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Chicken Tikka Masala

Although many people associate this dish with India, its origins actually lay with the Indian diaspora in Great Britain, and more specifically, in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2009, I was lucky enough to meet with Ali Ahmed Aslam, the owner and chef of the Shish Mahal Restaurant, where he created the dish in the 1970s by adding a creamy tomato sauce to his tandoori chicken tikka when a customer complained that it was slightly dry. The rest, as they say, is culinary history. Whatever its origins, this dish is now considered the national dish of Great Britain. And, authentically Indian or not, it's hard to beat. 

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

(Serves 4-6)


  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 2 inches fresh ginger

  • 8 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)

  • 2 tbsp thick whole milk yoghurt

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

  • 1 tsp ground coriander

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 3 green Serrano chilies

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds

  • 3 whole cloves

  • 3 green cardamom

  • 1 large white onion 

  • 1 12-oz can tomatoes

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • 1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves, divided 1⁄4 cup , 1⁄4 cup

  • 1⁄2 cup dried Fenugreek leaves (optional)

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter

  • 1⁄4 cup double (heavy) cream


  1. Blend together the peeled garlic and ginger to make a fine paste. Add a little water and salt.

  2. Cut the chicken into chunks and place in a large bowl. Add the yoghurt.

  3. Combine the dry spices: ground cumin, chili powder, turmeric, coriander, sugar, salt ginger and cinnamon.

  4. Add half of the ground spices, half of the ginger garlic paste, and half of the minced chilies to the chicken. Combine well. 

  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours. 

  6. While the chicken is marinating, add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to a pan and toss in the whole spices. Slice the onion and when the spices begin to pop, add it and cook until soft and golden.

  7. Add in the remaining ginger/garlic paste and cook until it loses its raw smell. Add in the remaining minced green chili and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add in the remaining ground spices and cook for a further 5 minutes. If the spices begin to stick add a tablespoon or so of water.

  8. Add in the tomatoes, the chicken stock, half the fresh coriander leaves and the dried Fenugreek leaves (if you are using them).

  9. Simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes and then blend with a hand blender. 

  10. While the sauce is reducing, place the marinated chicken pieces on a wire rack on a baking sheet.

  11. Broil them for 5 minutes each side (if you have a BBQ grill, they are even better cooked that way).

  12. They should begin to develop a little char on the outside, which adds to the final flavor of the dish, although do be careful that they don’t burn.

  13. Reserve the chicken pieces, making sure to capture all their juices.

  14. Add 3 tbsp of butter to a hot pan and allow to melt.

  15. Return the sauce to the pan and add the heavy cream (reserving a little bit for garnish).

  16. Cook the sauce until reduced by half.

  17. Add the chicken pieces to the pan along with any juices they have released. Cook the sauce gently until the chicken pieces are warmed through and the sauce has reduced to a thick gravy.

  18. When ready to serve, garnish with the remaining fresh coriander (cilantro) leaf, drizzle with the remaining cream and serve with boiled rice and Indian breads to sop up the sauce.

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