Chicken Tikka Masala with Pasta Sauce

What do you do when you really want to make chicken tikka masala (CTM) but don’t have the ingredients that differentiate CTM from a plain ol’ chicken curry? Nor do you have the time to even make proper chicken tikka?

You take shortcuts. Lots of them.

Step 1: Shuffle through the pantry, messing up your mom’s neat organization of various foods, ingredients, and snacks.

Step 2: Panic when you realize you don’t have tomato sauce, tomato paste, or even tomatoes. There’s no heavy cream in the fridge. What now?

Step 3: Adapt. React. Readapt. Apt.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Whoever got that reference gets a brownie point which may or may not be redeemable for an actual brownie.

The only ingredient we had that was remotely close to tomatoes or tomato sauce was….pasta sauce. Plain ol’ marinara sauce. It’s basically tomato sauce with Italian seasoning…right? Sure.

We didn’t have heavy cream either, and not much milk. We did, however, have the tub of sour cream which my dad had accidentally bought in a much-too-large size. So I ran with it. And here’s my rough estimated recipe (I’m writing this a couple of days after the fact because I hadn’t planned on sharing the inauthentic recipe but decided to nonetheless because if it happened to me, it could happen to others too. Right? Sure.)

Halal Pakistani Chicken Tikka Masala with Pasta Sauce


  • 2 huge boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into little cubes (I don’t know how many pounds it was, and I understand this is a really important detail but……oh well? I will update this detail when I weigh some chicken later this week)

  • 2 tbsp canola oil or butter or ghee

  • 1 tsp minced garlic

  • 1 tsp minced ginger

  • 1 tsp cumin powder

  • 1/2 tsp paprika

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce

  • 1 cup sour cream


Halal Chicken Tikka Masala with Brown Basmati Rice
  1. Heat up the oil in a deep skillet or large wok. One that is big enough to hold all of the chicken plus the sauce. Eyeball it!

  2. Add the ginger and garlic to the hot oil and stir. Let ‘em sizzle in the oil and bloom a bit.

  3. Then add all of the spices and stir, stir, stir. It’ll smell and smoke up a bit, so you might want to turn on the exhaust on your range hood.

  4. Once the spices have bloomed a bit as well, add the cubed chicken breast.

  5. Stir to mix the chicken with the spices, and then drop the heat to medium-low. Cover and let it cook for 5-10 minutes (depends on how small you cut your pieces. You want it to to be almost cooked through/solid white).

  6. When the chicken looks nearly cooked through, take off the lid and mix it around. Now is the time to add the rando—the pasta sauce. Mix and let it simmer for a few minutes.

  7. Next, stir in the sour cream until it’s fully incorporated.

  8. Garnish with some cilantro (which I didn’t have on hand) and serve! With naan or rice!