Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
November 04th, 2008 66 Comments

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Indian Food: Chicken Tikka Masala RecipeChicken Tikka Masala

As much as I love Indian food and grew up eating lots of Indian dishes, I don’t cook Indian food well. I am honored to have Meeta of What’s for Lunch Honey as a guest writer on Rasa Malaysia. I adore Meeta’s writing skills and droolsome food photography, plus she is such a fine cook. Please welcome What’s for Lunch Honey as she shares the history, origin, and recipe of Chicken Tikka Masala.

The chicken tikka masala is known all around the world as one of the most popular Indian dishes. The irony of the chicken tikka masala, better known as CTM, though is that what is often enjoyed in restaurants as a traditional Indian dish has very little to do with authentic Indian cuisine.

When Rasa Malaysia wrote to me asking me if I would be interested in being a guest writer on her blog I was extremely ecstatic. She wanted me to help her show her readers how to cook a chicken tikka masala. She cracked me up when she referred to me as “a real Indian food expert” – I was flattered but modestly and in all honesty admit that I do not consider myself an expert in Indian food and the irony of this is that I am going to be showing her readers how to cook “Britain’s true national dish.”

It was the British Foreign secretary, Robin Cook who announced the chiken tikka masala as the new national dish of Great Britain. The statement was used to set an example for the British multiculturalism. The chicken tikka masala Mr. Cook was referring to was in actual fact the gravy based dish invented in Britain.

Chicken tikka, on the other hand, is indeed an original Indian dish, prepared by marinating small bite-sized bits of chicken in yogurt and and spices, which are then grilled over a charcoal fire, giving it that lovely, unmistakable smokey flavor.

Indian Food: Chicken Tikka Masala RecipeNo – you cannot have gravy with that!

Apparently that was exactly how the chicken tikka masala was invented. The story of this dish is somewhat amusing to say the least. A British gentleman dining in a restaurant, sometime in the early 1960’s, exclaimed his chicken tikka to be too dry and demanded a gravy with his bits of grilled chicken. The chef, who was exasperated and at his wits ends by the complaint, improvised by opening a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, added a dollop of yogurt and sprinkled some spices on the dry chicken tikka and presented the dinner guest with Chicken Tikka Masala! It was relished by the British gentlemen and that was when the chicken tikka masala was born. Today 18 tons of chicken tikka masala is consumed in Britain – per week!

In her book Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, Lizzie Collingham takes an excellent look at the history of Indian food. She dedicates an entire chapter to the chicken tikka masala. She writes, according to food critics the chicken tikka masala

“was not a shining example of British multiculturalism but a demonstration of the British facility for reducing all foreign foods to their most unappetizing and inedible forms. Rather than the inspired invention of an enterprising Indian chef, this offensive dish was dismissed as the result of an ignorant customer’s complaint that his chicken tikka was too dry. “

There is another theory for the origins for the chicken tikka masala. Some say that the chicken tikka masala originated in British India, when local dishes were bastardized to adapt to the British palate. The Punjabi dish of butter chicken is believed to have been the first prototype for the chicken tikka masala.

What would you call the chicken tikka masala – fusion food or a “mongrel dish”?

For those who belittle the chicken tikka masala for being inauthentic and untraditional to India will want to read Lizzie Collingham’s Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Collingham researches the true origins of several traditional Indian dishes like biryani, korma and dhanasak and finds surprising answers in the Middle East and Persia.

The chicken tikka masala might very well have been a dish adapted by the British upon their return from British India and today enjoys incomparable popularity. It might also have been the ingenious invention of an Indian chef to satisfy his guest. As an Indian however, I do have to say, I am delighted that it was the desire to experience a flavor of India that made this dish so popular.

The recipe I am sharing with you was not created by my grandmother, mother or my dad. In my family chicken tikka masala was only enjoyed in restaurants, I never remember it ever being made at home. While none of my family members prepared the chicken tikka masala at home they, just like several expatriate Indians living outside India, enjoyed the rich creamy flavor of the tomato based sauce and the combination of spices.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I really love the chicken tikka masala and unlike my grandmother and mother, do prepare it often at home. Over the years I have found my favorite spice blend and flavor combination for my own personal chicken tikka masala. Indian fusion food for everyone to indulge in!


