Richly spiced and creamy with tender meat, this Lamb Tikka Masala will have you making Indian food at home on the regular!
The first time I had Indian food wasn’t that long ago; I was in college and one of my best friends was Indian.
She had a real thing for chicken finger subs, so on the rare occasion when we ventured off campus for a meal, she insisted on going to a local sub shop every time. One night when we were going out to dinner I just couldn’t look at another sub; it was then that she suggested Indian food and I happily agreed.
We were there with a few other people and my friend ended up ordering for the table since none of the rest of us had any idea what anything was. One of the dishes she ordered was Chicken Tikka Masala, which instantly stole my heart. After that my friend taught me (after a bit of pleading on my part) how to make a basic Tikka Masala, along with a few other Indian dishes.
You can use any kind of meat you like in this dish; chicken is my favorite, but lamb is Mike’s so that’s what I usually end up making. I’ve also made it with beef and bison, and they’re also delicious.
People ask me a lot about what meals I keep stocked in my freezer – this one is a staple! I freeze individual servings and then when we need a quick meal I can defrost however many servings we need. Then come dinnertime, I just whip up a quick pot of rice and dinner is on the table. But here’s a little secret: while most people enjoy this dish eaten over rice, I actually prefer it eaten on its own, like stew, with a dollop of yogurt on top. Either way you can’t go wrong.
- 1½ lbs (680 g) lamb (I like loin or sirloin meat for this), trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch cubes (see Note below)
- ½ cup (115 g) plain, unsweetened yogurt
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons garam masala spice mix
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- 1 large onion, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
- 2 medium-large green bell peppers, de-seeded and thinly sliced
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced (more or less to taste)
- 4 large cloves garlic, grated
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 teaspoons garam masala spice mix, divided
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon each ground cardamom, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and ground fenugreek
- 1 cup (235 ml) low-sodium beef broth
- 1 (28 oz can) tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or coconut palm sugar (more or less to taste)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream
- ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley (or cilantro), plus more for garnish if desired
- Prepared basmati rice
- For the lamb and marinade, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. While the gravy simmers, skewer meat and fully cook on a grill or in a hot oven.
- For the gravy, heat the ghee over medium heat in a large, deep-sided pan with a lid; once hot, add the onion, bell pepper, salt, and black pepper, and sauté (uncovered) until starting to soften but not brown (about 6 to 7 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- Add the jalapeno, garlic, and ginger, and sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the bay leaf, 2½ teaspoons garam masala, coriander, cumin, and crushed red pepper flakes, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and fenugreek, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Stir in the broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, and lemon juice.
- Bring up to a boil, put the lid on the pan but leave it slightly ajar, turn the heat down to low, and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the sauce is thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn the heat off and stir in remaining ½ teaspoon garam masala, cream, parsley, and cooked lamb. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Serve the lamb tikka masala topped with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley or cilantro if desired, alongside prepared basmati rice.
Meat Options: Instead of lamb, sometimes I also make this dish with chicken, beef, or bison. The other ingredients and cooking methods are the same.
Update (April 13, 2014): I made this dish again and perfected the recipe and snapped a few pictures, so I decided to update both the recipe and the photos in this post. As a point of comparison to show how much my photography has evolved, I kept one of my original photos (below).