Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Chicken Tikka Masala

on July 16, 2012

The first thing I need to do is thank the author of 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. This recipe is straight from his cookbook and I have yet to find a way to improve on it. I recommend buying this book if you like Indian food. The recipes are easy to follow and relatively easy to make once you have your kitchen stocked with the correct spices.

The second thing I need to do is warn you that this is NOT a simple recipe. It is easy to make once you have all the ingredients but there is quite a list of things to assemble.

The first step of making this recipe is making a spice blend called Punjabi Garam Masala. It’s also referred to as Punjabi-style Warming Spice Blend.


1 T coriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

1 t whole cloves

1/2 t black peppercorns

1/2 t black cardamom seeds

3 cinnamon sticks (each stick should be 3″ long) broken into smaller pieces (a meat hammer works great for this)

3 fresh or dried bay leaves

Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add all the spices and the bay leaves. Toast, shaking the pan every few seconds until the coriander and cumin turn a reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns and cardamom turn an ashy black, and the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly. The mixture will smell highly fragrant. This process is FAST and only takes 1-2 minutes. This is not something to stick in the pan and do something else lol.

Once the spices are toasted transfer them to a bowl. You don’t want the heat of the skillet to keep cooking them. Burnt spices are pretty icky. Once the spices are cool to the touch you can run them through a spice grinder. (If you don’t have a spice grinder you can buy an electric coffee grinder for about $20 and use that to grind the spices. DO NOT use it for anything else! I have a Cuisinart Spice Grinder that I love. The bowl is dishwasher safe, unlike a coffee grinder.) The reason for waiting until the spices are cool to grind them is that grinding them hot can create condensation and cause the spices to get clumpy. Anyway, you grind the spices until they resemble finely ground black pepper.

Now that you’ve made that spice blend you can store it in an air tight container in a cool dark place and move on to other recipes that use this blend. 🙂

So on to the Chicken Tikka Masala!

This dish has a decidedly British influence. It is also called “Marinated Chicken with an Onion-Pepper-Almond Sauce.” Chicken Tikka Masala sounds much more exotic and interesting lol.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe



1/2 cup plain yogurt (I like to use the thick greek yogurt)

2 T Ginger Paste (I buy it pre-made in a tube at Safeway.)

2 T Garlic Paste (Also available in a tube at Safeway.)

2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

2 t coriander seeds, freshly ground

1 t cumin seeds, freshly ground

2 t ground Kashmiri chiles or 1/2 t cayenne pepper mixed with 1 1/2 t sweet paprika

1 1/2 t coarse kosher or sea salt

1/2 t punjabi garam masala (that yummy blend you made)

1/2 t ground tumeric (it’s what gives that amazing yellow color)

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut lengthwise into 1″ strips. (I prefer chicken thighs and will even cook them whole under the broiler)

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and dump in the chicken. Let it sit in the fridge at least 30 minutes but as long as over night.


This sauce is what you serve with the chicken. The flavors just keep layering.

2 T Ghee or canola oil

1 small red onion, coarsely chopped (I use yellow onion if I don’t have red on hand.)

1 small red bell pepper (I used a yellow bell tonight because I didn’t have red.)

1/4 c blanched, slivered almonds (I leave them out.)

1/4 c golden raisins

1 cup diced tomatoes (You can use fresh or canned. If using canned you don’t need to drain them. I used canned, diced tomatoes tonight.)

1/4 c heavy whipping cream

1/2 t coarse kosher or sea salt

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1/4 t punjabi garam masala

2 T finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems. (I canNOT stand cilantro. I never use it. But go ahead and use it if you like that nasty stuff lol)

Heat the ghee in a medium-high small saucepan. You want to use a small pan because it will crowd the ingredients and the moisture that sweats out will help prevent them from sticking and burning. Once the ghee is shimmering hot add the onion, bell pepper, raisins and almonds. Let them brown in the pan until you see golden brown spots appearing on them. This takes about 10-12 minutes. Stir the pot every 3-4 minutes.

Once you have that beautiful caramelization going on, add the tomatoes. Use the liquid to help deglaze the pan. Then dump all the hot ingredients into a blender (no, don’t use a food processor, it will leak all over the place.) Add the cream, salt, cayenne, and punjabi garam masala. Run the blender until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. Dump it all back into a sauce pan and simmer over low heat while you cook the chicken.

Thread the marinated chicken on the skewers and grill or broil on high. Once the chicken is cooked through, take it off the skewers and dump it into the pot of sauce. Give it a stir and serve sprinkled with the cilantro. Can be served over rice.

So that’s the basic recipe. Here are the adjustments that I’ve made….

I always cut the amount of cayenne in half. I do not like spicy hot food because I’m a wimp.

I always use twice the amount of yogurt called for.

I doubled the recipe except for the yogurt which was doubled first and then doubled again. (in other words, I used 2 cups instead of 1 cup)

I also used four times the amount of chicken called for (6 lbs). I doubled the recipe because that’s all you need to do for the extra chicken.

Finally, I left the chicken thighs whole and just tossed them under the broiler.

A note of warning. Don’t get too involved in watching the Food Network while you’re cooking the chicken. You’ll burn it lol.

And here’s the finished product!

Edit: You can use pre-ground spices but only use 3/4 t of ground to replace 1 t of whole spices that you grind after measuring. (This only applies to the cumin/coriander in the main recipe. The Punjabi Garam Masala still needs to be made with whole spices.)


One response to “Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. Tane Marie McKee, DVM says:

    Dearest Mrs. Salas. I thank you for my sampling today. It is yummie!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is probably my favorite Eastern Indian dish. I also like samosas. Some Indian food keeps me awake or makes me have bad, gnarly dreams. I might attribute it to some meds I am on. Anyway, as much as I like to cook, I think I will leave this recipe to you or Flavors of India in Oakland and Bezerkely. I need simpler recipes due to by hectic life. OK Luvie……… best of luck with your new job tomorrow…..TMM XXXXXXXXXXXXOOOOOOOOOOOOOxxxxxxxxxxxxoooooooooooooo

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