Adjust seasonings as desired.

  10. Garnish with cilantro and serve with Indian rice.

Indian Rice
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp whole green cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  1. Rinse the rice three times to remove the excess starch.

  2. In a medium saucepan, boil the water with the cardamom and cumin seeds.

  3. Add the rinsed rice and stir. Return to a boil.

  4. Reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.

  5. Remove the cardamom pods from the top of the rice.

  6. Fluff with fork and serve.