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Grilled Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza

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Anyone following all of this crazy zombie apocalypse ‘news’ popping up?? There’s some seriously wacky stuff going on out there.  I’ve seen enough zombie movies to know that this is always how it begins…a few random incidents which are brushed off as isolated events with some logical cause. The public is urged not to panic and then all h.e.double hockey sticks breaks loose. (Being told not to panic is a sure sign that it’s time to panic.) And honestly, though I’m inclined to believe that all of this has more to do with dangerous mind-altering drugs than a zombie armageddon, I’m not sure that brings me any peace of mind.

Did ya know that the CDC’s website has a section on zombie preparedness?? I kid you not. I’m pretty sure it’s a tongue-in-cheek, fun way to educate about general disaster readiness. Or is it???

Personally, I learned everything I need to know from the educational zombie comedy, Zombieland.

Zombie Survival Rule #1: Cardio

Good thing I’ve been running again. And it feels so good. I’d been struggling to get back to a regular running routine ever since having my baby 15 months ago and it’s been an uphill battle, both literally and figuratively. My progress had been dreadfully slow. But, the baby weaned from nursing almost two months ago and my running progress has accelerated ever since. Guess I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my body. It feels good to get out there for my runs and I’ll be ready when the zombies…errr, I mean bath salt crazies…start chasing me down. (I’m joking…mostly.)

The other benefit of running is that it affords me a little more wiggle room in my dietary choices, so I can afford to enjoy a few indulgences. Ok, my running/indulgence balance is admittedly still a bit off, but it’s getting closer. This grilled chicken tikka masala is one of those indulgences that I think about when I’m running. This mouth-watering pizza combines one of my all-time favorite dishes, chicken tikka masala, with homemade garlicky grilled naan flatbread and a bit of melty mozzarella cheese. Seriously yummy and worth every second of heart-pounding cardio.

I’d like to tell you that this dish is a cinch to pull together, but that would be a lie. There is nothing inherently difficult about it, but between preparing the marinade, making the sauce, preparing the dough, grilling the chicken, grilling the naan, and then assembling and grilling the pizzas, this is a time consuming meal. But it is a labor of love. Definitely worth the time! Just save it for a sunny weekend day and get the whole family involved in the process!

To make things more manageable, you may want to plan to cook the meal in parts. The chicken can be marinated the night before. The sauce, the chicken, and the naan can all be made ahead of time and will hold well in the fridge for a day or two. You could even enjoy the meal as traditional chicken tikka masala with rice and naan one night and make the pizzas for leftovers the next day! However you decide to break it up, I think you’re going to enjoy this delicious meal!

Grilled Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza


For the Naan*

  • 1 packet dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110-115 degrees)
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 4 cups flour (approximately)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 inch segment of fresh ginger, grated

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1-2″ segment fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 small serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 (29 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
For the Pizzas
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Fresh parsley leaves, chopped


To prepare the chicken marinade: Combine all marinade ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Place the chicken thighs in the marinade and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate and allow the chicken to marinade for at least six hours or overnight.

To grill the chicken: Wipe the grill with a bit of vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Preheat grill to medium heat. Shake the excess marinade off of the chicken and place it on the preheated grill. Cook the chicken for about 7-10 minutes on each side. (Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken. The chicken is fully cooked when it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.) Allow the chicken to cool, then cut into small pieces. Refrigerate until using.

To make the naan: Stir together the yeast and warm water. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar, salt, milk, garlic and egg. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring and kneading for several minutes until a soft dough forms. (Add the flour slowly towards the end, since the quantity of flour will vary. The dough should be slightly sticky, but manageable. If the dough is too dry, add little bits of water or milk. If the dough is too wet, add small quantities of additional flour.) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a slightly damp towel and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size. Then, divide the risen dough into 12 equal balls of dough. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover with the towel and allow to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Prepare a work station near your grill with a rolling pin, cutting board, and flour. Lightly scatter the flour over the cutting board. One at a time, roll each ball of dough into a flat round, then gently stretch the dough into a soft teardrop shape. Place the dough directly onto the grill and cook for about a minute on each side. It will begin to puff slightly when it is done. Remove from the grill and brush with melted butter.

To make the sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the garam masala, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Continue cooking until heated through, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and add the cream. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and cayenne pepper, as desired.

To assemble the pizzas: Spread a layer of sauce onto each piece of naan. Scatter some of the chicken over each naan. Sprinkle each pizza with a bit of the mozzarella cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley. Heat the pizzas on the grill or in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melty and all components are heated through (about 8-10 minutes).

*Recipe for naan adapted from the recipe found HERE.

