What is chicken tikka?
Chicken tikka, also known as murgh tikka, is small pieces of marinated chicken in spicy yogurt, put on skewers, and cooked on a grill. The word tikka itself means chunks or small pieces.
Originally invented in North India during the Mughal era, these spicy yet delicious grilled chicken chunks have gained popularity all over the globe.
And in the regions of the Indian subcontinent such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, etcetera you will come across their own version of chicken tikka recipe. But all is similar if not the same.
One would understand why this grilled chicken is popular when one tries it.
Because each piece of the chicken is full of flavor, and when done right, you get really nice and juicy chicken chunks. Something you won’t be able to stop having as they are simply too yummy.
You probably have come across this succulent grilled chicken among the food spread at gatherings and occasions like weddings, birthdays, Eids, and festivities. They are usually there as a part of the appetizers.
But in daily life, people often enjoy chicken tikka as light lunch served with naan bread and salad. Some others would eat it for dinner too. There is no restriction on how we want to enjoy our food, really.
What is the difference between chicken tikka and chicken tandoori?
Well, the difference lies in the spices and the method of cooking.
Chicken tandoori usually has red food coloring to make the chicken pieces look vibrantly red. And they cook the poultry in a tandoor which is an urn-shaped clay pot oven.
Whilst the chicken tikka will have more bright yellow color because it has more turmeric.
As for the cooking method, traditional chicken tikka is cooked in a tandoor as well. But in modern days, you will find more people cooking the tikka on a grill or a barbecue.
I suppose this goes the same for chicken tandoori. People will cook it on either a grill or a barbecue. And to make it at home, now people cook both chickens in an oven, air fryer, or instant pot.
Nowadays, you will likely get proper tandoori chicken tikka from restaurants only, and not from ordinary household kitchens. Simply because it is not practical anymore to use this clay pot oven.
Is chicken tikka healthy?
Don’t take my words as a piece of health advice because I’m not a medical doctor or physician. But in my humble opinion, this chicken tikka can be a healthy choice for our diet if we cook it with the right ingredients and in the right methods.
Because chicken is one of the good sources of protein, right? The spices you use for the marinade also have health benefits. Things like cumin, coriander seeds, ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilies, and yogurt are definitely good for our health.
And the grilling method for this dish is of course one of the best way of food cooking. It can preserve the taste of our food and it doesn’t use a lot of fat, if not zero at all.
But like anything else, we must have it in moderation and do other things to keep a good lifestyle.
Shop-bought spice mix vs homemade mix
Here in the UK, we can buy ready-made spice packets for chicken tikka. So you just mix them with yogurt and follow the instruction to cook.
However, I find them way too hot as they have high-content of chilies. So, even though I personally have no problems with chilies, my husband and our kids do. Therefore I can not use the shop-bought spice mix and tend to make my own mix.
I learned how to make chicken tikka from my sister-in-law. But over time, I’ve tweaked the recipe and made a few changes.
For example, I replace and mix the chili powder with paprika powder. Because it’s less spicy and my children could have it when they were little. It also gives a bright color to the dish. But, if you like your chicken tikka hot and spicy, you can always add more chili powder.
Key ingredients for chicken tikka marinade
There are twelve items you need to mix for your marinade. But don’t get disheartened, as they are pretty much ordinary staples in your Indian/ Pakistani pantry.
So the ingredients for homemade chicken tikka marinade are ginger, garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric powder, paprika powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, coarse black pepper, natural yogurt, salt, lemon juice, and cooking oil.
Notice that I use both paprika powder and Indian red chili powder. For the latter, I prefer Kashmiri chili powder due to its vibrant color and taste. However, if you can not get hold of this, any Indian/ Pakistani red chili powder will be good.
As for the black pepper, you can use ground black pepper, but reduce it to ¼ teaspoon. Because the powder form is spicier than the coarse ones.
Having said that, if you prefer your chicken to be spicy, you can always add more chilies to it. Likewise, if you’re not good with hot spice, feel free to adjust it to your liking.
When it comes to oil, any neutral cooking oil will do. Though I often use rapeseed/ canola oil, or sunflower oil more often than not.
What type of chicken
Even if you see that boneless chicken pieces are mostly used in Indian restaurants and/or takeouts/ takeaways, you can always go for chicken with bones to make this recipe. As long as the poultry is small pieces to help the chicken absorb the spicy marinade.
