There’s a reason Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular Indian dishes and this recipe is every bit as good as anything you’d find in a restaurant. It’s made with tender bites of marinated chicken in a creamy spiced tomato sauce.

Do you love curry recipes? Try Massaman Curry, Yellow Curry, Panang Curry, Red Curry, or Chickpea Curry.

An easy Chicken Tikka Masala recipe served on a plate over rice and a piece of naan bread next to it.

Truly authentic chicken tikka is cooked in a tandoor clay oven, but since most home cooks don’t have that available, I’ve adapted this recipe for a stove top, instant pot and slow cooker. You could also broil the chicken in the oven, rather than cooking it on the stove.

How to make Chicken Tikka Masala at home:

Make Marinade: In a mixing bowl combine yogurt, oil, garlic, ginger, lime, cayenne pepper, garam masala, smoked paprika, and salt. Add chopped chicken pieces then set aside to marinate for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 1 day, stored in the fridge).

A glass mixing bowl with chicken, greek yogurt, ooil, and all the seasonings for a homemade Chicken Tikka Masala marinade.

Cook Chicken: Heat 1 or 2 Tablespoons oil in a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, cook chicken pieces in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add additional oil, as needed, for multiple batches. Set aside and keep warm while making the sauce.

Chicken cooking in a cast iron pan for the best Chicken Tikka Masala recipe.

Make Sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot add the peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, and cinnamon stick and saute for 20 seconds, careful not to let them burn. Add chopped onions, green chilies or jalapeno, ginger, and garlic then saute for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices then mix well. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Chopped onions, green chilies, ginger, tomatoes, and tomato sauces with tikka masala spices for an Indian Chicken Tikka Masala recipe.

Blend: Discard bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves then use a blender or immersion blender to puree the sauce until smooth. Stir in coconut milk or cream then return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 5 more minutes.

An Indian Chicken Tikka Masala recipe in a smooth and creamy sauce.

Serve this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe over hot cooked basmati rice, with a side of naan, or pita bread.

Chicken Tikka Masala on a bed of rice with naan next to it, ready to enjoy.

Make ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: The chicken and marinade and can be prepared a day ahead of time. The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of time, stored in the fridge. Cook the chicken and warm the sauce the day of serving.

To Freeze: Freeze Chicken Tikka Masala in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and rewarm on the stove.

Recipe Variations:

  • Slow Cooker: Here’s my simplified Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala.
  • Instant Pot: Turn Instant Pot to sauté setting. Cook the chicken in oil first, just until browned on both sides, then remove to a plate. Sauté the spices and tomatoes as directed then turn IP off. Return chicken to the pot then secure lid and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, with a 10 minutes natural release. Discard bay leaves, cinnamon stick and clove then remove chicken to a plate. Use an immersion blender to blend sauce then stir in coconut milk.
  • Kashmiri Chilies: If you can find Kashmiri chilies, they are authentic in Masala sauce. Add 1 or 2 whole dried chiles to sauté with the spices and use 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder in place of cayenne pepper, in the sauce.
  • Lamb Tikka Masala: Replace chicken with cubed pieces of lamb shoulder. Marinate and sear the lamb as you would have the chicken, then simmer it in the prepared masala sauce, covered, for 60-90 minutes or until tender. 

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Recipe

An easy Chicken Tikka Masala recipe served on a plate over rice and a piece of naan bread next to it.
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Total 1 hour
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Equipment

Ingredients
 
 

For the Chicken Marinade:

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs , or breasts, chopped into pieces
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the Tikka Masala Sauce:

  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf (Indian bay leaf if you have one)
  • 2 whole cloves , or ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 yellow onion , chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger , grated
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 Bird's eye chili , , or a small piece of jalapeño, chopped, (optional for spicy)
  • 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes , or 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper , or more, for extra spicy
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 cup coconut milk , or heavy cream

For Serving:

  • ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Hot cooked Basmati rice
  • Naan, chapati, or rotis

Instructions
 

  • Make Marinade: In a mixing bowl combine yogurt, oil, garlic, ginger, lime, cayenne pepper, garam masala, smoked paprika, and salt. Add chopped chicken pieces and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 1 day, stored in the fridge).
  • Cook Chicken: Heat 1 or 2 Tablespoons oil in a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, cook chicken pieces in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add additional oil, as needed, for multiple batches. Set aside and keep warm while making the sauce.
  • Make Sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot add the peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, and cinnamon stick and saute for 20 seconds, careful not to let them burn. Add chopped onions, green chilies or jalapeno, ginger, and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices and mix well. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Blend: Discard bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves. Use a blender or immersion blender to puree the sauce until smooth. Stir in coconut milk or cream.
  • Simmer: Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Serve over hot cooked basmati rice, with a side of naan.

Notes

Make Ahead Instructions: The chicken tikka marinade and chicken can be prepared up to one day ahead of time. The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of time, stored in the fridge. Cook the chicken and warm the sauce the day of serving.
Freezing Instructions: Store prepared Chicken Tikka Masala in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and rewarm on the stove.
Slow Cooker: Here’s my simplified Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala that tastes great with less prep time involved.
Instant Pot: Turn Instant Pot to sauté setting. Cook the chicken in oil first, just until browned on both sides, then remove to a plate. Sauté the spices and tomatoes as directed. Turn IP off. Return chicken to the pot. Secure lid and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, with a 10 minutes natural release. Discard bay leaves, cinnamon stick and clove and remove chicken to a plate. Use an immersion blender to blend sauce. Stir in coconut milk.
Kashmiri Chilies: If you can find Kashmiri chilies, they are also authentic in Masala sauce. Add 1 or 2 whole dried chiles to sauté with the spices and and use 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder in place of cayenne pepper, in the sauce.
Lamb Tikka Masala: Replace chicken with cubed pieces of lamb shoulder. Marinate and sear the lamb as you would have the chicken, then simmer it in the prepared masala sauce, covered, for 60-90 minutes or until tender. 

Nutrition

Calories: 447kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 20gFat: 37gSaturated Fat: 16gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 898mgPotassium: 500mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 593IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 79mgIron: 2mg

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I originally shared this recipe September 2020. Updated March 2021 and September 2023.

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Real tasty. Spices are right on mark. I used ginger powder instead of fresh because that’s what I had, and it still came out great.

  2. 5 stars
    Delicious! I cut the chicken into smaller pieces and only had 1/2 and 1/2 on hand, but it was still very good. This will go into the regular rotation!

  3. 5 stars
    Great recipe! The spices are really perfect. The only thing I did differently was use the tomato sauce to de-glaze my cast iron (used to cook chicken) before adding it in with everything else. Didn’t want to waste any of that stuck-on flavor!

  4. 5 stars
    This is Chicken Tikka Massa recipe is perfect, and everyone in the family loves it. I removed the cayenne pepper from mine as my two young daughters (10 and 7) are not too fond of spices. Thanks Lauren

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe for my whole fam three times now, and it’s a constant request each week! I’ve got 3, 4 1/2 and 6 yr olds, and this recipe is just the perfect amount of complex spices and cream. They love having naan to tear and scoop up the sauce and rice with. Sooooo good, a definite keeper with no edits. I also made once with half cauliflower, half chicken and it was just as delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  6. 5 stars
    Made this recipe last night and we loved it! I made a simple garam masala recipe (an ingredient called for in the recipe) which I will now have on hand when I make this again!
    Great recipe!

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe is fantastic. My husband could not stop raving that it was the BEST tikka he had ever tasted.
    The second time I made it was much easier, thanks for your good instructions. Its well worth the effort.

  8. 5 stars
    I would say this is one of the best tikka recipes I have ever had. Thanks to your instructions, it was easy to make and the whole family loved it. Total win!