Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

May 17, 2016

This Chicken Tikka Masala is a flavor packed, restaurant-quality dish that you can have ready in no time! Chicken pieces are cooked in a spiced tomato based sauce and finished Greek yogurt for creaminess. After one bite you’ll be asking yourself, where has this been my whole life??

Chicken Tikka Masala shown here in a single serving in a white bowl served with basmati rice and naan.

Chicken Tikka Masala the Quick and Easy Version

Who knew you could get a perfectly delicious Tikka Masala ready in 30 minutes? Yes, start to finish in 30 minutes!

This is a classic Indian dish that is super popular here in the U.S. and one of my favorite Indian recipes.

It’s a healthy chicken recipe is totally worthy of being added to your dinner rotation. It is brimming with delicious spices and rich flavors and it’s a dinner the whole family will love!

In fact this has already become a regular dinner at my house. We love it served with basmati rice and naan too! 

Chicken Tikka Masala in pan garnished with cilantro

The Homemade Spice Blend

I made my own Garam Masala spice blend for chicken tikka masala, which I would recommend (even though it will add a few extra minutes the first time, it should give you enough for 4 batches of this). I recommend making your own blend because with store-bought versions there are so many different spice combinations and ratios out there for this specific blend.

And yes, the cardamom is expensive but you’ll get a lot of meals out of one jar of it (or you can also use it to make chai spice cookies, smoothies, etc. Or make more Indian food because it’s amazing!).

Ingredients for Tikka Masala

  • Fresh ginger
  • Garlic
  • Yellow onion
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Spices including Garam Masala, paprika, and cayenne pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato Paste
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Plain Greek yogurt or heavy cream
  • Lemon
  • Fresh cilantro

Scroll below for full printable recipe.

A Note about Canned Tomatoes

The canned crushed tomatoes thickness varies pretty widely based on the brand you buy. So adjust the liquid accordingly.

Some brands are thick others are thin and runny so with the thicker versions add more liquid with the thinner versions simmer a little longer if needed or thicken with a teaspoon or two of cornstarch mixed with water.

Quick Chicken Tikka Masala two servings shown here in white bowls served over rice with naan

Can I Substitute with Cream Instead?

If you want to make it richer you can use heavy cream in place of the Greek yogurt. Just be sure that you let the sauce simmer until it’s fairly thick first or add a little cornstarch in with the cream so the sauce isn’t runny.

How to Make Tikka Masala

  • Pulse ginger and garlic in a food processor. Add onion and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Toss chicken with 1 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp salt.
  • Cook chicken in a oiled skillet, turning once halfway through, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
  • Saute onion mixture in same skillet 3 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste, remaining 1 Tbsp garam masala, the paprika, and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, season and cook until heated and thickened.
  • Return chicken to pan and warm.
  • Off heat stir in Greek yogurt and lemon juice.

Easy Chicken Tikka Masala served with peas and naan over rice

More Indian Recipes You’ll Love

Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

4 from 3 votes

All the flavors of a slow simmered restaurant quality Chicken Tikka Masala but this version is so easy to make and can be ready in 30 minutes or less! So good it may just become a regular in your dinner rotation.

Servings: 4
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 1/2) inch knob ginger, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, peeled
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp garam masala spice blend*, divided (see notes)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt** (I used fat-free, any kind will work fine though)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Instructions

  1. Pulse ginger and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add onion and pulse until finely chopped.

  2. Toss chicken with 1 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1 tsp salt. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  3. Add chicken and cook, rotating halfway through cooking, until cooked through, about 6 - 7 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  4. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion mixture and saute until onions have softened, about 3 minutes. 
  5. Add tomato paste, remaining 1 Tbsp garam masala, the paprika, and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. 
  6. Add crushed tomatoes, season with salt to taste, and cook stirring occasionally until mixture is hot, about 2 minutes***. 

  7. Return chicken to pan and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat, stir in Greek yogurt and lemon juice. 

  8. Serve warm over basmati rice topped with cilantro.

Recipe Notes

1. For a homemade garam masala spice blend (which I recommend using) whisk together: 2 Tbsp ground cumin, 2 Tbsp ground coriander, 1 1/2 Tbsp ground black pepper, 1 Tbsp ground cardamom, 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg. The blend listed here will make enough to make this recipe 4 times so it's quicker the next few times you make it.

2. To make it a little richer sometimes I like to substitute 1/4 cup heavy cream for 1/4 cup of the yogurt. Both ways are delicious though.

3. You can let it simmer longer if needed if the canned tomatoes used were watery. If the canned tomatoes were thick you can add a few Tbsp of water if needed to thin the sauce mixture.

Recipe source: inspired by this recipe on Epicurious

Nutrition Facts
Quick Chicken Tikka Masala
Amount Per Serving
Calories 361 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Fat 12g18%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 110mg37%
Sodium 502mg22%
Potassium 1349mg39%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 38g76%
Vitamin A 1080IU22%
Vitamin C 24.8mg30%
Calcium 112mg11%
Iron 3.6mg20%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Chicken Tikka Masala
Author: Jaclyn

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32 Comments

  • Camila

    The recipe was fragrant and the final result was tasty after yogurt and rice…except for one glaring issue. **IT TURNED OUT BITTER!!** I had to use a few tbsp of sugar and some salt to try and balance it out enough to mask it. Looked to Google and figure what happened was the onion-ginger-garlic mixture had sat in the blender (no food processor) too long. When fresh garlic and onion are grated together they have some sort of chemical reaction so you have to work fast and fry it up soon (the recipe has a 6-7min delay due to chicken being cooked after you blend). Or, just fry the onions (minced) on their own and make your ginger-garlic paste separately. I knew something was awry when I noticed my garlic-ginger-onion puree had turned a light green color in the pan…but was told it wasn’t uncommon and didn’t affect the taste…but man was there a weird bitterness afterwards. I should’ve went with my gut and just fried the onions on their own, mashed the garlic-ginger myself, and then continue with the recipe.

    I’d suggest people to do it this way and if a super silky texture is really needed to just blend with an immersion blender before adding the chicken back in. I’ll be doing the recipe again and know it will taste really nice…it’s just that risk of bitterness that throws me off about following the directions again. Aside from that, once I did my best to mask the bitterness and served with basmati it was really lovely and look forward to making again but with a different approach :).

  • Valorie Cooper

    Made this last night and was wonderful! Will be a staple in my house

  • Jillian

    Turned out great! I’m using it to stuff buns and it worked wonderfully. Great recipe!

  • Ashley

    If you were making this for a big family meal 7 servings minimum would you just double the recipe?

  • Kimberly

    I do not have a food processor. Is there something you would recommend to modify this step? Could I use ground ginger? How much? Or should I just mince the fresh ginger?

    • Amber

      I actually minced the garlic and shredded the ginger, then mixed it with the spices. I sauteed the onion for a bit then added all the flavor ingredients together instead of mixing the ginger and onions together first. It turned out fantastic that way, and honestly that is the more typical approach when making dishes like this one.

  • Kimberly

    I don’t have a food processor. Is there a way I could substitute ground ginger for the fresh ginger? How much would you recommend?