Chicken Tikka Masala with Fluffy Basmati Rice

I love a good chicken tikka masala. You can try to palm me off with a dansak or a korma but a masala will always get my taste buds going. I know just how easy it is to reach for a jar of your favourite curry sauce or tikka paste but the thing is, I find making my own tikaa masala so very rewarding; it literally takes only about 20 minutes to prepare and the bonus is you know exactly what is going onto your plate. The chicken can be replaced with butternut squash or lamb or beef (which will both need to be cooked for a bit less time) or fish (which will require even less time).
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 40 min
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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3 tablespoons garam masala

1 tablespoon paprika

Vegetable oil, for cooking and drizzling

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

8 3/4 ounces basmati rice

1 teaspoon ground turmeric, curry powder or pinch of saffron strands, optional

1 bunch spring onions

One 3/4-inch piece fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 1/2 cups light cream or yogurt (cream tastes much better but yogurt is healthier), optional

7 ounces tomato paste

2 teaspoon English mustard powder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, for serving


  1. Put the kettle on to boil.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over medium to high heat and add the garam masala and paprika. Toast for a couple of minutes then tip the spices onto a plate and set aside.
  3. Drizzle some oil into the frying pan. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks and fry, tossing from time to time, until brown all over, about 5 minutes.
  4. Tip the rice into a medium pan and add the turmeric (or curry powder or saffron strands) if using. Pour over enough boiled water to come about 3/4 inch above the rice (roughly 2 cups of water, to be pedantic). Cover with the lid and return to the boil. Then reduce the heat to low and leave to cook for as long as it says on the package instructions.
  5. While the rice is cooking away, give the chicken a little toss and then trim and finely slice the spring onions (both the green and the white bits), peel and grate the ginger and peel and finely chop the garlic.
  6. Add the spring onions, ginger and garlic to the chicken along with the cream or yogurt, if using, tomato paste, mustard powder and toasted garam masala and paprika. Now at this stage, the sauce may not look its prettiest, but keep stirring it and once it starts looking more like the chicken tikka masala you know (and in my case love), leave it to bubble away on a low to medium heat for a few minutes to cook the chicken through.
  7. Check the rice is tender and has absorbed all the water. Fluff it up with a fork, season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of oil, if you like and then pop the lid on to keep the rice warm.
  8. Check that the chicken is cooked. There should be no pinkness remaining. Then taste the sauce, adding more heat (with paprika) or seasoning, to your taste. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water; if it is too thin, let it bubble away a little longer to thicken.
  9. Divide the rice among 4 plates and top with the aromatic chicken in sauce. For me coriander or parsley leaves ripped up on top is a must. This is my favorite Friday night feast. 
  10. Note: This recipe has been updated and may differ from what was originally broadcast.