Chicken tikka masala (marry me!) is one of the most celebrated Indian fusion dishes and a personal favorite of mine. Everybody (and I mean everybody) loves this dish. Soooo not surprised that Scotland, India, and England are all laying claim to it, and what better dish to scream in food language “I love you!” than perfectly spicy, creamy chicken in SAUCE.
Variants include poaching or roasting the chicken; I’ve tested both and prefer the latter.
While there are many claims to the origin of chicken tikka masala, my favorite is one of authentic discovery. As the story goes, an Indian chef working in Britain accidentally combined leftover tandoori chicken with tomato and cream sauce. Little did he know, this is precisely the best way to cook the dish that has become an icon. Somebody sound the trumpets!
Best Chicken Tikka Masala Advice:
Rather than adding raw, marinated chicken to be poached (a technique that takes a while and results in less flavor), I recommend roasting the marinated chicken separately in order to achieve tandoori-esque results. Note that the oven will save you a bit of time in the end…
Now, you can do this 1 of 2 ways:
Either, you can roast the chicken on a baking sheet or you can use your dutch oven lid for a 1-pot kind of deal.
The gist is that the lid is oven safe and can, therefore, be inverted and set directly over the pot (as-in upside down). Yesiree bub, you put the entire pot in the oven just like that.
After a short while, you will use pot-holders to flip the now-cooked chicken into the hot tomato sauce below. Simple.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala in a Dutch Oven – Step by Step
As with any curry, this dish is about developing flavors and textures at each phase of the cooking process, which is why I’ve included step by step photos. In the spirit of my favorite origin story, I’ve gone with roasting the yogurt-marinated chicken to simulate what tandoori might have added to the curry using a hefty dutch oven (since most of you don’t own a tagine oven).
Step 1: Marinade and Roast the Chicken
Apply tandoori spices and plain yogurt to the diced chicken overnight or 30 minutes prior to cooking. Be sure to use yogurt without any sugar or added flavors. You can even use plain coconut yogurt to keep the recipe dairy free.
Step 2: Aromatics
Sweat the onion until soft, then layer in spices to release the aroma. This is an important step in Indian curries.
Step 3: Deglaze, Roast, Simmer
Use tomato sauce to deglaze the pot. At this point, I am recommending you put the inverted lid with the chicken over the tomato sauce and put the whole dutch oven in the oven.
Once the chicken is fully cooked, combine it with the tomato sauce along with coconut milk (dairy cream works too).
You’ll notice in the video that I poached the chicken in the sauce. While you can do it this way, please note that you need to simmer the chicken about 15 minutes or longer *until cooked through. Again, I strongly recommend you try roasting the chicken separately for a really stunning experience.
Love and spices are in the air tonight, and you can’t go wrong with a starchy side of rice, potatoes, or garlic naan. I’ve also seen this dish with frozen peas layered in right at the end so feel free to load the pot with vegetables galore.
Is Tikka Masala Adaptable for Vegetarian or Vegan Diets?
Yes. You can use tofu or chickpeas in place of the chicken in this recipe and use dairy free ingredients. I’ve made suggestions in the recipe for ingredient substitutions.
What is ghee, and why is it in this recipe?
Ghee is lactose free butter that’s extremely important in traditional Indian cuisine. It has a higher smoke point than butter, and can be found online or where other fats are sold.
How do I peel and grate fresh ginger?
Use a spoon to remove the thin peel, then grate (carefully) with a microplane. If you don’t own a grater, you can mince instead but will end up with more texture to the sauce. Some people blend the sauce (I think it’s a bit of a pain and unnecessary).
More Meal Prep Friendly Recipes:
Chicken Tikka Masala
- dutch oven
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup plain full-fat coconut yogurt or dairy yogurt
- 1 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice about half a lemon
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1/4 cup ghee or refined coconut oil
- 1 medium onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2- inch piece fresh ginger
- 3 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 1 15- ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 cans full fat coconut milk
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Combine all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
- Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and peel and grate the ginger (keep separate).
- Preheat oven to 400℉. In a dutch oven, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes stirring occasionally with a wood spoon. Add garlic, ginger, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes until fond (caramelized bits) appear on the bottom of the pot. Add garam masala, paprika, and cayenne and stir well. Cook spices until fragrant, 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and season with 2 tsp salt. Invert the dutch oven lid and set over the tomato sauce. Spread the marinated chicken out in the lid. Transfer the pot (lid included) to the oven. Roast for 8 minutes, until the chicken begins to brown.
- Using pot holders, turn the lid to combine the chicken with the hot tomato sauce. Swirl in the coconut milk. Serve with plenty of chopped cilantro. There will be plenty of sauce for topping rice or dunking pita bread. Leftovers may be stored in the dutch oven directly (refrigerated) for up to 4 days.
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