Whether you’re new to Indian food or consider yourself a proud connoisseur, this easy Chicken Tikka Masala recipe will become a fast favorite in your home. Tender pieces of chicken are slow simmered in a spiced yogurt tomato sauce made with coconut milk for a flavor-packed dish perfect for any night of the week.

Chicken tikka masala in two bowls with white rice

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Chicken tikka masala is FAB-U-LOUS.

I spent one of the tastiest months of my life traveling around India, and Ben worked there for two summers.

Thanks to our mutual food affair, on the nights we order takeout, it’s almost always Indian food. Each time, we pick a different mix of dishes to share.

Well, most of the dishes are different, with one notable exception. I think you know where this is going.

Chicken tikka masala.

Chicken tikka masala recipe with peas

5 Star Review

“This is absolutely delish! So simple to make and the family gobbled it all up! I love all your recipes! I’m so happy I found your site!”

— Tab —

If you haven’t eaten Indian food before, the taste of tikka masala can be a little hard to describe.

Picture warm, aromatic, and a little exotic. Indian food, in general, is robust which is one of the reasons I love it. Every time I eat it, I’m transported to a faraway, dreamy place.

It’s also really, really good.

About Indian Chicken Tikka Masala

Traditional Indian chicken tikka masala features pieces of chicken tikka (chicken tikka is boneless chicken marinated in spices and yogurt that is roasted in an oven), served in a creamy tomato curry sauce.

The Origin of Chicken Tikka Masala

The true chicken tikka masala origin is up for dispute.

  • Some say it was created Punjab, India by accident a mere 50 years ago.
  • Some say it originated in a South Asian community in Britain.
  • One popular account states that chicken tikka masala actually originated in Scotland, where a British Pakistani chef added a tomato cream sauce over the top of his chicken tikka to satisfy a customer (the customer was expecting more of a gravy and thought the original dish was dry). The addition was a huge success, and the variation stuck.

Wherever and however this dish came to be, I’m certainly glad it did! I suspect you will be too.

Chicken tikka masala is typically served over rice, often with naan bread to mop up the saucy goodness (this Homemade Naan recipe is our favorite). =

No one single recipe is standard.

But Is It Spicy?

This particular chicken tikka masala recipe is not “spicy” in the sense of hot, the way a jalapeno might be. (If you are looking for spicy as in hot, try this Jamaican Curry Chicken.)

Made with garam masala (which is a blend of many spices), turmeric, and cumin, chicken tikka masala is spicy and rich, but only in the sense of FLAVOR.

Chicken tikka masala served in two bowls with rice

Chicken Tikka Masala vs. Butter Chicken

Chicken tikka masala is frequently confused with butter chicken, which has a similar appearance.

  • Both dishes have the same orange-colored sauce and bite-sized pieces of chicken.
  • Unlike chicken tikka masala, however, butter chicken does not have a prominent tomato flavor.
  • Butter chicken’s sauce is also slightly creamier and richer.

Both dishes are unbelievably delicious, and I highly recommend trying them both. Check out both my Slow Cooker Butter Chicken and Instant Pot Butter Chicken for easy butter chicken recipes.

A Healthy Adaptation

Dietary Notes

Wondering if tikka masala is friendly for your personal dietary needs? Here’s a quick rundown of my recipe.

  • This particular chicken tikka masala recipe is nut-free. Others sometimes call for cashews or almonds.
  • Chicken tikka masala is a great gluten-free dinner option.
  • You can make this recipe dairy-free by swapping the greek yogurt for your favorite plain non-dairy yogurt.

As always, if you have specific dietary restrictions, make sure to verify your ingredients were processed in a dairy, nut and/or gluten-free facility to be safe.

Spices for Indian chicken tikka masala

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala

Many authentic Indian chicken tikka masala recipes have a list of ingredients that runs the length of my forearm.

