Chicken tikka masala recipe - Pamela Salzman Skip to content

Chicken tikka masala recipe

chicken tikka masala | pamela salzman

Did you know that Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular dish in Indian restaurants in the US and it’s not even Indian?  Nope, you won’t find families in India sharing Tikka Masala recipes because as the story goes, this dish was created in a London curry house.  Interesting, no?  Did you know I had the most difficult time trying to make this dish look appetizing in these photographs?  Just needed to get that off my chest.

marinate the chicken in yogurt

Regardless of what it looks like, I love this recipe and so does my family.  It is so full of flavor and very easy to make.  Chunks of chicken are smothered in a rich sauce of tomatoes, spices and some coconut milk to balance it all out.  Normally heavy cream is used in tikka masala, but coconut milk is the perfect substitute and I actually like it here better than cream.  Yum.  For you do-aheaders, you can make the masala sauce the night before and then cook the chicken right before dinner, heat up the sauce and you’re done!  Prepping in advance like that is my ace in the hole, allowing me to pull together a delicious and healthful dinner on a busy weeknight with no stress.  It’s like having a jar of tikka masala sauce from Trader Joe’s in the pantry.  But before you think about doing that, as much as I like Trader Joe’s, this sauce blows theirs away.   Fact.

garam masala and jarred tomatoes

We eat this with my Indian Basmati Rice and Peas recipe and a green vegetable, either green beans, spinach or even a green salad.  You can go even simpler by making some plain steamed rice and that is perfect here too.  The only ingredient you’ll need for this recipe that you might not have is garam masala, which is a sweet and spicy (not hot-spicy) spice blend that contains coriander, green and black cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, and cumin.  All awesome anti-inflammatory and warming spices which are great for your health and perfect for this time of year as the weather starts to cool off a bit.  Of course you can make your own by toasting the whole spices and grinding them up and I am sure that would make a world of difference in your cooking, BUT…I kind of don’t have time for that so I think store-bought garam masala is perfectly fantastic.  All the markets in my area carry garam masala, but you can order it here if you can’t find it.

garlic and ginger


stir coconut milk into the tomato-spice mixture

I am also very excited that my Whole Foods started carrying organic tomatoes in a glass jar by Jovial Foods.   Very excited!  Remember, canned tomatoes contain tons of BPA which is toxic, especially in large doses for kids.  You already consume BPA in places you can’t control (water, eating in restaurants), so try and avoid it when you can.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find a company that doesn’t use BPA in their canned tomatoes.  Pomi is what I normally use since the tomatoes are boxed in BPA-free tetra-paks, but the tomatoes are not organic.  Not ideal, but Pomi says they don’t use pesticides.  Anyhow, now my tomato dreams have come true with Jovial Foods and you can also find them on amazon.  Is there anything you can’t find on amazon?  Just a random thought.

broil the chicken, turning after 6 minutes

While we’re talking about making our lives easier, the classic way to make the chicken in tikka masala is to marinate it in yogurt, which tenderizes it, and then broil or grill it.  I know some of you are not going to want to use yogurt on chicken and I know others will not want to grill.  No problem.  If you want this to be authentic, you’ll follow the recipe.  If you’ve never had this before and won’t know the difference, by all means grill or roast plain chicken seasoned with salt and pepper or roast a whole chicken and cube up the meat.  The tikka masala police are not going to get you in trouble.  Can you tell I am giving you every excuse to make this??  Let me know if you do!

chicken tikka masala | pamela salzmam

chicken tikka masala | pamela salzman


5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves: 6
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ cup plain whole yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (you can do this in a food processor)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons garam masala
  • 2 pounds fresh, peeled and seeded tomatoes, diced (or the equivalent of boxed or jarred tomatoes, about 28 ounces)
  • 1 Tablespoon maple sugar, coconut sugar or natural cane sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk, preferably full-fat (you can use the whole can if you want the sauce to be creamier)
  1. Place chicken in a dish.  Mix 1 teaspoon salt, coriander and cumin together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with spice mixture and pour the yogurt over the spiced chicken breasts.  Turn to coat well.  You can do this several hours in advance and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  2. Preheat broiler to high and set the oven rack on the second level.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Place a metal cooling rack on top of the foil-lined baking sheet and arrange the chicken on top of the rack. Broil for 5-7 minutes on each side until charred but not burned. Chicken should be cooked through.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the ghee. Add onions and cook until tender and slightly browned. Stir in garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons salt and garam masala.
  5. Add diced tomatoes and continue cooking and while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add sugar, lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened.  Pour in coconut milk.
  7. Cut chicken into chunks (remember, it should be cooked through) and stir into sauce until heated through.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve with basmati rice.




Related Recipes



  1. Can I replace chicken with chickpeas, lentils or tofu to make this vegetarian?

    • I’ve actually made this with cauliflower and it’s delicious! I cut the cauliflower into wedges (omit the yogurt and add the coriander and cumin to the sauce instead) and sear until golden brown on all side. I then remove the cauliflower from the skillet to make the sauce and add the wedges back in the sauce at the end to simmer through. You can also make it with tofu. I would crisp up the tofu first (either sear or bake) and then toss with the sauce. I have a great recipe on my site for Baked Crispy Tofu.

  2. what saute pan is that ? 5 qt? I’ve been hunting for a large enough pan just like it

    • It’s part of the all clad set I’ve had for over 20 years. I’m guessing it’s between 5-6 quarts. The pan measures 11 1/4 inches in diameter (not including the handle) and 4 1/2 inches high.

  3. If there is an opportunity to thank the author of a good article, I will always take this opportunity. I don’t often have a reason for this, but now I’m ready to say thank you to the author!

