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Chicken Tikka Masala (Zola-style) with Cucumber Salad (Lean & Lively)

Recipe: Chicken Tikka Masala (Zola-style) with Cucumber Salad (Lean & Lively)


    I do, on occasion make Indian food. This is my latest creation for Chicken Tikka Masala with a cold cucumber salad on the side. The cold salad balances off the spicy chicken. Note: My version of the Cucumber Salad doesn't follow the traditional route. I took the flavors that I like in cucumber salads in Indian restaurants and put new twists on them. For those of you afraid of spice, this is bland Indian food compared to some of the other dishes. The history of this dish is that, in India this chicken is cooked in a tandoori oven. Not a big deal. The British (in the colonization days) thought this was still too spicy. They had not experienced much beyond salt and pepper when it came to spice, so the chef threw on some tomato soup and yogurt to "cool it down" for the Brits. It worked. Indian food is now some of the most prevalent food in London. We have our US fast-food places. They have their Indian curry houses.

    By the way, this dish can be made totally from scratch, but Tikka Masala sauce done the traditional way has so many ingredients, it's too much for many households. Too many odd spices like fengeek to buy. I have found the jar sauce to work well, so I just stick with this simple version.

Serves 2 (can be doubled or tripled)


    Ingredients for Chicken Tikka Masala

    1 pkg chicken tenderloins (about 3 to 4 per person)
    Olive oil spray
    8 oz Chicken Tikka Masala sauce (Get this in the ethnic section of the store. The one I use has no artificial flavors or ugly preservatives in it so it seems like a nice choice. You can decide on your favorite.)
    1/2 cup green pepper, diced
    1 large tomato, diced

    Cucumber Salad (also called Zalatta in India)

    1 large cucumber, peeled
    A light sprinkling of sea salt
    2 to 3 tsp malt vinegar (Save the rest to put on French Fries like the English do.)
    1/2 tsp ground ginger (or grated fresh ginger)
    1/4 tsp (or less) cracked red pepper flakes (Use less if you don't like a spicy dish, or leave it out.)
    1 medium tomato, sliced into quarter-inch slices
    3 Tbl plain yogurt


    Start making the salad first

    Slice your cucumber very thin. I use a mandoline slicer set on level 2. You want the cucumber to be as thin as possible but not fall apart. Set the pieces of cucumber on a paper towel. Lightly sprinkle or grate sea salt over the top and let it sit for 10 minutes. You want to cucumber to "sweat" and absorb the saltiness. Then put the cucumber in a bowl. Toss the paper towel. Drizzle on malt vinegar, add the ginger and the cracked pepper flakes. Stir and let sit. This can sit on the counter while you make the chicken or it can stay in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

    When the chicken is done (or when you are ready to serve), add the tomato and the yogurt. Stir to blend well and serve along side the chicken.

    Chicken Tikka Masala

    Take the tenderloins out of the package, rinse and dry, then spray them with olive oil spray. Put on your grill pan or on the outside grill and grill until no longer pink in the middle. This might take 10 minutes on Medium. You just want nice grill marks. If you don't grill, you can do the same thing in a sauté pan. Later it won't show the grill marks anyway, and the flavor will not be much different.

    When grilled, put the chicken in a large sauté pan and add the Tikka Masala sauce. Heat thoroughly, stirring the chicken to coat. This will only take a couple of minutes. When you are ready to serve, lightly stir in the green pepper and tomato. You don't need to cook them. They are there for color, flavor and texture (a little crunch here and there). Most Indian food is very boring looking. This jazzes it up a bit. I don't often use green peppers but, in this case, they are a marvelous addition.

Serving Suggestions:

    Serve the Chicken Tikka Masala with the Cucumber Salad on the side. If you are not doing "Lean & Lively," you can serve this on top of saffron rice or couscous.

    Popadums with chutney would make a great appetizer. Serve something frozen for dessert and you'll have an authentic Indian meal.


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