Makes 10-12 small individual pizzas


Chicken Tikka Masala

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So, guess what? I found out, after the fact, that Alec Baldwin was in my grocery store, at the very same time I was in there picking up an onion and serrano peppers for this dish. Apparently, he was there with his mom, who lives in the neighborhood. They were filming a holiday commercial for Wegmans, the most super-awesome grocery store ever. In fact, Mr. Baldwin claims that Wegmans is the primary reason he’ll never be able to get his mom to move to the west coast. Hey, Mr. Baldwin… if you’d let me know you were gonna be in town, I would’ve had you over for dinner, Gourmand Mom style. Bring your mom!

Alas, we ate our dinner without the Baldwins, as usual.

This post has been a long time coming. If you’ve been with me from the beginning of this blog, you may remember the passionate tale of mine and my husband’s common obsession with Chicken Tikka Masala. For me, Chicken Tikka Masala runs a very close second to Macaroni and Cheese as a dish I could eat at every meal, every day, for a very long time.

In essence, Chicken Tikka Masala is composed of chunks of marinated chicken in a spicy tomato-cream sauce. But, search for a recipe and you’ll be presented with a mind-boggling array of completely different interpretations of this dish. In fact, every chicken tikka masala I’ve ever tasted has been quite different from the next. I’ve tried making it several times, experimenting with the proportion of spices, source of creaminess, and type of pepper used for heat. And every recipe I’ve tried has resulted in the same, over-spiced result. Not over-spiced in the hot and spicy sense, but just generally over seasoned with garam masala, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and the like, resulting in an indiscernible cloudy taste. This result isn’t necessarily wrong. As I’ve said, there are varying preparations of this dish, but it’s not the flavor I’ve been going for. My goal is to create a Chicken Tikka Masala similar to our favorite Chicken Tikka Masala, which is lightly spiced and full of creamy tomato flavor; a good amount of heat, with a pleasant flavor.

It occurred to me that I just needed to be more gentle with the sauce preparation. Rather than lightly marinate the chicken and heavily spice the sauce, as many recipes instruct, I decided to be a little more aggressive with the marinade and conservative with the sauce. My husband, an experienced amateur musician, compared my approach to something called Subtractive EQ, a process used in music recording which involves turning down the levels of certain frequencies to achieve the desired result, rather than turning up the levels of other things to counterbalance something else. He appropriately coined my culinary approach to our Chicken Tikka Masala as Subtractive Flavoring.

Well, my subtractive flavoring approach produced the best result yet. The sauce was rich with tomato flavor, with a good amount of heat, and a perfectly balanced level of spice; a really pleasant tasting sauce, which I’m happy to share with you.

After reading my previous post about my Chicken Tikka Masala, a very thoughtful friend sent me a couple of spice mixes direct from India, along with a beautiful bowl and spoon. I recognize that not everyone has a friend living in India to send you spices. But, never fear. This recipe calls for a spice blend known as Garam Masala, which is readily available in most well-stocked grocery stores. My grocery store carries multiple options for Garam Masala, right alongside the Oregano and Parsley. Masala simply means mixture, which is exactly what Garam Masala is; a mixture of multiple spices. Look for something which contains a blend of coriander, cumin, ginger, chile powder, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.

In addition to my new approach with the sauce, I cooked the chicken using a different technique, which I saw here. Cooking the chicken breasts on a cooling rack, set above a baking sheet, allows the excess marinade to drip away during cooking and the chicken to cook more evenly. It’s still no substitute for the tandoor cooked chicken from our favorite Indian restaurant, but in the absence of a tandoor oven, it’ll suffice.

Chicken Tikka Masala is best served with a side of basmati rice and naan bread. I made fresh naan for our dinner, following a recipe I found online, but was less than satisfied with the end result, which resembled more of a pizza dough than a light, floppy piece of naan. Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza dough, but it’s just not the same as naan. I’m going to keep working on the naan recipe and will get back to you when I’ve got it right. In the mean time, check your grocery store for pre-made naan. My grocery store carries it in the frozen food section, as well as in the bakery department.

Chicken Tikka Masala


  • 1 1/2 pounds Chicken Breasts, trimmed of excess fat

For the Marinade

  • 2 containers Plain Yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 inch segment of Ginger, grated

For the Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 1-2″ segment Ginger, grated
  • 2 small Serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 (29 ounce) can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Tomato Paste
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Cayenne (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 tsp Salt (plus more, if desired)


Combine all marinade ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Place the chicken breasts in the marinade and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate and allow the chicken to marinade for at least six hours or overnight.

Preheat broiler. Place a metal cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Spray the cooling rack with cooking spray. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and and allow the excess marinade to drip away. Place the chicken on the cooling rack. Place the baking sheet, with the cooling rack above it, about 10 inches below the broiler. Cook for 15-20 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through, until the chicken is cooked through. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken breast. Allow the chicken to cool, then cut into medium-sized chunks. Set aside.

To make the sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the garam masala, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Continue cooking until heated through, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and add the cream. Add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes to heat. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve with naan and basmati rice.

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