Easy chicken tikka masala has tender, marinated pieces of chicken cooked in a rich, flavorful tomato sauce that’s seriously scrumptious!
Quick chicken curry is a long-time favorite easy dinner in my house - and in many of your houses as well!
My husband and I both adore the flavors, and getting our children to experience all different flavors and types of cuisine is something I think is important.
But you know I also love my quick and easy versions of recipes that get dinner on the table without a ton of effort but also without sacrificing flavor. I like to think of them as smart shortcuts, like I use in that curry recipe. And in easy chicken pad Thai, which has amazing flavor and uses on-hand ingredients instead of the hard-to-track down more traditional ones.
(Oh, and if you are a shawarma fanatic like I am, you must check out this easy oven chicken shawarma; soooo good!)
And also here today.
I’m so excited to share another favorite, this easy chicken tikka masala.
We are so smitten with this dish. ❤️
My husband loves when I make it and he usually steals the leftovers. Even my daughter, who is my least adventurous eater, will comment on how amazing it smells as I’m cooking it.
(I usually offer her a taste test before dinner to encourage her to give different things a try. It helps a lot.)
And she gives this a thumbs up.
We’ve got tender chunks of chicken that are marinated in a flavorful yogurt-based marinade and then cooked in a skillet with a hearty tomato sauce for a quick dinner with such BIG flavor.
Oh and that sauce is seriously to die for. I cannot resist spooning it straight into my mouth from the pan before, during and after serving this dish.
(Don’t tell my family.)
I would swim in it if I could. So much yum.
(Another saucy dish you might want to check out is this Instant Pot butter chicken. Swoon worthy!)
However, I have to be clear. This is not a traditional or authentic tikka masala recipe.
Although, what’s funny and interesting is that there really is no standard for this dish. If you asked 10 different people how they make it, you’d probably get 10 different answers.
They mostly include tomatoes, some sort of creamy element and a variety of spices, but there’s tons of different approaches.
I’m going with what’s easy and on hand in my kitchen, so that I can make this even more often. But I’ll give you some options for how to switch things out so you can make it your own as well. 👍
So keep reading for those notes and substitutions on how to make chicken tikka masala. I like to give options and ideas. Just tryin’ to be helpful.
If you would rather jump on down to the recipe, simply scroll right on through the rest of the text. The recipe card is near the bottom of the page, above the comments section.
Notes on making easy chicken tikka masala:
- You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or substitute chicken thighs.
- To add the creaminess to this dish, I use plain Greek yogurt in the marinade and the sauce. I’ve always got it on hand and it is a healthier option. However, you could use sour cream or whole milk plain yogurt or heavy cream in its place.
- I do recommend using a higher fat Greek yogurt (such as 5% fat) if you can.
- Want a spicy kick? Use the red pepper flakes instead of black pepper and increase it to ½ teaspoon for extra heat.
- I always use Garam masala for this dish, but you could substitute curry powder in a pinch. While Garam masala has a stronger profile, they are similar in their ingredients.
Wanna take this up another notch? Finish this dish off at the end.
Two optional finishers to add flavor:
- A couple of pats of butter. This adds richness and is especially helpful if you use a nonfat Greek yogurt.
- Finish this with a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro (or parsley) for a hit of freshness.
Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is.
OK, let’s get this to the plate so we can get to eating!
Serving ideas for easy chicken tikka masala:
- Serve this chicken over brown or white rice, basmati rice or some cauliflower rice for a low-carb option.
- Or choose mashed potatoes or creamy polenta; those would also pair well with the delicious sauce.
- As for a vegetable, we love some warmed frozen green peas (stirred in or to the side). But a steamed or roasted vegetable, like broccoli or green beans, would be great too.
The last thing to address… any leftovers you may have.
What to do with leftover chicken tikka masala:
- The leftovers store great! Once cooled, store in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to 3-4 days.
- Or freeze for up to 5-6 months.
- Reheat over low heat on the stove or in the microwave until warmed through.
- Devour again.
I think all that saucy goodness is what helps keep the leftovers so moist and yummy and makes it great another day. 👍
Whether this is an old favorite or a new-to-you recipe, I hope you give this a try. I think you’ll fall in love.
For the marinated chicken:
- 1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs), cut into ½ inch chunks
- ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt (5% or 2% fat if you have it)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or sub 1t ground ginger)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons Garam masala (or sub curry powder)
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper OR red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce (or use crushed tomatoes)
- ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt (or heavy cream, see notes)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional, see notes)
- Steamed basmati, brown or white rice
- Chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
- Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade, except the chicken, in a large bowl or a gallon-size plastic bag until well mixed. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat. Let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour, but 2-3 hours is better if you have the time.
- Heat one tablespoon of the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the marinated chicken pieces (discarding any remaining marinade) and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and keep warm. (I put it in a bowl or on a plate and cover it with aluminum foil.)
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pan. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, Garam masala, coriander, turmeric, paprika, cumin and black pepper and cook for 30 additional seconds.
- Stir in the tomato paste. (The mixture will be very thick.) Then add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer while scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck-on bits. Once simmering, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 3-5 minutes, until slightly thickened.
- Stir in the Greek yogurt until smooth then return the chicken pieces (along with any accumulated juices) to the pan and stir until well combined.
- Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer together for a couple of minutes. Finish with a couple of pats of butter, if desired.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with cooked rice and chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.
You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or substitute chicken thighs.
To add the creaminess to this dish, I use plain Greek yogurt in the marinade and the sauce. I’ve always got it on hand and it is a healthier option. However, you could use sour cream or whole milk plain yogurt or heavy cream in its place.
I do recommend using a higher fat Greek yogurt (such as 5% fat) if you can. If you use a non-fat Greek yogurt, I definitely recommend adding the butter at the end to give the sauce a bit more richness.
Want a spicy kick? Use the red pepper flakes instead of black pepper and increase it to ½ teaspoon for extra heat.
I always use Garam masala for this dish, but you could substitute curry powder in a pinch. While Garam masala has a stronger profile, they are similar in their ingredients.
The leftovers store great! Once cooled, store in the refrigerator, in a covered container, for up to 3-4 days. Or freeze for up to 5-6 months. Reheat over low heat on the stove or in the microwave until warmed through.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 593Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 162mgSodium: 1245mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 62g