Chicken Tikka Masala: An Indian inspired recipe with tender chunks of chicken marinated overnight in a spicy yogurt based sauce then cooked 4 hours in the slow cooker.
It seems like “easy” has been a running theme here in the kitchen lately and this recipe is no different. Chicken tikka masala is one of those great slow cooker recipes that involve dumping everything in the slow cooker insert, marinating over night, and letting the slow cooker do it’s thing until 20 minutes before you are ready to eat.
No browning this, or sauteing that. No half cooking on the stovetop or transferring finished meat to a new pan while reducing the sauce in another new pan. All the action for the main dish is done right in the slow cooker.
The only thing extra you have to provide is the rice – preferably jasmine or basmati – or the naan bread. You can make these at home, or pick up pre-made options at the grocery store. I opt for jasmine rice, as it conveniently cooks for the same 20 minutes that the sauce needs to thicken. Just enough time to set the table for dinner.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, I recommend this one by CrockPot. It’s the perfect size for dishes that serve 2 – 8 people and has served me well for nearly 4 years now. If you don’t want one, you can make this in a dutch oven or other covered pan that holds around 5 quarts of food and is both oven and stovetop safe. You still dump everything in at once and marinate it overnight.
The next day, cook it for 60 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Check with a meat thermometer to ensure that the dish exceeds 165 degrees. Then follow the same steps as below where it indicates 20 minutes prior to eating. Instead of finishing the dish on low in the in the slow cooker, simmer on low on the stovetop.
The flavor for the tikka masala comes from the blend of spices, but the secret to the tender, juicy chicken is in the yogurt based marinade. I’ve tried marinating the chicken in just the spices and yogurt, but I didn’t notice enough difference to warrant the additional work. Seriously, just dump it all in and mix it all up.
I do use a separate pan to blend the marinade prior to mixing it with the chicken. This allows me to safely taste the sauce and make sure it has enough salt and spice. If you want to only use one dish, you can also adjust the seasoning at the end just before you serve it.
The recipe, as I make it, would be considered between mild and medium in most Indian restaurants I’ve tried. I have had a pretty long term habit of always ordering tikka masala when we go for Indian, splitting plates with whatever James orders.
Most of them are too mild when I order mild and to hot when I order medium. This one is right in the middle, so adjust the cayenne pepper accordingly to your taste buds. With cayenne a little goes a long way, so don’t add too much without tasting. (Again, why I mix the marinade separately from the chicken.)
The sauce is fairly thick when you first get it together but it will thin out as the dish cooks.A word of warning: if you opt for fat free dairy products the sauce will break. By that I mean that the whey and protein that makes the dish appear to be so thick and creamy will separate and look curdled. If you can get past the texture, the taste won’t necessarily change much, but I cannot get past the texture.
I highly recommend using at least a 2% milk fat for the yogurt and either whole milk or half & half for the marinade and full cream for the thickener. If you do need a substitute, you can try using full fat coconut milk (the kind in cans), but I cannot guarantee how it will turn out.
For you cilantro haters, it’s not necessary to make the dish a success. It looks pretty, but I honestly forget to put it on about half the time.
See the full recipe below and don’t forget to share with your friends!
Have you ever tried tikka masala before? Have you ever made it at home? What are your real feelings on cilantro? An perfectly delicious herb or an evil soapy impersonator? Let me know in the comments below!
Chicken Tikka Masala
An Indian inspired recipe with tender chunks of chicken marinated overnight in a spicy yogurt based sauce then cooked 4 hours in the slow cooker.
20 minPrep Time
4 hr, 20 Cook Time
4 hr, 40 Total Time
- 2 1/2 lbs of chicken breast or thighs
- 1/2 a medium onion (about 1 cup diced)
- 4 cloves garlic (4 tsp minced)
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 - 29 ounce can tomato puree
- 1 cup greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup whole milk or half & half
- juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 TBSP garam masala
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 2 tsp coriander
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 TBSP cornstarch
- 1 tsp of Cilantro per serving
- Chop chicken into bite sized pieces and place in the insert of a 5 quart (or larger) slow cooker.
- In a large bowl combine onion, garlic, ginger, olive oil, tomato puree, yogurt, milk (or half & half), lemon juice, garam masala, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth and creamy.
- Pour marinade over chicken and stir to coat chicken completely.
- Place the bay leaves on top, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Place insert into the slow cooker and set on high for 4 hours.
- Mix together cream and cornstarch, blending to smooth out any lumps. Add to the chicken and stir to combine. Set slow cooker on low for 20 minutes.
- Remove bay leaves prior to serving.
- Serve garnished with cilantro and a side of jasmine or basmati rice, or naan bread.