However, what you’ll find in today’s post is a streamlined, easy chicken tikka masala recipe made on the stovetop with lightened-up ingredients you can find at most grocery stores.

While not every version of chicken tikka masala is healthy, this one, which includes veggies, light coconut milk, no salt added tomato sauce, and uses Greek yogurt instead of cream, certainly is.

All you need is a great big pot, a spoon, and of course, an appetite!

Chicken Tikka Masala in an Instant Pot

Since tikka masala is one of my favorite Indian dishes, a few years ago I developed a shortcut version for a healthy Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala. It’s become a 5-star reader favorite and is a recipe I cook often.


The Ingredients

  • Chicken. I used boneless, skinless chicken breast, though you can certainly swap chicken thighs. It becomes tantalizingly tender once slow cooked in the sauce and spices.
  • Garlic + Ginger. Both add to the complex flavors of the dish.
  • Garam Masala. A blend of many spices (including cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, and cardamom to name a few), it’s a one-stop flavor shop and a must-have spice for Indian-inspired recipes like this one. It can be found at most grocery stores and online here.
  • More Classic Indian Spices. Turmeric, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne help create the bold, deep, and complex flavor we expect from chicken tikka masala sauce. Adjust the amount of cayenne as needed to reach your desired level of spiciness.
  • Tomato Sauce. I prefer to use a sauce with no salt added for better control over the saltiness of the dish.
  • Coconut Milk + Greek Yogurt. My wholesome swaps for the heavy cream. Both ingredients help thicken the sauce and make it supremely rich and creamy. I used light coconut milk and nonfat Greek yogurt.

Substitution Tip!

Make this recipe dairy-free by swapping the Greek yogurt for your favorite plain, dairy-free yogurt.

  • Peas. A colorful final veggie addition. Frozen peas work beautifully here. You don’t even need to thaw them first.

Vegetarian Tikka Masala Options

  • Tofu Tikka Masala. An excellent vegetarian tikka option for this recipe, using cubes of extra firm tofu
  • Paneer Tikka Masala. If you can get your hands on paneer (I hear Costco has it now; I found it at an Indian grocery store near me), it’s absolutely delicious and worth trying at least once (though I think you’ll want it much more than once!)

The Directions

  1. Season the chicken.
A Dutch oven with vegetables
  1. Sauté the onion in butter. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and spices.
Pieces of chicken, vegetables, and spices in a Dutch oven
  1. Brown the chicken, stirring to coat the pieces in the spices. Look at that color!
A healthy Indian recipe in a Dutch oven
  1. Stir in the tomato sauce and coconut milk. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick.
Chicken tikka masala recipe in a Dutch oven
  1. Stir in the yogurt. Serve with rice or naan, with a sprinkle of cilantro. ENJOY!

Storage Tips for Tikka Masala

  • To Store. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm tikka masala in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. The texture of the sauce may change, but the flavors will still be delicious.

What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Dutch Oven

This heavy-duty Dutch oven will last you a lifetime. It’s beautiful and ideal for so many recipes!

Chicken tikka masala in two bowls with white rice

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

Cooking this recipe takes me right back to that wonderful summer in India. I hope it transports you there too!

As always, if you try this recipe please leave a comment below to let me know how it came out. Your notes and kind reviews keep me going, and your feedback is so important to me.

Chicken tikka masala in two bowls with white rice

Chicken Tikka Masala

4.94 from 15 votes
A healthy chicken tikka masala recipe made with accessible ingredients. Not too spicy, easy, and filled with rich Indian-inspired flavors!

