Evolution of the chicken tikka

Chicken Tikka is undoubtedly the most popular Indian dish, loved not only by Indians but also by non-Indians all over the world! The word ‘tikka’ refers to both the cut of meat and the style of preparation. It involving marinating bite-sized chicken in spiced yogurt and grilling it on skewers in the tandoor ovens. It is believed to have its roots in the culinary traditions of the Mughal Empire. Over time, it has evolved from being a royal delicacy to a popular street food and restaurant dish that is also replicated in home kitchens across India and beyond. Here’s my easy Chicken Tikka recipe, prepared in four different ways!

Chicken Tikka

When it comes to perfecting chicken tikka, whether at a street-side joint, a fancy restaurant, or in your home kitchen, it all boils down to achieving the right flavor and texture. Two key elements play a crucial role: the flavorful marinade and the grilling technique.

it starts with the marinade

My recipe for making lip-smacking chicken tikka starts with a marinade. This marinade not only enhances the flavor of the chicken but also aids in tenderizing the meat, resulting in juicy and flavorful chicken tikka. It comprises of yogurt, aromatics such as garlic and ginger, and spices like the quintessential Indian garam masala. Additionally, it includes spicy red chili powder for heat along with the Kashmiri red chili powder and turmeric, that give it a vibrant orange hue (eliminating the need for food coloring!). I also incorporate mustard oil into the marinade. It not only imparts a unique flavor but also helps keep the chicken succulent throughout the high temperature grilling process.

Chicken Tikka

Ideally, the chicken should be marinated overnight or for about 8 hours to absorb the flavors fully. However, if you’re short on time, even 30 minutes while you preheat the oven or grill can be effective. In such cases, you can speed up the marinating process by adding lemon or lime juice to the mix.

Four Ways to Perfect Chicken Tikka

Typically, both in the olden times and in modern restaurants, chicken tikka, like tandoori chicken, is made in a traditional tandoor oven. Since I don’t have a tandoor oven at home, I use four alternative methods such as a stovetop grill pan, my oven, my outdoor gas grill, or my charcoal grill to create the tandoor effect and make classic chicken tikka at home.

Stovetop Grill: Stovetop methods, such as using a grill pan or skillet, offer a convenient alternative for cooking indoors, especially if outdoor grilling is not an option. By heating a grill pan or skillet over high heat and searing the marinated chicken pieces, it can get deliciously charred and caramelized, similar to an outdoor grill. Additionally, using a grill pan indoors allows for easy monitoring of the cooking process and yields deliciously tender chicken tikka with beautiful grill marks.

Oven Roasting & Broiling: Oven roasting is another popular method for cooking chicken tikka, especially when grilling isn’t feasible. By arranging the marinated chicken on a baking sheet and roasting it at a high temperature, then finishing it off under the broiler, you can achieve a similar charred exterior and juicy interior without needing an outdoor grill.

Gas or Electric Grill: Grilling is perhaps the most popular method for preparing chicken tikka at home. Whether using a gas or electric grill, the high heat helps to sear the exterior of the chicken, locking in juices and creating a flavorful char. It’s a great cooking method, especially for those who prefer the control and convenience of gas cooking. Additionally, you can add wood chips or aromatic herbs to the grill to enhance the flavor of the chicken tikka during cooking.

Skewered Over Charcoal Grill: This method is as close as you can get to making authentic and traditional chicken tikka at home. While it can take the longest, this cooking technique imparts a delightful smoky aroma that adds depth of flavor to the dish. When skewering the meat, you can add cubed red onions and/or bell peppers after every piece of meat.

Make sure to use high-quality charcoal and light it properly to achieve even heat distribution. Additionally, rotate the skewers as needed to prevent burning and ensure even cooking.

Versatility of Chicken tikka

Chicken tikka is great as an appetizer when served with sliced red onion and refreshing mint chutney. It’s also works as a main course, or as part of a larger meal such as a thali (platter) or the rice-based, biryani. It can also be served with different accompaniments such as naan or roti, rice, or salads, making it a versatile dish.

I highly encourage you to double the recipe and make a big batch, so you can use the leftovers to make another classic and popular Chicken Tikka Masala, the recipe for which is taught in my cooking classes! I also have an Instant Pot friendly recipe for it in my cookbook!

Variations

My recipe for Chicken Tikka is versatile! You can substitute chicken with chunks of beef, pork, lamb or turkey. You can even make it with firm white fish or jumbo shrimp. Even halved boiled eggs work very well! With delicate proteins like fish/seafood/eggs, grill them on a grill pan over the stove or grill low and slow skewered on a charcoal grill, for best results. Finally for a vegan version, you can use tofu along with dairy-free yogurt. You can also use go for baby potatoes (par boiled for a quicker grilling process), button mushrooms, cauliflower or make the popular vegetarian version Paneer Tikka by substituting chicken with the Indian cottage cheese, paneer.

