Chicken Tikka Masala


Nerdship, it’s a well documented fact amongst my family and friends that I’m something of an Anglophile. I love all things British and I’m not even a little bit ashamed about it.  Earlier this month, I gave myself early birthday gift: a 7 day trip to London.  I stayed in a rented flat and checked some things off my personal bucket list – see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe (I saw “Titus Andronicus” with Indira Varma, who you would know from many, many things including Torchwood and Luther), and I got to see Robbie Williams live at The O2. Twice.  He has been one of my favorite artists forever and since the US is about the only country in the world where he’s not a superstar, he never tours here.  Also of note for the Nerdship, I saw Martin Freeman in “Richard III” and he was AMAZING.  The rest of my trip was spent wandering through The British Library, the National Portrait Gallery, Hyde Park, and working on my thesis novel.

I also drank cider.  A lot of cider.

Here’s what that has to do with Chicken Tikka Masala.  Although you’ll find this dish on the menu at pretty much every Indian restaurant in the Western World, it’s actually been called the national dish of the United Kingdom.  The story goes that it was created in the 70’s by a chef who had a customer complain that his chicken tikka was too spicy and needs some kind of sauce.  It’s also a dish that represents the melding of cultures in the UK.  There’s an awesome post about the history of the dish here.

This is honestly one my favorite foods of all time. I’ve never made it at home but I’ve been craving it, so I figured I’d give it a try.  I lightened it up a bit as the traditional recipe calls for full fat yogurt and heavy cream.  You could definitely substitute those back into the recipe if you want and it’s also very easy to double for a crowd.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Makes 4 servings


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed ginger
  • 1 can (14 oz) of diced or crushed tomatoes
  • ½  cup of yogurt
  • ½  cup 2% reduced fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric
  • ½  tablespoon of  chili powder
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

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First, chop your onion.  I was totally getting teary eyed from the onion and not at all from thinking about the end of “Doomsday” when Rose and the Tenth Doctor are separated and, okay…let’s not go there.

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Then, heat your oil in a large skillet.  Once it’s hot, add the onions and a dusting of salt and pepper.

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Cook the onions down for about four minutes until they are soft and getting golden on the edges.  Then, add your ginger.

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Mix well and cook for roughly two more minutes.

Now, the spices.

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Turn the heat down a bit and stir these in gently.  The turmeric is what turns the sauce yellow!

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Once the spices are well combined, you can add the tomatoes, the yogurt, and the milk.

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One thing I will do the next time and will recommend is mixing with a whisk here.  That will get the yogurt really well broken down.  You could also use an immersion blender, but that’s way too fancy for me.

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Once the sauce is simmering, turn the heat down to low and partly cover the skillet.  The sauce needs to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.

While that’s happening, cube your chicken breasts.

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There is nothing sadder than naked chicken breasts.

After your sauce has simmered away, you can add the chicken into the skillet.

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Make sure the chicken is completely covered and in a single layer in the skillet.  Keep it on low heat and cover for fifteen minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, this is the best time to make your rice and heat up your naan.  Well, I didn’t have any naan.  Seriously, my kingdom for good gluten-free naan.

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Add your rice into the bowl, scoop up as much of that delicious sauce as you can, and eat!


  • Your trip to England sounds like it was a blast! I went with a friend about 10 years ago, and it was just great. Can’t wait to go again some day. Chicken tikka masala is one of my weaknesses. I’ve always wanted to try making it at home. Thanks!

    • Jessica says:

      It was an awesome trip – well worth all the scrimping and saving to make it happen.

      Good luck with the recipe – come back and let me know how it turns out!

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