How To Make Delicious Chicken Tikka Masala In Your Own Home

Flickr/Bob Peters/CC BY

Chicken Tikka Masala has become a household name over the years when it comes to Indian food. The beloved dish — roasted juicy chunks of chicken tikka in a creamy, spiced and orange-colored sauce — may seem simple but the ingredients and process, just like all Indian cooking, is incredibly complex. Have no fear though, once you lay out the process step by step, this crowd-pleasing dish is definitely doable.

Flickr/Bob Peters/CC BY

Flickr/Bob Peters/CC BY

So where does this creamy tomato-based chicken dish come from? While there’s a debate over its origin, many believe it all started in Glasgow, the biggest city of Scotland. The British theory of origin, claims that a Pakistani chef (Ali Ahmed Aslam) of the Shish Mahal Indian restaurant in Glasgow invented Chicken Tikka Masala by improvising a sauce using yogurt, cream and spices. There’s also a theory that the dish originated in London, where it was actually named a British national dish, and then there’s the common theory that it started in Punjab, India. But no matter what theory you believe in, the dish is only about 50 years old.

The biggest difference between making this indulgent dish in your own kitchen versus a restaurant is the usage of a tandoor oven. Chicken tikka is usually marinated in spiced yogurt and cooked speedily in a coal-burning tandoor oven at 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking the chicken at these extreme temperatures in the tandoor oven gives the meat a flavor that’s hard to rival using a regular grill, but you can come pretty close.

How To Make The Chicken

Even though the measurements of the ingredients will vary depending on how much chicken you’re making, the ingredients themselves are usually in the same realm. Cut up your chicken into chunks and place them in a Ziploc bag.  Add in the following ingredients: lemon juice, cumin, red pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, salt (always be very generous with the salt), ground ginger and yogurt. Make sure the chicken is fully coated and refrigerate for one to two hours.

Stack up the chicken on skewers and grill it in order to get a similar charred effect like you would from a tandoor oven. The one thing to keep in mind when you’re grilling is that you want to give your chicken the best chance for sauce absorption down the road, so you shouldn’t fully cook the chicken on the grill. Cook the chicken just enough so it’s charred while the inside remains uncooked. Once the sauce is complete you can let the meat finish cooking in a glorious bath of masala sauce.

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How To Make The Sauce

In a saucepan, melt either butter, cooking oil, or ghee (a type of clarified butter commonly used in Indian cuisine for its high smoke point and nutty flavor). You’ll saute some onions, garlic and ginger for about a minute and then add in the other spices like coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala and more salt. Once you mix that up, add the tomato sauce (usually, one can is enough), some fresh cilantro leaves, a squeeze of lemon juice and let it simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add cream (more or less depending on how spicy you want the sauce) and then the chicken and let it finish cooking in the masala sauce. Serve it over rice and garnish with some fresh cilantro. Bon appetit!