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Easy Chicken Tikka (Four Ways)


  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Four Ways to Perfect Chicken Tikka: From Stove to Grill, spice up your kitchen and elevate your home cooking!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (see FAQs & Notes + Variations)
  • neutral oil or cooking spray, for grilling

For the Marinade

  • 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 1/2-inch (1.3-cm) piece fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1/2 tbsp (6 g) Kashmiri red chili powder (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 1/4 tsp hot red chili powder (skip or use less for mild flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) mustard oil or neutral oil of choice
  • Salt, as needed

Instructions

Marinating the Chicken

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the marinade.
  • Adjust salt or spice level and then toss in the chicken pieces. Make sure the chicken is coated evenly with the marinade.
  • Seal with a plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Grilling the Chicken (see FAQs & Notes + Variations)

Stovetop Grilling

  • Place a grill pan over medium-high heat and preheat for about 4-5 minutes. 
  • Drizzle or spray the cooking oil on the pan.
  • Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken pieces, one by one, onto the preheated and greased grill pan. Shake the excess marinade off. 
  • Brush or spray the top side with cooking oil.
  • Let the chicken grill on the first side for 3 to 4 minutes before flipping over.
  • Continue grilling for another 3-4 minutes before transferring to a platter. 
  • Let it rest for 4-5 minutes, so that the juices redistribute and then serve.

Gas Grill

  • Preheat a gas grill to 400°F (200 °C). 
  • Brush or spray the grates with cooking oil
  • Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken pieces, one by one, onto the preheated and greased grill pan. Shake the excess marinade off. 
  • Brush or spray the top side with cooking oil. 
  • Let the chicken grill on the first side, covered, with the hood down for 3 to 4 minutes, 
  • Flip the pieces over and continue grilling covered, for another 3-4 minutes before transferring to a platter.
  • Let it rest for 4-5 minutes, so that the juices redistribute and then serve.

Oven Roasting & Broiling

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 °C). 
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and brush or spray with cooking oil. 
  • Transfer the marinated chicken pieces in one even layer and brush or spray with cooking oil on the top side. 
  • Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. 
  • Flip and roast the other side for another 10 minutes.
  • Turn the broiler on and char on the same side for 6-8 minutes, flipping half way through. 

Skewered over Charcoal Grill

  • Preheat the charcoal grill to about 400°F (200 °C).
  • While the grill preheats, skewer the chicken on to metal skewers or water soaked wooden skewers (see Variations).
  • When the grill is ready, brush or spray the grates with cooking oil and transfer the skewers onto it.
  • Grill covered for 18-20 minutes. 
  • Brush or spray with cooking oil. Flip on the other side and grill covered for another 18-20 minutes.
  • Let them rest for 5 minutes before transferring onto a serving platter.  

Keywords: BBQ/Grilling, Oven Roasting

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Adjust salt or spice level and then toss in the chicken pieces. Make sure the chicken is coated evenly with the marinade. Seal with a plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Step: 2

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat and preheat for about 4-5 minutes. Drizzle or spray the cooking oil on the pan. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken pieces, one by one, onto the preheated and greased grill pan. Brush or spray the top side with cooking oil.

Step: 3

Let the chicken grill on the first side for 3 to 4 minutes before flipping over. Continue grilling for another 3-4 minutes before transferring to a platter. Let it rest for 4-5 minutes, so that the juices redistribute and then serve.

Step: 4

Preheat a gas grill to 400°F (200 °C).  Brush or spray the grates with cooking oil Using a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken pieces, one by one, onto the preheated and greased grill pan. Shake the excess marinade off.  Brush or spray the top side with cooking oil.  Let the chicken grill on the first side, covered, with the hood down for 3 to 4 minutes, 

Step: 5

Flip the pieces over and continue grilling covered, for another 3-4 minutes before transferring to a platter. Let it rest for 4-5 minutes, so that the juices redistribute and then serve.

Step: 6

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 °C).  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup) and brush or spray with cooking oil.  Transfer the marinated chicken pieces in one even layer.

Step: 7

Brush or spray with cooking oil on the top side. 

Step: 8

Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. 

Step: 9

Flip and roast the other side for another 10 minutes.

Step: 10

Turn the broiler on and char on the same side for 6-8 minutes, flipping half way through. 

Step: 11

Preheat the charcoal grill to about 400°F (200 °C).

Step: 12

While the grill preheats, skewer the chicken on to metal skewers or water soaked wooden skewers. When the grill is ready, brush or spray the grates with cooking oil and transfer the skewers onto it.

Step: 13

Grill covered for 18-20 minutes. 

Step: 14

Brush or spray with cooking oil. Flip on the other side and grill covered for another 18-20 minutes.  Let them rest for 5 minutes before transferring onto a serving platter.

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Can I use chicken breast?

I recommend using chicken thigh meat as it stays moist, tender and juicy throughout the grilling process. You can use breast meat but note that it could get overcooked very easily and turn dry and have a thread-like texture.

What is Kashmiri red chili powder? What can I use in its place?

Kashmiri red chili powder is essentially Indian paprika, made by grinding dried Kashmiri red chilies without any veins or seeds and imparts its brilliant red color to food without any heat. Mild Hungarian paprika is a great substitute. The whole chilies are (mild, dark red or maroon chilies that are grown in Kashmir, with a sweet aroma and a bitter aftertaste that mellows when added during cooking.

How do you know if the chicken is properly cooked?

Chicken is fully cooked when the internal temperature of the chicken on the thermometer reads 165°F or 75°C

Recipe Variations

Don’t eat chicken? You can substitute with same quantity of cubed Indian Paneer for vegetarian or Tofu/baby potatoes, white mushrooms for vegan versions. Also substitute Greek yogurt with dairy-free yogurt for vegan variation. 

Try other protein options like lamb, beef, pork, fish, shrimp or even boiled eggs to make the tikka! For delicate proteins like fish, shrimp or eggs, I recommend using the stove top grilling method for best results.

When skewering the meat, add cubed red onions and/or bell peppers after every piece of meat.

Try a 5th new technique! Make the chicken tikka in an air fryer and let me know how you did it in the comments below!

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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Easy Chicken Tikka (Four Ways)

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