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Quick and Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala

Cook Time:
1 hr
Prep Time:
30 mins

Chef notes

Fun fact: Chicken tikka masala is the national dish of England, where we filmed "Top Chef." It was a dish devised for the British and not a traditional Indian dish, although a lot of people assume it is authentically Indian.

If you're looking for more information about the spices in this recipe, check out my "Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs."

Technique tip: Marinating chicken in lassi is a great way to tenderize meat without adding a lot of additional fat or calories. It also has more probiotics and protein than other types of dairy.

Swap option: Use heavy cream (in the sauce at the end of recipe) if lassi is not available

Special equipment: Spice grinder.


Spice Mixture
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 large hot dried Indian chilies
  • 1 cup plain lassi
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon amchur
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ghee
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cups red onion, chopped
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 fresh hot red chile, sliced down the middle but stem intact
  • 2 cups tomato puree (San Marzano preferred)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • kosher salt
  • teaspoons ground amchur
  • teaspoons ground Kashmiri chili powder
  • sugar (optional)
  • cups plain lassi
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • basmati rice, for serving


For the spice mixture:

In a small sauté pan, toast black cardamom, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves and dried chilies individually for about a minute, or just until fragrant, then transfer all to spice grinder and blend until smooth powder forms. Set aside.

For the chicken:


In a large bowl, mix the lassi, spices and lemon juice. Submerge the chicken in mixture for at least 30 minutes on the counter at room temperature, or longer in the fridge.


Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in large, deep pan.


Shake off excess marinade from chicken, then brown chicken on both sides. (This may need to be done in batches, depending on size of pan.) Transfer cooked chicken to sheet tray lined with foil, then set aside to cool.

For the sauce:


Wipe pan clean, then heat 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add cumin seeds and chopped onion. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, until onions are softened. Add whole garlic, fresh ginger and red chile, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes more.


Add another tablespoon or so of ghee, if needed, along with the toasted, ground spice mixture, and sauté for 1 to 2 more minutes.


Add pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 cups of water, 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt and the amchur. Mix well, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by about half.


While sauce is simmering, slice chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.


Add Kashmiri chili powder to the tomato sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with additional salt and a pinch of sugar if necessary.


Add diced chicken and cook for another 10 minutes.


Add lassi to tomato sauce and mix well.


Garnish with cilantro. Serve chicken masala over basmati rice.