Is Tikka Masala a Curry? – All You Need To Know

Marria Beklavac By Marria Beklavac

Tikka Masala often sparks a culinary debate: is it truly a curry? In the heart of kitchens worldwide, this dish marries vibrant spices with tender meat, simmered to perfection.

Yes, Tikka Masala is considered a curry. It’s a beloved blend of marinated pieces of meat, usually chicken, in a creamy, spiced tomato sauce. This British-Indian fusion has captured hearts globally with its rich flavors and comforting warmth, earning its spot in the curry family.

Wondering why it straddles two culinary cultures, or how it became a staple on menus everywhere? Let’s find out what makes Tikka Masala a dish worth talking about.

Is Tikka Masala a Curry?

So, you’re curious if Tikka Masala counts as a curry, right? Well, let me break it down for you. Absolutely, it’s a curry, but oh boy, it’s not just any curry.

It’s like the rebel of the curry world, mixing up the game with its creamy, spice-packed sauce that makes taste buds dance. Imagine your favorite spices and herbs coming together for a party, and you’ve got Tikka Masala.

Why does it stand out, you ask? Well, this dish is a master at blending. It takes traditional curry elements and spins them with a twist that appeals far and wide.

We’re talking tomatoes, cream, and a lineup of spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and the secret weapon, garam masala. This isn’t just mixing ingredients; it’s crafting an experience.

Now, some might say, ‘Hey, isn’t messing with tradition a bad thing?’ Not at all! Tikka Masala laughs in the face of culinary norms. It’s all about breaking rules to deliver a flavor that’s fresh and exciting.

This dish doesn’t just sit quietly on the menu; it shouts, ‘Try me!’ and for good reason. It’s a testament to innovation, proving that when you mix a bit of creativity with culinary skills, magic happens.

But here’s the kicker: enjoying Tikka Masala is more than just eating a delicious meal. It’s about celebrating the freedom to explore and mix flavors.

Each bite is a reminder that it’s okay to color outside the lines, especially in the kitchen. So, next time you dig into a plate of Tikka Masala, remember, you’re not just having a curry; you’re experiencing the joy of culinary freedom.

And hey, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try making it yourself? Grab those spices, some cream, and tomatoes, and get cooking.

You’ll see firsthand how this dish brings a world of flavors right to your kitchen. Trust me, it’s not just a meal; it’s an adventure on a plate.

The Origins of Tikka Masala

So, you’re curious about the spicy saga of Tikka Masala, huh? Let’s cut through the noise and dive straight into the heart of this culinary enigma.

Ever wondered where this dish, that has won over taste buds worldwide, actually comes from? We’ve got some stories to tell and facts to share, so let’s get to it.

Where Did Tikka Masala Come From?

Ah, the million-dollar question! Was it the bustling streets of Punjab with its aromatic spices, or did a Bangladeshi chef in Britain whip it up out of necessity and a can of tomato soup? The truth is, it’s a bit of both.

Tikka Masala is like that friend who fits in everywhere, adapting and charming its way into every culture. It’s not just about pinning down a location; it’s about celebrating how a dish can become a global favorite.

A Delicious Blend of Cultures

Think about it: juicy chunks of tikka, marinated and grilled to perfection, swimming in a creamy, spiced masala sauce.

It’s a match made in culinary heaven, showcasing the best of Indian flavors with a British twist. This dish is living proof that when cultures collide in the kitchen, delicious things happen.

How Tikka Masala Evolved

It’s fascinating to see how Tikka Masala has morphed over the years, picking up local flavors and making itself at home wherever it goes. From its contested origins, it has blossomed into a worldwide sensation. This evolution speaks volumes about our shared love for food that brings people together.

What Is Tikka Masala Sauce Made Of?

At the heart of any great tikka masala, you’ll find a delightful combo of aromatic spices and fresh ingredients.

Onions, garlic, and ginger are the holy trinity of Indian cooking, and they create a fragrant base that’ll have your kitchen smelling amazing. I like to sauté them until they’re nice and tender, so they practically melt into the sauce.

Next, we need something to give our sauce that gorgeous, vibrant color. That’s where tomatoes come in!

I prefer using tomato puree or crushed tomatoes for a smooth consistency, but you can also use diced tomatoes if you like a chunkier sauce. The tomatoes add a lovely tang that balances out the richness of the other ingredients.

Now, let’s talk about the real stars of the show – the spices! Tikka masala is famous for its complex blend of warming spices that’ll make your taste buds dance. Cumin, with its nutty and earthy flavor, is a must-have.

Coriander adds a citrusy note, while turmeric brings a pop of color and a subtle earthiness. And let’s not forget about garam masala, a traditional Indian spice mix that typically includes cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and other aromatic spices. It’s like a flavor bomb that ties everything together!

To make our tikka masala sauce deliciously creamy, we’ll add in some heavy cream or coconut milk. I love using coconut milk because it adds a subtle sweetness and a luscious texture that’s hard to resist. Plus, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative.

As the sauce simmers away on the stove, all these wonderful ingredients meld together, creating a symphony of flavors that’ll make your mouth water. Trust me, once you’ve tasted a homemade tikka masala sauce, you’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff!

How to Make Tikka Masala at Home

So, you want to whip up some Tikka Masala at home, right? Let’s cut to the chase and dive into what makes this dish a standout. It’s not just about mixing spices and tomatoes; it’s about creating a burst of flavors that dance together perfectly.


Why do spices matter so much? Well, they’re the heartbeat of your Tikka Masala. Ground turmeric, garam masala, cumin, and coriander are your go-tos. But here’s a pro tip: Toast them lightly before using.

This simple step unlocks their full fragrance and depth, giving your dish that authentic warmth. Ever wonder why some homemade curries taste like the real deal while others fall flat? It’s often down to how the spices are handled.

Tomato Puree

Think of the tomato puree as the dish’s backbone. It’s what brings everything together into a smooth, rich sauce. Fresh tomatoes are best, but hey, we’re all about making do with what we’ve got, right? If canned is what you have, just make sure they’re good quality.

The puree shouldn’t just add acidity; it should envelop the spices and cream in a velvety hug that makes every bite unforgettable.


Now, let’s talk cream. Some swear by heavy cream for its luxurious texture, but what if you’re lactose intolerant or just want to mix things up? Coconut milk is your friend here.

It’s about finding that sweet spot where the dish becomes creamy without drowning out the vibrant spices. Ever had a Tikka Masala that felt too heavy or too bland? The secret’s in balancing the creaminess.

Making Tikka Masala is like conducting an orchestra. Every ingredient has its part to play, and getting them to work in harmony is where the magic happens.

Rush things, and you’ll lose the nuance. Overdo any single ingredient, and the whole dish can tip into the realm of ‘just okay.’

Ever bite into a chunk of chicken smothered in Tikka Masala sauce and think, ‘This is heaven’? That’s when you know you’ve nailed it. The sauce doesn’t just coat the chicken; it clings to it, each bite a perfect symphony of spice and smoothness.

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By Marria Beklavac Owner
Hey there! I'm Marria Beklavac, a barista by trade and a cook by heart. My culinary journey started at 12, inspired by my grandpa, who first introduced me to the wonders of cooking. His passion sparked mine, leading me to a life where each meal is an adventure. In Terra's Kitchen, I blend my love for coffee with my zeal for cooking to share my culinary exploits with you. This blog is my space to share the joys, discoveries, and lessons from my kitchen to yours. Welcome aboard – let's cook up some magic together!