The Best Chicken Tikka Masala

from 5 votes

Toss the takeout menus and whip up a crowd-pleasing recipe for The Best Chicken Tikka Masala.

Two plates containing The Best Chicken Tikka Masala with cilantro, white rice and naan

Tender chicken thighs stewed in a creamy tomato sauce has been a go-to comfort food my entire life.

Every culture has some variation of this perfect marriage of poultry and produce, and our family’s variation just so happened to be my Hungarian grandmother’s chicken paprikash.

Clear bowl containing chicken tikka masala marinade ingredients

I grew up loving the taste and flavor of aromatic sauces. My parents did a great job of exposing my siblings and I to a wide range of ethnic cuisines, so both Indian and Thai curry popped up frequently at the dinner table, whether we were eating at home or dining out.

Chicken tikka masala became my favorite restaurant dish as a child. It was hearty, tomatoey and reminiscent of my grandmother’s classic paprikash. It hits similar flavor notes on the tomato front, and with a simple swap of Hungarian nokedli for basmati rice and garlic naan, we are in business.

Heavy cream being added to a blue saucepot containing curry sauce and a wooden spoon

I’ve sampled more than a dozen chicken tikka masala recipes at Indian restaurants in San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and London. It doesn’t get any better than this homemade version that’s loaded with fresh garlic, ginger and a blend of traditional spices.

One note: Do not let the ingredient list intimidate you! All of the spices are readily available at major grocery stores, including the Garam Masala, which you’ll find in the spice aisle.

Bowl with yogurt and two plates containing The Best Chicken Tikka Masala with white rice and naan

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Main Course

The Best Chicken Tikka Masala

Toss the takeout menus and whip up a crowd-pleasing recipe for The Best Chicken Tikka Masala.
Author: Kelly Senyei
4.80 from 5 votes
Two plates containing The Best Chicken Tikka Masala with cilantro, white rice and naan
Prep Time 4 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes
Servings 8 servings


For the chicken marinade:

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Garam Masala (See Kelly's Note)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 2-inch pieces

For the curry sauce:

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or one 14.5-oz. can coconut milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon Garam Masala
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar


Make the chicken marinade:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together all of the chicken marinade ingredients, except for the chicken. 
  • Add the chicken and stir until it is thoroughly coated. 
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate the chicken for a minimum of 4 hours or up to overnight. 

Make the curry sauce:

  • Add the vegetable oil to a heavy-bottomed saucepot set over high heat.  
  • When the oil is barely smoking, add the marinated chicken and sear it on all sides until brown and crispy. (The chicken does not need to be cooked through.) Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set it aside while you make the curry sauce. 
  • In the same stockpot set over medium-high heat, add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the onions, ginger and garlic. Cook them for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.  
  • Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and remaining spices and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Allow the curry sauce to cool slightly then transfer it to a blender. 
  • Purée the curry sauce until smooth then return it to the saucepot set over medium-low heat. 
  • Stir in the heavy cream then bring the curry to a gentle simmer. Add the chicken to the sauce and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked fully. Add the sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the Chicken Tikka Masala over basmati or with naan. 

Kelly's Note:

  • Garam masala is an Indian spice blend. It can be found in the spice aisle of all major grocery stores as well as retailers such as Walmart and Target.
  • ★ Did you make this recipe? Don't forget to give it a star rating below!


Calories: 479kcal, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 38g, Saturated Fat: 23g, Cholesterol: 206mg, Sodium: 732mg, Potassium: 478mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 1820IU, Vitamin C: 5.8mg, Calcium: 88mg, Iron: 2.3mg


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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness! So easy to prepare and delicious. My husband couldn’t stop eating it. The chicken thighs were so tender. I forgot to add the sugar but I couldn’t tell that I needed it.

  2. 5 stars
    The only tikka recipe I will make, I just love it. I’ve been searching for a long time and have made many versions, but this one is the best! Thank you so much!

  3. 5 stars
    Love this recipe!! Would like to try using extra firm tofu for a vegetarian version. Do you think that would work?

      1. Hi,
        Best recipe ever.
        I have been using only this recipe for awhile now and everyone loves it. Today I decided to the doubled recipe and noticed that the coconut milk option for the heavy cream didn’t increase when it doubled everything else. I checked the ‘triple’ the recipe ingredients and saw the same 1 can coconut milk , while the heavy cream increased proportionately. Was this an error or intended that the can of coconut milk remain the same throughout all options?
        Thanks, Darlene in NorCal

      2. Hi Darlene! You’ll want to double or triple the amount of coconut milk that’s listed in the original (1X) recipe. We’re working on resolving that scaling glitch. Thanks!

  4. 4 stars
    Your Chicken tiki masala is a winner; great flavor, but not too “exotic” for less adventuresome palettes. I halved the recipe and still had left over sauce; point being, you could still use 2 lbs chicken, but half all other ingredients. I do not agree about cooking the chicken to “brown and crispy”. This is more of a quick stir fry to simply brown the chicken. I also think breast meat sliced cross ways in 1/4” thick pieces would work, too, and not dry out. To the joy of the table.

  5. Hi Kelly, I’ve been looking to make a breat Chicken Tikka Masala recipe and like to give this a try. I feel as I’m writing this there is always somebody asking this question…but I must. I don’t eat chicken thighs, only chicken breasts, could I substitute?

    I would appreciate your feedback. Thanks.