How to make chicken tikka masala

This is a celebration of Britain’s favourite takeaway dish. You’d be hard-pushed to find a better supper for a Saturday or Sunday evening.

How to make chicken tikka masala

My homemade version is tender, surprisingly easy to make and knocks the socks off anything you can buy. Plus, I love the fact you can be 100 per cent sure of what’s gone into it, and you can spice it the way you like. Just remember to get some bottles of your favourite British beer in the fridge…


Serves 4


Takes 30 minutes to make, 30-40 minutes to cook, plus at least 2 hours marinating


You will need

  • 4 skinless, boneless free-range chicken breasts
  • Basmati rice and naan breads to serve

For the marinade

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 150ml natural yogurt
  • Juice of ½ lemon

For the sauce

  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 5cm piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 6 ripe tomatoes
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • 300ml chicken stock, hot
  • 150ml single cream
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

1. First, make the marinade. Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan for 2-3 minutes until they begin to darken and become aromatic. Place in a small food processor with the garlic and ginger, then whizz to a paste. Add the spices, some salt, the yogurt and lemon juice, then whizz again until smooth.

2. Slash the chicken breasts several times crossways with a knife, then put in a large glass or ceramic dish. Cover with the marinade, getting it into the slashes. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 8.

3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Rinse out the food processor, then whizz the onions and ginger to a paste.

4.  Heat the oil in a large pan, then cook the paste, garam masala and turmeric for 5-10 minutes until a little golden. Whizz the tomatoes in the same food processor, then add to the pan with the sugar and cook for 10 minutes more until pulpy.

5. Preheat the grill to medium. Place the marinated chicken breasts on a grill rack and grill for 5-8 minutes until completely cooked through.

6. Add the hot stock to the pan and simmer until reduced by two-thirds (about 10-12 minutes). Cut the chicken into large chunks and add to the pan. Simmer for a couple of minutes.

7. Stir in the cream, then reheat gently – if it boils, the cream may split. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding lemon juice to taste. Stir through the chopped coriander, then serve with basmati rice and naan breads.


Nutritional information per serving:

387kcals, 17.3g fat (6.6g saturated), 44.7g protein, 15.1g carbs (12.3g sugars), 0.8g salt, 3.2g fibre


What is it?

The base of the dish is chicken tikka, made by marinating chicken pieces in a lightly spiced yogurt before cooking them in a traditional tandoor clay oven (or, if you’re making it at home, under a hot grill).

The next, crucial step is to simmer the marinated, cooked chicken lightly in a mild tomato and cream sauce (the masala) before it’s ready to serve with rice, naan breads and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

The takeaway version is often a vibrant red, thanks to the liberal addition of food colouring. Our version has a more natural hue, coming from the red of fresh tomatoes and the vivid yellow of ground turmeric.


Who invented it?

The origins of chicken tikka masala are a matter of fierce debate. Some claim it appeared around 60  years ago in the Punjab, but others maintain it was invented far closer to home, in the 1970s. So the story goes, a customer in an Indian restaurant in Glasgow, Birmingham or London demanded a gravy to go with his tandoori chicken. The chef obliged and a classic dish was born. That said, the Gaylord restaurant in Covent Garden was serving a ‘tandoori chicken masal’ back in 1968. Whatever its origins, chicken tikka masala is now widely accepted as distinctly British-Asian, and it’s one of the nation’s most popular meals, enjoyed by millions as a restaurant dish, takeaway treat and supermarket chiller-cabinet favourite.



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