Chicken Tikka Masala

Even though this curry has global status, who doesn’t love this dish, it is technically not a traditional Indian curry.  It was created by Indian chefs living in England, using the spices and techniques of traditional Indian cooking, but with certain adaptations for the palette of their new clients.  Be this as it may, there is reason why everyone loves it, the sauce is rich and flavourful and because the chicken is cooked separately the meat has a wonderful smokey flavour.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Recipe by Paul Maciel


Prep time


Cooking time



A delicious, quick and simple version of the popular restaurant dish, perfect for weeknight supper.


  • For the Chicken
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger

  • 500gms, deboned, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces (Note 1)

  • 1 teaspoon curry masala powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar, (Note 2)

  • 1 tbsp ghee, coconut oil or sunflower oil

  • For the Curry
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, coconut oil or sunflower oil (Note 3)

    1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 generous teaspoon of grated ginger

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder, more if you prefer it spicier (Note 4)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 can chopped tomato

  • 250ml cream or full cream yoghurt

  • 2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  • In a bowl large enough to fit all your chicken, add the crushed garlic and ginger, add the masala powder, salt, sugar and few tbsp of oil to help create a paste. 
  • Add your chicken pieces and coat every piece of chicken.
  • If you are cooking your chicken on a braai, which does give it the best smokey flavour, thread the chicken onto skewers.
  • To cook, heat your braai to high then cook the chicken until slightly charred - it is not essential to cook the chicken through, as once you have colour the chicken will be added to the sauce and gently simmered to finish the cooking.
    Since lighting the braai might be a little bit too much work for a weeknight supper you can prepare the chicken in a pan. 
  • Once the chicken is marinated, heat some oil, over medium high heat, in the pot you intend to cook the curry in, once the oil is hot add the chicken pieces, be sure to not overcrowd the pot, always allow space between the pieces for steam to escape or else you will boil the chicken.  Now allow the chicken to cook until it has some smokey char and colour (this is where the sugar really helps).  Once charred flip the chicken pieces and repeat on the other side – remove and set aside until needed, repeat the process until all the chicken is cooked.
    This is a fairly quick process, so to help prevent any scorching of your spices, start by measuring all the ingredients needed and have them ready to go.
  • Heat your choice of oil in a large pot over medium heat add the onion and cook until the onion has softened and begun to go golden -  about 5 minutes (it will take longer if you scale up the recipe).
  • Now add the garlic and ginger; cook until fragrant - about 1 minute or until fragrant
  • Now add the cumin, salt, Kashmiri chili, cinnamon, and turmeric into the onion mixture; fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes, be careful not to burn the spices.
  • Add your chopped tomatoes into the onion and spice mixture, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.  Now add the cream (yoghurt), paprika, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Bring sauce back to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until sauce is thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Now add the grilled chicken and cook for a further 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and tender. 
  • Garnish the curry with a drizzle of cream or yoghurt and some freshly chopped coriander leaves – serve with rice or roti


  • NOTE 1: Chicken thighs, deboned or on the bone, will give you the best results, but you can make this curry with breast meat.  IF you choose to use breast meat cut the breast into 8-10 pieces (depending on the size of the breast), add to the spices as above.  To prevent the meat from drying out, ensure that when you cook the chicken your heat is high enough that you do not cook the chicken through.  Once charred remove and set aside.  At the step where you would normally add the chicken add a little water instead and allow your curry to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Towards the end of the curry add the chicken pieces back in and allow them to cook until just done – don’t overcook the chicken or the meat will be dry.
  • NOTE 2: The addition of the sugar whilst not essential, will help the chicken to get char without having to cook it for too long
  • NOTE 3: You can use any flavourless oil, sunflower, canola, etc
  • NOTE 4: Kashmiri chili powder, is made from the Kashmiri chili, which is prized for its flavour, heat and colour.  You can substitute for any chili powder but the colour and heat of the curry may vary a bit.