  4. Do you drain the tomatoes?
    Your photo has 6 breasts so do you just double the recipe?

    • I don’t drain the tomatoes. The chicken images in the post show a double batch from when I made it in class.

  5. Hi Pamela,

    I recently found the Jovial diced tomatoes at my store and looking forward to trying them for this recipe! I made this delicious recipe once before and used chopped tomatoes but they were too chunky.

    Your recipe calls for 28 oz of tomatoes but the Jovial jar is 18.3 oz. Do you use two whole jars of the Jovial tomatoes (as pictured) or do you measure out 28 oz?

    Many thanks!

    • Use 1 1/2 18 ounce jars. If you have chopped tomatoes or whole tomatoes that are too chunky, you can always give them a pulse in the blender or food processor. Enjoy!

      • So helpful! I didn’t even think of that. Thank you!

  6. Hi Pamela, I am curious how you would prep this recipe if you only had 15-20 min available prior to serving it? Would you prep the entire dish and reheat or prep parts of it? Thanks!

    • I would prep the whole dish and then reheat!

  7. Hi Pamela,

    Quick question, and I hope it isn’t silly! I have a 28 oz container of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes. Not sure what the difference is between diced and chopped tomatoes … but it’s raining too hard in SF to run out for diced tomatoes so can I substitute the chopped tomatoes I have for this recipe?

    Many thanks 🙂

    • Not a silly question and absolutely use them in this recipe! Chopped is probably a slightly bigger cut than diced. No big deal!

      • Yay! Thanks so much, Pamela! Really looking forward to dinner now 🙂

  8. This was not a hit with the other three people in my house (what do they know anyways!) but I loved it. I ate it for lunch the next two days. 🙂

    • Haha! You win some, you lose some.

  9. I tried this last night and it was really great. But it tasted a little too acidic. Maybe I cooked the tomatoes for too long. How long did you cook the tomatoes?

    • Hmmm, I cook the tomatoes just enough to deglaze the pan (not long) and everything gets simmer until warmed through. Tomatoes are all different though. Perhaps the ones you used were more acidic. That’s very possible. Next time taste the sauce before you finish cooking it and if it tastes too acidic to you, add in more sugar. Hope that helps!

  10. Hi Pamela!
    I made this for dinner last night and it was delicious! My fiance has it in his head that he doesn’t like Indian food, which is unfortunate because I’m a big fan. I decided to try this recipe as training wheels to get him on board. Andddd….he loved it! He went back for seconds and kept saying how yummy it was. woohoo!!
    Thanks for sharing your healthy and delicious recipes with us! They’re all so great 🙂

    • Great to hear from you, Amy! What a success for you! Yay! 🙂

  11. Hi Pamela,
    Is there a substitute you can recommend for the plain yogurt? We don’t eat dairy and I was wondering if this recipe will taste the same without that ingredient. Thanks, I really love reading you blog and so many of your recipes have become my staples.

    • Thanks, Kristin! The yogurt helps to tenderize the chicken, so you can omit that or use a soy yogurt. The sauce is really the best part!

  12. Looks great. Muir Glen uses BPA free cans – their stuff is fairly readily available here on the east coast, at least.

    • Yes, thanks for the reminder Natasha! Muir Glen just went BPA-free a few years ago and I nearly forgot about them. Thanks!

  13. Pamela,
    I made this last night for 10! It was game night and my turn to host, so this was perfect. Everyone was wowed and loved it. It was simple and easy and can be done ahead which is always a plus. Put it with the delicata squash salad for a two dish dinner which was enough. So perfect for a cold night too!!! Thanks!

    • Perfect!!

      • Would sucanat or turbinado work better here? I’m getting confused with all the random sugars I’ve accumulated from Whole Foods!

        • I think you’d be fine with either. I just never had the opportunity to test this recipe with those. Cheers!

          • I love Tikka Masala and had no idea I could make something remotely similar at home. It was INCREDIBLE!!! Thank you so much for posting. : )

            • How exciting! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

  14. The only Garam Masala I’ve been able to find is a salt free version at Whole Foods. Will this taste the same?

    • perfect! you can always add more salt to the dish 🙂

  15. Fantastic, Pamela! Organic tomatoes in a glass jar. Thanks for the lead. I was choosing either organic or glass jar but could not find both. 🙁 Hope my Whole Foods carries them, too. The recipe looks so easy and good, and now it is bookmarked. Thank you!

    • AndI just found out Eden is bottling organic tomatoes in glass jars, but those are not as easy to find. Great that manufacturers are stepping up!!

  16. Hi – looks delicious! Can you suggest some substitutes for chicken to make this dish vegetarian?

    • Sure! I would pan-sear some tempeh strips or extra-firm tofu if you eat soy. Skip the yogurt marinade. Otherwise the sauce would be delicious on big roasted pieces of cauliflower and then you could sprinkle it with sliced almonds. I think that would be delicious!

      • Thank you – the cauliflower option sounds perfect for me. I really enjoy your blog – I’ve been “cleaning up” my diet over the past several months and your recipes have been terrific!

        • Sounds great, Mary! Thank you!

  17. Can you suggest any substitutes for coconut milk? I really don’t like the taste. Love all your recipes and I’d really like to try this one too!!

    • I honestly don’t think you taste any semblance of coconut in this dish, but I don’t want you to risk it if you really dislike it. The traditional way is with heavy cream. I supposed you could also do a cashew cream, which means you take 1 cup soaked raw cashews (soak them for 3-5 hours and drain them) and blend them with about 1/2 -3/4 cup water until it’s super thick.

  18. My two year old daughter could not get enough of this!!

    • No way! That is incredible! Love it.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  

Signup to receive updates about new recipes and more

I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

Buy on Amazon
Buy on Amazon