Today’s chicken tikka masala recipe was our very first attempt at making Indian cuisine.
Many people had told us, “Go for it, you won’t be able to go wrong with Indian cuisine!”. We weren’t actually buying that though, until we made our first leap out of the box, and onto the field.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take us long to figure out that what people had been saying to us was actually true.
Without any artificial preservatives, this chicken tikka masala promises you a surprisingly rich-tasting Indian dish. Infused with flavors from the spice blend and sauce, the chicken is tender, juicy, and bursting with aromas.
What Is Tikka Masala?
Chicken tikka masala is a dish made by cooking chunked marinated chicken in an orange spiced curry.
Chicken tikka masala has been acknowledged as “The true natural dish of Britain” for decades. Although the origin of this dish is still in dispute, we found some interesting history around it.
Back in the 17th century, due to population growth, India witnessed an increase in agricultural production. One aspect of which was the rise of breeding farms.
More chickens meant more chicken dishes came to the family table, including chicken tikka.
It wasn’t until much later, during British rule, that British cuisine adopted the dish. But it was only after the 1950s that chicken tikka traveled almost 5000 miles to go viral in the UK.
Flip forward to the 1960s when a British chef decided to add yogurt, tomatoes, and more spices to the dish. All to prevent the chicken from drying out.
Unintentionally, the dish became even more delicious. That was when it was finally westernized with today’s name, “chicken tikka masala”, with inspired spinoffs like this Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe.
Is Our Recipe Healthy?
Chicken tikka masala rarely comes to mind first when people think of “healthy” foods. It’s so creamy, well spiced and often a bit greasy when ordered at restaurants.
However, there is always room for people to alter a chicken tikka masala recipe to their needs and interests. It’s actually the added food-flavoring materials, rather than essential ingredients, that tell us whether this dish is wholesome or not.
Our chicken tikka masala calls for boneless and skinless chicken breast. It is known to be a great source of lean protein and beneficial for weight loss.
This chicken tikka masala recipe also uses all fresh ground spices and whole foods. We believe without any diet restrictions, it’s totally okay for you to enjoy this dish without any feeling of guilt.
For such a creamy and buttery dish, it’s not surprising that chicken tikka masala is high in fat. However, when working with this recipe, we managed to keep it within a healthy limit.
One single serving of chicken tikka masala provides 497 calories. Most of which come from the chicken breast, Greek yogurt, heavy cream, coconut milk, butter, and tomato sauce.
Carbohydrate content is 54 grams in one single serving of this chicken tikka masala recipe. This amount comes mostly from the cooked rice that we serve together with the chicken.
Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala
Chicken tikka masala and butter chicken are both made with a tomato sauce base. That’s why they’re often mistaken for each other.
Both dishes are Indian-inspired. However, if you’re a frequent guest at authentic restaurants, it isn’t so difficult to differentiate between these two.
Butter chicken is a curry with a sauce that is generally creamier than tikka masala. As suggested in the name, the word “butter” refers to the fatty and creamy mouthfeel that each bite leaves.
Chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, is more tangy and intense in taste. It comes with more notes of flavor by adding heaps of spices and dried herbs into the mix.
While most chicken tikka masala recipes use bonelesschicken (and sometimes skinless), butter chicken recipes prefer bone-in chicken pieces. Though, as time goes on, the matter of having bones in or notdoesn’t matter much anymore.
No surprise, we also have a dish with a very similar name: honey butter chicken. However, it follows a whole different style of cooking— check it out!
Is Tikka Masala Spicy?
In this chicken tikka masala recipe, we only made it mildly spicy so it’s adaptable and agreeable for more people.
In fact, the level of spiciness for this dish is super easily adjusted. You can replace red chili powder with cayenne powder for added heat.
However, if you or someone you’re cooking for really doesn’t like spicy food, simply omit all the spicy agents. That being said— chili powder, garam masala, and paprika.
Note that leaving out all the spices will significantly alter the flavor. Therefore, you may want to have the final taste carefully tested before serving.
Tikka masala sauce is a cream-based sauce made with onion, butter, tomato paste, garlic, and ginger. Like many other curries, it also has a vibrant color and spicy aroma.
The tomato sauce to heavy cream ratio is what decides the overall color and consistency of the masala sauce. In this chicken tikka masala recipe, we set it at 2:1.
Canned coconut milk is preserved cold for storage and transportation, therefore, after being stored at room temperature, it easily separates.
The cloudy simmered liquid will split into another layer at the bottom and dissociate with thick coconut milk. If you use canned coconut milk like us, shake it up before use so the two layers mix back together.
For a richer and creamier masala sauce, feel free to add in either coconut milk or heavy cream. Also, use half and half instead of heavy cream to reduce the fat content if you want to.
When making a big batch of chicken tikka masala, don’t try to speed things up by overcrowding the pan. Divide the chicken into smaller batches and simmer each of them separately so they absorb the sauce perfectly.
If you’re a supertaster and have a strong appreciation of the aroma of Indian spices, lengthen the marinating time. Let the chicken sit overnight in the marinade for a bold-flavor result.
How to Freeze?
Leftover chicken tikka masala still tastes great the next day when stored in the fridge.
All you need to do is put it in a glass food storage container and cover tightly with a lid. If stored in the freezer, chicken tikka masala will remain safe and edible for a longer period.
