Chicken Tikka Masala is a popular Indian dish that is hard to resist. Tender marinated chicken in a creamy sauce full of traditional spices is just so delicious! This easy tikka masala recipe is something you can make at home, any time you’re craving this recipe!
Easy Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken tikka masala is a favorite for take-out night. Delicious, marinated pieces of chicken cooked in a creamy, spicy sauce is beyond comforting and flavorful!
This easy chicken tikka masala recipe is my go-to at home. It’s simple, it’s tasty, and it’s something I can make week after week. Skip the takeout and make this instead!
The chicken gets so tender marinating in the buttermilk, and it always comes out perfect.
Why You’ll Love this Tikka Masala Recipe:
- Easy: This is the easiest version of chicken tikka masala. It’s so simple to make at home, in just one pan!
- Flavorful: Juicy marinated chicken, garam masala spices, and creamy sauce means this dish is packed with flavor.
- Weekly Dinner: This recipe will quickly become a favorite for dinners. You’ll be making it week after week!
What is tikka masala?
Tikka masala is an Indian dish that consists of pieces or chunks of meat (tikka) in a red-orange, spicy, creamy sauce. Of course, chicken is the meat of choice in this chicken tikka masala recipe (although paneer, lamb, and tofu are other popular options).
Chicken Tikka Masala Main Ingredients
- Chicken: cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Buttermilk: I like using buttermilk instead of the traditional yogurt for a more tender, buttery result. But you can stick to a Greek yogurt if you prefer.
- Spices: This recipe used a beautiful mix of spices, including cumin, turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala (a spice blend), and more.
- Tomato Sauce: This is the base of the red sauce.
- Butter: Use salted butter, or substitute coconut oil.
- Heavy Cream: Cream adds a kick of creaminess to the sauce.
Check the recipe card for the full, detailed ingredients list (there’s only a few extra things, like onion and olive oil).
How to make Chicken Tikka Masala
Be sure to see the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions!
- Mix the chunks of chicken with all of the spices and buttermilk in a bowl. Then marinate/chill in the fridge.
- Cook the marinated chicken in a pan until browned, then set aside.
- Make the tomato sauce mixture and simmer (in the same pan). Then add the chicken back in and continue to cook.
- Stir in the heavy cream and heat.
- Serve with rice, veggies, and enjoy!
Use skinless, boneless chicken breasts, or you can use thigh meat.
This dish has a nice level of spice to it–plenty of heat and flavor, but not overwhelming. If you’re sensitive to spicy dishes, add less red chili pepper (or skip it completely).
This Indian spice blend usually contains things like cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, mace, cloves, and more. Each blend might be slightly different.
This sauce is made with tomato sauce as a base, plus butter and heavy cream to add that creamy texture, and onions.
Chicken tikka masala is best served over a bed of rice (I recommend jasmine or basmati rice, but any type is fine). Add your favorite veggies and cook directly in the sauce, or just mix pre-cooked veggies in when serving.
Last but not least, fresh, warm naan on the side is highly recommend. You can rip up pieces and dip it in the creamy tikka masala sauce. Yum!
Tips and Notes
- Marinate the chicken longer to make it even more tender.
- Make this recipe a little more (or less) spicy as you please.
- Substitute coconut, milk, coconut oil, and yogurt for a lighter, healthier version.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
How long do you marinate chicken for tikka masala?
Don’t be put off by the marinating process. It’s simple, and can easily be started well ahead of dinner time. I recommend marinating it in buttermilk for a full hour. And you can give it an extra hour or two if that works for you.
Remember: the longer you marinate, the more tender and flavorful the chicken will become! So you’ll benefit from prepping this step ahead of time.
How can I make this recipe healthier?
Chicken breast (instead of thigh meat) is a great place to start if you want a lighter, leaner version of this dish. But you can also find healthier substitute for various ingredients in the recipe card. For example, substitute the butter with coconut oil, the buttermilk with yogurt, or the heavy cream with coconut milk.
This easy chicken tikka masala recipe is our favorite comfort food recipe! Consider yourself warned though: this delicious, tender chicken is one of those recipe that you’ll start craving again and again.
If you’ve made this recipe, please be sure to let us know by leaving a star rating or a comment below. Enjoy!
Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
- 24 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, about 4 breasts
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon salted butter or coconut oil
- 15 ounces tomato sauce 1 can
- 1½ cups heavy cream or coconut milk
- Juice from 1 lime
- Fresh coriander to taste
- Cut the chicken breast into bite size pieces24 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts
- In a bowl add the chicken with the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, ginger, red chili powder and buttermilk. Mix it, then cover with cling film and chill in fridge for 1 hour2 cups buttermilk, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 teaspoons grated ginger, 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- In a non-stick pan, add the extra virgin olive oil on high heat. Add each chicken piece and cook for 4 minutes on each side until slightly browned. Keep the remaining marinade sauce for later. The chicken will not be thoroughly cooked at this point2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Remove the chicken from pan and set aside
- In the same pan, add the butter and onions. Cook until soft and golden brown, for about 7 minutes on medium heat1 tablespoon salted butter, 1 large onion
- Add the tomato sauce, juice of lime and bring to simmer.15 ounces tomato sauce, Juice from 1 lime
- Add the marinade sauce and cook for another 5 minutes
- Add the chicken in and let everything cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until chicken is thoroughly cooked
- Add the heavy cream stir everything together and cook for another 5 minutes on low heat1½ cups heavy cream
- Serve over steamed rice, add some fresh coriander to taste and enjoy!Fresh coriander to taste
- Some separating may occur when adding the buttermilk marinade to the sauce, but it won’t affect taste.