It’s easy to see why this dish might get confused for a typical Indian dish. There certainly is a lot of flavor coming from a typical Indian kitchen. I love the smokey aromas the chicken gets after being grilled on the charcoal and I always do get Tom to throw on the barbecue for this. The oven is a great alternative but that smokey flavor goes missing. It’s also wonderfully distinct it the rich sauce. The incredible orange color appeals to the eyes and the thick creamy texture is just waiting for warn pieces of naan to be dunked and scooped up.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do and thank you for having me over as your guest.

All photographs and written content © Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved Please Ask First.

Tagged as:

66 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Taste Heaven says:

    I love chicken tikka masala. I always order it at Indian restaurants or have them at buffet. Going to try out ths CTM recipe. Looks very good.

  2. ChichaJo says:

    Great and informative post! My husband and I love chicken tikka masala but never knew about its colorful origins! Thanks for shedding some light :) Coming from a country that has been influenced by several foreign cultures (conquerors, haha), I am very familiar with having food (and everything else…myself included!) that is never “100% pure” ethnically, or with disputed origins. But my view is simple: If I like the way it tastes, I eat it :) Thanks for sharing this recipe! I hope I will soon be able to make some of these favorite Indian dishes (which I love!) from scratch!

  3. Manggy says:

    I once had CTM in a restaurant, but I found it quite bland– this recipe looks very rich and flavorful in contrast. I think I’ll give it a shot– after all, it is a national dish! :)

  4. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    So nice to find Meeta guest blogging here! Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my favorite Indian dishes, so I’m bookmarking this recipe.

  5. Marc @ NoRecipes says:

    Wow that looks fantastic Meeta! Thanks for the history on this dish:-)

  6. limpepsi says:

    I rarely eat Indian food.But the way you presented CTM is really good. I would be happy to cook CTM soon!

    Thank you so much!

  7. Happy cook says:

    I love chiken tikka masala, it is one of those dishes i make when i give a full indian dinner.
    Meetas CTM looks yumm.

  8. Passionate About Baking says:

    Fab post Meeta…& you've done true justice to this popular dish. Lizzie has interesting observations in her book; even Rogan Josh is said to have Persian origins. The fusion of flavours here are sublime; this is an indulgent curry. I love making it as a special treat!

  9. tigerfish says:

    I also love Indian food and has tried cooking some lately. Mostly vegetarian ones though :D

  10. CECIL says:

    Chicken tikka masala may well be my favorite dish in Indian cuisine. Scoop the gravy with flat bread. WOooo..Delicious!

  11. Salt N Turmeric says:

    hi Meeta. I think im going to like this dish. 1 question tho, can i use bone-in chicken? i know i cant use the skewer w them but i dont raelly like boneless. lol.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Meeta, thanks for the wonderful post of chicken tikka masala. This is the best chicken tikka masala I have seen by far. Much better than the chicken tikka masala served at Indian buffet restaurants here in the US. One thing I don’t like about the ones served at Indian buffet is that they seem to use leftover tandoori chicken to make chicken tikka masala, so the chicken is always dry and stale tasting.


  13. MeetaK says:

    thanks everyone for your comments here!

    i am glad you are liking the recipe for this chicken tikka masala.

    salt & turmeric – to answer your question: yes. cut up the bone-in chicken to smaller pieces and then grill it. you might have to increase the grilling/cooking time to ensure these pieces are cooked through, but i do not see why it should not work. one thing however, boneless chicken tastes more succulent in this dish.

    diane – i know that often happens. unfortunately many restaurants have turned to doing this. that's why i decided to make my home. as you see it's a fairly easy recipe and can be made on the spur on the moment a the spices i tried to use here are normally available in all household pantries.


  14. Giff says:

    great post meeta – I had no idea!

  15. syrie says:

    Delicious! A great post Meeta.

  16. Eunice says:

    I have never had this in my life, but looks like a very welcome addition! I hope to make it as soon as humanly possible! Thanks RasaMalaysia & Meeta!


  17. zlamushka says:

    i tried this one. Love Meeta´s Blog. This was the best way of preparing chicken I have ever cooked.

  18. Mansi says:

    great writeup Meeta! and the chicken sure looks appetizing, as always!:)

  19. Marcie says:

    This was amazing! I made it tonight and my boyfriend and I simply loved it! This was actually my FIRST experience with “Indian” food.. this is definitely worth making many times!

    Thank you so much for the recipe! All of the ingredients were very accessible and it was a “pantry” dish for me!

  20. Anonymous says:

    i also love CTM and always have it when i go to indian restaurants or if i have a takeaway, its always amazing but i was wondering why its always so red because the one have doesnt look like the one in the photo ? x

  21. FAMILY FIRST says:

    Love it! I am always the spicy food type rather than the bland type. Looks absolutely delish!

