Why chicken tikka masala is Britain’s no. 1 dish

When a dish is not considered to be authentic, like Chinese lemon chicken for example, is it right to say that it is inferior? I have always thought so… at least in the case of Chinese food. We’ve all had one of those terrible anglicised chicken stir-fries with thick gravies full of corn flour and MSG, but what about other cuisine that has been adjusted to appeal to western palates?

I made chicken tikka masala the other week, and yes, I am well aware that this dish is the Indian equivalent of that Chinese lemon chicken. A quick Google search even tells me that top food writers such as Charles Campion refer to it as “a dish invented in London in the Seventies so that the ignorant could have gravy with their chicken tikka.”

I love chicken tikka masala, does that make me ignorant? Perhaps, but nothing beats that roasted chicken with a spicy cream and tomato gravy, which makes each spoonful of rice a satisfying one. Maybe one day I’ll find a recipe for lemon chicken that is just as delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients for marinating the chicken:

3-4 boneless chicken breasts, skins removed and cut into bite-sized pieces

250g thick natural yoghurt

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons chilli powder

2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper


Skewers (If using wooden skewers completely submerge them in water for approx. 30 minutes. This will stop them from catching fire while grilling).

Ingredients for the tomato gravy:

1 can of tomatoes

250g heavy cream

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 red chillies, finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons paprika powder

1 tablespoon of ghee or plain butter

Salt and pepper


Handful of coriander leaves/cilantro, chopped for garnish

Toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Lime slices for garnish

Fresh cucumber slices for garnish


1)   Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix until the chicken is nicely coated.

2)   Cover and refrigerate overnight (can be for ½ hour if you’re pressed for time).

3)   On the next day, either prepare your charcoal grill or heat up the grill function of your oven to high.

4)   Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, discarding the marinade.

5)   Grill the chicken evenly on all sides, until juices run clear – approx. 10 minutes.

6)   To prepare the gravy, heat a large pan to medium and melt the ghee/clarified butter.

7)   Sauté the garlic and chopped chillies until fragrant.

8)   Sprinkle the ground cumin, paprika powder and a pinch of salt.

9)   Sauté for a further minute or two until the mixture turns into a paste-like texture.

10)   Pour in ¾ of the canned tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to deglaze it and to release any bits stuck to the pan.

11)   Simmer uncovered for approx. 10-15 minutes on low heat until the sauces begins to thicken

12)   Add the grilled chicken pieces and cream. Simmer for a further 10 minutes and keep tasting the mixture in case you want to add more tomatoes in it

13)   Thicken the sauce further and heat the chicken and cream through.

14)   Serve sprinkled with fresh chopped coriander leaves, toasted almonds, freshly squeezed lime and steamed Basmati rice. Serves 3-4


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30 Responses to “Why chicken tikka masala is Britain’s no. 1 dish”
  1. Megan says:

    Hello! I adore this dish… I admit.. I have only made it 1 time… and that was ages ago. Your recipe looks enticing – Thanks for the share! – Megan

  2. tcmaryf says:

    I lov this dish, but it’s one of the things I have yet to make. Maybe tomorrow, think I have all the ingredients in the house. Thnx for sharing, looks like a great recipe

  3. I personally don’t care if it’s authentic or not as long as it tastes delicious!! I still love the more authentic Indian curries with a “kick” though.. but they’re just a different category of delicious, haha.

    • I agree; good food is good food! I think folks place too much weight on authenticity sometimes. If it tastes delicious, and was made with love and care like the above chicken tikka masala, than how can it be bad!

  4. Rich says:

    You know, I thought the same thing for a long time, until I just kind of realized that the reason I thought it was that usually the anglicized version was a result of laziness … when you change something out of a productive or well reasoned creativity, it can often be equal or superior to the ‘traditional version’. That’s my theory, at least. And this, well, is an example. It looks delicious!

  5. Monet says:

    Ignorant or not, this dish looks AMAZING! I’ve never made chicken tikka masala before, and I’m excited to have this recipe. Thank you for sharing this recipe with me and for visiting my blog. I hope you have a wonderful week of family, friends and food!

  6. briarrose says:

    Yum…love the spices.

  7. Perhaps I will use your recipe to do a vegetable or paneer tikka masala. It sounds like a good one!

    • jennynoowyn says:

      That’s a great idea.. let me know what you think of it! be great to hear how it is from you especially since you’re far more versed in Indian food than me 😉

  8. Fiona says:

    Back when i was still living in london, this was my staple food. LOVE chicken tikka masala! thanks for sharing this

  9. I eaten this dish and I like it spicy. I’ve never made it home…don’t know why, probably the time constraint I have when I get home late and starving when I get in the door. This dish is something I will remind myself to make during the weekend. I love eating cilantro on a lot of dishes.

  10. What a lovely dish! so fragrant and exotic. I had no idea that was the no1 dish in Britain, even though I know the British are fond of Indian cuisine.

  11. This looks totally mouthwatering! The gravy sounds heavenly.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. My husband is Indian/British and he loves this dish. So do I. I use Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for this and it is a real favorite around here, even amongst Hubby’s very picky family.
    *kisses* HH

  13. elra says:

    Love Tikka Masala, will try to make this hopefully asap.

  14. Ruby says:

    There’s nothing wrong with taking a traditional dish and making it into something new. Almost everything we think of as ‘traditional’ was originally adapted from something else anyway. I mean even the quintessentially Italian spaghetti came from Chinese noodles!

    Your recipe looks great, but I’ll never make it simply because I’m too lazy when I’ve got umpteen awesome Indian take-aways within shouting distance (live in the UK)! 😉

    • jennynoowyn says:

      I’m jealous! I don;t have any good inidan takeaways…there’s only a restaurant around me, which isn’t something you want to pay for all the time! 🙂

  15. Kausambi says:

    Whether really indian or not, it is now a staple part of all tiny hole in the wall eateries all over india now. And why not, the dish is definitely very yummy.

  16. Sortachef says:

    This is my son’s favorite Indian dish, which he practically lives on when we visit England. It’s also the favorite of half of our English cousins and several of our friends over there. With that kind of staying power, I think its dubious ancestory can be overlooked… as with anything, food should be allowed to evolve too!
    Thanks for a lovely rendition!

  17. Anita Menon says:

    I love Chicken Tikka masala and its funny how in India, we have more of tandoori Chicken and butter chicken as compared to Chicken Tikka Masala.

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. Would love to give it a try over some weekend.

    A great blog and I enjoyed going through a lot of your posts.

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