Chicken Tikka Masala is an addictive, classic dish for lunch or dinner where the chicken marinated in aromatic spices is first grilled and then mixed in a finger-licking sauce (masala). Vegetarians can prepare tikka masala with the same recipe but substitute meat with paneer, baby corn, mushroom, tofu, potatoes, or a combination of all.
It's very easy to make chicken tikka masala at home than you think. Homemade tikka masala or sauce tastes better than any restaurant or dhaba.
What is chicken tikka masala?
Chicken tikka masala is one of the popular chicken dishes around the world. Marinated chicken pieces in Indian spice mix are grilled to perfection in tandoor, oven, or barbecue and then tossed in a spicy gravy or curry called masala. Tikka masala is a smooth and silky blend of onion, tomato, and Indian spices.
What is the difference between butter chicken (makhani) and chicken tikka masala?
Both are popular dishes around the world. Butter masala or makhani originates from Delhi, North India, and tikka masala is a British invention.
Kundal Lal Gujral, who ran a restaurant in Delhi called Moti mahal, did not want any leftover cooked meat in his restaurant to dry out. To avoid this, he cooked them in aromatic tomato-based gravy along with butter and cream, adding richness to the overall dish, and named it Butter chicken or Murgh Makhani.
On the other hand, chicken tikka masala was developed in the UK by a person from the subcontinental region. Chicken tikka refers to pieces of chicken grilled on skewers, and masala means Indian spice blend used to make tikkas or gravy. Butter masala is on the sweeter side, and Tikka masala is on the spicier side.
This is a delicious entree that can be prepared for your upcoming tailgating events, game nights (football or super bowl), potluck, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas holiday dinner parties!
What is the difference between chicken tikka and chicken tikka masala?
Chicken tikka is a dry item served as a side, starter, or appetizer. Marinated chicken in Indian spices is grilled to perfection on a BBQ/grill, tandoor, stovetop, or oven.
Chicken tikka masala is nothing but chicken tikka cooked in tomato-onion gravy along with additional spices, thus making it hotter and spicier. You can serve Chicken Tikka Masala as an entrée or main dish with Indian breads like naan or roti.
All ingredients required for tikka and tikka masala are very basic and available at any Indian store. But these days, you can even find these spices at all big stores like Walmart, Target, and Kroger.
- 4 skewers Chicken tikka skewers, use our chicken tikka recipe, need four 12-inch long skewers
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ inch Ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Cooking oil
- 1 can Tomato sauce, i.e., 8 oz can or puree from 2 large tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon Sour cream (or heavy cream)
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chile powder, for color
- 1 teaspoon Red chile powder, for spiciness (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Garam masala powder (or Tandoori Masala Powder or Curry powder)
- 2 to 3 teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 tablespoon Butter or Oil
- ¼ cup Water
- 2 tablespoon Chicken tikka marinade (completely optional)
How to make the best chicken tikka masala at home?
In short, one just has to follow 4 easy steps
- Marinate the chicken
- Cook the chicken on skewers over a grill, barbeque, stovetop, tandoor, or oven.
- Make the tikka sauce or masala.
- Combine tikka masala and Chicken tikka.
Once you have Chicken tikka or paneer tikka or any meat or vegetarian tikkas ready, preparing the masala (gravy or curry or sauce) is super easy. This recipe below gives you a spicy curry, which is what my family and friends love. But based on the heat level you can tolerate, adjust the amount of red chili powder you add to the dish. You can even skip adding red chili powder to the tikka masala to obtain a milder gravy.
In the USA, you get really good quality tomato sauce, and thus I have substituted tomatoes with this tomato sauce. Add two pureed tomatoes to the recipe if you do not have store-bought tomato sauce. Please note that the tomato sauce available in countries like the USA differs from what we get in India.
To start with chicken tikka masala, heat the oil in a pan, and add cumin seeds. When they splutter, add onions, garlic, and ginger, and sauté until they become translucent.
Then add sour cream, tomato sauce, and all the spice powders like chili powder, garam masala powder (tandoori masala), and coriander powder as per your taste. Because I had some extra marinade from preparing chicken tikkas, I have added it to the gravy - this is entirely optional.
Once this comes to a simmer, add the prepared chicken tikkas along with the grilled veggies if desired and continue to simmer for additional 5 minutes. Finally, add butter to this and serve with your favorite bread!
Tikka Masala is a classic accompaniment for breads like naan, roti, chapatis, and ghee rice or brown butter rice. Today, I have served chicken tikka masala with Garlic butter naan, and this is one of the best combinations ever.
Both chicken thigh and breast meat work equally well - but I generally prefer using thighs over breasts as I love the fact that the meat is tender and juicy when cooked. An additional plus point is that the marination time for thighs is less compared to breasts. If you want to prepare this dish as quickly as possible, then use chicken thighs.
If you use chicken breasts for health reasons, marinate them a little longer. Marinating the chicken breasts overnight would give you the best results. Also, let the grilled breast meat rest for a few minutes before serving or slicing through to retain its juiciness.
Chicken Tikka Masala can be made two days ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate it in an airtight container. Dishes like this which use a lot of spices, taste better over time as the added spices have the chance to infuse their aroma into the dish.
You can freeze this dish for up to 2 months and reheat and use it as desired. Make sure you store them in a zip lock bag and lay them flat.
Indian Tikka Masala is on the spicier side and comparatively less creamy. Also, the creaminess is achieved through a combination of cashew paste and heavy cream.
British Tikka Masala is relatively less spicy and has a hint of sweetness. The gravy is much creamier due to the addition of a generous portion of heavy cream.
