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.

A plate of chicken tikka masala served over rice, with a side of naan.

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.

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.

How to make Chicken Tikka Masala:

1. 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).
2. 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.
Two process photos of chicken marinating in a bowl, then cooking in a grill pan.
3. Make Sauce: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot add the peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, and cinnamon stick and sauté for 20 seconds, careful not to let them burn. Add chopped onions, green chilies or jalapeño, ginger, and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices and mix well. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
4. Blend until smooth: 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.
Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Serve Chicken Tikka Masala over hot cooked basmati rice, with a side of naan.
Tikka masala sauce cooking in a saucepan, then blended smooth and chicken added.

To make in the Slow Cooker: here’s my simplified slow cooker chicken tikka that tastes great with less prep time involved.

To make in the 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.

Make ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: The chicken and marinade 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.

To Freeze: 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.

If you love cooking International recipes, try my:

Thai Drunken Noodles

Vietnamese Pho

Mexican Mole Sauce

French Croque Monsieur

Italian Penne Alla Vodka

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Recipe

A plate of chicken tikka masala served over rice, with a side of naan.
Prep 25 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 1 hr
Add to Meal Plan

Ingredients
  

For the Chicken Marinade:

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (preferred) or breasts , chopped into pieces
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh 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 until smooth: 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.
  • Return the chicken to the pot and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Serve over hot cooked basmati rice, with a side of naan.

Video

Notes

Slow Cooker: here’s my simplified slow cooker chicken tikka that still tastes great with less prep time involved.
Instant Pot: Turn IP 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 are authentic in Masala gravy. If you can find them, add 1 or 2 whole dried chiles to sauté with the spices. Also substitute 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder instead 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. 
Make Ahead Instructions: The chicken and marinade 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: Freeze Chicken Tikka Masala for up to 3 months, stored in a freezer safe container. Thaw overnight in the fridge and rewarm on the stove.

Nutrition

Calories: 424kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 19gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 907mgPotassium: 432mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 476IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 63mgIron: 3mg

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About The Author

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
    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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!