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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 07, 2012

Primal Chicken Tikka Masala

By Worker Bee
164 Comments

There’s nothing better than successfully re-creating your favorite restaurant dish at home. Especially when your homemade Primal version tastes every bit as good as the less-healthy version on the restaurant menu. Mark’s Daily Apple reader Jillian McCabe spent years tweaking her Chicken Tikka Masala recipe so that it tasted just like the one served at her favorite Indian restaurant. When she and her husband Matt started the 21-Day Total Body Transformation, she found it surprisingly simple to turn the dish into Primal Chicken Tikka Masala. There’s no naan or rice served with her version (although you could serve it over steamed, grated cauliflower “rice”) and instead of cream or yogurt, she now uses coconut milk. “This dish will make your home smell divine,” says Jillian. And she’s right.

Chicken Tikka Masala is a staple in many Indian restaurants. Boneless chicken is typically marinated in spices and yogurt then baked, broiled or grilled and simmered in a creamy tomato sauce heavily laced with spices. The spices don’t necessarily make the dish spicy-hot, although they can. Jillian’s version doesn’t seem spicy at first, but a slow burn starts catching up with you by the end of the bowl.

This recipe is made in two steps. The chicken bakes in the oven while the sauce simmers on the stovetop, then the two are combined. If you’re tempted to start eating the chicken right when it comes out of the oven, it’s understandable. Incredibly moist, deeply flavorful and bathed in a shimmering coconut milk sauce, it could be a meal on its own. However, adding the chicken to the thick tomato-based sauce creates a bowl of rich, aromatic Chicken Tikka Masala that will have you coming back for more – which is fine, because this recipe makes a big batch. Plan to serve it to friends, or freeze some for another meal.

Chicken Ingredients:

  • 6-8 boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (bottom stems cut off)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • Small pinch cayenne pepper (or more, for a spicier dish)
  • Generous pinch of salt (you can add more to the sauce later, if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all the ingredients in a large baking dish. (The spices can stain pans, so Jillian uses a disposable lasagna pan.)

Bake the chicken, covered, for 1 hour.

While the chicken is baking, make the sauce.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 6-ounces tomato paste (or less, for a less tomato-y sauce)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 28-ounces canned/boxed crushed tomatoes in their juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (an Indian spice blend)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Instructions:

In a large, deep pan over medium heat sauté the onions in the olive and coconut oil until golden brown, about ten minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, and let simmer 20 minutes, stirring often.

When the chicken has finished baking, add it to the sauce on the stovetop. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls alone or over cauliflower rice.

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164 Comments on "Primal Chicken Tikka Masala"

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Zsolt
Zsolt
4 years 5 months ago

Nice recipe! What would be the macro breakdown for this?

Joyce
Joyce
4 years 5 months ago

One hour seems quite long for boneless chicken pieces. Still juicy after the long bake at 400F?

Don
Don
4 years 5 months ago

“The spices can stain pans, so Jillian uses a disposable lasagna pan.”

Oh, FFS. That is so wasteful and ridiculous. I’ve never had a problem with any spices staining my pans, and even if they did stain, why would it matter?

NorthernMonkeyGirl
4 years 5 months ago

…then you’ve never used potent turmeric 😉

K
K
4 years 5 months ago

why not use glass, like pyrex? nothing stains that.

Recipe sounds so yummy, I’ll be making it soon 🙂

Casey
Casey
4 years 5 months ago

I agree, I use turmeric in my glass pan all the time and it has never stained it.

Ghost
4 years 5 months ago

There’s pans that AREN’T Glass? O.O I’ve ALWAYS cooked in glass!

Don
Don
4 years 5 months ago

Indeed I have! I’ve used a lot of colorful spices as well as other colorful ingredients (e.g. beets and berries) and it’s never been a problem with staining any of my cookware. What type of cookware are you using that’s so porous?

Ritesh
4 years 5 months ago

best way to get rid of haldi (turmeric) “stains”…put your cup, glass dish, tuperware, etc in the sun for some time!! my parents have been doing this for years!! the sun essentially sucks the stains out (or burns them, if you will)..

JohnC
JohnC
4 years 5 months ago

Exactly what I was thinking as well. That’s kind of the *point* of pans isn’t it?

