Ajay’s Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Chicken Tikka Masala

Uncle Sam’s Immigrant Cafe founder Ajay Ravindranathan shares his recipe for Chicken tikka masala. Chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular, if not the most popular Indian dishes in the Western hemisphere. Succulent chunks of grilled chicken, ever so slightly charred, swimming in a rich, fragrant sauce redolent with fenugreek and warming spices.  The origins of chicken tikka masala is highly contested, with some claiming that it is not an Indian dish at all, but one that was invented in the UK by Bangladeshi chefs. That said, the spices used are very Punjabi or North Indian in style rather than traditional Bengali or Bangla dishes.  The dish is similar to the Indian butter chicken, which primarily differs in the use shredded tandoori chicken (or whole bone-in tandoori chicken) rather than chunks of tandoori chicken breast (tikkas).

Most of the specialty ingredients used in this recipe will be available at your local Indian store or off of Amazon. Also, this is not a low calorie dish by any stretch of the imagination…it is a rich, unctuous special occasion dish and is well worth the caloric splurge!

Ajay's Chicken Tikka Masala

Uncle Sam's Immigrant Cafe founder Ajay Ravindranathan shares his recipe for Chicken tikka masala. Chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular, if not the most popular Indian dishes in the Western hemisphere. Succulent chunks of grilled chicken, ever so slightly charred, swimming in a rich, fragrant sauce redolent with fenugreek and warming spices. 
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Marination Time2 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: chicken tikka masala, ethnic food, indian food
Author: Ajay Ravindranathan

Equipment

  • 9x13 Casserole Dish
  • Wire Rack
  • Wooden Skewers
  • Dutch oven

Ingredients

For the chicken tikkas

  • 2.5 lbs skinless boneless chicken breasts cut into one-inch pieces
  • 4 Tbsp Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp chickpea flour (besan)
  • 3 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (deggi mirch)
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 Tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp saffron crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • Butter for basting
  • Juice of a lemon

For the tikka masala sauce

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 10 green cardamom pods lightly crushed
  • 1 black cardamom lightly crushed
  • 2" cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 green chillies slit lengthwise
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (or substitute part with smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 9 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 3 tsp honey (or to taste)
  • 1.5 Tbsp Kasoori methi/fenugreek leaf
  • 1.5 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • chopped cilantro

Instructions

For the chicken tikkas

  • Crush green chilli in a mortar and pestle (or finely dice).  Transfer to a large bowl. Add the ginger-garlic paste and add the chickpea flour.
  • Add the yogurt, a spoon at a time, and mix to form a thick paste-like consistency.
  • Mix in the paprika, chilli powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cinnamon, saffron and salt.
  • Mix well ensuring that every piece of chicken is coated in the thick marinade. Add the oil and mix again.
  • Leave to marinate for a few hours or even overnight if you prefer.
  • Soak wooden skewers in water. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  • Shake off the excess marinade and thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers and place them on a wire rack over a 9X13 inch casserole dish to catch the drippings.
  • Cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn the skewers and cook for 10 more minutes.
  • Turn the oven to broil, baste chicken with melted butter with melted butter until the chicken is slightly charred around the edges.
  • Remove tikkas from the skewers and squeeze lemon juice over them. Tent loosely with foil until sauce is ready.

For the tikka masala sauce

  • Add butter in a Dutch Oven with high sides; I use a dutch oven to prevent splatters.
  • Add black and green cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.
  • Saute for 1 min and add the onions. Fry over medium heat for 7-10 mins on until they
    are softened and light brown colour.
  • Add the ginger-garlic paste and green chillies. Fry for a further minute and add the chilli powder and 1tsp garam masala powder along with the tomato paste. Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Transfer the onion tomato mix to a blender, add ¾ cup water and puree till smooth.
  • Add the double cream stirring continuously to mix the spiced puree with the cream. Simmer and cook for 5 min on low.
  • Crush the fenugreek leaves between your thumb and forefinger to pulverize.  Wear gloves or use a Ziploc bag so your fingers don’t smell of fenugreek for hours after! Don’t ask how I know…
  • Stir in the honey and the fenugreek powder. Check the sweet-salt balance. Now add the cooked chicken pieces and simmer the curry on a low heat for 8-10 minutes.
  • Garnish with cilantro and sprinkle the rest of the garam masala and give the dish a final stir. Serve with basmati rice or naan. This dish tastes better the next day after the spices meld in the refrigerator.

Notes

There are 2 basic steps to the recipe: the first involves making the marinated chicken tikka and the second, making the sauce. My recommendation is to follow the recipe without any substitution or changes the first go-round. The basic recipe can then be altered as per your taste for future iterations.
The resulting dish is spicy, but not overpowering.  If you prefer less spice, substitute some of the red chilli powder (cayenne) with smoked paprika.
All spices and ingredients are available at your local Indian store or online from Amazon.

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