I once had chicken tikka 7 days in a row. I love it. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s my favorite food in the whole wide world. The simplicity and complexity of the tender chunks of chicken, with their delicate char, their strong and bold flavor, their spice and scent taking over your mind, body, and soul. Chicken Tikka has taken over my life. I am a slave to it.
The purpose of my adult life has been to continuously improve and create the best chicken tikka in the world. I keep changing and recreating the recipe. I have held chicken tikka trials with my friends where I added and omitted different spices to see which ones were the most important. I must have made chicken tikka at least 100 times in my adult life.
I don’t think I’ll ever think my chicken tikka is perfect. Because there is just no such thing. The beauty of the dish is to keep striving for something better. Something simpler. Something more complex. It is, and will always be, my never ending quest.
Mustard oil should be used sparingly. It is extremely pungent and is definitely required to add a level of depth to the kebabs. But using just mustard oil overpowers the chicken tikka. I like to use a tablespoon or so and then add vegetable oil.
Achaar (Indian pickle) is magical. Pick up any achaar you like and add it in. I use red chili achaar so as to not change the flavor too much. This fermented pickle creates such an amazing richness to the marinade. It adds spice, salt, and that X factor that brings it all together. Here’s what I use: Priya’s Red Chili Pickle.
You always need less yogurt than you think. A couple tablespoons is more than enough for 4-5 chicken thighs. Any more than that and you dilute flavors and add to much water content to the dish.
Heat. You need to try to get as close to a tandoor level of heat as possible. Tandoors go up to 700ºF. So crank that broiler up!
Achari Chicken TikkaCourse: Appetizers, MainCuisine: IndianDifficulty: EZ
Spicy and delicious achari chicken tikka!
5 chicken thighs (each cut in halves or thirds depending on how big you want your pieces)
3 tbsp Greek Yogurt
1 tbsp Mustard Oil
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp KASHMIRI MILD chili powder
1 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp Kasuri methi
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tbsp Red Chili Achaar
1.5 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Ginger-Garlic paste
Sliced onions with black salt
- Mint Chutney
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tbsp water
1 cup fresh coriander
2 cups fresh mint
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 pinches black salt
1 green chili
1/2 tsp salt
2 pinches chaat masala
a good squeeze of lemon juice
- Chicken Tikka
- Mix the marinade first, taste it to adjust for spice. Make it spicier than you would because it will be milder after marinating the chicken.
- Marinate chicken an hour or so before you cook it.
- We basically wanna get this to cook in the highest heat environment possible. Ideally use a tandoor (LOL), but a broiler comes decently close. If you don't have a broiler either, I recommend a super hot cast iron pan. Make sure to not take any extra marinade because this will become watery in the pan or baking dish.
Broiler: Lay out the chicken pieces on a rack if you have one, or a baking dish, with a good amount of space in between (The above was done in a baking dish so a rack is not necessary). Takes around 10-12 minutes. You can flip after getting a nice char on one side if you want. However, I find that the other side never gets as good a char and by flipping you also ruin the crispiness of the good side. Only a tandoor can achieve this perfection.
Stove top: Crank up your cast iron skillet nice and high. Sear it with oil on both sides. Takes around 12-15 minutes. Be careful here to keep your heat high, if it's too low the juices from the chicken won't evaporate quickly enough and the chicken will boil instead of sear. Make sure to not have excess marinade too as that will reduce the temperature in the pan.
- Mint Chutney
- Grind it all up. I find that keeping your grinder on the LOWEST setting for a while (like a solid 2 minutes and you may need to remove it and pack it down a couple times) and then speeding it up to the max is the only way to grind it thoroughly without having to use too much water. No-one likes a watery chutney am-i-rite?
- Slice onion circles and sprinkle black salt on it.
- Slather butter over it, garnish with chaat masala, cilantro, and lemon juice.
- Enjoy your journey!
- Goes great with this Garlic Naan!
- You can make amazing Kati Rolls with parathas (you can buy frozen ones), sliced white onions with black salt, mint chutney, arugula, chaat masala, and pickled cabbage!
Have you tried experimenting with two marinades? You could do one round with just salt and lemon juice, and the remainder with the rest.
I have! I don’t prefer it because lemon juice (or any acid) “cooks” the chicken causing it to dry out before it even sees heat. If I do 2 marinades, it’s to tenderize it. For example, marinating chicken with pineapple purée for just 5 minutes softens the chicken so much! And then you wash the pineapple off and use any marinade you like to make super tender chicken. Be careful though because even 10 minutes of pineapple marinade will disintegrate the chicken into bits!
Another technique I’ve seen is marinating with cream instead of yogurt – any comments on that?
Yeah you can definitely do that! A super famous kebab called Malai Tikka uses both yogurt and cream to make a super tender and luscious kebab. Definitely try it out!
Tried this today. I used gongura pickle (the only pickle i had at home) instead of red chili achar. Came out pretty good. Thanks for the recipe.
Glad you liked it Chitra!
Thanks Varun. This is an amazingly practical and simple recipe to try. I did use it for fish tikka with some improvisations and it worked well !
While researching on “Achari” marinade, I saw a recipe of fennel seeds, kalonji etc. used by many chefs as marinade. Just curious on your thoughts about ut ? Does it makes a big difference ?
Hi Abhik! Thanks for the question! You can definitely try out these ingredients as well! The term achaar as you must already know, encompasses so many variations. I myself experimented with hundreds of combinations before I settled on this one that I like but I still continue experimenting with more! I think that’s the fun of it so please do experiment with other ingredients and let me know what you think! I do like adding fennel to mine every now and then but I feel like it’s an acquired taste.