  22. MeetaK says:

    thank you everyone for your comments and compliments. also a huge thanks to rasa malaysia for giving me the honor.

    for those who have already tried this recipe – first thank you and it is delicious isn’t it. my first priority here was keeping it simple so that people could make this using everyday items in their pantries!

  23. Ken says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe, Meeta! I’m hoping it helps me on my quest to put together another ‘mongrel’ dish from Western menus, the Tandoori Shrimp Masala. From your story, I can guess that its origins are somewhat the same – make Tandoori Shrimp and add ‘gravy’! Of course, an actual recipe is always welcome, too! Many thanks again!

  24. Tins says:

    Thank you Meeta for this wonderful sauce. I just made channa masala using this recipe and it was wonderful :) Keep tempting us with your flavorful recipes :)

  25. Lee says:

    Oh my god, I made this dish yesterday and I keep eating the leftovers at inappropriate times. It’s fantastic! Thank you so much!

  26. janetching says:

    I just made Chicken Tikka Masala on New Year’s Day for my family, it came out good but I would love to try yours, am sure it is lovely. Am glad to find your blog. Happy New Year.

  27. Magda says:

    This dish is great. The taste is excellent, we love it.
    I shall cook this over and over again.
    Thanks for the recipe.

  28. Gina says:

    This looks great, I will have to try this.

  29. MeetaK says:

    Great that everyone is enjoying this so much!

    Ken – yes! i have made jumbo prawns masala exactly the way you presumed and it tasted lovely. so go ahead and give it a go!


  30. Sheldon says:

    Geeta, can you tell me the difference in using tandoori masala instead of the spice you use?

  31. Teena says:

    This recipe was very delicious and I enjoyed making it. In an attempt to reduce some of the fat from the heavy cream the second time I made it, I mixed fat free evaporated milk with some yogurt and substituted that for the heavy cream. The curry came out decently enough, though not as thick and creamy. Do you have any other suggestions for people who may want to avoid the heavy cream and saturated fat?

  32. Leah says:

    Oh my goodness!!! As a brit living in the States this just made my mouth water! My other half is American so his palate is not attuned to Indian food. I shall have to go shopping tomorrow for the ingredients and let him try it!! I had a feeling that CTM was not strictly Indian but as another comment said….if it tastes good then what the hey, eh?!!

  33. Russ says:

    I tried this dish last night, and whilst tasty I would not say it is a patch on the tikka masala recipes you get in many other places. The heavy cream is unnecessary and somewhat dead calories to a bland dish. Maybe this is because in the UK we have come to know Tikka Masala as more than just tomatoes and cumin powder now. Hunt around, there are better recipes out there.

  34. Belgian Gal says:

    Looks delicious but what do you mean by heavy cream

    • Heavy cream, also known as whipping cream and you should be able to find easily at the dairy section of any grocery store. It’s clearly labeled on the carton. Hope this helps :)

  35. Quinn says:

    Is that 250g cream or 250ml of cream?
    Big difference and the last time I did 250g cream, my chicken was pink rather than orange.

  36. Colin says:

    Weird, I would have thought that one spice was totally vital to CTM, turmeric. With all that paprika, come on tell us the secret, how did you get it to be so yellow in colour and not red. I think you are telling us little porkies and this recipe is wrong unless when you make it defies nature. But thanks for having a laugh with us

  37. George says:

    Ok, the story referred to in the original story is from the Shish Mahal restaurant in Park Road, in Glasgow. I used to visit this restaurant when it was in it’s original location in Gibson St., back in the late ’60’s. I often cook this dish but as I never write a recipe down, it never will turn out exactly the same. Doesn’t bother me really. Cooking is what it is. Every chef’s interpretation will differ as will the taste. I have eaten curries in restaurants all over the UK, and in fact the world, I still prefer Glasgow restaurants to any others. However, that is just my opinion, set by my palate.
    Just find a recipe you think is close to the mark to what you like and go ahead and do it, Experiment and enjoy.
    Do it……………… it now!!

  38. Jane says:

    I made CTM using a jarred sauce I found in Big Lots of all places (think overstock store, various items changing all the time). We loved it and I ran back to buy all the rest they had in stock. Unfortunately, only one lonely jar was left, pout.

    I searched online to find a recipe which used common ingredients, as finding specialty spices is more than difficult in my area. Thank you so much for a recipe I can actually complete! I will be making this very soon.

