What We Ate Part II: Chicken Tikka Masala

by Ben Miller

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

(Find the other recipes from last night here and here)

The second dish  I served last night was Chicken Tikka Masala. I have to admit, I lose almost all self control when I get near an Indian buffet. At my parents house, there is a nearby Indian and pizza place that has delicious and reasonably priced food. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a similar joint here in D.C. (readers who have suggestions for cheap good Indian please leave them in the comments). Usually I’ve shied away from actually trying to make Chicken Tikka Masala because it sounded too complicated. But I have to say, after trying this last night, it really wasn’t that hard. As an added bonus, I’d say that the chicken breasts are actually tasty enough that you could eat them without cubing them and putting them in the sauce.

As always, recipe and instructions after the jump.

For a quicker dish, you could just eat the chicken after it comes out of the oven.

For a quicker dish, you could just eat the chicken after it comes out of the oven.

Chicken Tikka Masala

from Cooks Illustrated ($)

I actually doubled the recipe because we had so many people coming over and it turned out fine. In fact, I highly recommend doing this. Who doesn’t want more leftovers?

Also, for those of you with not much time on your hands, just make the chicken and eat it as is without cubing it. I highly recommended it.


For the Chicken:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I really love spice so I recommend adding at least a bit more)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (it’s bad for you, but I think it really is necessary for flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium garlic cloves , pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

For the Masala Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion , diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves pressed through a garlic press (again, feel free to go over, who doesn’t love garlic?)
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 fresh Serrano chile , flesh minced (I didn’t take the seeds out, which made the sauce somewhat spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (I found it at Whole Foods)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Combine the cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle it over the chicken and then rub it in to make sure it coats. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger in a large bowl. You want enough room to dip the chicken in it.
  3. While the chicken is refrigerating, heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat and then add the onions. Cook them until they start to turn golden brown, then add in the garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala. It will turn into a kind of sticky ball. Let that cook for a few minutes and then add in the crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt. Give it a quick taste at this point. I actually added in a little bit garam masala because I wanted to give it a bit more kick to it. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and turn down the heat. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Once the chicken is ready, turn on the broiler and set a wire rack on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet. Take each piece of chicken, and using a pair of tongs, dip it into the yogurt mixture. You really want to give it a nice coating, but let the excess drip off. Place the chicken on the wire rack and stick it in the oven. You want the rack to be on about the second-highest rack position so it isn’t too far from the broiler, though not touching it either.
  5. Cook the chicken for about 15 minutes or until it is done (you might need more or less time depending on how thick the breasts are). Make sure you flip it once midway through. You can tell when it’s getting close when it starts to brown and gets a few spots.
  6. After the sauce has simmered for a little while, add the cream. Return it to a simmer, cover and remove from heat. The dutch oven should keep it fairly warm for quite some time.
  7. Let the chicken cool a bit and then cube it into chunks. Mix that into the sauce and add in the cilantro. Taste it to check if it needs more salt (mine didn’t). Then serve and enjoy!

(Special thanks to Kay Steiger without whom you would not be seeing any of these delicious photos)


9 responses to “What We Ate Part II: Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. There’s a buffet place in the basement of the building at 17th and L St. NW that’s pretty good. I think they provide the food for Naan and Beyond which is just upstairs and also pretty good.

  2. The White Tiger on 3rd and Mass NE isn’t bad

  3. I hope this isn’t blasphemous — I just wanted to note that Trader Joe’s has masala sauce in jars that is surprisingly delicious (I recommend chicken thighs, red potatoes, and peas). I bet this recipe is better. But the jars are a satisficing, yet satisfying, alternative for more rushed evenings.

  4. Nothing wrong with the dish at all, but if you want to step it up a notch, buy a good Indian cookbook ( 660 Curries is good) and follow their instructions for making your own garam masala. Nothing is better than freshly toasting and grinding your spices – it seriously makes a huge difference. I would say it adds 10 minutes cooking time.

  5. Pingback: What We Ate Part III: Basmati Rice, Pilaf Style « The Internet Food Association

  6. I don’t know how far you’re willing to travel, but Woodlands Restaurant and Udupi Palace are both in Takoma Park at the New Hampshire/University mess of an intersection. Their lunch buffets are both completely vegetarian and completely delicious–with Woodlands having a slight edge for creativity and tastiness.

  7. verplanck colvin

    This recipe is pretty quick, and really frickin’ good. It also has the benefit of not having too many obscure ingredients (I get stumped many times when trying to cook Thai food: no kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, or thai basil in the local markets). Garam masala is pretty widespread, the local supermarket here had it as well as the co-op.

  8. Ben, Ben, Ben…

    Did you make it to Vij’s when you were in BC? The evidence suggests not, because you would be incessantly raving about it if you had. The Times reviiewed it a few years ago (I think it was Bittman himself) and declared it the best Indian restaurant in N America. If the relatives you were visiting didn’t send you there, it would probably be best to disown them now. Just get it over with.

    All, however, is not lost. They have a cookbook! And it’s great! Just google Vij’s cookbook and order it. There’s a recipe for Indian spiced nuts that someone needs to feed Spencer after his curried pecans ordeal. He’ll resist, but you have to make him eat the first one. Healing in a process.

  9. Regarding good, reasonably priced Indian restaurants, I don’t know if it’s still there (I haven’t lived in DC for the last 9 years), but there used to be a very good, not terribly expensive Indian restaurant in Georgetown on M Street, not far from Key Bridge–across M Street from Key Bridge. I can’t remember the name of it, though.

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