Three (!) years ago, Jessica and I wrote a post reviewing Bon Appétit’s chicken tikka masala recipe. We concluded that the dish was tasty, but very time-consuming and we were split over whether we’d make it again. Jessica, living in the land of amazing take-out of all varieties, was pretty sure she’d keep ordering in. I figured that I’d lean on the recipe when I moved to Springfield because I assumed that good Indian food would be hard to come by. Jessica was right, I was wrong. As it turns out, Springfield has two terrific Indian places and the one I linked to in my 2013 post has become our go-to Friday night dinner spot. I’ve never cooked the Bon Appétit chicken again.
But in the past year, I found an addictive (and much easier) chicken tikka masala recipe that I’ve made a number of times despite having good Indian food close at hand. It still takes a long time to make, but most of the work is done by a slow cooker (aka crock pot), so it feels like no trouble at all.
I found this recipe on The Kitchn, where it was touted as a “dump and go” recipe: chop a couple of things, measure a few spices, open some cans of tomatoes, set the machine to low and go. The instructions offered two optional ways to get a deeper flavor: marinate the chicken in yogurt and sauté some of the ingredients before adding to the slow cooker. I scrolled through the comments to find out if people liked the dish. Some didn’t, complaining that it looked nothing like the picture and it was too bland or watery. Others took the recipe and ran with it, tinkering here and there to boost the flavor. One commenter, Beantown Cook, stood out to me as someone who’d made the dish a few times and probably knew what they were talking about. Their advice involved not only taking the Kitchn’s tips to marinate the chicken and cook the aromatics, but they also cranked up the onions, garlic, ginger, and spices.
The result was surprisingly good, especially for such minimal effort. It’s spicy, rich, and hearty. I’ve since made the recipe a number of times, marinating the chicken for shorter or longer times, cooking on high and low settings, and fiddling with the amount of tomatoes. It’s great every time, a forgiving recipe that doesn’t mind a few approximations or shortcuts. As happy as I am that Springfield has strong Indian food options, I’m even happier to have found an easy way to make delicious chicken tikka masala at home.
slow cooker chicken tikka masala
adapted from The Kitchn
As noted above, this recipe can take some tinkering and still work. As for the marinating step, I’ve marinated the chicken for as short as 2 hours and as long as 12 hours. I’ve sautéed the aromatics immediately before cooking the chicken and the night before (I warmed them briefly in the microwave before using). I’ve cooked on low for 8 hours and high for 4 hours. It all works – it just depends on what works best for my schedule.
As for the tomatoes, I like this best with fire roasted tomatoes, which only come in 14-ounce cans at my grocery store. Two full cans made the dish too watery, so I now drain one can before adding the tomatoes. One time I just used a 28-ounce can of regular diced tomatoes, didn’t drain it, and it was fine. Go figure.
1 to 1½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil (or other neutral oil)
1½ onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece ginger, grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2½ tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon curry powder
2½ teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt (plus more to taste)
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 14-ounce cans diced fire roasted tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can diced)
1 cup heavy cream
Marinate the chicken: place chicken thighs and yogurt in a large resealable plastic bag, making sure chicken is fully coated with yogurt. Refrigerate for 2 to 12 hours.
Cook the aromatics: heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Add tomato paste, spices, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook until thoroughly combined and very fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes. You can either refrigerate the aromatics until ready to use (microwave for 1 minute before adding to slow cooker) or use them right away.
Remove chicken from marinade, scraping off excess yogurt. Cut chicken into 2-inch pieces.
Add chicken and aromatics to the slow cooker. Drain one 14-ounce can of tomatoes and discard juice. Add tomatoes along with a full 14-ounce can of tomatoes with juice to the slow cooker. (If using a 28-ounce can, do not drain). Stir to combine. Attach lid to slow cooker and cook on High for 3 hours 45 minutes or Low for 7 hours 45 minutes.
Remove lid from slow cooker and stir in heavy cream. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and serve hot with rice.