R
R
4 years 5 months ago

2055: “If only Jillian didn’t use those six extra disposable pans per year, California might still be above sea level.”

jillianmccabe
4 years 5 months ago

Okay, you have shamed me. I got the memo. I bought some Pyrex. I get it. Focus on the recipe; it’s good stuff. 🙂

Marion
4 years 5 months ago

Gary Larson, remember him? lol

Daria
Daria
4 years 5 months ago

I use a glass pan with potent turmeric, and it comes right off. In my cast iron skillets, no matter how much I scrub, the next couple of things I cook will have a little turmeric color and flavor, but it never bothers us. It will stain your counters if you have any drips but if you just leave a drop of bleach over the stain after you’ve wiped the counter, overnight, it comes off easily. I recommend getting a glass pan so you don’t have to waste disposable ones.

Michael B
4 years 5 months ago

I see your point that having a turmeric seasoned pan wouldn’t hurt and is probably perfectly normal in India. It might impart a flavor to other dishes so you could just dedicate it to curry friendly recipes. 🙂

Molly
Molly
4 years 5 months ago

Yum yum yum!

Suhail
Suhail
4 years 5 months ago

This sounds like a dish my mother would make (I’m indian). Delicious. Have to try the cauliflower rice out though.

catharine
catharine
4 years 5 months ago

Me too! So good to see home food our mothers make on the primal list!! 😀

carol
carol
3 years 7 months ago

Try cardemon rice from http://www.againstallgrain.com a littlentoo lazy to look up the link…but it is delish with any indian-ish dish….nom nom nom….

Heather
Heather
4 years 5 months ago

Thinking I will try this in my crock pot! One of my very favorite Indian dishes!!

Jeff
Jeff
4 years 5 months ago

How’d you do this? Dump everything together raw, and simmer on high for 8 hours?

With a 3 month old in the house, I’m looking for good, Paleo crock pot recipes.

johnnyv
johnnyv
4 years 5 months ago

Crock pot curries can be done, but you need to prefry the spices else it tastes a bit bland.

Alby
4 years 5 months ago

I’m always working on my cooking skills, okay make my primal food taste even better, this recipe is definitely going to be added to my arsenal. Thank you!

Mac
Mac
4 years 5 months ago

When you say 1 can of coconut milk, how much is that in grams(g) or millilitres(ml)?

jake3_14
jake3_14
4 years 5 months ago

Mac,

In the U.S., the coconut milk I buy comes in two sizes: 400 ml, and 700 ml. My guess is that since the recipe author is an American and didn’t specify the size, the can is 400 ml.

Simone
Simone
4 years 5 months ago

It is a holiday long weekend here in Australia and all the shops are shut, however I happen to have all the ingredients for this in my fridge/pantry/freezer/fruit bowl…so this will be dinner tonight + extra for leftovers! Brilliant, thank you 🙂

Deanna @ TheChangingHouse
4 years 5 months ago

Ooooh, I love Indian food! That looks great! Thanks for sharing!

Taryl
4 years 5 months ago

Looks awesome! *drool*

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[…] Link Love Eat – Primal Chicken Tikka Masala […]

Bobert
Bobert
4 years 5 months ago

This sounds awesome. I would like to use unsweetened coco milk instead, do you think that would ruin the recipe? Also how much is 1 can…1 cup?

Brent
Brent
4 years 5 months ago

I’d say around 330ml (11oz) would be a fair “can”

jillianmccabe
4 years 5 months ago

Unsweetened coconut milk is exactly what the recipe calls for so you are good. 1 can is approximately 2 cups; I use a 400ml can, which is 13.5 FL. OZ. Enjoy 🙂

Janet
Janet
4 years 5 months ago

Thank you for clarifying that. One of my pet peeves is recipes that call for one can or one package, forgetting that these sizes are not standard in time and space.

I’m looking forward to trying this recipe; it looks wonderful.

butterfieldbass
butterfieldbass
4 years 1 month ago

This recipe is delicious! Made it on my birthday a few weeks ago. One of the best tikka masalas I’ve ever had. Thanks so much for posting this recipe!

Pixiloo
4 years 5 months ago

I saw this recipe this morning and just had to make it for dinner. It is really yummy. The chicken was great just out of the oven and to die for after simmering in the sauce. I used a glass baking pan and agree that the tumeric will not stain glass. Our cast iron skillet was also safe. This recipe is a keeper!