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 50 mins

Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala*
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne use more if you like the dish spicy
  • 1 8-ounce can no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5-ounce can light coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas no need to thaw
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • Prepared brown rice or Homemade Naan; for serving
  • Fresh cilantro for serving

Instructions
 

  • Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and set aside.
  • In a Dutch oven or similar large, sturdy pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the onion. Cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is completely soft and the spices are very fragrant, about 3 minutes more.
  • Add the chicken pieces, stir to coat with the spices and onion, and cook, stirring often, just until the outsides start to brown, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce, coconut milk, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine.
  • Bring the pot to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low. Let simmer gently until the sauce thickens slightly and the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Uncover and stir in the peas.
  • Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes, and then stir in the Greek yogurt (do not stir in the Greek yogurt right away or it may curdle). Enjoy warm with rice or naan and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

Notes

  • *Garam masala is a blend of many spices and is very important to the final flavor of the recipe. It is available in most grocery stores and can also be found online here.
  • TO STORE: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm chicken tikka masala in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. The texture of the sauce may change, but the flavors will still be delicious.
  • Adapted from my Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6)Calories: 256kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 28gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 79mgPotassium: 664mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 528IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 47mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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28 Comments

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  1. Oh my!!! Delicious! Easy! Left overs are fantastic! I made my own garam Masala for my pantry too. Thank you!! xxoo5 stars

  2. This is really flavorful!  I was craving some Indian fare and this really  took care of it!  It was super simple to prep and cook.  Very fragrant,  delicious and the chicken was very tender.  I had naan as a side but will make some jasmine rice for the leftovers.  It’s just me so I’ll freeze for future meals.  5 stars

  3. I made this last night, and my husband, and I enjoyed the chicken tikka masala immensely! I had boneless chicken thighs in the freezer, so after thawing, used them instead. We will enjoy this again and again! Thanks for another excellent recipe!5 stars

  4. So delicious and very easy to make. There are no good Indian restaurants around us so this was a huge hit with everyone in our family!5 stars

  5. So delicious! I am counting my calories and was excited to find this recipe with the light coconut milk and fat free greek yogurt. I ate over brown rice but then for left overs used cauliflower rice and it was an incredible taste for minimal calories.
    Thank you so much for this fabulous recipe! Ann5 stars

  6. Good recipe and flavors. But, for me, it needs more salt, so I will get salted tomato sauce next times, and it wasn’t slightly sweet like the ones in restaurants, thus I added a teaspoon of brown sugar as I saw on another site.

    I will try this recipe again with the changes listed.

    Thank you for this.5 stars

  7. I made your chicken tikka masala some time ago with a recipe for naan (your sisters?) I am working on butter chicken and know my husband will ask “where’s the naan?” But I am not seeing the same naan recipe. (With honey instead of sugar)
    I am a huge fan of yours. Thanks for all your recipes.
    Vicki5 stars

    1. Thank you for sharing this kind review, Vicki! Unfortunately, I don’t have a homemade naan recipe on my site. I hope you enjoy the butter chicken recipe!

  8. So easy to make and packed with flavor! We had a power outage and I was still able to cook this by throwing one pot onto our grill and using it like a stove top. It turned out so delicious. If you are looking for a quick and easy meal this is it! It was ready in less than an hour, plus clean up was easy since it all cooked in the same pot. I didn’t even have fresh ginger but the powder worked perfectly and still tasted amazing.5 stars

  9. Really tasty! Worked perfectly, although I think about 2/3 or 3/4 of the sauce would be better balanced (but would throw out some tomato and coconut)

    Great recipe and site!5 stars

  10. This is absolutely delish! So simple to make and the family gobbled it all up! I love all your recipes! I’m so happy I found your site!5 stars

  11. This was quite good but I felt the chicken was on the bland side. I looked up some other recipes, which specified marinating the chicken first; I will try that next time, after I try your butter chicken , tofu tikka masala, and paneer tikka masala, that is! I love your recipes—delicious combination of flavor, satiety, and healthful ingredients!!!4 stars

  12. My go to tikka masala recipe! SO GOOD. Love to serve it over cauliflower rice for a low carb option, and with extra broccoli instead of peas. But everything about the sauce and flavors is incredible, and wows my family every time that I made Indian food made from scratch!5 stars