I personally tend to use chicken thighs as I find them more flavorsome though I have used chicken breasts too. But I find chicken breasts tend to get dry easily.
But of course, you can always use any type of chicken you prefer.
How to make chicken tikka
I promise you will love this easy recipe to make chicken tikka at home. This simple recipe literally takes only 15 minutes to prepare and you can let the oven do the rest.
Firstly, cut the chicken into a similar size. I cut mine into about 1-1½-inch cubes. Then dry the chicken pieces with a kitchen towel.
Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix well. Add chicken in and stir until all pieces are covered with yogurt marinade.
Marinate your chicken for at least a few hours, even better you can prepare this chicken ahead the night before and refrigerate overnight.
However, if you don’t have time to marinate the chicken for a long time, you can do this trick to speed up the marination process.
Use a skewer or a fork to pierce all the chicken pieces. Make sure every piece is pierced. This little trick will help the poultry develop the flavor of the tikka spices.
When it is ready to cook the chicken, put the pieces on skewers. You can use metal skewers or wooden skewers. If you use the latter, make sure you soak them in water prior to using. So the skewers will not get too dry and/ or get burned in the oven due to overheating.
You can cook the chicken pieces on the grill or in a preheated oven at 375°F/ 190°C or at gas mark 5 for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken looks opaque on every side. And make sure you turn the skewers halfway through cooking.
In good weather, you can place the pieces of chicken tikka on a barbecue and grill them so you’ll have the best chicken tikka with a slight char on them.
What to serve with chicken tikka
And if you fancy a bit of carb, these originally North Indian chicken tikka kebabs are delicious to enjoy with naan bread. Though some people love eating them with chapati as well.
More Pakistani recipes for chicken
I hope you enjoyed this chicken tikka recipe and now thinking to make it. If you do, please let me know what you think about it and leave your views in the comments below.
Feel free to share the post and pin it on your Pinterest. And before you go, don’t forget to check out my other recipes that you may like.
Take care and all the best.
Chicken tikka recipe
- Kitchen knife
- Chopping board
- Mixing bowls.
- Aluminum foil
- 1.5 pounds boneless chicken cut in pieces see the note
- 2 cloves garlic minced, finely chopped, or grated.
- ½ inch ginger minced, finely chopped, or grated.
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder.
- ¾ teaspoon ground coriander.
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder.
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or cayenne pepper powder.
- ½ teaspoon paprika powder.
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper.
- 1 teaspoon salt.
- 2 tablespoons natural yogurt.
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice from ½ lemon.
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil.
- Put all the ingredients except the chicken in a mixing bowl. Mix it well.
- Then put the chicken in the marinade and make sure all pieces are coated well with the spice mixture.
- Using a skewer or a fork, pierce all the poultry pieces. This little trick will ensure the meat absorbs the flavor better. So your chicken will be flavorsome and not bland. Especially when you don’t have much time to marinate it.
- Ideally, you leave the chicken to marinate at least for a few hours. But I’ve done so many times when I only left the marinade for 20 minutes or so. Just make sure you pierce the meat.
- When you’re ready to cook, you can grill your chicken tikka on a griddle pan, an oven grill, or barbecue.
- I often use a griddle pan. Just drizzle a teaspoon of cooking oil on your griddle pan, and preheat it to medium heat.
- When your pan is ready and hot, put your chicken in it. Leave it to cook at medium heat if you use boneless chicken. And if you use chicken with bones, you may have to cook at low heat so that the meat won’t get burnt before the inside gets cooked fully.
- After 6-7 minutes, turn the chicken and cook further on the other side for another 6-7 minutes or until light brown and it’s thoroughly cooked.
- To use the oven, preheat the oven to 375°F/ 190°C or at gas mark 5.
- Place the chicken skewers on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. And cook the chicken for about 20-25 minutes. Make sure you check and turn the chicken halfway through cooking time.
- Enjoy your chicken tikka on its own with salad. Or you can have it with pitta bread. And you can even make a chicken tikka sandwich with it.
- As mentioned above, you can swap the paprika powder with chili powder if you prefer hot spicy chicken tikka. Or, you can mix with ½ tsp paprika powder and ½ tsp chili powder if you want moderate heat.
- If you can not get Kashmiri red chili powder, you can substitute it with Indian/ Pakistani red chili powder or cayenne pepper powder.
Nutritional info in this recipe is only estimate using online calculator. You should refer to it as a guide only. Please verify with your own data if you seek an accurate info.