Audrey H
Audrey H
4 years 5 months ago

Curry is my favourite thing in the universe – you have won my heart with this!

Joy Beer
Joy Beer
4 years 5 months ago

This looks FANTASTIC. This is for a day when I’m alone during the weekend to spend time cooking with all those lovely ingredients and scents, and then to bring it to a party and be told I’m a complete goddess.

Jeffre
Jeffre
4 years 5 months ago

Just made the dish tonight! If you enjoy Indian food, it will not disappoint! Very good. I have 6 meals left over after my wife and I had dinner. I love making dinner from scratch and then not having to prepare lunch for the next week!

Paul
Paul
4 years 5 months ago

A family favorite. Interesting background…

“Tikka Masala is a popular Indian curry dish that can be ordered in restaurants around the globe. The actual origins are disputed, some people claiming it comes from India and others saying that it was created in an Indian restaurant in London. Regardless of its origin, however, it is so popular in England that it is sometimes considered Britain’s national dish.”

jillianmccabe
4 years 5 months ago

Hi MDAers! I’m glad everyone likes the recipe; I am honored that is has been added to the site. I will definitely use Pyrex from now on in lieu of the disposable lasagna pans.

On Coconut milk; I use the 400 ml size or 13.5 FL. OZ. My favorite brand is “Chaokoh.”

I just learned how to make my own coconut milk from organic shredded coconut by following this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myJEdRhd5GI

Have a lovely weekend!

Daria
Daria
4 years 5 months ago

Thanks for the great recipe!!! Healthful and delicious.

Joanne - The Real Food Mama
4 years 5 months ago

This looks wonderful!!!!

Fritzy
Fritzy
4 years 5 months ago

Would boneless skinless chicken thighs work as well? I simply don’t care for chicken breast. Reminds me too much of my flavorless, low-fat diet days.

greg grok
greg grok
4 years 5 months ago

Yep, and bone-in thighs too. If i was going to use thighs i’d leave the bone in for added flavour.

Joy Termorshuizen
Joy Termorshuizen
3 years 7 months ago

Yes…thighs are much nicer…not so dry as breasts.

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[…] There’s nothing better than successfully re-creating your favorite restaurant dish at home. Especially when your homemade Primal version tastes every bit as.More By Worker Bee […]

Marcela
Marcela
4 years 5 months ago
Dear Mark / Guys, I had been doing a 80/20 primal diet for the past 7 months, with great results on weightloss. But that’s about all the benefit I got (not that it isn’t important, it is a great deal for me). The bad part is, although Fitday pointed out I was nutritionally optimal, my period stopped for 7 months and I was constantly craving bread and sugar like mad. I finally had it and destroyed 2 large bagettes and 1 liter of ice cream. My period came back the following day and I felt so soo happy. How do… Read more »
ces
ces
4 years 5 months ago
Before I knew about Primal ‘Proper’ I tried going carb-free and the longest I got was about two weeks. I nearly passed out after doing heavy cardio in the pool, felt dizzy standing, ate crisp rice bread (toxic in more ways than one) and had so many health issues though at the time I thought I was at peak fitness and health. Long story longer, it took literally 5 years to come off a LOT of junk gently, note each change and benefit, to the point where even four months ago I’d crave soaked, sprouted, dehydrated, ground and fermented buckwheat… Read more »
Yasmin
Yasmin
4 years 5 months ago

Keep going!!!! This happened to me at first while I adjusted! I think that you had the cravings BECAUSE you were due, NOT because you caved and ate the crap food. Stick with it! I think its just your body adjusting at first with the weightloss an stuff, after all, it is all hormones rebalancing. STAY WITH IT!!! good luck.

