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Chicken Tikka Masala with White Rice + Spinach

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
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Why we love it:

Is chicken tikka masala as we know it an Indian dish or … British? The origins of it are hotly debated and I won’t weigh in here. I can say, it’s delicious and well loved. This weeknight version is simple and will become a family favorite. It holds up in the fridge for days, even improves overnight or longer, and it freezes beautifully.


  • 4 cloves Garlic (minced, divided)
  • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger (about a 3" piece, minced, divided)
  • 3 Tablespoons Garam Masala (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 34 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional, divided)
  • 3 teaspoons Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 12 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 114 pounds Chicken Thighs, Boneless/Skinless (sliced in 2" pieces)
  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 28-ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 pinch White Sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup Basmati Rice (White)
  • 114 cups Water
  • 1 pound Baby Spinach (washed)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream

Cooking Instructions


    Finely mince 4 cloves of garlic and a 3” section of ginger. You can do this!

    In a large bowl, combine 2 garlic minced cloves (about half), 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (about half), 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala, ground turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

    Dice chicken into large 2” cubes. Add chicken to the marinade, turn to evenly coat and set aside to make the sauce or feel free to let it marinate overnight.

  • 2. SAUCE

    Finely dice half of an onion.

    In a large pot with tall sides, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the diced onion, and the other half of both the minced garlic and ginger. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 6 - 8 minutes. Add the remaining garam masala, paprika and ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (if using). Cook the spice blend on the bottom of the pan for 30 seconds or so. Add the can of tomatoes and the sugar and season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover partially and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, at least 10 minutes and up to 30 turning it down to low if you cook it longer.

  • 3. RICE

    Combine rice and 1 1/4 cups of water in a small pot with a tight fitting lid, add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then stir once. Turn heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 17 minutes then turn off the heat and leave it covered until you’re ready to serve dinner.

  • 4. CHICKEN

    Preheat the oven to broil.

    Place the chicken in one layer on a baking sheet. Place under the broiler and cook for about 5 minutes then check it and rotate the pan to brown the pieces evenly. Cook for 5 minutes longer or until blackened in spots and cooked through. When the chicken is done, scrape it and the juices into the pot with the sauce.

  • 5. SPINACH

    In a large saute pan, heat the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the clean spinach and cook for about 1 minute, moving around with tongs.

    *If you have full size spinach, chop it into 1” pieces first.
    **If it doesn’t fit in the pan in one batch, add part of it and when it starts to wilt, add more and keep cooking.

    Add a pinch of salt and cook until it’s all mostly soft and wilted. I recommend removing it from the hot pan when there are still some sections that aren’t fully cooked, it will keep wilting as it sits and this keeps it from turning brown.


    Add the cream to the sauce slowly, while stirring. Cook sauce with chicken and cream for a final 5 minutes over low heat.

  • 7. SERVING

    Serve a scoop of rice, topped with chicken and sauce, spinach on the side.

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    simply omit the heavy cream. You can swirl in some almond based yogurt or a can of coconut milk if you’d like it lighter and creamier
  • PALEO:
    serve with cauliflower rice. If you don’t eat tomatoes, use 2 bags of chopped frozen spinach and 1 cup of water or stock. This ends up approximating spinach saag and is so good
    use chicken breast
    the vegetarian version we have is great! Search for Tikka Masala with Garbanzo Beans
    ½ teaspoon ground ginger is just fine
    you can find this spice blend in most grocery stores near urban areas. Make your own blend - 1 Tablespoon each: ground cumin, coriander and chili powder. Plus 1 tsp each: black pepper, turmeric, ground cardamom

Prep Ahead & Use It Up

  1. This dish can be made fully ahead, it reheats well and tastes delicious for days. When reheating, be careful not to rapidly boil though or the dairy could separate. Just go low and slow, stirring often
  2. Rice can be steamed ahead
Rate this recipe:
4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 54 votes, average: 5.00 out of 54 votes, average: 5.00 out of 54 votes, average: 5.00 out of 54 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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