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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.