Chicken Tikka Masala for Two

I had Indian food for the very first time when I was a senior in college on a random road trip to Saint Louis. I immediately fell in love with all of it and started seeking it out at every opportunity – which wasn’t that easy in my tiny college town. At one point I brought my mom to an Indian restaurant near my hometown, excited to share all the yummy new foods with her. My plan went awry, however, when she could barely stand to sit in the restaurant because those delicious smells made her want to lose her lunch. Not exactly a successful outing.

My mom has never come around on Indian food, so I won’t be making this for her anytime soon, but it is a huuuuuuge hit in my house. I’ve made this three or four times now, and it just gets better and better. As much as I love chicken tikka masala from a good Indian restaurant, I never have any idea what all is in that tasty orange sauce. With this recipe, I know exactly what’s in there, and it’s surprisingly non-terrible for you – no cream or butter and only a small amount of oil. This uses nonfat Greek yogurt to get that creamy consistency, and I think it works really, really well. Plus, I just love the way my kitchen smells when I’m making Indian food. Even though my mom wouldn’t agree. : )

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA FOR TWO (adapted from Cooking for Two: America’s Test Kitchens)

Chicken:
2 tsp garam masala (available in spice aisle)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Sauce:
1 14.5-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced (about half a cup)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 small Serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Cooked rice, for serving

  1. For the chicken: combine garam masala, cayenne pepper, and salt in a bowl. Pat chicken breasts dry with the paper towels, then coat the chicken thoroughly with the spices, pressing to help them adhere. Place the chicken on a plate, cover, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes. Whisk the yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger together in a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
  2. For the sauce: process the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until pureed, about 15 seconds. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in the processed tomatoes, sugar, and pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the yogurt and cover to keep warm.
  4. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to be 6 inches from the broiler element, and heat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and top with a wire rack. Using tongs, dip the chicken into the yogurt mixture so that it is thickly coated and arrange on the prepared wire rack; discard any extra yogurt mixture. Broil the chicken until the exterior is lightly charred in spots and the thickest part of the breasts registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 10-18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.
  5. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks. Stir the chicken pieces into the warm sauce (do not simmer the chicken in the sauce). Stir in the cilantro, season with salt to taste, and serve over rice.

Ahh, we love this. I can’t believe how juicy and flavorful the chicken gets when you coat it with spices, cover it in yogurt, and then broil it on a wire rack. Even if you don’t like Indian food, you could easily transfer this cooking method to another flavor combination (Mexican maybe) to get your chicken extra juicy and tender. Mmm…

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2 thoughts on “Chicken Tikka Masala for Two

  1. This is one of my favorite dishes of ALL TIME! I never thought it would be possible to make a decent version at home! Definitely going to try this.

    • Me too! I always assumed that those Indian dishes with cream sauces were terrible for you (and many of them probably are), but this one isn’t nearly as bad as I expected. It’s awesome!

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