Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Marinate chicken thighs in yogurt overnight for tender chicken that luxuriates in a spicy, creamy tomato gravy.
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Serves 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 3 hours


for the chicken tikka: 
2 pounds|916 grams boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon red chili powder
6 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed into a paste
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and mashed into a paste
2 lemons, juiced 
1 cup|225 grams plain yogurt
¼ cup|60 ml canola oil 
1 tablespoon garam masala 
2 teaspoons ground turmeric 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


for the makhni gravy: 
1 pound|450 grams tomatoes, halved  
1 garlic clove, peeled and mashed into a paste
1 (½-inch) piece ginger, peeled and mashed into a paste
1 teaspoon red chilli powder 
1 small green chilli
1 cardamom pod
1 whole clove
15 grams cilantro with stems
kosher salt, to taste
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup|60ml heavy cream
2 tablespoons kasoori methi
honey, to taste

for the onion tomato masala:
¼ cup|60 ml canola oil 
½ pound red onion, diced 
2 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed into a paste 
1 (¾-inch) piece ginger, peeled and mashed into a paste
½ teaspoon red chili powder 
½ pound|225 grams tomatoes, diced 
½ teaspoon garam masala 
kosher salt, to taste

for the chicken tikka masala: 
3 tablespoons|150 grams ghee
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
8 whole dried red chiles 
7 small garlic cloves, chopped
2 pounds|1 kg chicken tikka  
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
1 ¼ cups onion tomato masala
1 ¼ cups makhni gravy
5 green chillies, thinly sliced
¼ cup|60 ml heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons kasoori methi
1 tablespoon garam masala
kosher salt, to taste
chopped cilantro, for garnish
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and julienned, for garnish
steamed basmati rice, to serve



  1. Marinate the chicken: Place the chicken in a large bowl and toss with the salt, 1 teaspoon of the chili powder, half of the garlic paste, the  lemon juice, and half of the ginger paste. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining chili powder and garlic and ginger pastes with the yogurt, canola oil, garam masala, and turmeric. Toss in the chicken to coat, then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a rack fitted in a sheet tray with the butter and place the chicken on the tray. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 13 minutes. Let the chicken cool slightly, then cut into 2-inch pieces and reserve.
  4. Make the gravy: Place the tomatoes, garlic and ginger pastes, and half of the chili powder into a small saucepan and cover with 1 ½ cups water. Place the green chiles, cardamom, cloves, and cilantro stems in a piece of cheesecloth, tie it at the top, and add it to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced slightly, about 45 minutes.
  5. Let the sauce cool slightly, then discard the cheesecloth. Transfer the sauce to the bowl of a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return it to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until thick, about 12 minutes. Add the remaining red chili powder, the butter, cream, and kasoori methi. If the sauce tastes sour, add honey to taste.
  6. Make the onion tomato masala: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger pastes and the chili powder and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook 8 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and dark and the oil has emerged on the surface of the masala, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and season with salt.
  7. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add the cumin seeds and dried whole chiles and cook until they start to crackle, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 1 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for 1 minute, then add the chili powder. Add the onion tomato masala, the gravy, and the green chiles and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, butter, garam masala, and kasoori methi and season with salt. Serve with steamed basmati rice and garnish with the chopped cilantro and ginger.

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