Kim is a board-certified holistic health coach, healthy living and cleanse consultant, and studied under Dr. Andrew Weil and Walter Willet.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala
I am one of those types of cooks that can never stick to the exact recipe. I always have the urge to "healthify" a favorite comfort dish. And to me, Indian food is one of those comfort foods. At least it used to be. Now it's one of my reliable main dishes.
The chicken is marinated with spices and yogurt, grilled to give it a smoky flavor. You may recognize it as a curry-type dish with pieces of chicken served in a thick, rich and creamy tomato-based sauce.
When I was first introduced to chicken tikka masala, I thought it was a complicated food, presented with many depths of flavors. My initial reaction, besides holding my breath while inhaling the spices, was "There must be a lot of ingredients in here. Can I cook this?"
Yes, indeed there are many ingredients to this dish due to the numerous spices. However it's quite easy to make. And the result will blow you away. Not only is it healthier, but also lower fat and waist-friendly.
And the next question was, "Can I make a healthier version of chicken tikka masala?"
Definitely! You can make any dish healthier if you know which ingredients to swap for. Good substitutions for original food can be tricky, and I've tried a few different substitutions. I am finally satisfied with this particular one.
Origins of Tikka Masala
It's not from India! The true origins of this dish is disputed.
Chicken masala might be a popular dish that is introduced to people as Indian food, but some claim that it was invented in Britain, when a chef added tomato soup, some spices, and yogurt to a dry chicken dish.
What Makes This Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe Healthier?
- The recipe calls for plain, non-fat Greek yogurt and if your scale allows it, you can even use regular Greek yogurt. This type of yogurt is better than regular yogurt when it comes to protein content and creamy texture. You'd be surprised that it contains twice the amount of protein and higher in calcium. Greek yogurt has less carbohydrates, so this recipe is also diabetic friendly.
- I used nonfat half-and-half instead of the original heavy cream. This cuts out a lot of the fat, yet still maintains the creamy texture. By the way, the tomato sauce is enough to make it thick. Obviously it will not be as thick as the original dish, but the sacrifice is well worth it.
- Spices like cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper, and paprika are all beneficial to your health!
- Personally I prefer to use organic butter over oil, which gives it a richer flavor. Do not be afraid of organic butter made from grass-fed cow's milk! As long as it's organic, there are still vitamins. You can substitute 1 tablespoon of organic butter.
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Ingredients for Tikka Masala Sauce
- 1 tablespoon organic butter (optional: vegetable/olive oil)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 can of tomato sauce (8 ounce)
- 1 cup fat-free half-and-half
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
Ingredients for Chicken Masala Marinade
- 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon gresh ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, (or to taste)
- 3 boneless chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon garam masala spice
Garam Masala Spice Blend
Garam masala is a special blend of spices used in Indian cooking, meaning "hot mixture" in Hindi.
You can find it in the Asian supermarket or even a Whole Foods. It usually includes cardamom, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, fennel, cumin and coriander.
Instructions: Easy Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
Simple Chicken Marinade
I prefer to grill the chicken for two reasons: (1) I love the smokey flavor and (2) I love using my grill! You can also place your marinated chicken in the oven and broil it. You can even cook it on cast-iron pan or dutch oven.
- Cut up the chicken breast into 1-inch cubes, or however size and shape you want. 1-inch is a perfect bite size for me.
- In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger, and salt. Stir in the chicken cubes and let it bath and relax for at least an hour. The longer you leave them in there, the more flavor and happy the chicken will be.
- After the chicken has been marinated, put them through the skewers. Grill them for about 5 minutes on each side, until the juices are gone.
Marinade the Chicken and Grill It!
Meanwhile, Prepare the Tikka Masala Sauce...
- Melt organic butter in a large cast-iron skillet. Note: You can also use a regular heavy pan that is large enough to hold all the chicken and the sauce.
- Sauté garlic and jalapenos for about a minute.
- Stir in cumin, paprika, and salt.
- Stir in tomato sauce and half-and-half.
- Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
- Add the grilled-chicken and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Transfer to a large serving patter or bowl and garnish with fresh cilantro.
How to Make the Tikka Masala Sauce
Dinner Is Served, My Friends...
Your chicken tikka masala should be finished in about 30 minutes. Actually, you'll know when your whole house is filled with the aroma of the intense spice. Lock your front door because your neighbors might be knocking. Seriously, this dish smells so strong and wonderful that they will be able to smell it a mile away.
