Chicken Tikka Masala

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Creamy and rich Chicken Tikka Masala feature marinated chicken and a flavorful spice-packed sauce.

Bowl of Chicken Tikka Masala and rice with a fork digging in!

Why We Love Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. Rich Flavor: A unique spice blend, tomato, and cream create a spicy, earthy taste.
  2. Flexible Ingredients: You can use chicken breasts or thighs with a single spice blend for marinade and sauce.
  3. Easy Preparation: Accessible ingredients and adaptable for grilling or oven cooking.
  4. Meal Prep Friendly: Improves in flavor over time, perfect for meal prepping.
  5. Comforting and Delicious: Combines comfort with fun, creamy flavors.


Don’t confuse this Tikka Masala with Marsala! Tikka Masala, with spiced chunks, differs from Marsala, an Italian wine-based dish; both feature chicken but are otherwise distinct.

Spice blend that goes in the sauce and marinade.

Ingredients In Chicken Tikka Masala

  • Garlic, Ginger, and Spices: Provide depth, warmth, and aroma.
  • Yogurt and Lemon Juice: Tenderize and flavor the chicken.
  • Chicken: Main protein, absorbing marinade flavors.
  • Vegetable Oil: For cooking and spice infusion.
  • Onion and Tomato Paste: Add sweetness and depth.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Add heat.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Create a tangy sauce base.
  • Heavy Cream: Brings creaminess.
  • Cilantro: Adds freshness.
  • Basmati Rice, Naan: Accompaniments for the sauce.

Blooming the spices and making tomato sauce.

Tips For Success

  • Make Ahead: Improves with time, ideal for meal prep or preparing in advance for guests.
  • Quality Tomatoes: Choose high-quality tomatoes for better flavor.
  • Fresh Ingredients: Use fresh ginger and garlic for optimal taste.

Naan bread scooping up Chicken Tikka Masala over basmati rice.

More Delicious Chicken Dinners

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

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Chicken Tikka Masala

5 from 11 votes
Creamy and rich Chicken Tikka Masala features marinated and grilled chicken and a flavorful spice-packed sauce.
Bowl of Chicken Tikka Masala and rice with a fork digging in!
Print Recipe

Chicken Tikka Masala

Bowl of Chicken Tikka Masala and rice with a fork digging in!
5 from 11 votes
Creamy and rich Chicken Tikka Masala features marinated and grilled chicken and a flavorful spice-packed sauce.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Chicken Tikka Masala
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Marinating Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 843kcal


  • 6 garlic cloves finely minced (~2 tablespoons)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons peeled ginger finely grated (~1 and 1/2 inch piece)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt (if not using Kosher salt or sensitive to salt, reduce to personal preference)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt not Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (28 ounces) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
  • Basmati rice, naan, and additional cilantro, for serving


  • SPICE BLEND and MARINADE: In a small bowl: combine minced garlic, minced ginger, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, coriander, and salt; stir to combine. In another bowl, whisk to combine the yogurt, half of the spice mixture and lemon juice. Halve chicken breasts and pound pieces to even thickness with a meat mallet (or the bottom of a frying pan). Add chicken to the yogurt mixture and stir to coat. Cover tightly (or transfer to a sealable bag) and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and preferably 24 hours. Cover and chill the remaining spice mixture.
  • SAUCE: Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the tomato paste, ground cardamom, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved half of spice mixture and cook, stirring often, until the bottom of pot begins to brown and everything is very fragrant, about 4 minutes (reduce heat if needed; nothing should be smoking/burning).
  • SAUCE CONT: Add crushed tomatoes, increase the heat, bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until sauce thickens-- about 8 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and cilantro. Simmer, over lowest heat, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens, about 30 to 40 minutes. Optional: transfer the sauce to a blender and process until smooth. Alternatively, use a stick blender to puree until smooth. Taste the sauce for any additional seasoning/salt. Depending on the tomatoes you used, you may need 1-2 teaspoons sugar to balance acidity.
  • COOK CHICKEN: (See Note 1) Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat (about 400 degrees F.) Generously oil the grill (I drench a rolled-up paper towel in vegetable oil and, holding it with tongs, rub it over the grill grates. Don't skip this step.) Remove chicken from the marinade and discard any remaining marinade. Grill the chicken, turning once halfway through grilling, about 4-6 minutes per side (until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees F and juices run clear). Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes so the juices can re-distribute. Chop into bite-sized pieces. Stir into the sauce until coated, remove and serve over freshly cooked rice (See Note 2) with warmed naan. Add additional chopped cilantro to garnish as desired.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: if you don't have a grill/grill pan follow this alternate cooking method: heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan over high heat until smoking. Add half the chicken  (cut into 2-inch pieces before marinating) and spread out in one even layer. Leave for 2 minutes or until charred. Flip each piece and cook the other side until charred (chicken won't be cooked through; just charred) Remove chicken and set aside. Scrape out charred bits from the pan and quickly wipe the pan clean. Add more oil and repeat with the remaining chicken until it's all charred. Add to the sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is fully cooked through, 2-3 minutes.
Note 2: Instructions for cooking basmati rice are included above in the post.
Nutritional information does not include naan or rice.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 843kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 54g | Fat: 63g | Saturated Fat: 38g | Cholesterol: 314mg | Sodium: 2209mg | Potassium: 1332mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2125IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 186mg | Iron: 3mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.


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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Made this for dinner last night and my family loved it! It made a great dinner that differed from our typical weeknight meals!

  2. 5 stars
    so i had never heard of this dish before. but the pictures caught my attention and i just had to try it. so glad i did!! delicious!

  3. Hi Chelsea,

    I make a lot of your yummy recipes. And I’d like to try your Tikka Masala for V day. I’m not a big fan of spicy food and was wondering, how spicey is the fire-roasted crushed tomatoes are? Or culd I substitute it for crushed tomatoes/tomato puree?

    Thanks again for your terrific recipes!

    1. Thank you so much Eva! I typically buy Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes and haven’t ever found them to be spicy; you can certainly substitute in regular crushed tomatoes though 🙂 And make sure to leave out the crushed red pepper flakes! Enjoy!

    2. 5 stars
      I did indeed make the Tikka Masala for Kiss Day and my husband and I LOVED it! Realized I didn’t have cardamom so found out I can sub it out for Cinnamon…who knew ;-). The only problem is I’ll have to make it again soon as he keeps telling me how good it was ;-). Gotta also say your Crispy Chicken Salad with that yummy honey BBQ dressing is one of my favorite salads!!

  4. 5 stars
    This was delicious! My whole family loved it…even my picky eater. Indian food has always been a little daunting, but your recipe was so well laid out that it was simple to make and so worth the effort????

      1. I wonder if one could bulk make the base of spices to have on hand and make the dish easier to pull together?

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