Chicken tikka masala is a staple of Indian cuisine. Its deep orange color, creamy consistency, and bold flavors make it an irresistible option for takeout night. But what if you could recreate this magic in your own home? Good news: you can! Read on for our stovetop chicken tikka masala recipe plus tips on how to customize it to your tastes.



  • 1 cup yogurt (plain)
  • 9 cloves garlic (fresh and minced), divided
  • 2 tablespoons ginger (fresh and grated), divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala, divided
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric (ground), divided
  • 3 teaspoons cumin (ground), divided
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder, divided
  • 2 teaspoons pink salt or kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds chicken thighs (boneless, skinless, and cubed)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium onions (white or yellow, diced)
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (fresh and roughly chopped)


  1. Add yogurt, 6 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 1 tablespoon of garam masala, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt to a large bowl. Stir until combined, and then add the chicken thighs. Cover the bowl and allow the thighs to marinate for 15 minutes. (Note: Do not marinate in a metal container, since the acidic mixture can react with the metal. Marinate in a resealable plastic container or a glass container only.)

  2. In the Dutch oven or skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat until it is sizzling. Add the chicken to the pan and cook it until it is browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. You may have to cook in batches to not crowd the pan. Remove the chicken and set it aside.

  3. Next, melt the butter in the same Dutch oven or skillet. Cook the onions until they are translucent, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Add the remaining garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and chili powder to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomato sauce and the remaining salt and cook for roughly 10-15 minutes while stirring often.

  5. Once the sauce has thickened, stir in the brown sugar and heavy cream and mix until well combined. Add the chicken back to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes or so.

  6. Serve over white or basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro. Enjoy immediately.


  • large plastic or glass bowl
  • Dutch oven or cast iron skillet

Recipe Notes

If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time to loosen.

For tips on making rice, check out our guide here.

Read about Dutch ovens and cast iron skillets on our site.


flat lay of chicken tikka masala with naan, cilantro, peppers, and rice

Now that we have mastered the classic chicken tikka masala, let's discuss how to adjust it to suit your tastes.

  • Spice Is Nice: For extra heat, consider choosing spicy chili powder, substituting cayenne powder for half of the chili powder, or using Kashmiri chili powder.
  • Cluck Cluck: If you only have chicken breasts available or you prefer that cut of poultry, plan ahead by marinating them overnight instead of just for 15 minutes. This will help to break down the breasts for the same juicy and delicious end result.
  • Gourmet Time: For more homemade goodness, consider making your own yogurt from scratch.
  • Healthier Version: To make this a bit friendlier to your waistline, use two tablespoons of butter rather than three. Serve the tikka masala with cauliflower rice or brown rice instead of white rice. Additionally, be sure to use low-sodium tomato sauce.
  • Dairy-Free: Substitute dairy-free yogurt for the regular yogurt and full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream.

Food Pairings

naan bread on wooden plate

It's great to have a main dish covered, but to make a more complete meal, check out our suggestions for what to pair with chicken tikka masala.

  • Naan All Day: Pictured above, naan is a delicious Indian flatbread. We suggest rubbing some garlic paste on top for an extra bit of flavor. Be sure to brush your flatbread with melted butter for added decadence. Naan can be purchased at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or in your local grocer's international section. Yum!
  • All About Appetizers: As a treat before the main meal, we love a fried and crispy vegetable samosa. These little beauties are usually filled with warm spices, potatoes, onions, peas, and carrots for a satisfying start to your dinner.
  • Rad Raita: Raita is an Indian side dish that generally consists of cucumber, yogurt, tomato, and mint. It is a great idea to have a cooling element like this, especially for guests who might struggle with the spice.

This recipe is a great addition to any home cook's repertoire!

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