First Time: Chicken Tikka Masala

A few months ago I learned a very interesting thing about Indian food: curry is not a spice, it’s a thing. This was explained to me by an Indian coworker who shares my love of cooking. Curries come in all different forms – thick like stew, thin like soup, meat, vegetables – and with different spice combinations.

Around the same time, I went out for dinner with some friends to an Indian restaurant and it was my first time trying Indian food. Thankfully, one of our Indian friends was there to help guide those of us who were new to the cuisine. Here are a few things I learned:

  • Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular chicken curry staples, and many people’s first introduction to Indian food is through this dish.
  • Eating with your hands is expected.
  • Thick and chunky curries (like chicken tikka) are eaten with naan, a type of flat bread.
  • Thin and runny curries (like a lentil curry) are eaten over rice because the rice soaks up all the liquid.

That night I ordered a mixed platter that included chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, some sort of chicken sausage, and some sort of grilled shrimp, and some sort of lentil curry – all with naan and rice. With all the leftovers, it ended up lasting for dinner plus 2 meals! And it was a great way to try a variety of dishes.

I’ve eaten at a couple other Indian restaurants since this first experience, and my favorite dish is still chicken tikka masala. For the sake of being frugal, I ventured to my trusty internet to find a recipe that would satisfy my craving. Through Pinterest, I found this recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. Like she says, it definitely doesn’t disappoint. With a few adaptations, I found a way that works well for the husband and myself.

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • 1 container plain Chobani (6 oz)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp milk (suggestion)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks

Masala (sauce)

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I use a heaping tsp of the minced stuff in a jar)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional if you prefer some extra heat)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro


Combine all marinade ingredients, except chicken, in medium-large bowl. Consistency should be close to regular yogurt, so use your judgement with the milk. I prefer the marinade a little runny so I get the flavor into the chicken while marinading, but don’t get the gooey mess when cooking later.

Add chicken chunks to bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 8 hours.

Very lightly grease a frying pan (I use Pam) and heat to medium-high. Use tongs or a fork to shake excess marinade off the chicken before putting into pan. Cook until done. Discard the marinade.

While the chicken is cooking, begin preparing the masala. Melt butter in a deeper skillet if you have one, or a large frying pan works too. Sauté garlic and jalapeño for one minute, until you can really smell them. Mix in seasoning (it will get stuck to the pieces of garlic and jalapeño). Stir in tomato sauce and cream, then let simmer on low until the sauce thickens (about 15 minutes).

When the chicken is done cooking, mix it into the sauce and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Serve with hot naan, or over rice. We tried it over brown rice the first time and it was great! The second time we tried it with naan that we found at our local Earth Fare and we prefer it that way.

Stonefire Naan

What new style of food have you tried recently? Have you tried to recreate it at home yet?

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