Chicken Tikka Masala

This is my third such recipe. I love this at both serious Indian restaurants in town.

This is basically tandoori chicken in a tomato-leaning curry sauce. Masala means “hot spice,” but I rarely eat hot myself. The trick to controlling the spice is the amount of ground red pepper you use.* If you don’t want hot, use a tiny pinch instead of the amount here.


1. Make tandoori chicken according to my recipe. The chicken will be put into the sauce just before serving. Do not simmer the chicken the chicken in the sauce if you insist on using white (breast) meat or it will be dry and nasty. Also, it will denature the tandoori aspect of the meat—the meat should not be part of the sauce, just "inside" the sauce.

2. Heat ghee or oil. Clarify onions and cook remaining aromates on low heat (up to 5 minutes). Bloom spices.

—According to Daniel Raj, what is done with these aromates is the whole secret to a good Indian dish. As a general principle, the longer you cook, the darker your curry will be. Use tumeric, tomatos, paste or sauce, or food coloring to impart the color you want and to keep it from becoming greyish.

3. Add tomato ingredients and continue to simmer. Add yoghurt and cream, then additional chicken stock, sugar and salt. Raise to a boil, then drop heat and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes.

—You can use one of those hand-held mixers for zapping up soup ingredients into a velouté if you like it smooth and creamy. Mine just fits inside the tomato can. Or just process your diced tomatoes in a blender. You want the sauce to be smooth except for chicken and onions.

4. Add chicken and fold to cover it in sauce. Quickly garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve with rice and naan.


Serves 6-8.



6 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
2 onions, thin-sliced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1" piece ginger root, fresh minced
6 pods green cardamom (use only the seeds)
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tbsp coriander, fresh-ground
1 tsp red pepper, ground*
1 can tomato paste
1 small can of diced, skinned tomatoes, puréed
¼ cup plain yoghurt
1 cup heavy cream
chicken stock (optional, if you want a more liquid sauce)
½ tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 lb tandoori chicken (dark meat) or lamb for 6
fresh cilantro leaves
lime juice