Chicken tikka is ubiquitous with South Asian cuisine.  It is a popular takeout item, but is just as easily prepared at home.  Making this dish in a tandoori oven would be ideal but my apartment kitchen could not handle such advanced apparatus.  I actually prefer my homemade version to *some* restaurant versions because in many restaurants I have been to, the chicken is practically dyed an ungodly red color.  That food coloring or whatever it is that they use, really turned me off chicken tikka for a while.  To me, this look is as unappealing as an over peroxidized bleached blond.  (I do not have anything against bleached blondes, just a comparison in dying methods ;). )

Another issue I had with chicken tikka was that I became dependent on Shan Masalas in order to prepare it.  If you do not know of Shan masalas (there are many other brands that produce similar spice mixes) are prepared spice mixes for any Pakistani dish you could dream of.  When I say any, I MEAN any.  They are 99 cent wonders for some.  Throw in some onions, ginger, and garlic and your xyz Pakistani dish is made.  Though, there is a convenience factor to these masalas, there is the inevitable fact that everyone’s food started tasting the same.  The authenticity of the cuisine was gone.  For a while I couldn’t tell you what went into Biryani, it was all in the Shan Masala for me, why would I need to know?  Now, I steer clear of  these prepared masalas as much possible.

Oh no, I made them sound like the most evil thing on earth didn’t I?  They’re not that bad (though they are laden with sodium, but that’s another issue.) At least, they encourage people who wouldn’t normally cook, to actually go into the kitchen.  Also, I must admit, I do add just a bit of the prepared chicken tikka mix because of the nice color it adds.  (Not the unnatural mutated red color as previously mentioned.)

Chicken tikka is so easy to prepare and yields delicious results.  I freshly grind all my spices to produce even more flavor, but if you don’t have a spice grinder, powdered ones will work great.  Also, I have noticed that South Asian spices in regular markets can be exorbitantly expensive.  Do check out Indian/Pakistani groceries where the same spices will be of better quality and at lower prices.  South Asians have reached all corners of the globe, so I’m sure there will be an Indian/Pakistani grocer somewhere near you.  I’m originally from Rhode Island aka the smallest state, and we have at least 3 South Asian grocers there.  Enjoy this dish, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser and great for large gatherings!

Chicken Tikka

Serves 2-3


4 chicken leg quarters skin removed and separated into leg and thigh portions, and using your knife make 3 slits on each piece of chicken so that the marinade can penetrate into the meat, (if you get your chicken directly from a butcher ask him or her to remove the kidneys as well)

7-8 cloves of garlic mashed in a mortar and pestle with 1/4 cup of water

1/2 inch piece of ginger mashed on a mortar and pestle (mixed with the garlic)

juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons laal mirch powder, I believe this is similar to cayenne pepper but in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores it is called red chili powder.  I do not like to say chili powder because some may get confused with Tex-Mex Chili.  I prefer using Mehran brand red chili powder.

1 tablespoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 pinch of ajwain (carom) seeds

1 teaspoon Shan Chicken Tikka Masala

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping tablespoon of yogurt

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

sliced onions, limes, green chilies, and tomatoes, cilantro, for garnish


Put the chicken into a large bowl.  Mix all the spices together and add the lime juice, ginger/garlic paste made in the mortar and pestle, oil, and, yogurt (I forgot to add my yogurt until the end that is why you can see it separately in my pictures, but it really does not make a difference.)  Combine these ingredients until they form a paste.  Slather this paste over the chicken and rub it into the slits.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, if you are pressed for time, at least 1 hour.  After marination place the chicken on an oiled baking tray and bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the chicken in cooked through.  Then, turn the oven to broil and allow to broil for about 5 minutes or until the chicken gets a little charred.  Serve with hot naan and the garnishes.

*This chicken is also wonderful on the grill in the summertime!