Cozy and comforting, this chicken tikka masala can be made at home, and makes for delicious leftovers, if you even end up having any! Seriously, who needs takeout when you can make this delicious version at home?!
Takeout fakeout is perhaps my favorite sub-genre of recipes. Takeout is usually delicious, but can be costly and of questionable origin and ingredient composition. Making a big batch of any kind of takeout fakeout deliciously solves these issues, and this Paleo and whole30 chicken tikka masala might be my new favorite dish in this category. It’s so rich, comforting, and rib sticking-ly good, I have a feeling you might have a new favorite, too.
I’m guilty of sometimes dismissing Indian cooking before I even consider it, on the assumption that it will be a lot of work or a lot of ingredients, but that isn’t universally true. Yes, this dish does require a number of spices, but I’m guessing you have close to half of them in your pantry already. The others can be acquired cheaply in the bulk spice section of most grocery stores, or you can buy a jar and find other fun places to use them. My chicken korma meatballs are a delicious place to start.
Tikka masala is usually marinated overnight in a yogurt spice mixture. If you are on a whole30 or are dairy-free, you have a number of options here. One is to omit the yogurt entirely. While the yogurt helps tenderize the chicken, you can definitely get away without it. If you want to replicate its effects, you can make your own by combining some coconut cream (just the thick cream, not coconut milk) with a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar until the taste mirrors plain yogurt. Your call!
After marinating the chicken overnight (or for a few hours beforehand), you simply brown it for a few minutes in a large dutch oven and remove it from the pan. Then, in the same dutch oven, you whip up the tikka masala sauce, let it simmer for a few, puree the sauce, add back the chicken and simmer some more, and voila. You have a big batch of delicious chicken tikka masala that you can feast on or eat for lunch all week long! Truly, it’s not that difficult, and the reward speaks for itself!
You can eat the chicken tikka masala over rice, cauliflower rice, or any base of your choosing. Heck, you can even eat it as is. We’re all adults here and who am I to say what’s right? I chose basmati rice because I’m on a white rice kick, and it was truly perfect as far as takeout fakeout goes.
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Warming Indian spices, rich tomato flavor, and luscious coconut milk make the perfect Paleo chicken tikka masala dish!
For the marinade
- 2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt or plain non-dairy yogurt (see note. You can omit the yogurt for whole30)
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon each ground coriander and red chili powder
For the tikka masala dish
- 20 oz tomato passata (or tomato puree)
- ½ cup water plus more as needed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons butter or ghee, divided
- 3/4 cup heavy cream or coconut cream (for whole30, Paleo preparations)
- 1 teaspoon each ground turmeric, coriander and red chili powder
- 2 teaspoons each of ground cumin and garam masala
- Avocado oil
- Rice or Cauliflower rice for serving
- Cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Mix and combine the ingredients for the marinade and add the cut chicken thighs. Marinate for as long as possible, preferably overnight, before cooking
- In a large heavy-bottomed dutch oven or deep skillet heat about 2 tablespoons avocado oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, sear and brown the chicken thigh pieces, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer pieces to plate and keep warm in 200 degree oven while you prep the sauce
- Drain the dutch oven of excess oil, but keep the browned bits in the bottom. These will add lots of flavor
- Melt two tablespoons butter/ghee over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook another minute until fragrant
- Add the spices (cumin, turmeric, coriander, chili powder and garam masala) to the onions and toast for 30 seconds
- Add the tomato passata and ½ cup of water and simmer for 10 minutes to let flavors combine
- Using an immersion blender, carefully puree the tomato spice mixture until smooth
- Add in the heavy cream (or coconut cream if using), remaining tablespoon of butter/ghee and chicken and its juices. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Add water as needed to thin the sauce to desired consistency
- Serve chicken and sauce over rice, cauliflower rice, or with side of your choosing
- To make my own non-dairy yogurt, I like to use coconut cream and apple cider vinegar. Combine a cup of coconut cream and 2-3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar. Check for acidity and add more vinegar if needed
- I can find tomato passata at my local Whole Foods. Look near the canned tomatoes, but if you can’t find it, feel free to swap with peeled crushed tomatoes or tomato puree (not tomato paste!)
Keywords: indian, paleo, tikka masala, whole30, chicken tikka