The Healthy (but Super Tasty) Chicken Tikka Masala



I realise that it has been a considerable amount of time since my last post. I passed my foundation term at Leiths with flying colours (a distinction) though the practical exam was tough – I felt as though I was in an episode of Masterchef. Never before have I found being in the kitchen so stressful!

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen personal circumstances I have not been able to continue into the spring term. However, as some of you have responded to my recipes so kindly and urged me on, I thought I would continue with my ideas for you to explore.

So, I’ll kick-off with a classic which has never been a favourite of mine. It’s not a dish that I would ever order in a restaurant, eliminating it as unauthentic Indian food.

However, in the midst of the new year blues and diet season, a friend of mine was pining for a Chicken Tikka but as we all know, a takeaway from your local Indian probably doesn’t fit the diet bill.

This got me thinking about why Indian food has such a bad rap in the health department. I grew up on nutritious, healthy meals almost every night and not once did I have the takeaway guilt that I often feel when we’ve succumbed to our local Indian takeout. I guess Indian food is synonymous with thick naan breads, curries laden with butter and cream and don’t forget the obligatory cold beer.

So, I decided to take on the challenge that I could make my friend a low fat Chicken Tikka Masala that would meet her cravings but also remain low calorie enough not to feel the guilt.

I looked into the origins of the dish as I was curious as to how it had come about to be one of the most popular dishes served in Indian restaurants today. I found it shrouded in myth, with many stories about the invention and subsequent change to the dish to suit the western pallet. There is even one strange story that includes a can of Campbell’s tomato soup in the ingredient list! One fact that I took away was that Tikka actually means ‘bite size pieces’ and Masala, of course is the sauce that it is cooked in.

I also noted that the smoky flavour of the dish is due to the cooking of the chicken in a tandoor clay oven. Before the times of Tandoor ovens, food was cooked underground with coal being placed inside a small hole dugout in the ground. The meat was then laid upon a grill before the hole was covered up. In time, this not being the most practical solution, the tandoor was invented. Obviously, not many of you will have tandoors kicking around, so I’ve used a smoked paprika powder and found this provides that lovely combination of smoky and sweet which works so well with the spices.

So, here is my healthy, low calorie but still very tasty (as decreed by my friend) version. I used my trusted FitnessPal to calculate the calories in the dish which serves 4, and was pleasantly surprised that it only came to 300 calories per portion. Whoop whoop! And if you serve with brown rice and a roti instead of the naan you will definitely save more on the calories. Of course those calories could be used towards that cold beer…. Which is definitely the way I would go 🙂

Enjoy! And let me know what you think of it!


  • 650g of chicken thigh fillets (organic if possible), cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp of rapeseed or olive oil
  • ½ medium size onion chopped into large pieces
  • ½ green pepper chopped into large pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tsp of fresh coriander chopped

Wet Spices

  • ½ tsp crushed fresh green chilli
  • ¾ tsp crushed garlic
  • ¾ tsp crushed ginger

Dry Spices

  • ¼ tsp red chilli for marinade / ¼ tsp red chilli for sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin for marinade / ¼ tsp ground cumin for sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander for marinade / ¼ tsp ground coriander for sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander for marinade / ¼ tsp ground coriander for sauce
  • ¼ tsp garam masala for marinade / ¼ tsp garam masala for sauce
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • ½ tsp of smoked paprika powder
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat the oven to 180c/Gas mark 4

  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry spices for the marinade only with all the wet spices and the oil into a smooth paste. Add the salt to taste.

  3. Once the marinade ingredients are properly combined, add the chicken pieces and ensure each piece is coated well with the marinade. Finally add the onion and peppers and toss through.

  4. Arrange the chicken on a shallow roasting tray with the onions and peppers arranged throughout. Place in the oven without a cover to cook for 25-35 mins depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Turn the chicken over after 15 mins and baste with any juices from the tray.

    B’s tip: Cooking the chicken at the lower temperature will provide a softer texture to the chicken and really allow the chicken to take on the flavour of the spices.

  5. Meanwhile prepare your sauce by adding the chopped tomatoes to a pan with 1/2 tsp of oil. Cook the tomatoes until they are soft and mushy creating a thick paste/sauce. Add the remaining dry spices to the sauce and allow to cook through for 10 mins.

  6. Once the chicken is cooked, add all the chicken, peppers, onions and liquid from the tray to the tomato base. Stir through and leave to cook through for 2-3 mins before removing from the heat and allowing to cool.

  7. Just before serving, add yogurt to the cooled dish and stir through completely before reheating. Add coriander to garnish and serve.

2 thoughts on “The Healthy (but Super Tasty) Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. Sounds a delicious recipe and much healthier than the restuarant version. Great idea including the paprika. Please keep sharing your lovely recipes. They are very much welcome! S XX


  2. Thanks for recipe Bhavini…. will definetly be giving it a try:). Really enjoyed reading your post.


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