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!
What’s in This Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe?
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: Use skinless, boneless chicken breasts, or you can use thigh meat.
- Buttermilk: We like using buttermilk instead of traditional yogurt for a more tender, buttery result. But you can stick to Greek yogurt if you prefer.
- Spices: This recipe uses 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.
- Cream: Heavy cream adds a kick of creaminess to the sauce.
Variations on Easy Chicken Tikka Masala
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 substitutes 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.
How to Store and Reheat
Store leftover chicken tikka masala in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in a pot set over medium-low heat or in the microwave in 30-second increments until warmed through.
We do not recommend freezing this dish, as the sauce separates once thawed.
Notes from the Test Kitchen
Don’t be put off by the marinating process. It’s simple, and can easily be started well ahead of dinner time. We 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.
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 pieces.24 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 point.2 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 heat.1 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 heat.1½ cups heavy cream
- Serve over steamed rice, add some fresh coriander to taste and enjoy!Fresh coriander to taste
- Make this recipe a little more (or less) spicy as you please.
- Marinate the chicken longer to make it even more tender.
- Some separating may occur when adding the buttermilk marinade to the sauce, but it won’t affect taste.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala Step by Step
Cut the Chicken: Cut 24 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into bite-size pieces.
Marinate the Chicken: In a bowl add the chicken with 2 teaspoons of garam masala, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of grated ginger, 1 teaspoon of red chili powder, and 2 cups buttermilk. Mix it, then cover it with cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Sear the Chicken: In a non-stick pan, add 2 tablespoons 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 point. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Cook the Onions: In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of salted butter and 1 large diced onion. Cook until soft and golden brown, for about 7 minutes on medium heat.
Add the Tomato Sauce: Add 15 ounces of tomato sauce, the juice of lime, and bring to a simmer.
Stir in the Leftover Marinade: Add the marinade sauce and cook for another 5 minutes.
Simmer the Chicken: Add the chicken in and let everything cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
Add the Heavy Cream: Add 1½ cups of heavy cream stir everything together and cook for another 5 minutes on low heat. Serve over steamed rice, add some fresh coriander to taste and enjoy!
This sauce is made with tomato sauce as a base, plus butter and heavy cream to add that creamy texture. It’s tangy, creamy, and warming.
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.