When reheating, simply pop the glass container into the microwave. There you have it, smoking hot again to enjoy!
What to Serve with
For people who aren’t familiar with Indian cuisine, it could be tricky to pick a side for this dish. In reality, making chicken tikka masala a complete meal doesn’t take that much effort.
The simplest side dish option would either be bread or rice. Naan bread would be the most authentic bread choice for this.
In the meantime, rice is a versatile ingredient and seems to go well with every cuisine. White, brown, wild, coconut or infused— you pick what you fancy to complete this fantastic dish.
In this recipe, we chose to eat chicken tikka with hot steamed long-grain rice. To call it a whole meal, we paired it with a hearty pico de gallo and refreshing simply orange juice.
1. Pico de Gallo
Pico de gallo is fresh, crunchy, and tangy, with a hint of spiciness from the chili. You get a wealth of diverse texture and flavors in one simple bowl of this salad.
Accidentally mix more pico de gallo than you need for one meal? Don’t worry, you can keep the leftovers in the fridge to save it for your next meal.
The overall flavor of pico de gallo is fresh, mild, and lean. Therefore, it’s super versatile with the ability to complement any protein-rich dish and not just chicken tikka masala only.
2. Simply Orange Juice
Two-ingredient simply orange juice is the final touch to wrap up all the savoriness you get from the main dish. The sweet and tart flavor of the freshly squeezed orange juice complements the whole meal beautifully.
Below is how we created a whole meal with chicken tikka masala so it adheres to our healthy limits. We hope that you’ll have a good time cooking!
More Saucy Chicken Dishes to Try
Similarly robust in flavor and with loads of sauce, this paprika chicken was made to impress. We serve it with some homemade potato mash that takes like minutes, and the meal just speaks for itself.
If you’re into something a little sweet, these honey-soy glazed thighs are also worth a try. Everything is just sticky, fragrant, and packed tight with flavor. We especially love those chewy skin.
Save this chicken tikka masala recipe in your favorites and you'll never have to worry about getting ready for family gatherings again. More straightforward to make than you'd think, this dish is hearty and savory brilliance in every bite.
10 oz skinless boneless chicken breast (cut into chunks)
8 oz onion (sliced into strips)
6 oz green bell pepper (sliced into strips)
1 tsp garam masala
3 tsp paprika (divided)
2 tbsp Hunt’s tomato paste
1/2 cup homemade tomato sauce
2 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp salt (divided)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper (divided)
3 tsp coriander powder (divided)
1 tsp almond powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (divided)
4 tsp garlic powder (divided)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ginger powder (divided)
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder (divided)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 tsp fresh coriander (chopped)
3 cups cooked long grain rice
Preheat the oven to 400℉.
In a large bowl, combine 10 oz chicken chunks with a marinade made of: 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp almond powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp paprika, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp ginger powder, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp lemon juice, and 1/2 cup Greek yogurt.
Toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 minutes.
Bake the chicken: Transfer the marinated chicken to a baking tray, and brush with 1 tbsp olive oil. Bake at 400℉ for 10 minutes. You can start on the sauce while it is baking. When the timer goes off, remove and set aside.
While waiting for the chicken to bake, make the sauce. Heat a cast-iron pan on medium heat and add in the following ingredients successively: 8 oz onion, 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp ginger powder. Stir around for a minute.
Continue to add to the pan: 6 oz green bell pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cumin powder, garam masala, 2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, and 2 tsp coriander powder. Stir them around for a minute.
Next, add 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water to the pan, let it simmer for 3 minutes, stir frequently.
Add the baked chicken chunks into the pan, mix together with the sauce. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
Lastly, pour 2 tbsp heavy cream and 1/4 cup coconut milk into the pan, whisk them well to combine with the rest.
Sprinkle 1 tsp fresh chopped coriander on top and serve immediately with hot steamed rice.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 497Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 9g
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Vitamin A 1622IU
Vitamin C 47mg
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tuyet Pham is an award-winning Saigonese chef who believes that joy is the secret ingredient to delicious food. At Healthy Recipes 101, Tuyet personally tests and simplifies every recipe, ensuring maximum flavor with minimal effort. With a background at prestigious French restaurants P’TI Saigon and Le Corto, Tuyet knows how to make every dish exceptional.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.
Lizzie Streit is a Minneapolis-based dietitian and founder of It’s a Veg World After All. She completed her MS in Human Nutrition from Drexel University, and is an expert in culinary nutrition, recipe development, and nutrition communications. Lizzie’s philosophy is centered around making nutrition recommendations, and especially the advice to eat more vegetables, approachable and realistic. She is excited to be working with the team at Healthy Recipes 101 to ensure that their recipes are both nutritious and delicious.
The tomato sauce used in this recipe is same as tomato ketchup? If not can you suggest which brand sauce have you used? Thanks!
Hi Tushar, thanks for your question. I used the tomato sauce from Hunt’s for the recipe 😀 Actually tomato sauce is a bit different from the regular ketchup. It’s a tomato-based purée, and can be used when you need to make a coalescence of many ingredients on heat. Ketchup, on the other hand, is a condiment.
Hope that answered you Tushar. Have fun cooking ^^
Chicken tikka masala is a classic Indian dish that's easy to make at home with this recipe. It's flavorful and satisfying.