Chicken Tikka Masala

slightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen


  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 c plain whole yogurt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs ginger, minced
  • 1 serrano chile, seeds, ribs and stem removed, minced
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs garam masala
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • ¼ c chopped cilantro (not an optional garnish - this is critical to the flavor of the dish)

Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne and a tsp salt in a small bowl. Rub both sides of the chicken with the mixture. Cover the chicken on a plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes. (Often we do this part first so we prep the rest of the ingredients during this resting period. We treat the resting period as a casual suggestion anyway, often cutting it short of skipping it all together.)

Heat 2 Tbs of oil in a fairly sizable saucepan on medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add half the garlic, half the ginger, the serrano, tomato paste and garam masala. Cook, stirring frequently for 2 or 3 minutes. The mixture should be very fragrant at this point. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar and ½ tsp of salt and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the sauce into a blender and puree until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot. Stir in the cream and return to a simmer and than remove the saucepan from the heat, covering and keeping it warm until serving.

While the sauce is being made, whisk the yogurt, 2 Tbs oil, the other half the garlic and ginger together in bowl. Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the boiler. Using tongs, dip the chicken in the yogurt mixture and then arrange it on a wire rack on a baking sheet. An aluminum foil-covered baking sheet can be used instead. Discard any extra yogurt. Broil the chicken until the thickest parts register 160 on an instant read thermometer and the exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping halfway through. This is a wide range for cook time, but chicken breasts can vary a lot in size, but in our experience the chicken has never been ready until the aforementioned charring has begun.

Let the chicken rest 5 minutes and then cut it into bite sized chunks and stir it into the completed warm sauce, not allowing the sauce to return to a simmer. Stir in the cilantro and salt to taste. Serve over rice, preferably basmati or jasmine.

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