Chicken Tikka Masala

Recently pizza may have topped the polls for Britain’s preferred takeaway food but Chicken Tikka Masala is still a firm favourite.

Anyone who has ever eaten it would understand why – tender and moist cubes of marinated chicken in a creamy yet not too spicy sauce. The joke is although Chicken Tikka is actually authentic Indian food (which deserves a whole post later), the Masala sauce is as British as fish and chips. Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken is the closest to Chicken Tikka Masala you will find in authentic Indian cuisine.

Just like you would find none of the items listed on a Chinese menu in actual China, British Indian food bear little resemblance to what you find in its homeland. Why? My theory is that westerners had found the eastern cuisines too exotic and chopped and changed the dishes until they suited the public’s taste. Yes, a lot of cuisines have been completely bastardised in this country.

So where does Chicken Tikka Masala come from? Here is the most popular theory that has been floating around the web for years:

In the 70’s some dude complained in a Glaswegian curry house that his meat (presumably Chicken Tikka) was all dried out and whether he could have some gravy with it. The confused, ticked off, Bangladeshi chef quickly mixed some tomato soup, spices and cream together and – voila – Chicken Tikka Masala came into existence! Today almost 20 tonnes of CTM is demolished in Britain per week.

Since it is unclear where the dish originated there is no hard and fast recipe. Forty eight recipes were reviewed by the Real Curry Restaurant Guide in 1998 and the only common ingredient was chicken!

One of the reasons I started this blog was to document recipes I simply adore. It has been a journey to self-empowerment – who likes to be completely dependent on restaurants anyway to enjoy their favourite food? Chicken Tikka Masala was one of the first dishes which I wanted to master but since the “Indian” cuisine was swirled in mystery to me I didn’t have a clue how to go about it. After some research and experimenting I’ve finally done it – and boy, does it feel and taste good! The beauty of cooking the food yourself is that is works out cheaper, you’ll make it with lots of love and the necessary hygienic standards, and you can tweak it to your taste. But pretty please, guys, do let me know when you are going to prepare this delicacy because I’ll be on your doorstep in a jiffy!

Download and/or print the recipe! Click HERE.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4
Prep Time: 20 mins + marinating – Cooking Time: 45 mins
Chicken Tikka
  • 500g (1 lb) boneless, skineless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 5ml (1 tsp) fresh root ginger, finely chopped
  • 5ml (1 tsp) garlic, finely chopped
  • 5ml (1 tsp) chili powder
  • 1.25ml (¼ tsp) turmeric
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) ground coriander
  • 5ml (1 tsp) salt
  • 150ml (¼ pint) natural yogurt
  • 60ml (4 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 45ml (3 tbsp) coriander leaves
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) lime juice
Masala Sauce
  • 50g (2 oz) ghee or 30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh root ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 cardamoms, bruised
  • 10ml (2 tsp) garam masala
  • 10ml (2 tsp) ground coriander
  • 2.5 – 5ml (½ – 1 tsp) chili powder
  • 300ml (½ pint) double cream
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) tomato purée
  • 60ml (4 tbsp) hot water
  • 2.5ml (½ tsp) sugar
  • 2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
  • coriander leaves
  • lime slices
  1. First, prepare the chicken. Mix together the chicken, ginger, garlic, chili powder, turmeric, ground coriander, salt, yogurt, lemon juice and 15ml (1 tbsp) chopped coriander in a large, non-metallic dish. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To make the masala sauce, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a large flameproof casserole. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and fry over a low heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until soft but not browned.
  3. Add the spices and fry, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, then add the cream, tomato purée, water, sugar and salt. Bring to the boil over a moderate heat, stirring, then lower the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand while cooking the chicken.
  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade and thread on wooden skewers. Cook under a preheated grill, turning frequently, for 6-8 minutes until tender and cooked through.
  5. Remove the cubes of chicken from the skewers and put them in the masala sauce. Place over a low heat and simmer, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining chopped coriander leaves and the lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  6. Serve immediately, garnished and coriander leaves and slices of lime and accompanied by plain boiled rice, chapattis or naan bread.
Serving Suggestion
  • Serve with boiled basmati rice, chapattis or naan bread.
  • To save time I placed the onions, ginger and garlic in a food processor and blitzed them all into a paste, which makes for a smoother sauce.
  • For those who don’t like their food to have too much of a bite, go easy on the chili powder.
  • The acid in the yogurt and lemon and lime juice helps to break down the muscle fibres in meat. The longer you leave the meat in the marinade, the tenderer it will be.

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  1. says

    I love Chicken Tikka Masala, since we were on holiday last year in Scotland and enjoyed it there several times. Also envy the British, because they can buy tikka masala sauce in every supermarket and it isn’t that bad, either.
    I will definitely try this recipe. Thanks for that!

  2. says

    Yummy! Your styling is spot-on. I feel like this would be very hard to photograph, but you’ve done a wonderful job!

    I used to follow a recipe when I made this, but I’ve taken to throwing in just a little bit of all the spices in my cabinet that are commonly used in Indian cuisine. It’s always so, so good, too. My roommate and I make it about once a week 😛

  3. says

    You’re right, Lena. You will find CTM in almost any shop! Please do let me know how you get on with the recipe. :-)

    Don’t worry, Mrs. Mordecai. You can enjoy the curry every day for the rest of your life now!

    Thanks, Kaitlin. Saucy meaty things can be darn tricky to photograph but that’s what herbs/garnishes are for! You sound like a dab hand in the kitchen, I don’t have the confidence to make CTM like that yet!

    MCC: Freshly made CTM is way better than the bottle crap you mentioned. Good luck and let me know how you get on.

    Marisa: I heard they are serving it in Indian restaurants in South Africa now. Have you tried it or simply learnt about it on the Internet?

  4. says

    When you made this did it taste exactly like how they taste in restaurants or even close to it? i have made it a couple times but they never come out exact and i’m so tired of finding the exact or nearest recipe. i don’t want to make it and then it ends up not being the way chicken tikka masala really tastes, which is why i’m asking you. There are a lot of indian restaurants around the world but mostly in New York, Jackson Heights. I usually go to Dera and they have THE best chicken tikka masala i have EVER tasted. there is also one in Connecticut it used to be called Noor India and that’s where i first tasted Chicken Tikka Masala. There CTM is fantastic! It’s basically the same taste and that’s how i want the flavor.

    • says

      Quite frankly, I’ve never had a CTM that tasted the same. Since I’ve only eaten Indian food in the UK so far I have no clue what you are after in the USA. My recipe lacks the redness but that’s because I didn’t use any food colouring. Good luck with your hunt for your perfect CTM! :-)

      • says

        ohh, i have never tasted the CTM in the UK because i never knew what that was when i went there. Though, im sure it must taste good because UK is where its most popular. The CTM you made, does it taste like the ones in UK? Also, i don’t think you need to add the red color to make it that way because when i made CTM for the first time it came out to be orange-ish without adding any color. Thank You! (:

  5. shannon stewart says

    This was such a great recipe. I was first introduced to “Indian” food as an exchange student in England and it quickly became my go to meal. Chicken Tikka Masala was always a favorite. Coming back to the US I had a really difficult time finding anything that resembled what I remembered, and even botched (quite badly) more than a few recipes…..until now. Thank you so much for the post, I will use this again and again.

  6. says

    This looks like a fantastic chicken tikka masala recipe and believe me I have made my fair share. I must have cooked chicken tikka masala in some form hundreds of times. I can tell from your recipe that this version will work very well.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I will be giving this recipe a go soon. Good on you for not including red food colouring.


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