Turkey Tikka Masala Recipe (2024)

By Samin Nosrat

Turkey Tikka Masala Recipe (1)

Total Time
1½ hours, plus 4 hours' marinating
Read community notes

This twist on the Punjabi-style curry gives a new life to leftover turkey. The turkey is marinated overnight in yogurt, turmeric, garam masala and garlic paste, imparting deep flavors and moisture. Tomatoes and cream add warmth, while serrano peppers give the tikka masala its kick. Serve it alongside steamed basmati rice for a deeply satisfying meal.

Featured in: Thanksgiving Can Be Bland. Your Leftovers Don’t Have to Be.

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Yield:6 servings

    For the Marinade

    • 2teaspoons garam masala
    • 2teaspoons ground coriander
    • 2teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1tablespoon paprika
    • 4teaspoons ground turmeric
    • 1teaspoon kosher salt
    • 6cloves garlic, finely grated or pounded in a mortar and pestle
    • 4teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
    • 1cup whole-milk yogurt
    • 4cups cooked turkey (about 1 pound), cut into 1½-inch pieces

    For the Masala

    • 4tablespoons ghee or neutral-tasting oil
    • 1large onion, thinly sliced
    • 6cardamom pods, crushed
    • 1bay leaf
    • 1teaspoon paprika
    • ½teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
    • 1teaspoon garam masala
    • teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
    • 2tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
    • 4cloves garlic, finely grated or pounded in a mortar and pestle
    • 2serrano peppers, finely chopped
    • 2tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
    • 2cups heavy cream
    • ¾cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
    • Juice of 1 small lemon
    • Steamed basmati rice, for serving

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (6 servings)

612 calories; 44 grams fat; 21 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 16 grams monounsaturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 10 grams sugars; 29 grams protein; 994 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Turkey Tikka Masala Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Make the marinade: In a medium bowl, stir together garam masala, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, kosher salt, garlic, ginger and yogurt. Fold in the turkey. Cover and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

  2. Step


    Make the masala: On the stove top, heat a Dutch oven or similar pot over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons ghee or neutral oil, then add onion, cardamom, bay leaf, paprika, pepper flakes (if using), garam masala and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are brown and tender, 10 to 15 minutes, adjusting temperature as needed so the onion doesn’t burn.

  3. Make space among onions in center of pot, and add 1 tablespoon ghee or neutral oil. When ghee has melted or oil begins to shimmer, add ginger, garlic and serrano peppers, and sizzle for about 10 seconds. Combine that mixture with the spiced onions. Stir in tomato paste. Add tomatoes and their juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is almost gone, 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. Step


    Add cream and chopped cilantro to the pot. Season with 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, then taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

  5. Step


    In the meantime, line a baking sheet with foil, turn on oven broiler, and arrange an oven rack about 6 inches from broiling unit. Lay the marinated turkey on the foil in a single layer. Stir any remaining marinade into the sauce. Broil until turkey begins to blacken in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

  6. Step


    Use a hand-held blender (or blender) to purée the sauce, then add turkey and return the sauce to a simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just warmed through. Just before serving, stir in lemon juice. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

  7. Step


    To serve, garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve hot, with steamed basmati rice. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.



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Cooking Notes


Spectacular. This was a LOT of work, but the good news is that all the prep and spice combos made me stop thinking about Trump for a few minutes. And the dish was delicious even when my husband used some of it on his plain-jane veggie burgers instead of the left over turkey.
This one is a keeper - but not for a fast prep weekday night.


This is a distinctly north-Indian dish. Adding coconut milk will bring a unnatural south-Indian flavor to it. If you have to do away with dairy entirely, 1. you will have to use lemon instead of yogurt to tenderize the meat. 2. Then add either cashew or almond milk instead of cream, but beef up the amount of spice to counter-balance the sweetness; so substitute 1 tbsp cayenne for 1 tbsp paprika

Maui Maggie

I spent 3 days cooking thanksgiving dinner for 8 guests and their comments: " ... remember that turkey masala you made last year? Can you make it again?" It was clearly memorable enough to surmount an heirloom turkey, 8 side dishes, 4 appetizers, 2 pies, a cake, 2 homemade ice creams and champagne. Yep. That good.


