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Gluten-Free Chicken Tikka Masala

If you were to look at my text messages, emails or the nicknames assigned to people in GChat, you might think that half the people I know don’t have actual names. Or that I have friends who fancy themselves celebrities on a mission to have the cleverest of names. Maybe you would think I was a secret agent (actually, it would be pretty cool if you thought that).

Blondie. Mr. Austen. Moonshine. The Professor. Mr. Breakfast. The Tall One.

I am fairly certain that every person in my life has a nickname for the purposes of story telling. Or if it is the Lauren from the office or Lauren the cousin. The names clarify if it was the guy who quoted you Jane Austen or if it was the one you are still a head shorter than when you have on your tallest stilettos. Which is totally better than having to remember if the Jim was the tall guy or if the ridiculously smart guy who was showing off his knowledge of classic English literature was Mike.

Besides, how else are you supposed to giggle about Mr. Breakfast in polite company? Or talk about the guy who could quote more Jane Austen than you when you are somewhere that people might know who he was if you used his real name? You never know when you are going to be out minding your own business having brunch when you have to tell your BFF that The Professor just walked in and she might want to plaster a big ol’ this-is-the-best-day-ever-punk smile on her face to show him what he’s missing.

gluten free chicken tikka masala from frannycakes

This recipe is because of the BFF. The friend who introduced me to Indian food a cold night in November on an all but deserted U of I campus nearly 10 years ago. The one who came up with the nickname for Mr. Breakfast. The one who dragged me all the way to New York just so I could visit with him while he was in the states from London. (And decided that my pick of a macaroni & cheese restaurant was an alright pick because they had an Indian inspired variety).

Gluten-Free Chicken Tikka Masala
Recipe Type: Entree
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 4
This recipe was adapted from Aarti Parrti on the Food Network.
  • Marinade
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (I use the pre-made paste)
  • 3 cloves garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced (3T if you use the pre-minced kind)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, poked with a fork, and cut into 1-2″ cubes
  • Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 large cloves garlic (6T of the pre-minced garlic)
  • 2-inch thumb ginger minced (2T ginger paste)
  • 1 jalapeno or 2 serrano peppers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 cups water
  • Oil, for grilling
  • 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Cooked rice for serving
  1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients and toss the chicken thighs in the mixture to coat.
  2. Put the marinade and the thighs into a ziplock and let them sit for at least 30 minutes, although overnight is best.
  3. When you are ready to make the dish, measure out all of your ingredients and prepare a mise en place. It will help you stay organized as you go.
  4. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the ginger, garlic and jalapeƱo.
  5. Saute until the garlic and ginger mixture is starting to look lightly browned around the edges.
  6. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the red of the tomato paste deepens, about 3 minutes.
  7. Next, stir in the garam masala and the paprika. Saute them for about a minute to draw the flavor out of the spices
  8. Add the tomatoes, salt, and 2/3 cup water.
  9. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce the temperature so the sauce is just at a simmer. Cook the sauce until thickened, about 20 minutes. (You may need more water, but you don’t want it to be too soupy either)
  10. While your sauce is simmering, heat a grill pan or second skillet on high heat.
  11. When the pan is hot, lightly brush it with oil.
  12. Place the chicken on the grill, shaking off some of the excess marinade. Cook the chicken until it’s charred, about 2 minutes on each side. (The chicken will be a little undercooked, that is OK, it will finish cooking in the sauce).
  13. Blend the sauce until smooth with your preferred method (blender, food processor or immersion blender -if your skillet is deep enough). Return the sauce to the skillet and bring it back to a boil. Add the chicken and take the heat down to a simmer.
  14. Cook the chicken and sauce for about 10 more minutes.
  15. Stir in the milk and yogurt.
  16. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice.


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