Chicken Tikka Masala is a fan favourite at Indian Restaurants the world over. Here is my tried, tested and tasty recipe for you to make at home in 7 simple steps.
Chicken Tikka Masala Origin
There are many theories about the origins of Chicken Tikka Masala, but most people think that the dish was invented in Britain by restauranteurs from the South Indian community in the 1960s.
It was probably to please their British customers who enjoyed gravy, sweetness and did not like dry meat. Yoghurt and tomato puree were added to make the modern Chicken Tikka Masala from the British Indian Restaurant (BIR) Tradition we all know and love.
What most people don’t realise is that although Chicken Tikka Masala was invented quite recently, the dish has its origins in India 5000 years ago.
The very first Emperor of the Mughal Empire was afraid of choking on chicken bones so he ordered his chefs to remove the chicken from the bones, and cut the meat into small pieces.
The chicken was then cooked in the tandoor oven. These small pieces of chicken eventually became known as ‘Joleh,’ which is the Persian word for ‘Tikka.’
The method of cooking the chicken tikka is definitely Indian in origin, as well as many of the ingredients.
Chicken Tikka Masala Main Ingredients
Chicken Tikka Masala is usually made by marinating the meat first in yoghurt and spices, and then chargrilling it in a hot Indian Tandoor Oven.
It is then cooked in a curry sauce made with onions, tomatoes and coconut flour. It is then finished off with butter and cream and topped with fresh coriander.
Are Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala the Same?
The two dishes are definitely similar, and some people think that Tikka Masala was adapted from Butter Chicken.
The two curries look and taste quite similar but there are some definite differences. Simply put, Butter Chicken is richer and creamier than Tikka Masala, and Tikka Masala has a richer tomato flavour than Butter Chicken along with a coconut taste.
What is the Difference between Chicken Masala and Chicken Tikka Masala?
Chicken Masala is a simple Indian dish made with chicken, onions, tomatoes and spices.
Chicken Tikka Masala is a richer, creamier and sweeter dish made with yoghurt and cream. The tikka pieces are chargrilled in a Tandoor oven on skewers and then placed into the curry sauce.
Red food colouring is often added to give it its characteristic colour.
How do I make my curry taste like takeaway?
Indian restaurants and takeaways use a base gravy (sometimes called curry sauce) as the basis of all their curries.
It is made up mostly of onions, vegetables and spices and it gives you a smooth thick curry that tastes like takeaway.
Related Recipe Base Gravy
For this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe you will need to make the Chicken Tikka first and marinate it overnight.
For the Chicken Tikka
- 1 kg of chicken pieces cut into small bite-sized pieces
- Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice from 2 Lemons
- 1 tablespoon finely ground salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 250ml or 1 cup of plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Handful of finely chopped coriander leaves
Chicken Tikka Method
- Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and add all of the marinade ingredients above.
- Stir to coat the chicken in the yoghurt and spice marinade making the pieces of meat are fully covered. Leave for up to 48 hours in the fridge. The longer the better. If you don’t have the time, leave it to marinade for no less than 30 minutes.
- Place your chicken pieces onto metal skewers. The barbecue will work best to chargrill the chicken much like a Tandoor Oven, but you can cook the chicken on the skewers underneath a hot grill.
- Cook your chicken tikka turning it occasionally to cook evenly. It should blacken and char. Cook until the juices run clear when poked with a knife. Cut a piece of chicken and check the middle if you aren’t sure.
For the Chicken Tikka Masala Sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (Indian clarified butter)
- 300g chicken tikka pieces
- 3-4 ladles of Base Gravy/Curry Sauce
- 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste (equal amounts of fresh ginger and garlic blended in the food processor with a little water
- 1 tablespoon of coconut flour
- 1 tablespoon of ground almonds
- 70ml or 1/4 cup of tomato puree mixed with a little water
- 1 Tablespoon of Mix Powder (Every Indian Restaurant has their own version).
- To Make the Mix Powder add together 4 Tablespoons Ground Coriander, 2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin, 4 Tablespoons Turmeric, 1 Teaspoon of Kashmiri Chilli Powder, 1 Teaspoon Garam Masala, 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper, 3 Tablespoons of Smoked Paprika. This mix will keep for 3 months in an airtight container. You just need a tablespoonful for this recipe – store the rest for other curries.
- 1 tablespoon of tandoori masala
- 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar – more if you like it sweeter
- 100ml or 1/3 cup of single cream
- 1 teaspoon red food colouring powder (adds colour but no taste)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of salt or to taste
- A sprinkle of dried methi leaves
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tablespoon chopped coriander
- Heat the vegetable oil/ghee in a frying pan over medium to high heat
- Add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for around a minute
- Now stir in the mix powder, sugar, ground almonds, coconut flour, tandoori masala, and smoked paprika
- Add the tomato puree and water paste and bring the heat down to a simmer. At this point you can add the first ladle of base curry, and your chicken tikka pieces.
- Bring your pan to the boil to infuse the flavours and then turn down to a simmer. Stir to coat your chicken pieces in the sauce, add the red food colouring and a ladle of base gravy/curry sauce.
- Now pour in your single cream. If your sauce isn’t as thick as you would like add a little more base gravy/curry sauce.
- Finally add in freshly chopped coriander, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of methi leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala. Add a teaspoon of salt and taste the sauce. If you feel it needs a little more salt you can add according to taste. Remember you can always add a little more but if you add too much you can’t take it away.
Serve with Naan Bread and Pilau Rice. For an awesome Homemade Naan Recipe try here:
Now go and amaze your friends and family!
If you liked this article you could try our Chicken Korma Recipe Blogpost here:
If you would like to read another awesome Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe Blogpost you could try here:
For a BBQ version of marinated Chicken Tikka Masala check out my Instagram post on BBQ Grills Hub. Grilling chicken over charcoal brings about a similar result to a Tandoor Oven.