This healthier and low-fat version of chicken tikka masala is best served with basmati rice. But...since we've got a healthy theme going on here...who says you can't eat it with brown rice for added nutrients?
What are you waiting for? Let's eat!
Comments for Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala
Josh on March 13, 2013:
Does the calorie information include everything even the chicken?
Kim Lam (author) from California on March 01, 2013:
Thanks khmohsin, I hope you like it! :-)
khmohsin on February 26, 2013:
I Love this Tikka Masala, this dish is one of my most favorite dishes and you make this dish in a different way. I like your hub and soon i'll make it to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your great experience.... :)
It must be delicious... :P :P
Faythe Payne from USA on February 24, 2013:
This sounds really good..voted up and usefu. Will share on pinterest as well.
Kim Lam (author) from California on January 15, 2013:
Hope you like it Susan, it really is very simple to make. :-)
susan maria on January 12, 2013:
The recipe is easy and interesting... Thank you for sharing it with us..
Sophie Newsome from New York on January 06, 2013:
I've been meaning to make Tikka Masala. I think I just found my recipe!
Kim Lam (author) from California on September 05, 2012:
Thank you! :-)
Peter from New York on September 05, 2012:
Love Tikka Masala and love the simple marinade. Very good recipe!
Kim Lam (author) from California on June 08, 2012:
Oh Simone, what have I done to you? Hehe...
How about substituting the chicken for some tempeh? Tempeh is awesome in curry!
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 08, 2012:
Oh man, back when I ate chicken, this was one of my FAVORITE dishes.
My vegetarian days are numbered.
Kim Lam (author) from California on June 06, 2012:
Thanks TF! It's funny that you mentioned the sauce jars...I have a couple of Trader Joe's just sitting there. Thanks for sharing on Pinterest!:-)
Rhys Baker from Peterborough, UK on June 06, 2012:
I really want to learn how to cook curries without the obligatory 'jar of sauce' I will give this one a go. It looks so delicious that I had to pin it to my newly created food board!
Thanks for sharing!
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 04, 2012:
My old recipe is too complicated and not flavorful enough, so I'm glad to have yours. I'll let you know!
Kim Lam (author) from California on June 04, 2012:
@Nare & Allie- thanks for the compliments! I tried, I tried. :-)
@Marcy- I always order this at Indian restaurants too. I also used to eat the ones at Trader Joes but they're more expensive for a tiny serving.
@vespa- what's wrong with your old recipe? The spices are usually the same for this dish. It's the greek yogurt that makes the difference, a well as the grilling method. Not bad for a low-fat option. I hope you like it!
@Summer- Thanks and I hope you'll like it!
@Redelf- Thanks for stopping by! Greek yogurt is a staple in my fridge too! I appreciate your vote!
@Kelley- Your support is always appreciated. Thanks!
kelleyward on June 04, 2012:
Hi Turtlewoman, I've never had this but it looks amazing. I love Greek yogurt so I'm going to give this one a try. Photos are amazing as usual! Awesome! Take care, Kelley
RedElf from Canada on June 04, 2012:
We eat Indian food quite often, and it is so easy to make low-fat versions. Love the spices, and using Greek yogurt is a must in our house. Rated up and awesome!
summerberrie on June 04, 2012:
I am going to give this a try, soon! Thanks for providing all the detailed photos. Well done and looks delicious!
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on June 04, 2012:
I love Indian food and have a recipe for chicken tikka masala that I'm not entirely satisfied with. I've marked this to come back and try as it looks fast, easy and delicious. I love your photos!
Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on June 04, 2012:
Mmmmmm - I think I've had this in Indian restaurants, but I didn't know how it was prepared. It was delicious, though, and I always look for it on lunch buffets. Now I know what to look for on the menu, too! This is a keeper!
Nare Gevorgyan on June 04, 2012:
Omg so yummy! Great job, Kim! The pics are supper useful with great instructions! You gotta make it!
alliemacb from Scotland on June 04, 2012:
Such a good recipe. I love chicken tikka masala and any healthy version gets my thumbs up!
Kim Lam (author) from California on June 03, 2012:
Hi Kitty! Yogurt is awesome, so versatile. Thanks for sharing!
Ann Leung from San Jose, California on June 03, 2012:
WOW! What a yummy and healthy dish! Must give it a try. I love the idea of using yogurt. Awesome and Shared.