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Course: Mains
Keyword: Gluten-Free, Indian, Make-Ahead, Thanksgiving, Turkey Tikka Masala

Turkey Tikka Masala

Turkey tikka masala served over white rice.
ACTIVE TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
Chicken tikka masala, one of the unofficial official dishes of the United Kingdom, originated as a dish from Punjab, where “tikka”means bits or pieces.
I've put a somewhat American spin on this international dish by using turkey thighs instead of chicken. Why? Because they sear well, but can cook for quite a while without drying, and because they’re pretty much made for stewing and this dish is nothing if not a stew.
Note: If you want to toast your spices my way, use an air-popper popcorn machine. Just load with the spices, cover the opening with cheesecloth, secure with a rubber band and toast until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
This recipe first appeared in Season 1 of Good Eats: The Return.
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  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon brown mustard seed
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 7 green cardamom pods
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (not Greek-style)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 turkey thighs, boned and skinned
  • 1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for brushing the grill pan
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 fresh red chiles, thinly sliced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Fresh mint and cilantro, for garnishing

Specialized Hardware

Grill pan
Air-Popper Popcorn Machine (optional)
Turkey tikka masala served over white rice.
ACTIVE TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings


  • Toast the coriander, black peppercorns, cumin, brown mustard, cloves, and the cinnamon stick in a dry cast iron skillet until fragrant, about 3 minutes. (See note.) Grind the toasted spices along with the cardamom pods, nutmeg and red pepper flakes in a spice grinder until fine, about 1 minute.
  • Transfer roughly 2/3 of the spice mixture (about 2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons), the yogurt, and 1 teaspoon of the salt followed by the turkey thighs to a 1-gallon zip-top bag. Seal the bag, squish to fully coat the thighs, and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.
  • Place a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the canola oil and, when shimmering, add the onion and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir occasionally, until the onion begins to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and stir in the ginger, garlic and chiles. Continue stirring occasionally until the onion is evenly brown, 7 to 8 minutes more. Add the remaining spice mixture and the tomatoes and cook until reduced and darkened in color, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the coconut milk and lime juice. Kill the heat and cover to keep warm.
  • Park a grill pan over medium heat for 5 minutes, then lightly brush with oil. Remove the turkey from the bag, keeping as much yogurt on the meat as possible, and grill until the yogurt is well-charred, approximately 5 minutes per side. Remove thighs from heat and rest for 5 minutes before cutting into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add the turkey pieces to the sauce and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 20 minutes, taking care to not let the sauce boil as the yogurt may curdle.
  • To serve, spoon over basmati or jasmine rice and garnish with fresh mint and cilantro.
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