TokyoMum
TokyoMum
4 years 5 months ago
I’ve had similar experience and kept searching for something similar to Primal or along the lines or Paleo and Primal and discovered The Perfect Health Diet. I added some safe starch (like potatoes and rice) back into my diet, while still eating the Primal way and feel much better, more energetic and yes, happier. I guess I need more starch (the key is SAFE starch) than others, and keep away from eating grains, gluten, sugar, seed oil and all of the ‘banned’ foods. Good luck. Sometimes we need to keep searching what is optimal for one’s body and health. Sticking… Read more »
Maggi
Maggi
4 years 5 months ago
Marcela, I wonder if you are getting enough healthy fats in your diet? I ask only because I went through a few months without a period during university, and it was because I had cut my fat consumption down severely. As soon as I started eating fats again, my cycle began to return. It took several months before it seemed “normal” again. I’ve found that, when I’m really craving ice cream, I can shut that craving up with an avocado. I think it satisfies the body’s craving for something fatty, as well as the mental craving for the texture of… Read more »
pedro
pedro
4 years 5 months ago

I just don’t understand , these recepies and diets looks all the good and healthy…but can you tell me how this applies to people who suffer from gout (my case) or any degenerative kidney disease? It looks like we don’t qualify for primal diets then…

Jeffrey
Jeffrey
4 years 5 months ago

Take a look at Mark’s post on gout. That should clear things up on how it relates to the Primal lifestyle.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/gout-primal-paleo-diet/#axzz1tGGVAVoJ

TokyoMum
TokyoMum
4 years 5 months ago

Wowzer! Definitely going to make it soon and eat it with basmati lemon rice! Thank you!

DeftTitan
DeftTitan
4 years 5 months ago

When you add the chicken to the tomato sauce, do you also add in all the sauce in which the chicken has been cooking along with it?

jillianmccabe
4 years 5 months ago

Yes, you add everything in your baking pan to the sauce and let it simmer together. 🙂

Stef
Stef
4 years 5 months ago

I had the same question….anyone know?

Car47
Car47
4 years 1 month ago

we made this last evening, and only put the chicken in with the stove-top sauce to simmer. there was a lot of liquid remaining in the baked chicken, which we discarded, knowing it would take very long to boil down.

i would also recommend going a bit lighter on the tomato ingredients. i found the recipe to be acidic, and i might suggest some extra fat or cream to cut it. (or am i thinking of korma/butter chicken?) 🙂

Janey
4 years 5 months ago

If you really want this dish to have that restaurant/authentic taste add just a little bit of kasori methi 🙂

Daria
Daria
4 years 5 months ago

Is that fresh fenugreek leaves? Or can you tell me what to look for? If you have any other helpful hints please share! Thanks!!

Janey
4 years 5 months ago

Yes, I think that’s what it’s called in English. And the only other suggestion is that I prefer this dish more creamy. In the photos this dish resembles more of a “korma” which is fine too. Depending on how Paleo you are you can use Greek yogurt or heavy cream to get that creamy feel. Or coconut cream. Oh, another suggestion is to use butter instead of olive oil. Have you heard of the dish Butter Chicken? They are pretty much the same thing!

DeftTitan
DeftTitan
4 years 5 months ago
I had everything in my kitchen except 6 chicken breasts, but I did have a beef pot roast thawing in my refrigerator. I made this using beef, but I didn’t want tough meat, so I cut it into strips and instead of baking, put it in a crock pot on low for 12 hours. The beef shredded really nicely on its own when I added it to the tomato-based sauce, and became a really nice dish. I think I would prefer it with chicken, but it’s what I had… You Indian food lovers don’t strike me down with verbal lightning… Read more »
greg grok
greg grok
4 years 5 months ago

It would probably work with flip flops.
Although i’d recommend for beef try a dhansak. There’s a recipe here but probably best looking for one without lentils if you dont eat them, so it’s primal-ised. http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/297119.aspx

Zorbs the Aussie
Zorbs the Aussie
4 years 5 months ago

LOL, hey leave my flip flops alone… go eat something else… very funny greg…

Sandra R
Sandra R
4 years 5 months ago

I love tikka masala! I’m so happy to have this recipe. Though, personally, I’ve avoided Indian food because I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to resist ordering naan. I did love me some naan. Haha. But using cauliflower rice is a good idea. And I definitely am a fan of recipes that make lots of leftovers!

Melissa
Melissa
4 years 5 months ago

I’m thinking this could be made with beef too?

Mary Titus
Mary Titus
4 years 5 months ago

I was just thinking that any meat could be transformed using this recipe.Lamb would be great too.

