How to make next level chicken tikka masala

Master the art of making restaurant-quality chicken tikka masala at home. This takeaway favourite combines smoky charred chicken and a delicately spiced tomato sauce.

Chicken tikka masala guide title

One of the nation's favourite curry dishes, chicken tikka masala is often considered too complicated to replicate in the home kitchen. However, we've come up with a way of creating this Anglo-Indian classic by simplifying the tandoor cooking method and using various flavour tricks inspired by traditional Indian recipes.


10 tips for the perfect chicken tikka masala

1. Use thighs for succulence 
2. Fresh spices are most aromatic 
3. Marinate the meat
4. Char for tandoori flavour 
5. Add the cooking juices 
6. Use ghee or butter for richness 
7. Passata for a smooth tomato base 
8. Choose your shade of red  
9. Crème fraiche for acidity and creaminess 
10. Seasoning with garam masala 


1. Thigh's the limit

Chicken thighs on a plate

In restaurants, tikka masala is usually made with chunks of breast meat, but thighs stay tender and juicy when slow-cooking.


2. New spiceThree piles of different colour spice in a row

Spices lose their aromatic qualities and taste dull when they're older, so try and use the freshest possible. We’ve used ground spices for convenience, but you can easily toast the whole seeds of the spices we’ve used and grind them yourself for the best flavour. 


3. Prime time

Marinaded chicken thighs on a tray

Marinating the chicken thigh meat in a citrusy yogurt sauce for around 12 hours will give it a tender texture and a well-rounded flavour. 


4. Char away

Charred chicken on a tray

To replicate the intense heat of a tandoor oven, we’ve used a grill to char the chicken, but you could also use a very hot barbecue.


5. Added flavour

Tomato curry and a swirl of clarified butter in a pan

Adding the chicken juices from the grill tray and any leftover marinade adds flavour, so don't throw it away.  


6. We say passata

Tomato passata in a pot

We’ve taken the fuss out of skinning and chopping fresh tomatoes by simply using passata and giving it a tomato flavour boost with a squeeze of tomato puree.  


7. Red alert

Tomato-based sauce in a pan

We achieved a red colour by using passata and tomato puree, but you can add a drop of red food colouring to make it more vibrant.


8. Use ghee

Block of ghee in a glass bowl

The recipe for tikka masala is based on butter chicken, so don’t be shy when using butter or Indian clarified butter (ghee), to make this dish. 


9. Keep it fraiche

Chicken tikka masala in a pan with creme fraiche swirled over

Single cream can be added, but we prefer the slight sourness you get from using crème fraiche.


10. Simple seasoning

Chicken tikka masala with seasoning and nuts with herbs

Garam masala is often used as a seasoning, so it's added at the end, along with some smoked salt to add to the tandoor flavour we’re trying to replicate. 

See the full recipe for our next level chicken tikka masala.

Chicken tikka masala in a pan with bread and rice

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