What Does Tikka Masala Taste Like? What Gives It Its Flavor?

image of Tikka Masala

Tikka masala is a curry that may sound Indian, but it is, in fact, a creation made famous by Southern Asian cooks in Great Britain. It has become a very popular dish around the world, but you may have never had the pleasure of tasting it. This will cause you to ask yourself: what does tikka masala taste like?

Short Answer: 

Tikka masala tastes tomatoey, creamy, and spicy.

When you’re ordering or making Indian food, it is important to know what to expect from the flavor, as the heat level can make all the difference.

In this article, we are going to find out what goes into making tikka masala and what exactly it tastes like.

Let’s get into it.

What is Tikka Masala?

image of Tikka Masala pair with

Tikka masala is a very popular curry in takeaways and home kitchens all over the world. 

As we mentioned previously, it is a dish that Northern Indian cooks in Great Britain created. It is said to be derived from the classic butter chicken.[*

The deep red color of this curry comes from the chili powder and the tomato base.

This curry is usually made with chicken as the main protein. However, it also works well with lamb or paneer as a vegetarian option.

For us to understand what tikka masala tastes like, we need to know what ingredients are used to make it.

The ingredients that go into tikka masala are [*]:

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

We love using chicken thighs for this recipe because the dark meat has so much more flavor.

Leaving out the bones and skin makes the curry easier to eat.

Roasting the thighs well in the first step will caramelize the meat and provide a wonderful deep flavor for the sauce to be built upon.


One of the critical parts of tikka masala is the marinade.

This is a mix in which you smother the chicken thighs to tenderize and flavor them . We recommend marinating overnight if possible, but three hours minimum.

The base of the marinade consists of yogurt, which provides the acid to tenderize the meat. This allows the flavor of the spices to permeate the meat deep within it.

The flavor comes from garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, red chili powder, and salt.


This curry might not have any chunky pieces of vegetables, but they are in there in a different form.

As usual, the sauce is started with onions and aromatic garlic, and ginger. 

The base of the sauce consists of tomato puree. You can also use Passata or tomato sauce

Spice Mix

By far the most important part of a curry, the spice mix and the quantities you use of each, is what gives tikka masala its distinctive flavor. 

The spice mix consists of garam masala, cumin, turmeric, coriander, Kashmiri chili, and red chili powder.

Heavy Cream or Evaporated Milk

The heavy cream combines with the tomato paste to create the thick and creamy body of the sauce.

It serves to provide a silky texture and mellow out the spices’ strong flavors.

What Does Tikka Masala Taste Like?

Tikka masala has an earthy flavor that is creamy and spicy.

The tomatoes and the spice mix come together to create a robust, earthy curry.

We especially recommend tikka masala for those of you that love a hit of spice. The spice level can be adjusted to be spicier if you are making it for yourself.

The flavor of the curry really comes down to the spice mix.

We know that if you glance at the tikka masala spice list, it may seem the same as many other curries. However, it is the different spices and their quantities that make the curries taste unique from one another.



After exploring the taste of tikka masala, what have we learned?

  • Tikka masala is spicy and creamy.
  • The protein is often more tender due to the yogurt marinade.
  • This curry was created in England.

So, the next time you decide to order an Indian, why not give the delectable tikka masala a try?

Up Next: Tikka Masala vs Butter Chicken

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