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Chicken Tikka Masala

This Indian dish is really popular in the United Kingdom, ranked the second most favored foreign dish to cook after Chinese stir-fry. In London, even Subway franchises have been known to feature a chicken tikka masala sandwich on the menu.

Chicken tikka masala is a dish of roasted chicken that is marinated in spices and yogurt, then grilled before it is coated in a creamy tomato and coconut sauce. You can substitute lamb, fish or paneer (a type of Indian cheese) for the chicken if preferred.

Authentic chicken tikka masala is cooked in a tandoor oven, which is a clay or metal oven fueled with charcoal. It can reach temperatures up to 900°F, so the meat is exposed to very hot air, smoke and flames with limited cook times. Unfortunately, I do not have a round grill, or else I would have tried to recreate a tandoor oven using Alton Brown’s method transforming a terra cotta pot. In the meantime, a standard charcoal grill works just fine. 

Learn more about curry and its origins

Chicken Tikka Masala
Recipe originally from Alton Brown via Food Network 

Garam Masala Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 20 cloves
  • 1 dried arbol chile stemmed, seeded and crumbled
  • 1 (2 1/2-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in 1/2
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 Garam Masala Directions:

  1. Combine all of the seeds, peppercorns, cloves, chile, and cinnamon in an 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Heat, moving the pan constantly, until you smell the cumin toasting, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the mixture to a plate and spread out to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Once cool, add the toasted mixture and nutmeg into a spice grinder. Process until a fine powder is formed, approximately 1 minute. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.


  • 2 tablespoons garam masala, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 medium serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Fresh mint or cilantro leaves to garnish


Special Equipment: Chimney starter, newspaper, vegetable oil, 4 pounds natural lump charcoal and metal skewers

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon of the garam masala, 1 teaspoon of the salt, cumin, coriander, and pepper in a 1-gallon resealable bag. Seal and shake the bag to combine. Add the chicken and shake to coat. Add the yogurt to the bag, seal and squish to coat. Refrigerate the bag in a leak proof container for 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  2. Spritz 4 to 5 pieces of newspaper with vegetable oil and put in the bottom of a charcoal chimney starter. Fill the chimney with half of the charcoal and light the newspaper.
  3. When the charcoal is lightly covered with gray ash, carefully pour it onto the bottom grate of a kettle grill and spread evenly. Top with the remaining unlit charcoal, spreading evenly so as not to suffocate the lit charcoal. Set the second grate in the kettle and cover until ready to cook.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch straight sided saute pan over medium-high, until it shimmers and almost begins to smoke. Add the onion and remaining teaspoon of salt, and cook until the onion is browned around the edges, 11 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, ginger and chile. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions have softened and browned completely, approximately 7 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of garam masala and stir several times to coat.
  6. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have reduced slightly and deepened in color, 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the chicken from the yogurt mixture, leaving as much yogurt on the meat as possible. Thread the pieces of chicken, 1/4-inch apart, onto the skewers. Grill until the yogurt has slightly charred or blackened, about 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skewers.
  8. Add the chicken and coconut milk to the tomato mixture and stir to combine and heat through. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with mint or cilantro and serve over basmati rice.

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