chicken tikka

Chicken tikka. Boneless tandoori chicken. Bite sized even. What’s better than that? Seriously. How can you not want to put that in your mouth?

I cannot resist chicken tikka. I have zero will power. My name is Romain and I have a problem.

I make it. And it winds up in my mouth. I make extra to be sure. And I still run short. All the time.

I like it in curries too. An extra layer of flavour. Chicken tikka masala. Butter chicken. Chicken tikka jalfrezi. Naga chicken tikka curry. The list goes on. Same problem though. Never enough tikka.

Chicken tikka is all about the marinade

I was never happy with my tandoori chicken. Or my chicken tikka. I struggled for years. It was always good. Really good even. But never great.

Took me a trip to Bangalore to figure it out. I was in a restaurant that specialized in tandoori dishes. I loved the chicken. It was amazing. Like tandoori nirvana amazing.

So I started tasting critically. Thinking. And asking questions. Eventually I got the secret. And it surprised me. A lot. But I’ve never looked back. The flavours are just too good.

No yoghurt. Yes. You heard me. This is a recipe for chicken tikka that doesn’t have any yoghurt in it.

Crazy talk. I get how you might think that. But it works. And it works better than any other marinade I’ve ever tried. Way better.

Tandoori marinade in a white bowl.

Yoghurt is not your friend – at least in this recipe

I have two problems with yoghurt for any tandoori or chicken tikka recipe.

Dairy blunts flavours. Think about it. If your curry is too hot what do you do? Add dairy.

Dairy adds richness. But it also blunts spices. Takes the edge off. I like the edge though. Especially in this dish.

Diary also contains lactic acid. You won’t be surprised to learn that’s acidic. And acid denatures protein. Which is a fancy way to say it “cooks” the chicken. Think ceviche. Same general idea.

And that kills the texture. It gets mushy. I have zero tolerance for mushy chicken. And it is a function of time. So those of you who insist on marinating chicken tikka for two days. Extra mushy.

Yoghurt might work if you have a real tandoor. If you can fire the chicken at 800F. Beat back that mushiness. But I have a charcoal BBQ. And I fire at under 600F.

So I have to work with what I have. And what works is leaving the yoghurt out.

Grilling technique is key

This recipe works in the oven. Maybe a blast from the broiler at the end. To give it that signature touch of char.

It works over a gas BBQ as well. Tasty stuff. Just make sure to give them some intense direct heat at the end. Again, a little char is a good thing.

But where is really shines is over charcoal. Smoke is that little something extra that puts it right over the top.

Grilling technique is key. Small pieces of chicken. High heat. It’s easy to overcook them. You need to be careful.

Thighs help here. They are tastier too. A little more fat. A little more flavour. Dark meat is more forgiving than white. Win. Win.

For any grill I like a two zone fire. Hot on one side. Cool on the other. Direct heat on one side. Indirect on the other.

Start the chicken over indirect heat. If you are using charcoal that kiss of smoke is happening the whole time the chicken is on the grill.

When you get close to your target internal temperature move the tikka over direct heat.

Get them mostly cooked on low then blast them with heat. You want a bit of char. You don’t want dry chicken. Watch it closely.

Tandoori marinade on chicken tikka skewers.

Chicken tikka is just fun food

The beauty of chicken tikka is you get that great tandoori chicken flavour. But boneless.

I’m almost tempted to say the Indian equivalent of chicken fingers. Except chicken fingers sound like the revenge of the bad grocery freezer section. Right there next to the fish sticks. And the frozen Brussel sprouts. The stuff nightmares are made of.

What it is is incredibly versatile. Serve it as an appetizer. Or over a nice green salad. Chicken shashlik.

Or on a pizza. My favourite pizza these days is chicken tikka, red onion and jalapeño. Doesn’t sound like much but it is so good. I have yet to have anyone not love that combination.

It is absolutely killer in restaurant and hotel style curries. It’s a whole extra layer of flavour.