Milthra
Milthra
4 years 5 months ago

This looks like an awesome recipe. I’d serve it over raw spinach though – it goes well with curries. Cauliflower rice is good too, but without a food processor it’s a pain to make.

Daria
Daria
4 years 5 months ago

That sounds good (the spinach). Sarah Fragoso’s recipe for baked curry cauliflower in Everyday Paleo is really, really easy–it’s easier than making cauliflower rice, but like rice, it can soak up the sauce and tastes really good.

pixlee
pixlee
4 years 5 months ago

Try adding a cinnamon stick and a few 3-5 whole cardamom pods to the oil for a couple of minutes until fragrant and then remove and continue with frying the onion. Also add a couple of table spoons of almond flower to the sauce at the end a couple minutes before you remove it form the heat. But I would only add the almond flour if you are going to puree the sauce.

Alyssa
Alyssa
4 years 5 months ago

Looks yummy! Could this be crockpotified? Seems like it wouldn’t loose too much flavor by not baking the chicken…perhaps browning the chicken or onions first, then adding it all together and cooking all day?

Sean
Sean
4 years 5 months ago

Can you do this with a whole chicken, and if so what adjustments would you make?

Zorbs the Aussie
Zorbs the Aussie
4 years 5 months ago
Hiya, I have been making this for years and everyone loves it but on the stove top. I fry the onion and garlic and ginger till golden add the spices and fry for a min, The ratio of spices I add to the browned onion garlic ginger is 1 tsp each of tumeric, cummin, paprika, salt and 1 tablespoon of coriander powder and chilli to taste. Then I add a tablespoon of vinegar and stir for 1 min more then put in a whole chicken cut into small portions and coat well. Add 2 fresh chopped tomatoes and the cinnamon… Read more »
Heather
Heather
4 years 5 months ago

Oooh, I have all this except the lemongrass, I am going to give it a shot tonight. A bit less fussy than the other one, and i have some home grown toms that need eating,
Cheers

Zorbs
Zorbs
4 years 5 months ago

No wurries and let me know how it goes…

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[…] Primal Chicken Tikka Masala | Mark’s Daily Apple – Dairy free chicken tikka masala! […]

Tom Parker
4 years 5 months ago

I cannot wait to try this. It looks delish. I recently gave your Tender Prime Rib Roast with Mushroom and Bacon Sauté recipe a try and it was very good, although my all time favourite is still the Savoury Roasted Pumpkin with Beef Short Ribs. The sauce for that is amazing.

Neopim
4 years 5 months ago

Chicken Tikka is very delicious dish.For knowing different kind of Chicken dishes check this link.

Liz
4 years 5 months ago

This is at the last stage of simmering on the stove now – multiple tastes so far are saying this recipe is a winner!

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4 years 5 months ago

[…] Primal Chicken Tikka Masala Cauliflower Rice  Almond Flour […]

Alex
Alex
4 years 5 months ago

Made this dish tonight, tastes really rich and creamy. A big hit, thanks for the recipe!

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4 years 5 months ago

[…] Primal Chicken Tikka Masala – Mark’s Daily Apple […]

crunchycon
crunchycon
4 years 5 months ago

If you don’t have a food processor, try making the Cauliflower Rice with a potato masher after steaming. Dead easy.

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[…] From Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Chrissy
Chrissy
4 years 5 months ago

This looks AMAZING!!!

Penny
Penny
4 years 5 months ago

Made this last night to rave reviews by my 14-year-old son. “Frickin’ delicious!” was his report. It is easy to throw together, too. I used a combo of chicken breast and thigh meat.

Conor
Conor
4 years 5 months ago

Wow. That’s all I can say as I slowly sip and and polish off bowl #2 of this recipe. Only thing excluded was the cilantro. I will definitely make this again. The only problem is… will it last so I can share it???

Greg
4 years 5 months ago

Nice recipe! Can’t wait to try this!

Agi
Agi
4 years 5 months ago

Yum! Anyone have a primal chicken korma recipe?

Carl
Carl
4 years 5 months ago

Here in India, Tikka is in fact referred to as ‘barbequed’ chicken bits. So if you had the chance to skewer those guys over some hot coal, the flavours would transform your dish. If not, you could put the skewers in the oven or microwave grill.
Another indulgent addition to this dish is a dollop of butter!

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