Chicken Tikka Masala

By Erika Simon, as part of the Travel at Home series: Eating through 30 recipes from 30 countries.

What comes to mind when you think of British cuisine? Bangers & mash? Beef wellington? Haggis?

Well, think again — chicken tikka masala has been deemed a British national dish. Rumour has it, an Indian restaurant in Glasgow invented it, and with Indian cuisine sweeping the nation over the past 50 years, you pretty much can’t eat anywhere without seeing a rendition of chicken tikka masala on the menu. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declared:

“Chicken Tikka Masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.”

I didn’t need any more convincing. To get a taste of British cuisine, I decided to try out chicken tikka masala for the first time in my home kitchen. The idea is to marinate the chicken in some amazing spices, lemon juice, and ginger, and combine it with a creamy tomato sauce to serve. You can cook it over the grill with skewers, or under the broiler in your kitchen.

I was thoroughly impressed with the results. It wasn’t hard to do at all, and the flavours were phenomenal. A nice spice, with the creaminess of a smooth tomato sauce, and really moist bites of chicken. I used bone-in chicken thighs and breast, because I had recently purchased a whole chicken, which just added an extra step after a light broil to take the chicken off the bone and keep the bones to make broth with later. You can make it with boneless, skinless, but the bone allows it to cook slower when you put it on a grill without overcooking, so keep that in mind.

I only marinated it for 5 hours, because you don’t want the lemon juice or the yogurt to destroy the chicken’s texture while it marinates… so I’d advise leaving it for no more than 8 hours. I should also note that I completely eyeballed most of the spices when getting the marinade together.

I’m already getting requests to make it for dinner again.

My version of chicken tikka masala is a rough combination of this and this recipe.


1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground pepper
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 pieces bone-in chicken

2 tablespoons butter
Half an onion, thinly sliced
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup heavy cream


Combine cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Set aside 1 tablespoon of this mixture. Set aside half of the ginger and garlic, but add the other half to the bowl. Whisk with yogurt and lemon juice. This will be your marinade, and what you set aside will be used later with the tomato sauce. Pour marinade over the chicken pieces in a baking dish, coating it all over. Allow it to sit, covered in the fridge, for 4 hours but no more than 8!

After that time, melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger (what you set aside earlier). Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and then add the spices you saved from before and allow them to cover the onions for about 1 minute. Then add the tomato sauce and cilantro. Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, then add the heavy cream.

Meanwhile, you can cook the chicken on the grill or in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil under the broiler. Wipe off some of the excess marinade, and broil it (6 inches below the element) until charred for about 8 minutes. This will not cook the chicken thoroughly, but that’s fine. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the bone, cutting it into bite-size pieces, and then transfer chicken to the pot with the sauce. Simmer on medium heat until the chicken is cooked, 10-12 minutes.

Serve alone sprinkled with cilantro, or with rice.



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