Get ready for it: this is my signature recipe.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Every time we have big groups of people are coming over, it’s always requested. I’ve taken to making way more than we need every time we make this, because once word gets out that there’s “chicken tikki” at the Anderson house, we’re bound to pick up a few stragglers.

I started making this after a cultural event Jake and I attended while at community college. I was a work study for the education director, who was from India, and she had arranged an amazing event in celebration of Diwali.

I fell in love with the perfectly creamy and spicy chicken tikka masala served at the event. The intense explosion of flavor had me at first bite.

So I did what any proud DIYer would do: I scoured the internet looking for a copycat recipe. I finally settled on the recipe with a picture that looked the closest to what I ate at the event (original recipe here). It was the most complicated thing I’d made up until that point (this was four years ago) and I was so proud of myself. I tweaked it here or there over time, and now “chicken tikki” is our all time favorite dish.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Four servings.


1 cup low fat yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 teaspoons course ground black pepper
3 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream

Serve with rice pilaf (we like this kind) and pita.


1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 2 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Sometimes I don’t have time to refrigerate: it doesn’t matter all that much).

2. After the chicken is marinated, cook chicken in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 7 minutes. Juices will run clear when the chicken is done. Do not overcrowd; the chicken will only brown correctly on the outside if the chicken has continual contact with the pan. Cook several batches if necessary. Wipe out pan between uses. (If you have more patience than I do, you can thread the chicken onto skewers and grill it instead).

3. Begin cooking rice according to packaging instructions.

4. While the rice is working, melt butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Saute the garlic for 1 minute. Add 2 teaspoons cumin, smoked paprika, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add chicken, simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

5. Serve and make yummy noises!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Tip: I always make way more than 4 servings. In fact, I usually end up making about 12 (I told you that people flock over for this! And it makes great leftovers). Instead of doubling the whole recipe, I generally triple the chicken amount and double everything else. This keeps things from getting too spicy and keeps the chicken to sauce ratio in line.

Tip: When cooking two boxes of rice at once, use the full instructed liquid amount for the first box and half the instructed liquid amount for the second box. So if one box requires 1 and 1/2 cup liquid, two boxes cooked together will require 2 and 1/4 cups liquid.

Tip: Reduce cayenne pepper for medium heat. For super high heat, add chopped jalapeno in with the garlic.

Chicken Tikka Masala

One final note: this is nothing like the chicken tikka masala in India. There it’s like chili: everyone has a version. But none of them include heavy cream (only in America – LOL). We had a friend from India over and he confirmed the glaring Americanization of the dish. He still said it was delicious, but it’s hard to tell if he was being entirely truthful. India has the most polite culture on the planet, so it could be that he was just sparing my feelings.

What’s your specialty? (Jake’s is pancakes, just in case you’re wondering).