Or in a kathi roll. Think chicken tikka wrapped up in a warm paratha. With a big drizzle of “secret sauce”. That is a sandwich worthy of the maharajah.

If you take one thing away from this post remember to always make extra. How much extra depends on how much willpower you have. Double is usually about right. Triple is almost always safe. For me anyway.

Chicken tikka are little tandoori flavour bombs. Marinate the chicken, skewer and grill and you have a great starter to any Indian meals.
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4.66 from 26 votes

chicken tikka

Chicken tikka makes a great appetizer for an Indian meal or as an extra flavour boost in your curries.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, tandoori marinade
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 174kcal

Ingredients

chicken tikka

  • 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • tandoori marinade recipe below
  • 1/2 lemon – juiced

Tandoori marinade

  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 Tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp mint sauce (not mint jelly)
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp coriander stems/leaves chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 Tbsp Patak's tandoori marinade (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water – you may need a little more. You are after a runny paste.

Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients for the tandoori marinade in a stain proof bowl.
  • Cut each thigh into 4 pieces. Cut each breast, if using, into 8 pieces. Combine tandoori marinade with chicken. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
  • Soak skewers in water for 30 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice to the chicken. Mix to combine. Let stand no more than one hour.
  • Light your grill. Build a two zone fire if using charcoal. Turn one burner to high and another to low if using gas.
  • Remove chicken from marinade. Use gloves if you have them. Tandoori marinade stains something fierce.
  • Skewer the chicken.
  • Grill over indirect heat until almost done – around 10-15 minutes. You want an internal temperature of about 150F for breasts or 160F for thighs at this point. You will be cooking them a bit more over direct heat. Your final target is 165F for breasts and 175F for thighs.
  • Move chicken skewers over direct (high) heat and grill an additional 2-4 minutes, turning every minute.. You want a bit of char but you don’t want it to burn or dry out.

Notes

If you prefer chicken breasts substitute 6 chicken breasts for the thighs. White meat is more delicate so be extra vigilant when grilling. It dries out very easily.
You can add a bit of food colouring if you really want the restaurant look (like in these pictures). Just a pinch though. Don’t go crazy. Orange is actually better than red for this. Or maybe a mix of orange and red. 

Nutrition

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 174kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 503mg | Potassium: 309mg | Vitamin A: 375IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1.6mg

43 thoughts on “chicken tikka”

  1. 5 stars
    THE best chicken tikka i have ever made and i have made a few over the years but me and my greedy family give this a 10/10. I omitted the pataks and used a tsp of tandoori masala powder i also reduced the chilli powder to 1 and 1/2 tsps as the little ones find it a bit hot thank you Glebe Kitchen. Regards Chas.

    Reply
    • Ha. If I can make your family greedy for something I am happy! On the chili powder it really depends on the type you are using. Kashmiri is pretty mild stuff. Some are much hotter so it’s a matter of tweaking for the chili powder you use.

      I’ve even noticed variations in the potency of Kashmiri chili powder. Bit of a crap shoot sometimes…

    • I’ve never heard of raita or mint chutney referred to as sauce but I see that some do call it that online. This is mint sauce with vinegar.

  2. should the spices be raw or tempered in for the marinade? i know a charcoal grill would help do that but let’s say on an electric grill or oven.

    Reply
    • The recipe calls for raw, untempered spices. That’s an interesting thought though. I’ve never tried it that way. Not sure if it would help or hurt. Blooming the spices does release oil soluble compounds into the oil so that would help. Those compounds will likely just drip off in cooking and you might wind up with less spice sticking to the chicken. That would hurt. Will have to give that a go to see what happens.

      There is a lot of powdered spices in this marinade though. You will need more than the 3 Tbsp of oil to properly bloom the spices I expect.

    • I cannot comment on food safety but so long as you didn’t add lemon to the initial marinade it should be OK from a flavour/texture perspective.

  3. I made this as best as i could with what i had, but it tasted a bit more like supermarket sandwich chicken tikka rather than the restaurant stuff. I didn’t have the Patak’s tandoori marinade though, and i substituted it with Tandoori Masala powder. Still got eaten.

