Chicken Tikka Masala is a popular “Indian” dish that was most likely developed in England by Bangladeshi nationals who emigrated there. Other stories say it was invented in Glasgow, Scotland by a Bangladeshi restaurant chef trying to make a diner happy who had complained that the restaurant’s chicken tikka was too dry—hence, the tomato cream sauce.
Regardless of the origin, chicken tikka masala is not an Indian food, per se, rather one of the early instances of a fusion dish. Authentic chicken tikka is cooked with a tandoor oven, which many most people do not have at home, but fear not, this Bon Appetite version of the dish is fantastic.
Note that this recipe makes A LOT of food. Halving it may not be a bad idea, unless you’re cooking for a big family.
What you’ll need:
- 6 garlic cloves, grated or run through a garlic press
- 4t finely grated peeled ginger
- 4t ground turmeric
- 2t garam masala
- 2t ground coriander
- 2t ground cumin
- 1.5 cups plain yogurt (not Greek)
- 1T kosher salt
- 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise (Do yourself a favor and ditch the breasts for boneless thighs.)
- 3T ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 0.25 cup tomato paste
- 6 cardamom pods, crushed
- 2 dried chiles or 0.5t crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (one) 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 0.75 cup chopped cilantro, plus sprigs for garnish
- Steamed basmati rice (for serving)
What to do:
Pay careful attention to this paragraph of instructions. I didn’t and had to re-do this part. Combine the garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin in a small bowl. Whisk the yogurt, salt, and half of the already blended spice mixture in a medium bowl. Add the chicken and turn to thoroughly coat. Cover and chill for 4-6 hours. Cover and chill the remaining spice mixture.
When the chicken is done marinating, heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and chiles and cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste has darkened and the onion is soft—about 5 minutes. Add the remaining half of the spice mixture and cook, stirring often, until the bottom of the pot begins to brown—about 4 minutes.
Add the peeled tomatoes, along with their juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them. Crushing them up with your hands is rather fun, so don’t wimp out and use a spatula or something. Bring the tomatoes/juices to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Do this for about 8-10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
Next, add the cream and chopped cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes.
About 20 minutes before the sauce is done, heat your broiler to as hot as it will go. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack over the foil. Arrange the chicken on the rack in a single layer and broil until chicken starts to blacken in spots (it will not be cooked through), about 10 minutes.
Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add them to the sauce. Continue simmering for about 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Don’t overcook the chicken, as it will by dry, though it will be dry anyway if you used chicken breasts.
Serve hot with basmati rice and cilantro sprigs.