RECIPE: Chicken Tikka Masala



A melt-in-your-mouth chicken dish with warming Indian spices.

Everyone loves Nicole Cabot’s slow-cooked tikka masala, perfectly spiced with fork-tender pieces of chicken. It can be cooked in a Crock Pot or in a heavy, oven-safe dish such as a Le Creuset any time of year, but is so comforting in the cold weather. Don’t be thrown off by the list of ingredients — 10 of the ingredients are spices. Any combination of steamed carrots, cauliflower, and green beans can top the tikka, served over rice. A dollop of spiced chutney tastes delicious.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

  • Author: Nicole Cabot
  • Yield: Serves 4


Units Scale
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2- inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala (store bought or make your own — recipe below)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk plain yogurt, plus extra 1/2 cup for garnish
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish

For the garam masala, mix the following in a small bowl:

  • 2 tablespoons cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut or olive oil in large cast iron or other heavy skillet until shimmering. Add chicken in batches to brown. Set aside.
  2. Add onion and other tablespoon of oil to the skillet and cook on low heat 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Add garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute. Add all ground spices and cook 30 seconds on medium heat. Turn off heat.
  3. Return chicken to pan. Coat with spices. Add tomato paste and yogurt and coat the chicken. Pour everything into a heavy, covered baking dish such as a Le Creuset or Crock Pot/slow cooker. Add bay leaves. Cook in a slow cooker for 4 hours on low or cook in oven-proof dish at 300 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken is fork tender, it is done. Check that the temperature of chicken reaches 165°F.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice until warmed through. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Top with steamed cauliflower, carrots, and/or green beans or peas, if desired. Serve with basmati or jasmine rice, naan bread, extra yogurt, chopped cilantro, and chutney.


Like curry, garam masala is a mix of spices. Which spices and the amounts will vary from recipe to recipe or person to person. If you have a decent range of spices, you can make your own — and tailor it to your own likes!

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Nicole Cabot
Nicole Cabot
Nicole Cabot is a private chef living and working on Martha’s Vineyard.
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