Chicken Tikka Masala Inspired by Cook’s Illustrated Recipe

This recipe certainly took some getting used to.  I’m not a seasoned chef by any means, so I initially found the sheer number of steps involved in this dish quite intimidating.  Now that I’ve served this up a few times, it’s starting to feel quite easy.  You’ll probably catch on more quickly than I did!

Chicken Tikka Masala ranks as one of my favorite comfort foods.  It also reminds me of late-night-post-bar noshing at Naan and Curry in San Francisco 5+ years ago now.  Although San Francisco is the land of incredible cuisine, Naan and Curry take-out does not fall into this category; their tikka masala was saturated with so much oil that it would soak through the takeout box before I would even get home.  Needless to say, this Cook’s Illustrated-inspired version is not only healthy, but absolutely delicious!

I have modified their recipe here and there.  One of the main modifications involves the tomatoes, as the Cook’s Illustrated version calls for one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes.  Because of the BPA in canned foods, I try to steer away from using canned foods when possible.  If you’re interested in trying my substitute, chop up blanched tomatoes instead.  Check out this video tutorial (less than one minute in length) OR my “how to” at the end of this post if you want to learn the ever-so-easy art of blanching tomatoes.

In lieu of the canned tomatoes, I use a combination of about 6 to 8 medium-sized, organic tomatoes plus 10 ounces of tomato puree.  You could simply use 10 to 12 medium-sized tomatoes and no puree/paste.  Why the combination of chopped tomatoes and puree?  Canned tomatoes tend to have more tomato liquid than the “homemade” blanched version, so the puree/paste adds more concentrated flavor.

Chicken Tikka Masala

ingredients for chicken tikka

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp salt (per my commentary in my intro, reduce this to 1 tsp salt if you use canned tomatoes)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3/4 cup plain yogurt (I use whole milk yogurt)

2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably mildly flavored)

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

ingredients for sauce

2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil (preferably mildly flavored)

1 medium onion, diced

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1 fresh serrano chili, ribs and seeds removed (or keep some seeds if you like extra spicy);

note: I have subbed in jalapeno chili pepper, but don’t use as much since it tends to be spicier. 

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp garam masala

28 ounces of crushed tomatoes:  For the easy version, use one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes.  Per my introduction, try to steer clear of canned foods when possible, so I use about 10 ounces of tomato puree/paste + 7 medium-sized, blanched tomatoes (see information regarding different can-free options in my introduction).

3 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup cream or whole milk

optional: 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

how to

Step 1 Mix together cayenne, coriander, cumin, and salt into a bowl.

Step 2 Press this mixture onto both sides of each chicken breast.

Step 3 Place chicken on plate and cover in plastic wrap.

Step 4 Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Step 5 In separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; place in refrigerator, as well.

Step 6 Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-heat.  Once oil starts to heat up, add onion and cook for about 8 minutes (or until translucent).

Step 7 Add garam masala, ginger, chile, and tomato paste.  Stir frequently for about 1 minute.  Now, add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.  If you notice that the mixture is getting too dry, add a little more olive oil to the dutch oven.

Step 8 Add crushed tomatoes and tomato puree (or, your canned, crushed tomatoes if you’re going that route).  Also, add sugar and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a low simmer and let simmer for about 15 minutes (stirring occasionally).  While this is simmering…

Step 9 Adjust oven-rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler.

Step 10 Wrap baking sheet with tin foil and place chicken breasts on baking sheet.  Now, spread yogurt mixture onto both sides of each chicken breast.  Discard any remaining yogurt mixture.

Step 11 Broil chicken for about 10 to 15 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.  After about 8 minutes, start to check the temperature of the thickest part of the breast.  You will know that it’s done when the thickest part of the breast is about 160 degrees and the outside is slightly charred.

Step 12 Let chicken rest for 5 minutes then, cut into 1-inch chunks.

Step 13  Heat sauce on low, stir in cream/whole milk, add diced chicken and remove from heat.

Final Step – PHEW taste and adjust salt and/or sugar to taste.  Add optional cilantro to garnish when serving.


score an “x” on end opposite the core of the tomato

bring a pot of water to a boil

add the tomatoes to the pot and let boil for ~30 seconds

remove tomatoes from pot and immediately immerse into ice water

after a couple minutes, remove the tomato peel and dice into about two inch cubes

chicken tikka masala, healthy chicken tikka masala, indian comfort food, healthy dinner


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s