    Reply
  4. I’ve just made a jar of the spice mix and garlic ginger paste. Tomorrow I’m making the curry base mix. Can’t to make my first curry. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  5. 5 stars
    Hi , thanks for sharing this recipe , made a few times for different people and they’ve all said it was restaurant standard , makes a big difference using thigh meat , once again thank you ??

    Reply
  6. Proper handsome favorite good ever Indian anything spicy,since an eight year old nicking some of my dad’s takeaways in mid 70’s! Keep cooking the gorgeous recipe’s you post! Thanksgiving

    Reply
  7. Made this tonight without the patak paste, still amazing better and tastier than restaurant tikka so moist and a taste sensation on a gas BBQ with Mint sauce and lemon juice in yoghurt as a dip, packed into pittas with a red pepper tomato and cucumber salsa

    Reply
  8. Hi there,
    I’ve tried a couple of the recipes and they have turned out really well. Love the curry base and followed the videos, as we are on lock down with your help I’m cracking the curry’s. However want to try the tikka but have none or the tandoori marinade, what can I use instead?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Glad you are enjoying yourself. You could use a simple mix of ingredients like cumin, coriander, kashmiri chili powder, salt and garlic ginger paste and maybe some paprika. Toss that with your chicken and some oil. A squeeze of lemon juice right before you start grilling. Should be pretty tasty…

    • 5 stars
      Thanks for the advice, I went ahead and cooked them without the Tandoori paste as I couldn’t wait and they were delicious. Perfect in fact very tasty, just as the other Indian recipes I’ve tried.
      Having to substitute a couple of ingredients as it’s tricky to get, Kasoor methi, Kosher salt, curry leaves and Indian bay leaf. I guess if and when I can get these things I will be flying.
      Thanks for the videos. So helpful
      Thank you.

  9. The best tikka marinade I have ever made, thanks. I will never use yoghurt to marinate my tikka ever again. It definitely makes it better leaving it out, and I have tried so many recipes that all call for yoghurt.

    Can the chicken tikka be frozen after cooking to use in curries at a later date? Does it thaw well to be added to a curry?

    Also, do you have a good samosa recipe, for the filling and wrap? Veggie or meat? I see that you have some keema recipes that can be used for a samosa filling, i.e. “lamb or beef keema”. But what about a veggie option and how to make the wrap etc.?

    Thanks again

    Reply
    • Glad you liked it and especially glad you’ve decided to leave out the yoghurt. I’m not a fan of frozen chicken in general so I’ve never tried. Chicken suffers badly from freezing in my experience – cooked or raw.

      I’ll put samosas on the to do list.

    • Thanks for saying so! If you’d like, try the marinade with tandoori chicken or shashlik. It works the same for all of them.

    • Because I don’t like the way yoghurt dulls the flavour. I learned that trick at a kebab house in Bangalore and much prefer it…

  10. Hi Romain,

    Thanks for all the recipes. I’m getting your restaurant style technique. It’s a revelation. My wife thought the lamb saag I made her this week was better than she had ever had in an Indian restaurant.

    Anyway, I am making some tandoori drumsticks on the bbq tomorrow, so I thought I’d also do some tikka sticks to use in a curry later in the week.

    Apart from tikka masala, which of your chicken curries benefit the most from using chicken tikka in rather than simmered chicken?

    Many thanks, Chris (north London)

    Reply
    • Nice to hear you’re getting into it. It’s lots of fun and results are worth it I think!

      The butter chicken recipe uses tandoori chicken and it has a bit more flavour and bite than the average butter chicken.

  11. I have the chicken marinating in the kitchen right now. I’m very much looking forward to it, I even have a few chunks of lamb marinating in a separate bowl smothered in your tandoori paste recipe.

    I will report back and rate soon.

    Reply
    • I don’t know actually. Never tried. Might be a bit to heavy. I think a yoghurt based dip would go best but these are flavourful enough you don’t even need dip if you don’t want to bother…

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