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Best chicken tikka masala recipe over rice with naan in a white bowl with skillet in the background

Best Chicken Tikka Masala (Restaurant Style, Paleo, Whole30, Dairy-Free)

This is the best chicken tikka masala recipe ever, and it's so rich and perfectly spiced. A double caramelization process produces a chicken tikka masala that tastes just like the best restaurant-style dish.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken, healthy, indian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 449 kcal
Author Cheryl Malik

Ingredients

Marinade:

  • 2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts diced, about 1.5 pounds
  • 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt or compliant plant-based yogurt if on Whole30, see note
  • 1 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about half a lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger

For the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons ghee or butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1 medium white onion diced
  • 1-2 serrano chiles minced, see note for heat level
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger grated
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 green bell pepper deseeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
  • lots of salt to taste
  • 2 cups coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk, or heavy cream, or half and half, see note

For serving:

  • basmati rice or cauliflower rice
  • naan if you're not paleo or on a Whole30
  • fresh cilantro chopped

Instructions

Marinate the Chicken

  1. Combine all marinade ingredients besides chicken (omitting yogurt if paleo or on a Whole30) in a medium bowl and stir well. Add chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to overnight.

Make the Sauce

  1. Heat the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add serrano chiles, garlic, ginger, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until a nice toffee color, about 20 minutes, adding a few drops of water here and there if drying out and sticking. Add garam masala and paprika and stir well. Cook until fragrant, a few minutes, adding a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary to reduce sticking.
  2. Stir in the tomato sauce then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the sauce to your skillet and add the rest of the can of tomato sauce. Add sliced bell pepper, fenugreek, and salt.

  3. Meanwhile, cook the chicken. Preheat broiler and place a wire rack over a baking sheet. Place chicken pieces on top of the rack. Broil, turning occasionally until browned in spots and cooked through, about 8 minutes total.

  4. Simmer for 30 minutes on medium-low heat or until thick and more like a paste than a sauce. Add the can of coconut milk and stir until very smooth. Taste and correct seasonings. Add chicken, stir well, and serve over basmati or cauliflower rice and naan, if that fits into your diet. Top with plenty of chopped cilantro.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

Heat Levels:

If you're on a Whole30, you can use a compliant non-dairy yogurt, like Kite Hill unsweetened, to marinate your chicken. You can also skip the yogurt entirely and simply marinate the chicken in spices and lemon juice, or use canned coconut milk to replace the yogurt.

Cream:

I prefer to use about 2 cups of pure coconut cream, just the thick, solid white part of a can of coconut milk. You can use one can of full-fat coconut milk, if you prefer, but the sauce won't be as creamy. If you're not on any specific sort of diet, try about 2 cups of heavy cream or half and half to enrich the sauce!

Nutrition Facts
Best Chicken Tikka Masala (Restaurant Style, Paleo, Whole30, Dairy-Free)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 449 Calories from Fat 360
% Daily Value*
Fat 40g62%
Saturated Fat 31g194%
Cholesterol 55mg18%
Sodium 69mg3%
Potassium 566mg16%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 13g26%
Vitamin A 300IU6%
Vitamin C 22.4mg27%
Calcium 74mg7%
Iron 2.4mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.