  39. BShrestha says:

    My similar version of chicken tikka masala . I also recommend using Paprika instead of red food dye.

    If you ever try it, I I would love to hear your comments.

  40. terry says:

    I love this recipes .I will be cooking it tonight.
    Thank you

  41. Pingback:mmm…stuff! » Green Stuff Travel Stuff » Eco-friendly, safe lunch containers…the Indian/Asian way: Tiffins

  42. Pingback:Chicken Tikka Masala – Crock Pot Style « Everything and Our Kitchen Sink

  43. Pingback:Indian Tikka Massala « John-Patrick Skaar

  44. Pingback:Indian Party with Tikka Massala « John-Patrick Skaar

  45. Pingback:Chicken Tikka Masala « Lievebee's Blog

  46. Pingback:Indian Party with Tikka Massala « jpskaar

  47. Pingback:Chicken Tikka Masala : Always Updated Info

  48. roxx says:

    this was very deliicious except it was a bit too spicy…. :)

  49. Planning to make this one tonight! Can’t wait…

  50. Pingback:The Great Chicken Tikka Masala Fraud | Adventures in Desi Cooking

  51. PC says:

    Realy enjoyed this last night and it looked fantastic but i agree with the comment above it was a little spicey for CTM. Anyhow, It was so nice my OH wants me to make it again tonight!! but this time im going to half all the spice ingredients and im going to whizz the toms first in a blender to see if i can get a smoother sauce. I don’t know what cocktail toms are, i just used an ordinary tin of chopped toms but as i just threw the toms straight in there were lumps at the end in the sauce. I didnt want to blend it then as i find that intensifies spices. A little more cream helped bring the heat out. There was one small piece left and i nibbled it this morning to see what the taste was like and it was even better so i do advise to marinate over night. I didnt have time and only did it for about 4 hours. Try it. I hope you like it.

  52. Bindhya says:

    Chicken tikka masala is an Indian can she says it’s a british dish. Steal something from some country and announcing it’s our new national dish.!!! Ha ha ha Very funny!! Same like kohinoor diamond.!!

    • samuel says:

      I think you’ll find if you actually researched this that chicken tikka is an indian dish but chicken tikka masala is a scottish variation. they found tikka on it’s own to be too dry and so developed the ‘gravy’ to go with it. don’t get offended before you do the research.

    • kazy says:

      Chicken Tikka Masala is a fusion Indian British dish that comes from the UK. Just like Lasagna is not authentically Italian in that it does not come from Italy. It is an Italian American dish. Tikka Masala is an Indian-Brit dish. It most certainly has all the aromas and flavors of Indian cuisine. However the abundance of the tomato sauce is the British contribution to the dish as I don’t believe Indian cuisine uses that much tomato sauce and besides something this good has no replication in dull tasteless British food, as anyone who has sampled UK food can tell you, but it did originate in the UK, inspired by Indian cuisine, possibly to entice the English palette of which there is none. Just kidding. Not. No, really, I am….not.

      • Scouse says:

        ya what…English food has flavour my son. fish and chips, a full english, what about shepperds pie? Silly statement mate.
        Cournish pasties…nuff said I think. In dian food is wonderful, but every country has dishes that are just as wonderful.

    • Simon says:

      Chicken Tikka masala is also considered the “brother” of butter chicken, which originated at the Moti Mahal restaurant. The guy behind it is named Kundan Lala gujral.

      And even if did originate in glashow, it’s still a indian invention.

      Chopsuey is also not invented in china, but it’s still invented by chinese chefs in America.

      So in other words tikka masala originates from the hands of indian chefs. We could go on and argue about the origin and story behind it. But one thing that cannot be argued about is that Tikka masala is a very tasty dish.

  53. Patricio Tomás says:

    Hello Rasa. Thanks for answering always so quickly. This recipe it’s good for three people or it’s too much? Thanks. All the best :)

  54. Really enjoyed reading this – the recipe looks delicious.

  55. What is the equivalency in american measures of 250 grams yoghurt?

  56. Labanca says:

    This is one of the best Indian Recipe, which i love the most… Thanks for Sharing your way of preparing the dish…

  57. Pingback:Chicken Tikka Masala | Oksana K.C.

  58. Katherine Magwene says:

    I’m interested in making this dish, but have never heard of cocktail tomatoes (canned or not). Is there another name for them?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Thanks for visiting Rasa Malaysia, #9 most popular cooking blog. Please like Rasa Malaysia on Facebook, join email or RSS for new recipes!

Facebook  |  Email  |  RSS