Chicken Tikka Masala

It feels pretty lame posting a recipe for a very common food dish, but this is my go-to meal for potlucks or visiting guests and is usually well-received, even by children. It has served me well as a meal trick and I highly recommend adopting it as your own. I’ve improved it in small ways from the base recipe I found a while back at Epicurious. I’ve also added German spice names since I made this a number of times in Germany.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Originally by Julie Sahni via Epicurious (May 2013). Presented here quadrupled.

Prep time 1 hour. Serves 16 (freezes well). 

Marinade for the chicken

The original (quartered) recipe called for exactly this much chicken, which was about four times too much. With the quadrupled sauce below, it’s just right.

  • A pound or so of boneless, skinless chicken breast (1 or 2 breast halves total)
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

Flatten the chicken with a mallet or rolling pin. Then prick it with a fork on both sides. Dump the chicken and all the ingredients into a quart or gallon bag, mash together to mix, and put in the refrigerator. Do this well ahead of time if you can (e.g, the night before). It really makes a difference!

Tomato sauce

In a large (e.g., 6 quart) pot, melt at medium-low heat:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks; 224 g) unsalted butter

The add

  • 3 large white onions, finely chopped

Brown the onions in the butter at medium-low heat. It will take 20–30 minutes. While this is happening, mix the following in a small bowl:

  • 4 T (20 g) ground coriander (Koriander)
  • 2 T (24 g) ground cumin (Kreuzkümmel)
  • 2 tsp (8 g) ground cardamom (Kardamom)
  • 2 tsp (8 g) ground nutmeg (Muskatnuss)
  • 2 T (24 g) paprika (Paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon (2 g) cayenne (1/2 teaspoon / 1 g for northerners) (Cayenne Pfeffer)
  • 4 T grated peeled fresh ginger

Add this mixture to the onions when they’re ready. Mix in. I think it helps to mix this and let it cook for a bit, but it will start to gum up. When that starts to happen, add:

  • 1 28 oz. can and 1 14.5 oz. can (1,197 g) of canned tomato purée or diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups (456 g) heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 3 cups (170 g) water
  • 5 tsp (30 g) kosher salt

and bring to a boil. Stir frequently to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to gently simmer the sauce, uncovered, until thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. DO AHEAD: The sauce can be prepared ahead and refrigerated.


Cook the chicken on a griddle or skillet. You can use peanut oil if you like but you shouldn’t need anything. Don’t overcook it.

Cut the chicken into small (~10mm) cubes and add to the simmering sauce. Simmer 10–15 minutes and remove from heat. (You can also just add the chicken to sauce that’s already been moved to the fridge. It’s good to let the meat soak in the sauce as long as possible.)


If frozen, thaw and heat on low heat. When ready to serve, remove from heat, and stir in

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

(Note: this is from the original recipe, but I have never actually done this).

Serve with naan (Indian flatbread) and/or cooked Basmati rice. Optionally garnish with 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional sprigs. (Note: I have never done this either).