The chicken tikka skewers recipe is made with boneless chicken breast chunks marinated for several hours in the aromatic spicy homemade tikka masala paste. Skewered with bell peppers and onions these can be grilled on a stovetop or oven or outdoor grill. Served as an excellent appetizer with mint dip.
Chicken Tikka is a popular appetizer you will find in most South Asian restaurants all over the globe. With a bit of prep, you can make this in your kitchen without any fancy ingredients or equipment.
My easy chicken tikka kebab recipe does not call for the boxed tandoori spice mix or besan flour. I have included instructions on how to make chicken tikka skewers in the oven and stovetop. So, no excuses not to try.
Certain recipes become so popular that there is no longer a right way or a wrong way of doing it. I believe butter chicken, naan, kulcha, dal makhani, and even this chicken tikka is some of those recipes. Can you name any? Do let me know in the comments!
I have been making homemade chicken tikka kebabs since Yanbu days around 2016 when I purchased a stovetop grill pan from IKEA, Jeddah. My recipe has since then evolved and I am happy to share it here. This tikka recipe that I keep going back to is inspired and adapted by popular Indian chefs; Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi, Chef Kunal Kapoor and Chef Ranveer Brar.
At the end of this post, you will learn how to make chicken tikka on skewers like a pro!
Did you also wonder what is the difference between tikka, kebab and tandoori? I always believed that kebabs are made with ground meat, tikka is made with boneless and tandoori is made with bone-in meat or chicken cooked in a tandoor. But apparently, kebab also refers to meat or poultry chunks that are skewered and grilled. So not necessary that all kebabs are made with ground meat, which explains why most of the articles title tikka recipes as tikka kebabs.
Ingredients used for Chicken Tikka Skewers
- boneless chicken breasts: You may use boneless thighs or boneless legs and adjust the cooking time.
- ginger-garlic paste
- lemon or lime juice: You may use vinegar if you don't have fresh lime or lemon.
- yoghurt: Always best to use full-fat thick yoghurt like hung curd, labneh or Greek yoghurt. If your tub of yoghurt has more whey, then make sure to strain it and then use it.
- ground spices: Kashmiri red chilli powder, turmeric powder, pepper powder, garam masala powder. Try to use north Indian or Pakistani garam masala for this recipe. Also, try to use Kashmiri red chilli powder so you don't have to add artificial food colours.
- Kasuri methi: aka dried fenugreek leaves.
- mustard oil: Even though you can use any other oil, I insist you source mustard oil for this recipe. As a Moplah, mustard oil is not part of our cuisine but I have adopted it for us ever since I fell in love with Bong food.
- skewers: I have used wooden skewers for the stovetop and metal for the oven. If using wooden skewers in the oven, then you will have to soak them in water to prevent burning.
- a small piece of charcoal for smoking: and a teaspoon of ghee to smoke it! (this step is optional)
What about besan flour?
You may have come across an easy chicken tikka skewers recipe that calls for roasted besan flour but my recipe is without it. I have tried with besan but it is kinda tricky and an added step if you don't have a properly roasted version. When do you need to add besan? It is better to add if you find your marinated chicken is too watery after several hours of resting. The culprit is either not pat-dried the chicken well enough or too much salt. Also, PLEASE avoid adding the bell peppers and onions into the bowl of marination as that will also lead to a pool of liquid.
Don't have skewers?
You can make chicken tikka without skewers but you may have to cut the breast thinner instead of cubes and grill both sides on high heat.
How to make homemade chicken tikka kebabs?
How to make chicken tikka kebab at home?
Well, prepping the chicken and the marination is the key.
- Prep the chicken
- The first marination - rested for 15 to 20 minutes
- Second marination - 2 hours or overnight
- Skewer and grill on a pan or in the oven
Prep the chicken
Make sure to pat dry the chicken pieces before you cut. Use boneless chicken pieces that are cut in small same size and shape. If using boneless chicken breast, slice off the tender cutlet behind the breast and keep it as is. You can fold and thread this piece while skewering because cutting it further will make it too thin to skewer. Then I cut the breast into two halves vertically and then quarter each half. One end of a chicken breast is always thicker than the other end, so you might need to adjust and cut the thicker part. Add them into a bowl to marinate.
First and second marination
Though I have specified two marination steps, some days I have done it all at once and rested for just 30 minutes. But for the best results, it is always best to go the long way.
First marination with salt, lime juice and ginger garlic paste. Rested for 15-20 minutes.
Second marination with ground spices masala paste is rested for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Method 1 and 2 using Oven.
Method 3 uses the stovetop. Grilled and smoked on a stovetop grill pan.
