Chicken Tikka Masala

chicken tikka masala over rice in a black bowl

Boneless pieces of chicken thigh are marinated in yogurt and spices, chargrilled to perfection and smothered in a creamy and luscious sauce to make this insanely gorgeous chicken curry.

  • Author: Saima
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop Cooking
  • Cuisine: Indian


  • 5 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 1 + 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, diced into quarter inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup yogurt, full fat
  • 1 + 2 tbsp ginger and garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 + 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 + 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
  • 1/2 + 1 tsp turmeric, ground
  • ½ + ½ tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 cup tomato passata or puree
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 or 2 sprigs cilantro leaves


Preparation (Making the Marinade)

In a glass bowl throw together the chicken, 2 tbsp ginger and garlic pastes, ½ cup yogurt, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tsp salt and all the powdered spices – 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp garam masala. Toss well to make sure the chicken pieces are well coated with the marinade. Cover with some cling foil and keep the bowl in the refrigerator for anywhere between 2 and 12 hours.

Instant Pot Method

  1. Switch your instant pot to saute (high) and add 1 tbsp oil to the inner steel insert. Wait for the display panel to show HOT, then slide in the marinated chicken, shaking off the excess marinade. Fry until the chicken is slightly browned, then flip and repeat. Cancel saute. Remove the chicken onto a clean platter. Scrape off the browned bits from the bottom of the steel insert (as much as you can get) and pile them on the chicken. You can remove and wash the steel insert at this point or continue with the next step. If any marinade is left, add it to the sauce you prepare in the next step.
  2. Switch on saute again (normal) and pour 1 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp butter to the steel insert. When the display shows HOT again, add the diced onions. Fry until they just change color. Add 2 tbsp minced ginger and garlic and the remaining spices - 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp salt. Add 1/4 cup water to prevent the spices from sticking to the bottom and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Cancel saute and blend the onion masala, using an immersion blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, wait for the onion masala to cool down somewhat, then transfer it to your regular blender and puree.
  3. Once you've pureed the onion masala above, add the fried chicken, tomato puree, and 1 cup water. Mix everything well and secure the lid of the instant pot. Make sure the steam release handle is sealed. Hit the pressure cooking button (high) and set the timer to 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, wait for 10 minutes, then release the steam by turning the handle to venting.
  4. Remove the lid and add the cream and sugar. Mix them in well. Garnish with some chopped cilantro. Chicken tikka masala is ready to be served with some warm naan or rice.

Stovetop Method

  1. Pour 1 tbsp oil in the skillet and heat it. Carefully slide in the marinated chicken and fry until the chicken becomes brown and slightly charred but not burned black. Flip over and fry on the other side too. The chicken need not be cooked through at this point, just seared to seal in the juices. If there is any left-over marinade, add it to the sauce in the next step.
  2. Wipe the skillet clean of any burnt bits of chicken or marinade and add the 1 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp butter. Heat it slightly, then add the onions and fry until golden. There’s no need to caramelize the onions to a dark reddish brown, just enough that they start changing their color. Add 2 tbsp ginger and garlic pastes and powdered spices – 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 cup water. Fry for a bit (5 minutes), adding splashes of water as needed until the gravy is shiny. Let it cool down and blend to a smooth puree in a blender. Add the tomato puree, sugar and a cup of water. Mix well.
  3. Add the chicken to the gravy, followed by the cream. Cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken becomes tender, then switch off. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.


  1. Make chicken tikka masala with boneless thigh meat, not breast meat. Chicken breasts dry out at high temps and become tough. Thigh meat remains moist and succulent. If you absolutely insist on using breast meat, then make sure that you marinate the meat for 24 hours to give it a chance to absorb the spices.
  2. Adjust the amount of red chilli powder to your taste. Tikka masala is usually not very hot, but if you like spicy food, use cayenne pepper instead of Kashmiri red chilli.
  3. If you don't want to brown the chicken in a skillet and want to use your oven instead, pre-heat the oven to 525 Fahrenheit, thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and place them on a baking tray. Put the tray in the oven and broil until the edges are browned.
  4. The sauce can be frozen for future use. You can double or triple the quantity of sauce and store it in individual portions in the freezer. When the urge to have some chicken tikka masala strikes, all you need to do is prep the chicken, thaw the sauce and mix the two.


Keywords: chicken tikka masala, chicken curry, chicken dinner, Indian chicken recipe