What a great way to utilize the herb rubbed smoked turkey from T'day!
Used only a cup of heavy cream and needed to thin the sauce after blending–add water to blender, swish around, add to the pot with pureed sauce.
Suggest pumping up the spices as this was just a bit too mild for us.
Tomato, cream mixture doesn't really need 40 minutes to cook. Suggest half that time.
More lemon also helped brighten the sauce once it's all together.
Great dish that we will definitely do again.


Holy cow this was good. Didn’t have cooked turkey or chicken on hand, so I marinaded raw diced chicken breasts overnight, then sautéed them separately while I made the sauce. I combined the two after blending the sauce and continued to heat awhile to meld the flavors. Didn’t have cilantro and the fiancé hates onions, so left those out, and used 1/4 tsp ground cardamom in place of pods. So good I stood over the stove and dunked naan into the sauce until I started feeling bad about myself.


Tikka Masala actually originated Glasgow in the UK


It is so exciting to be able to make this dish at home! As many have noted, however, this involves a lot of prep work. Daunted by the prospect of mashing all that garlic, grating all that ginger, and mincing the peppers, I chose instead to crush the garlic in a press, and run the ginger and Serrano pepper in a mini-chop. Next time I will put the garlic in the mini chop as well. The dish is simmered for an hour and puréed, rendering the mortar and pestle and ginger grater unnecessary.


Loved this recipe! I took a couple of shortcuts that seemed to work out all right. Instead of cardamom pods I used 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Since the ginger, onion & garlic were going to get blended, I didn't grate/slice/mince to perfection. I used the nonfat Greek yogurt I had on hand instead of whole milk, and the results were still delicious. The lemon added a lot to the brightness of the dish. This is a home run!


Many lactose-intolerant people can eat yogurt. The fermentation breaks down the lactose.


This is absolutely delicious. As with many Indian dishes, the preparation was time-consuming; but Indian stews freeze well--if one has leftovers! The only change I made was to use 1 cup of 2% Greek yogurt in place of 1 cup of the heavy cream in order to save on fat calories. After the winter holidays we still have many sweets so I have to cut back somewhere. :-)


This takes some time but is delicious. We made a half recipe with leftover turkey and a half recipe with tofu. The tofu stood up better than the turkey after marinating but both were very tasty.


On the Saturday after Thanksgiving we had a baby shower (new granddaughter arriving soon). We had enough turkey to make this recipe x 2-1/2, It was a lot of work but a huge success. 30 people left barely enough for lunch for one today. I learned to cook Indian food years ago with my friend whose father was a colonel in the Indian army. As he threw spices into a pot and we caught and measured them before they landed. I found this recipe very authentic, truly delicious and a crowd pleaser.


Used only a cup of cream and a cup of 2% milk. Got rave reviews


An hour and a half is optimistic for this but the results were well worth all the time. We plan on doubling or probably tripling the sauce next round then portioning it out and freezing it, and also just tearing up a rotisserie chicken since it'll be another year 'til we make turkey again.. There was zero heat to this recipe. Consider seriously upping the red pepper flakes and maybe substituting in a different pepper if you'd like a little kick. Lovely with a sparkling rosé.


Came out amazing but it was very time consuming. Not the greatest recipe for the day after you slaved away in the kitchen on Thanksgiving, but is fine on a weekend you don't have much going on. Flavors were exquisite.


I was looking for a general masala recipe and this is absolutely worth it. Full disclosure - I had no intention of adding meat, so that shortened my prep & cooking time - I just added two cans of drained chickpeas at the end to warm them through. I used a jalapeno and the red pepper flakes and the spice level was great, and I used one can of coconut milk instead of the cream. Next time I make this, I might consider tossing everything in the mini food processor to cut down on prep time.


Was short on Turkey and subbed some super firm tofu to make up for the reduced protein. Marinated and cooked w Turkey - worked great! Used Greek yogurt a little water bc it’s what I had ended up pretty thick. All in all very delicious!