Tip to Pan Grill Chicken Tikka
Pan grill on high flame to seal and lock the flavours and then cook on low until done. You don't have to cover the pan. The idea is to cook the chicken without steaming it... so if you cover the pan, then ideally you are steam cooking.
And lastly, you may add a smoked flavour with burnt charcoal though this is optional, I highly recommend it!
I clearly didn't have the lemon wedges, mint chutney or onion rings in any of my images but they went on our plate and then tummy. 😄
Homemade Chicken Tikka Skewers Recipe for Stovetop and Oven
- 4 to 5 metal or wooden skewers
- 500 grams boneless chicken breasts or thighs
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- salt to taste
- 4 tablespoons thick yoghurt whisked (you can use labneh or greek yoghurt or hung curd)
- 2 teaspoons kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
- 2 teaspoon kasuri methi rubbed between palms
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil
- Salt to taste
Add-ons for Skewers
- 1 bell pepper any colour, cut into squares (optional)
- 1 red onion cut and peeled or cubed
- cooking oil to grease the pan for the stovetop method
- melted butter or oil to baste
- 1 piece charcoal for smoking
- 1 teaspoon ghee to smoke the charcoal
- chaat masala to sprinkle before serving (optional)
Prep the chicken
- Wash, drain and pat dry the chicken breasts thoroughly. Next, cut them into chunky cubes of little more than an inch or so. I first remove the tender cutlet behind the breast and keep it as is. You can fold and thread this piece while skewering. Then I cut the breast into two halves and quarter each half. One end of a chicken breast is always thicker than the other end, so you might need to adjust and cut the thicker part. Add them into a bowl to marinate.
- Add a teaspoon of salt, lime juice and ginger garlic paste to the chicken and mix thoroughly. Cover and rest for 15 minutes.
- Take another bowl and whisk the strained thick yoghurt to a creamy texture, then add the spice powders (Kashmiri red chilli powder, turmeric powder, pepper powder, kasuri methi and garam masala), and mix well.
- If you find the first marination has shed liquid, drain it and then add this spice paste along with the mustard oil and mix well. Keep covered and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Make sure to dice the peppers (capsicum) and onions in similar sizes to the chicken pieces. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling to bring it to room temperature. If planning to use the oven, then it is better to soak the wooden skewers to prevent burning. I find metal skewers are better for grilling in the oven.
- Thread the marinated chicken, alternating with bell peppers and onions on the metal or wooden skewers. Thread them slightly packed tight without leaving too much space. This helps in even browning and prevents the rolling of the chicken pieces while turning the skewers. Next use one of the three cooking methods.
METHOD 1 - Stovetop grill pan
- Heat a grill pan on medium to high heat. Drizzle any cooking oil like sunflower or canola. Carefully place the skewers on the hot pan. Don't crowd the pan by placing it all at once. Let it sizzle for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
- Turn the skewers and grill until all the sides are evenly charred. Reduce the flame to low to medium flame and continue to grill until the chicken is cooked through. No need to cover the pan. You may drizzle more oil while grilling. This usually takes less than 15 minutes if using a breast piece.
- The timing will vary depending on the type of chicken cut and the size of the chunks. Remove skewers as and when it is done and brush with some butter immediately.
METHOD 2 - Oven-Baked
- Preheat oven to 250℃ / 480℉ hot air setting. I used my cast-iron skillet but you may use a shallow ovenproof dish to suspend the skewers or line a baking tray with foil and use a wire rack over it to suspend the skewers.
- Once the oven is preheated, place the tray on the top middle rack. Bake for a total of 20 mins. Flip the skewers halfway through the cooking time and quickly brush with more butter or oil.
- Remove from the oven and brush butter and serve or take a few more minutes to add smoked effect with the charcoal method.
METHOD 3 - Oven Grilled
- Preheat the oven to level 2 grill mode and grill with the oven door closed (or as per your oven instructions) for a total of 15 minutes making sure to rotate the skewers at 7 minutes.
- Remove skewers as and when it is done and brush with some butter immediately.
Smoke the chicken tikka
- If you plan to smoke the chicken tikkas, then make sure you have the charcoal ready around the same time the chicken is ready.
- Firstly, make a small bowl with foil or onion peels or use a small steel bowl.
- Place this bowl alongside the skewered chicken tikkas in the pan or tray. Make sure you have a large foil to cover the pan.
- Take a piece of coal and place it over a gas flame and burn it until red hot with grey shades.
- Use a tong to transfer the hot coal into the foil cup and pour a spoonful of oil or ghee on the coal. Immediately cover the dish with a foil or lid and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
- Open and remove the coal cup and discard it.
- Place the skewered chicken tikka on the serving platter and sprinkle some chaat masala. Serve with lemon wedges, onion rings and mint dip for the side. This can be served along with rice or naan, parathas, or used in wraps.