A skillet of creamy chicken tikka masala simmering on the stove will fill your home with warm smells of coconut curry. With lots of exciting spice and healthy vegetables, you’ll find yourself craving this restaurant style dish often. 

Chicken tikka masala in a small copper pot with rice and cilantro.

Chicken tikka masala is truly an international dish. With origins in the East but so popular in Great Britain, tikka masala has made its way across the ocean as well.

Tender bits of marinated chicken, accompanied by carrots, peas, peppers, and onions, bathed in a curry spiced creamy tomato sauce makes a meal you won’t soon forget. I like to serve tikka masala on fluffy white rice or with garlicky naan bread so every bit of the warm sauce can be enjoyed.

And guess what? I’ve made the recipe a bit easier and a bit more healthy. I’m sure you’re not surprised by that because that’s what we do here at Rachel Cooks. In fact, you could call this a one pan meal if you decide to serve it with naan. This tikka masala may not be entirely traditional but it is more accessible and that’s a good thing for most of us today, right?

Warm up to chicken tikka masala! Its bright spices and creamy curry will satisfy more than just a hungry tummy. 

Easy tikka masala made with chicken and served with rice in copper bowls.

About this chicken tikka masala:

Traditionally, the chicken in this dish is marinated in curry spiced yogurt and baked slowly on skewers. This is where I depart from the traditional in favor for the quick and easy. For this recipe, you’ll still marinate the chicken (without the yogurt) and brown the chicken right in the skillet where everything else will be cooked.

To get started, prepare a blend of garlic, fresh ginger, and lots of ground spices: turmeric, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and cardamon. Could you use curry powder? Sure, but it’s like aroma therapy to open all those little jars, and you can control the amounts of each. 

Only half of this mix will go into the marinade so make sure to reserve half. The marinade is comprised of the spices, lemon juice, and olive oil. Add boneless skinless chicken breasts (thighs would work, too), cut into one inch pieces. The chicken can marinate for an hour or two.

You’ll need a nice big skillet to cook your tikka masala. Slice up some onions, green peppers, and carrots. Heat your skillet, add oil, and brown the chicken. It doesn’t need to be completely cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan, and sauté the veggies. 

Add the remaining spice mixture, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste. Stir that around for a couple of minutes, then add a big can of tomatoes, and a can of coconut milk. You’ll let the tomato “gravy” simmer a bit, then add fresh cilantro and the chicken back to the pan, and finish simmering your tikka masala. Stir in green peas right before serving, along with another handful of fresh cilantro.

It smells so good when it’s simmering, you won’t even believe it!

Looking for a wine to serve with tikka masala? According to Wine Folly, “the key to pairing wine with this dish is to respect the spice level by matching it with fruity wines that can be served cool or cold…” They suggest rosé, sparkling rosé, Pinot Noir, Garnacha, or Gamay. 

Overhead view of chicken tikka masala in a copper crock with rice and cilantro.

Is tikka masala British or Indian?

There appears to be no definitive answer to that question. It’s a very popular dish in Britain and you’ll usually find tikka masala on the menus of Indian restaurants. There’s also a good chance the dish originated in Glasgow, Scotland, when a tired restaurant owner placated a patron who complained his chicken was dry by covering it with curry-spiced tomato soup. 

Just like the musings about its origins, there are as many recipes for tikka masala as there are cooks. The basics are roasted marinated chicken and a tomato-based creamy curry sauce. Tikka masala vs. butter chicken? Pretty much the same thing. 

Chicken in a creamy coconut tomato sauce with vegetables, served with rice.

How spicy is chicken tikka masala?

The dish is moderately spicy but you can easily adjust the heat level by increasing or decreasing the amount of red pepper flakes you add. 

Close up of chicken served with rice, carrots, and a creamy tomato sauce. It is served in a small bowl with rice and cilantro.

Storage and Reheating Tips

Chicken tikka masala is great leftover. Simply store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. Reheat gently on the stove or in the microwave. 

Overhead view of chicken tikka masala served in a bowl with rice.

Say no to boring chicken!

Boneless skinless chicken breasts don’t have to be bland, tasteless, or dry. These recipes may convince you (and most of them are made in one pan)! Try:

 

 

Close up of chicken served with rice, carrots, and a creamy tomato sauce. It is served in a small bowl with rice and cilantro.

Easy Chicken Tikka Masala

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

A skillet of creamy chicken tikka masala simmering on the stove will fill your home with warm smells of coconut curry. With lots of exciting spice and healthy vegetables, you'll find yourself craving this dish often. 

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (from one lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots , thinly sliced (about ¾ cup)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can (13.66 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro, divided, plus extra for garnish
  • Steamed rice or naan, for serving

Instructions

  1. Combine garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and cardamom in a small bowl.
  2. For marinade, whisk lemon juice, salt, and half of spice mixture in a small bowl. In gallon size ziptop bag, add chicken and marinade, making sure all of the chicken is coated in marinade. Chill for 1-4 hours. Refrigerate remaining spice mixture.
  3. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and brown, about 8 minutes; remove to plate. Chicken will not be fully cooked.
  4. Add onion, green pepper, and carrots to same pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes.
  5. Add tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and remaining spice mixture and cook, stirring often, about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them. Scrape up browned bits from bottom of pot;  add coconut milk and half the chopped cilantro. Simmer 10-15 minutes or until sauce is beginning to thicken.
  7. Add chicken, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 20 minutes.
  8. Stir in peas and remaining cilantro. 
  9. Serve with rice, naan, and additional cilantro, if desired.

Notes

  • Substitute boneless skinless chicken thighs for the chicken breasts.
  • Use your favorite curry powder in place of the ground spices.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 of 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 535Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 604mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 6gSugar: 9gProtein: 55g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

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