I modify many of the NYT recipes in some way - but followed this one to the "t." I was legit impressed with the authenticity of this dish and can honestly see myself repeating it as a vegetarian dish using marinated chickpeas or seitan. I made this over the course of 2 days, and generally do not enjoy cooking - but this was well worth the effort!!!!

Karen in Seattle

Super tasty. I didn't want to run the gas stove for 40 minutes so did that step in a crockpot.

Alison Stanton

This is delicious and a lot of fun to make. I love going through the process of combining and preparing spices. It takes time but it’s quite enjoyable.


It’s quite good, but we didn’t find it notably better than the Curry in a Hurry recipe we have, which takes a fraction of the time.


This recipe is always a HUGE hit! I sub 3 tsp of ground cardamom and use any leftover meat. Sometimes I roast a chicken earlier in the week, with carrots and potatoes, then I use all the leftovers (veggies too!) in this dish. Serve with basmati rice and homemade flatbread. Yum!


The best use of leftover holiday turkey I’ve found yet. Not a big fan of turkey but feel compelled to use it up. This one is a keeper for this time of year. Made fresh naan with it. Yum! Thanks!


The sauce was delicious, but the already-cooked turkey didn't stand up to recooking like this. After marinating and roasting, it fell apart and made for an unappetizing mush. I'd rather eat cold turkey sandwiches from my Thanksgiving leftovers and use fresh meat or tofu if I'm going to invest all the time that goes into this sauce.


I made this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey that was 4 days old and it was so good! The marinade (Yogurt etc) makes the turkey stay moist and delicious. I used Jarred Tikka Masala sauce rather than make my own because I ran out of time and it was hit! The marinade will make any jarred sauce taste good!


Great way to use white meat leftovers! I made the marinade and folded in the turkey on night 1. Finished the dish on night 2, so it felt more manageable. Instead of cardamom pods, I used 1/2 tsp ground cardamom. Lacked serranos, so used more dried chili. Added mini peppers to the turkey sheet pan for roasting. One cup of dairy—half yogurt, half creme fraiche. Will try again with serranos, just to see a bit more green in the dish.One of the few dishes I've rated 5 out of 5!


Made as directed and enjoyed the flavors. Next time I will skip the marinade entirely!. The masala sauce was so delicious without the added marinade (not to mention time/effort). I will definitely freeze the sauce. Used immersion blender to partially pureed the sauce.

Laura T

I agree with other reviewers that this the BEST use for leftover turkey. It is delicious. While there is some benefit to simmering for the recommended times, can shorten some of them down if you’re in a hurry. I marinated the turkey about 5 hours. This made an excellent Monday evening meal in our house!


This was delicious, only marinated it for a couple hours and it was still good. Added turkey broth to a portion the next day and it made a wonderful creamy masala turkey soup!

phillip roullard

I followed the notes of others and used coconut milk instead of cream, which gave more flavor and richness to the masala. I also added more spice than the recipe called for which again improved the flavor overall. This dish tasted exactly like I have had at a local Nepalese restaurant near where I live. Definitely worth the time. I only marinated the turkey for 1.5 hrs. instead of 4 but it came out just fine.

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Turkey Tikka Masala Recipe (2024)


What is tikka masala sauce made of? ›

Tikka masala is a tomato and cream (either in the form of heavy cream, yogurt or cashews) based sauce with lots of traditional Indian spices, including ginger, turmeric and red chili powder (to give it that quintessential orange-hue), garam masala, coriander and cumin. It is slightly sweet and earthy in flavor.

What makes tikka masala taste good? ›

To summarise, Indian chicken tikka masala has fresh flavors due to the use of fresh tomatoes. It's creamy, rich and delicious and won't make you feel bloated as there is a very small amount of cream used. Cashews impart a magical creamy texture and flavour without making you feel heavy.

How to add more Flavour to tikka masala? ›

As well as using fresh spices in the sauce, we've finished the dish with a sprinkling of garam masala and smoked salt to give a final flavour hit and further replicate the smoky effect of the tandoor overn.

