Chicken Tikka Masala

If you’ve been around this site looking for Indian cuisine, you’ll know that I have posted and raved before about a tikka masala recipe. But in the name of branching out and changing things up, I tried a new version that my cousin Merianne sent me from her friend Stacy. When someone who has impeccable taste buds and food judgment raves about a recipe, like my cousin, I know I’ll be trying it, no matter if I’ve tried 15 versions in the past.

This masala recipe is incredible. Different from the first recipe I posted, this version has a more tomato-based sauce and employs a really unique ingredient to thicken and round out the sauce – toasted ground almonds. The end result doesn’t scream “ALMONDS are in here!!” but it does make you sit back and kind of go, “hmmm…what is that??” Both recipes marinate the chicken in a deliciously spiced yogurt mixture that adds flavor and tenderness and include fresh cilantro as a must-have for freshness and pop.

I’m not an expert on Indian food so I can’t vouch for which recipe is the most authentic but I’ll tell you this, there were no leftovers from this meal…and trust me, I made plenty to go around. We just absolutely could not stop eating it. Which is probably more a testament to our lack of self-control than anything. Either way, take it as a testimonial that this stuff is goooood.

What To ServeBaked Brown Rice
Steamed peas or broccoli, or this Curried Cauliflower Popcorn
Fresh fruit

Chicken Tikka Masala

Yield: Serves 6

Chicken Tikka Masala

Plan Ahead: This recipe requires the chicken to be marinaded overnight.

Variation: The marinade and sauce are also delicious with shrimp, lamb and vegetables.

Make Ahead: The masala can be made and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.


    Masala Marinade:
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (garlic tutorial here)
  • 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
  • Chicken:
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts (about 3-4 chicken breasts)
  • 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 (garlic tutorial here)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala (if you don’t want to buy this spice blend, google “make your own garam masala” to check out some homemade versions)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 16-ounce can tomato sauce
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Garnish:
  • Lots of fresh cilantro


  1. In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon each). 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 covered overnight.
  2. 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.
  3. In a large enameled cast-iron dutch oven or a large pot, 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 6-8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chili powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the tomato sauce and the sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes. While the mixture begins to simmer, remove the chicken from the marinade and cut into bite-sized pieces. Throw the chicken into the pot of simmering tomato sauce. Continue simmering/cooking the chicken, partially covered, for an additional 10-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened just slightly. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Serve with lots of fresh cilantro over hot, steamed rice.

Recipe Source: from Stacy D. via Merianne J.

25 Responses to Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. Kristin Castleton says:

    Oops…I tried the other Tikka Masala. I’m sure this would be amazing too though but I loved the other one like crazy!

  2. Kristin Castleton says:

    I made this last night for dinner a little skeptical that my kids would not like it. It was such a delicious dish!! They all loved it! The youngest (9) did think it was a little spicy but everyone else including my son’s girlfriend couldn’t get enough. I did use green peppers and half and half. Thanks for another uber delicious meal!!!

  3. Mel says:

    Lisa – I don’t know how the almond extract would work in place of the almonds. I don’t think it’s necessarily the almond flavor but more the binding quality of the ground almonds. I have another tikka masala recipe on my site that doesn’t use almonds and might be a better route:

  4. Lisa says:

    Question: Would almond extract work instead of almonds? I have someone I cook for who has diverticulitis, and they can’t do nuts (but extract is fine). Even if they’re ground up in the food processor, I worry it might cause trouble.

  5. Mel says:

    Lindsay – yes, I think that could work!

  6. Lindsay says:

    Hmm.. I have a bag of almond meal from Trader Joe’s in my fridge.. since it’s just ground almonds, could I sub that in? Would you do 1/4 cup? maybe a little less?

    Thanks for you help! 🙂

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  8. Our Family's adventures! » Blog Archive » Menu-Feb 9-15 says:

    […] Tikka Masala, Rice…..Naan- Yeah, ran out of energy….no Indian food on […]

  9. Brinestone says:

    I’m allergic to almonds. How much would the recipe suffer if I omitted those, or else substituted cashews or another nut for the almonds?

    I LOVE Indian food and will definitely be trying this ASAP with naan.

  10. Melanie says:

    I’ve made your old recipe and loved it! So the question is do you prefer this over your earlier tikka masala recipe?

    • Mel says:

      Melanie – that’s a tough question because they really are quite different. This newer tikka masala recipe has a stronger tomato base. I honestly don’t think I could pick…but if you really, really nailed me down, the old one may win by a slight margin…but it would be really slight!

  11. leslie says:

    made this tonight and it was fabulous! we don’t have any indian restaurants where i live, so this will now be what i make when i’m craving indian food. i also made mango lassies to serve with. they were awesome.

    question? is there a reason why you don’t cut the chicken up first, and then add it to the yogurt marinade? it just seams like it would be that much more flavorful.

    • Mel says:

      leslie – glad you liked this! I love a good mango lassi, too. What a great combo. As for your question, the answer is there isn’t any reason not to cut up the chicken and let it marinate in chunks. Either way should work!

  12. Merianne says:

    So glad you tried it! I’m honored to have my name on your blog… 🙂

  13. grace says:

    there are a lot of amazing spices in this recipe–dang! and the ground almond aspect is certainly interesting. i’m about as familiar with indian cuisine as i am with, say, being a cat, but i think i’d like this–excellent!

  14. Barbara says:

    I love that marinade, Mel. So many fabulous flavors. This really looks delicious and doable!

  15. Memoria says:

    This dish looks fabulous. I’ve made this dish before, and I think I ate it all in less than a week. Try adding fenugreek leaves or kasoori/kasuri methi next time. YUM!

  16. Stacey says:

    Hi! Does anyone know if this recipe will freeze well? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Stacey – I can’t weigh in on this since I haven’t frozen it. I’m guessing that actually it doesn’t freeze that great (due to the yogurt marinade and cream in the recipe) but someone else correct me if they’ve tried it.

  17. Jordan says:

    Well I love your old recipe so I will have to give this one a try. And I think the almonds will be so yummy. Thanks!

  18. Joyce says:

    So, the question is, which Chicken Tikka Masala is the best? I’ve been comparing the two recipes and they both look really good, although the one you posted today has ingredients that I don’t currently have on hand, such as coriander, cardamom, turmeric, garam masala. So, I’d probably prefer to make the other one, but I’m afraid I’ll be missing out on something spectacular!! What should I do?

    • Mel says:

      Joyce – I definitely don’t think you would be missing out by trying the “old” recipe. In fact, I would say definitely try that one if it means you don’t have to buy some new/special ingredients. Both are delicious, I promise!

  19. LOL.. ok, this is odd.. I just made tikka masala the other night!! Mine was not a success at all..but still… we cooked the island chicken about the same time too! 🙂 Great minds think alike! Your tikka masala looks fantastic!

  20. Kim in MD says:

    I have never had tikka masala (I know…shame on me!), but if you say it’s good, then I will try it! It looks incredible, and your recipes are always amazing, Mel! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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