You can store leftover chicken tikka masala in an airtight container or ziplock bags in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to three months. To use frozen chicken tikka masala, just thaw in the fridge overnight, and reheat on the stovetop or microwave before serving.
Marinate the chicken as instructed in my tikka recipe, and you can then prepare fresh tikkas on your grill or oven. If you do not have access to either a grill or oven, you can also cook the chicken on the stovetop or in an air-fryer - just ensure the marinade you prepare is thick and not runny!
To blend or not is a personal choice. I generally do not blend the gravy for chicken tikka masala. If you prefer a smooth and silky gravy, feel free to blend the sauteed onions, spices, and tomatoes before adding the tikkas, and then follow the instructions in the recipe below to finish the dish.
The homemade version of tikka masala has low carbs and no sugar and is one of the best chicken dishes for a ketogenic diet.
Vegetarians can still prepare this tikka masala sauce by substituting meat with paneer or tofu, cauliflower, baby corn, or mushroom.
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
I also like to prepare chicken tikka masala in my Instant Pot. We will assume that we do not have pre-cooked chicken tikka. Marinate the chicken as per instructions given in my tikka recipe. Set the instant pot (IP) to Saute mode. Set it to the highest setting. Place the marinated chicken pieces in the steel insert and leave it undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes to develop some color. Flip the chicken pieces and let it brown on the other side for another 2 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.
In the same pot (do not have to clean after roasting the chicken), add oil, cumin seeds, chopped onions, ginger, and garlic, and saute until light golden in color. Add tomato puree, chicken pieces, and pressure cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for another 5 minutes, before manually releasing the pressure. Open the lid, and turn the IP back to Saute mode, add sour cream and other spice powders, stir well and simmer for 5 minutes. The Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala is ready. Serve with rice or breads of your choice.
While you are here don't forget to check out our best chicken handi recipe, easy chicken biryani, simple chicken pulao.
Chicken Tikka Masala | Best Homemade Tikka Masala Recipe
- 4 skewers Chicken tikka skewers use our recipe, check tips, four 12-inch long skewers
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
- 1 Onion finely chopped
- 2 Garlic cloves finely chopped
- ½ inch Ginger finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Cooking oil
- 1 can Tomato sauce 8 oz can or puree from 2 large tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon Sour cream or heavy cream, check tips
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chile powder for color
- 1 teaspoon Red chile powder for spiciness, adjust to taste, check tips
- 1 teaspoon Garam masala
powder or Tandoori Masala Powder or Curry powder
- 2 to 3 teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon Butter or Oil
- ¼ cup Water
- 2 tablespoon Chicken tikka marinade completely optional
- In a saucepan on medium heat, add oil and cumin seeds.1 tablespoon Cooking oil, 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
- When cumin seeds turn light brown, add finely chopped onions, garlic, and ginger and saute until onions turn light golden brown. This should take about 5 to 8 minutes on medium flame.1 Onion, 2 Garlic cloves, ½ inch Ginger
- Add tomato sauce, water, sour cream, Kashmiri chile powder, spicy chilie powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder, salt, and leftover marinade (optional), and mix well.1 can Tomato sauce, 2 tablespoon Sour cream, 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chile powder, 1 teaspoon Red chile powder, 1 teaspoon Garam masala, 2 to 3 teaspoon Coriander powder, 1 teaspoon Salt, 2 tablespoon Chicken tikka marinade, ¼ cup Water
- Once this comes to a simmer, add chicken tikka (and grilled veggies if preferred) from four 12-inch skewers and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.4 skewers Chicken tikka skewers
- Chicken Tikka Masala is ready. Add a dollop of butter and serve with your favorite rice or naan.1 tablespoon Butter
- The complete recipe for chicken tikka
- I have used tandoori masala instead of garam masala powder.
- I added veggies from one skewer and served the rest as a side.
- This gravy was spicy, so you may reduce the extra spicy red chile powder by half or skip it completely if you prefer mild curries.
- Kashmiri red chile powder gives this dish the signature red color.
- If you have any leftover marinade from preparing chicken tikka, add it with tomato sauce. I had about 2 tablespoon of marinade left over from preparing chicken tikka, which I added to this dish.
- You may easily substitute chicken with grilled veggies or Indian cottage cheese (paneer), baby corn, mushroom, or even tofu in this dish to make it vegetarian.
- Always adjust all the spices to taste.
- Be sure to marinate chicken for better results. check chicken tikka
- If you want a creamy, sweeter dish then check our butter chicken recipe.
- You can substitute sour cream with yogurt or heavy cream. If you feel adding cream will curdle the gravy, simply take sour cream into a bowl, add a small amount - say a few tablespoons - of hot gravy and mix it well, and then add this back to the gravy.
Breads that go well with Tikka Masala
- 15 quick and easy vegan flatbread recipes – don't miss to check this out.
- Pita Bread – popular on the blog
- Thai roti bread – popular on the blog
- Rumali Roti
- Tava Naan
- Garlic Butter Naan
- Garlic Cheese Naan
More chicken recipes to try
- Chicken Roast
- Chicken Biryani
- Chicken Lollipop or Drums of Heaven
- Orange chicken
- Butter chicken
- Chicken Tikka
- Satay Chicken
- Cranberry Chicken
- Chicken tikka biryani
- Tandoori-style grilled chicken
- Chicken kali mirch
- Easy chicken biryani
- Tandoori chicken wings
- Spicy sriracha chicken wings
- Chole / Chickpeas masala / Chana Masala
- Paneer Butter Masala
- Paneer Matar Masala
- Paneer in Butter Garlic Cream Sauce
- Paneer Tikka Masala
- Kadai Paneer
- Palak Paneer
- Mushroom Butter Masala
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I just made this!! My Wife and I both LOVED this recipe. thanks