Food & Wine's Chicken Tikka Masala

I love Indian food, especially chicken tikka masala sopped up with lots and lots of naan bread. Come to think of it, chicken tikka masala is my go-to dish at all Indian restaurants. I'm an adventurous eater and always like to try different things, but I just can't stay away from the stuff.

Up until a few months ago, I'd only eaten chicken tikka masala in restaurants or ordered some in. It never even dawned on me to try to make it myself. I figured you needed a tandoor oven to cook the chicken in and I didn't feel ready to make naan bread from scratch.

Then Daniel came home one day with a package of all-natural naan bread that he found at our local Key Food. He thought we'd just eat it with something simple. After almost 10 years together, you think he'd know me better than that! Instantly, I started searching for chicken tikka masala recipes. This one from Food & Wine was the winner and I've now made it three times.

It's pretty simple. First, you marinate chicken thighs with yogurt, fresh ginger, and a bunch of exotic spices overnight and then broil it the next day. While the chicken is cooking, you can start making the sauce, a mix of whole peeled tomatoes, ground almonds, more spices, a cup of cream and a pinch of sugar. In just about an hour, you'll have a homemade chicken tikka masala that's slightly thick and a bit creamy. If you're like me, you'll also appreciate its soft, subtle color. Unlike the bright red ones I've had at many restaurants, this chicken tikka masala is free of any food coloring.

Fresh and fragrant, it's also a great dinner party dish. Your friends who are already familiar with Indian food will tell you over and over how amazing it is and you'll be lucky if there are any leftovers. If you plan to serve it to guests who are new to Indian food, assure them that the sauce is just slightly spicy. If that doesn't work, compare it to a kicked up chicken cacciatore with a touch of cream. That should do the trick. Oh and that naan bread Daniel discovered at Key Food? It's slowly becoming a staple in our home. It'll never be as soft and fluffy as naan fresh from the oven, but it comes pretty close.

Food & Wine's Chicken Tikka Masala
Active time: 45 min
Total time: 9 hours 30 min
Serves: 4

Masala Marinade
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • One 35-ounce can peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, juices reserved
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. MAKE THE MASALA MARINADE: In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. PREPARE THE CHICKEN: Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat the broiler and position a rack about 8 inches from the heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape off as much of the marinade as possible. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and spread the pieces on a baking sheet. Broil the chicken, turning once or twice, until just cooked through and browned in spots, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut it into 2-inch pieces.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool completely. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.
  5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and serve.
  1. Variation: The marinade and sauce here are also delicious with shrimp, lamb and vegetables.

Make ahead: The Chicken Tikka Masala can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.

Serve with: Steamed basmati rice, rice pilaf or warm nan.

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April said...

Yummy! I can't wait to try this recipe!!

April said...

Forgot to ask in my last comment...how many servings is it?

Lia said...

April, you'd love it! The recipe serves four. I accidentally left that piece of info off the recipe and will add it in now.

Luisa said...

Oh yes, that bread is a dream. I bought it last year for chicken salad sandwiches and was overjoyed to have found it!

Judith said...

Lia, this sounds delicious. I love Indian food. Where did you get the garam masala? Do you think this recipe would work with something other than chicken (as in, seafood)?

Lia said...

Luisa, I'm not surprised to hear that you're a fan of that naan bread too. It's so good!

Judith, I get all my spices at Sahadi's on Atlantic Avenue. They have a huge selection. And according to Food & Wine, the sauce is also delicious with lamb, shrimp and vegetables. You should definitely try it!

Etisha said...

I'm looking forward to trying this! Did they suggest a wine to go with this dish? I would like to serve it for a dinner party this week.

Lia said...

I don't remember them recommeding a wine for this, Etisha. Daniel and I usually have it with beer which goes really well.

Sherry said...

You should try this with coconut milk instead of cream -- it's so much more awesome.

Anonymous said...

hi! i just stumbled on this page. this recipe looks awesome. 2 questions:
1) Sherry, is the coconut milk a 1:1 substitution for the cream?

2) What if i don't have an enameled cast-iron casserole? Can i just use a big pot instead without much difference in results?

Thanks so much!!!

Lia said...

I think a big pot would work just fine. Hope you enjoy it!


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