Changing the world, one curry at a time.
One of my sister’s best friends all through school was Indian (I guess she still is…), so I always thought of curries as that food I had at her graduation party. It turns out, though, that curry, chicken tikka masala in particular, is like an unofficial national dish of Great Britain. Around my part of the world, White Castle hamburgers are the ultimate “after midnight” food. Apparently, in parts of the UK, it’s chicken tikka masala. About two years ago, I had chicken tikka masala for the first time. I now understand WHY it’s so popular.
Here’s the deal with curry (the dish, not the spice – I don’t want to open that ridiculous can of worms right now): it’s an immensely complex dish. Or rather, it can be. It’s a super complex flavor, and that takes a lot of ingredients to nail down. This is a simpler recipe than many I have seen, but there are still quite a few things to do. I usually suggest this anyway, but this is a dish that I really suggest getting your mise en place all set before you start actually cooking. Mise en place is a French term that basically just means “set up” or “everything in place.” Seriously – gather, measure, chop, dice, and prep everything before you start. It will make things much less complicated and therefore less stressful.
Measure out all of your spices into a small bowl. Everyone has their own idea of what spices makes a good curry, but regardless of what is used, the spices are the heart and soul of this dish. It gives a complex flavor that is hard to match. Obviously, the fresher the spices are, the better it is, but I’m a realist – spices you have in your cabinet will work. If you go out to by brand new versions of all of these, you’ll spend an unnecessary fortune. Ground cumin, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and cayenne pepper make up the first round of spices. Adjust the cayenne to make it as hot as you like – this version is (in my opinion) very mild, so is light on the cayenne. Double it (or more) if you like the heat).
Onto the veg. Dice up half of a yellow onion. Again, you can ramp this up a bit if you’d like, but I feel like half an onion is the perfect amount. Mince up 4 cloves of garlic. Hold this off to the side.
Typically chicken tikka masala starts off by cooking the onions in ghee, or clarified butter. Since butter is not an option for us, we go for coconut oil. Heat up the coconut oil in a pan and cook the onions until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Don’t cook it too fast – you want them to soften, not brown. Add in the garlic and cook for about one minute. Dump in the first round of spices and stir. Your kitchen now smells amazing. You’re welcome. Cook this for about 2 minutes.
At this point, you’re ready to add a can of tomato sauce. Be sure to get tomato sauce, not spaghetti sauce. That will change the outcome a bit. Bring to a boil and then back the heat off and simmer for about 10 minutes. This is where you would normally add heavy cream. Again, dairy is out for us, so we use full-fat canned coconut milk. It works beautifully. Use the full-fat stuff – it gives a better consistency and “mouthfeel.” It’s also time to add round 2 of spices. This one is easier – just paprika and sugar. Stir well and let that simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often.
In a separate pan, heat up some more coconut oil. Add in diced chicken. I realize the above picture looks like an intense amount of chicken. We doubled the recipe this time because we were cooking for two families. It’s also time for round 3 of spices, this time, just curry powder. Sear the chicken on all sides, but don’t worry about cooking it through – that will come later. Let the chicken cook for about 3-5 minutes. Dump all the chicken, along with any pan juices, into the tomato sauce mixture. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
Serve this over rice and enjoy! This chicken tikka masala is completely dairy free.
Chicken Tikka Masala
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
- 1 cup canned coconut milk
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 Tbsp white sugar
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into small pieces
- ½ tsp curry powder
- Heat coconut oil in a large skillet or pan. Cook onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add in garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add cumin, salt, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric to the onion mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes.
- Pour tomato sauce into onion mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add coconut milk, paprika, and sugar. Stir well and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- In a separate pan or skillet, heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil. Stir in the chicken pieces and sprinkle with curry powder. Sear chicken on all sides, but do not cook through.
- Add chicken, along with any pan juices, to the tomato sauce mixture. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve over rice and enjoy!
***This recipe is modified from a recipe by Chris Bellers on AllRecipes.com. Many thanks to Chris for an excellent recipe that was easily modified to fit our dietary needs and personal tastes!***