Why is my chicken tikka masala watery? ›

If too much liquid or broth is added to a curry, it will become runny and thin. It may also be thin if the cooking temperature is too low for it to cook, or if the cooking time is too short, thereby preventing the sauce from being reduced.

What is the difference between curry sauce and tikka masala? ›

Recipes for both use the same seasonings, and appear pretty much interchangeable, except that curry often has coconut-something in it, and tikka masala is heavy on butter and cream.

What's the difference between curry and tikka masala? ›

Chicken tikka masala has more protein and less fat (7 grams) than chicken curry (4 grams) because chicken curry contains ghee or oil, whereas chicken-tikka masala does not. And that probably explains why people like it so much!

What are the disadvantages of chicken tikka masala? ›

**Saturated Fat and Cholesterol**: Creamy or heavily sauced chicken masala dishes may contain higher levels of saturated fats and cholesterol, which can negatively impact heart health if consumed in excess.

Is tikka masala hotter than butter chicken? ›

Butter Chicken is much more creamy and rich due to the addition of a generous amount of butter. The Butter Chicken sauce is pureed until smooth, while Chicken Tikka Masala keeps the tomatoes and onions in chunks to add more texture to the sauce. And, Butter Chicken is much less spicy than Chicken Tikka Masala.

What is the main flavor in tikka masala? ›

Tikka Masala is a tomato and cream-based sauce that's smoky from the chargrilled chicken, rich and creamy, with a slight sweetness and tanginess with mild heat (although we like it hot!) punctuated by earthy spices, ginger and garlic.

How do restaurants make curry so creamy? ›

The actual sweetness and creaminess of such curries meanwhile, usually comes from fried onions and either cashews and/or dairy products. Instead of (or in addition to) onion, ground coconut may be used. White poppy seeds and/or watermelon seeds are also used in some creamy sauces.

What vegetable goes well with tikka masala? ›

Vegetables – there are so many vegetables that go well with tikka masala. Use 2 cups of your favourite fresh or frozen vegetables. I use a mix of knobby cauliflower florets, diced carrot or sweet potato and frozen peas. Spinach leaves are a great addition too, or even a can of lentils or chickpeas for added protein.

What do you eat with tikka masala? ›

Traditionally, chicken tikka masala is served with vegetables, steamed long-grained basmati or white rice, toasted pita, or any type of naan bread. Then top it with some chopped coriander, and finally serve with a few lemon wedges on the side.

Why does masala not stick to chicken? ›

It may be too watery. Dry the chicken first with paper towels. It helps to then coat it with a thin layer of flour, then in well-beaten egg whites which will help the coating stick. Then coat with breading and press on it lightly to help it stick.

Does coconut milk thicken curry? ›

For a rich and creamy curry, coconut milk or cream can be a fantastic thickening agent. They not only add creaminess but also a delightful tropical flavour. Simply pour in some coconut milk or cream and let it simmer until your sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Why is my tikka masala pink? ›

Red food colouring is used to give chicken tikka masalas their bright red colour. However, food colouring has no flavour so this is done purely for appearance.

What does tikka masala sauce taste like? ›

Tikka Masala Sauce is basically a tangy spicy onion tomato sauce that has a dash of sweetness. It is frequently served with other dishes like paneer, chicken, chickpeas, and multiple vegetables in restaurants like Tikka's N's Curry's.

What is the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala? ›

Butter chicken is a cream-based dish, with a velvety smooth texture and a slightly sweet taste, while tikka masala gets its signature tanginess from a tomato-based sauce infused with a blend of spices.

Does tikka masala taste like tomato sauce? ›

What Does Chicken Tikka Masala Taste Like? Chicken Tikka Masala boasts a harmonious blend of flavors, combining the smoky char of grilled chicken with the creamy richness of the tomato-based sauce. The sauce is mildly spicy, with hints of sweetness from the tomatoes and cream, balanced by the earthiness of the spices.

Why is tikka masala healthy? ›

Chicken Tikka Masala has many health benefits. The primary source of protein in Chicken Tikka Masala is chicken. It also helps control blood pressure and weight loss and reduces harmful cholesterol levels. In addition, the body uses protein to repair and fix tissues and grow hair and nails.


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