Lamb Tikka Masala! Our love of Indian food runs deep, so it was only a matter of time before we made a variation of tikka masala with lamb! A creamy spiced tomato sauce sauce nicely coats juicy charred pieces of lamb. The whole lot gets spooned over rice and finished with cilantro and naan bread. Our recipe is restaurant-quality made right at home, perfect for a cozy night-in.
What is Tikka Masala?
Tikka literally means “chunks of meat cooked on skewers” in hindi. An the Indian word masala often describes spice blends—though the blend and number of spices varies. Many assume tikka masala originated in India. However, some sources say it hails from Britain, while other say Scotland is tikka masla’s homeland.
Whichever side you’re on—authentic tikka masala consists of marinated meat (often in yogurt) that gets skewered and cooked over a grill until charred. The charred meat gets simmered in a silky curry sauce made with warm spices, coconut milk, onions, and tomatoes.
What Cut of Lamb to Use
Classically, lamb tikka masala uses lamb leg sirloin or shoulder roast (both are known to be good stew or kebab meat). Try to seek out boneless cuts as it will make your life much easier and will ensure you have the right amount of meat for the recipe.
If you do end up getting bone-in cuts, you’ll need to account for the bone weight, which can be anywhere between 8 and 12 ounces, so buy an extra pound or so. The nice thing about lamb stew meat is that it’s more affordable/competitively priced—it certainly won’t break the bank!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, I recommend calling around to local grocery stores and butchers and asking them to order some for you.
- Garam masala: garam is an Indian spice blend that can consist of up to 12 different spices. Most versions contain black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, dried chiles, fennel, mace, and nutmeg, among other things. You’ll need 2 tablespoons of garam masala in addition to a few other spices.
- Coriander: I find this dish is best with a bit more coriander! It adds a mild floral spice—you’ll need just ½ teaspoon.
- Cumin: ground cumin is also used to spice the lamb and the sauce. You’ll need 1 ½ teaspoons total.
- Boneless lamb: use boneless leg sirloin or shoulder roast. You’ll need 1 ½ pounds of lamb meat.
- Whole milk plain yogurt:
- Ghee or olive oil: either work here. Ghee (clarified butter) is more traditional but olive oil is arguably healthier.
- Onion: I prefer yellow onion though white will also work here. You’ll need 1 onion.
- Garlic: Fresh is best! Use 4 large cloves garlic.
- Serrano: I find one serrano adds the perfect level of spice. If you like things really spicy, keep the seeds in. If you need it to be more mild, use a seeded jalapeño.
- Ginger: fresh ginger is key to this sauce. You’ll need 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger (about 2 inches of ginger). No need to peel the ginger and use a microplane to grate it.
- Cardamom: just a pinch of cardamom adds an aromatic touch. Go light and don’t be tempted to add more!
- Whole peeled tomatoes: you’ll need one large can (28-ounce) of whole peeled tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pan (or use kitchen shears to chop them in the can). And be sure to add the tomato sauce to the pan as well.
- Coconut milk: I recommend using a can of full-fat coconut milk. Light coconut milk can be used but the result won’t be as creamy.
- Cilantro or mint: or both! This dish does need to be finish with some fresh green. I prefer cilantro but parsley will also be great.
How to Make Lamb Tikka Masala
The of making tikka masala at home is easier than you might think. The key tip to my streamlined recipe is using the broiler instead of the grill – this makes it an easy weeknight meal. However, if you’re looking for a more authentic recipe, fire up the grill and use that to the cook the meat instead of the broiler.
- Combine garam masala, salt, cumin, coriander, pepper, lamb, and yogurt in a 1-gallon zip-top bag. Massage meat to coat. Transfer bag to refrigerator and marinate for 1 hour or up to overnight.
- When ready to cook, heat the oven to broil on high with a wire rack set in the upper middle position of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside the sheet. Arrange the lamb on the rack in a single layer (don’t scrape the marinade off). Broil lamb until starting to char, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside while making the sauce.
- Heat the oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook until softened and starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, serrano, and ginger. Cook until the onions and softened and golden brown, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining garam masala, cumin, and cardamom and cook a minute more until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes with their juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them (or use kitchen shears to cut them in the can). Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring frequently, and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue simmering until thickened and deeper in color, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk and simmer until thickened, another 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the lamb to the sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally until the lamb is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Serve with rice, cilantro, and naan as desired.
Expert Tips and Variations
- Make the tikka masala dairy-free. Instead of the yogurt you can use coconut cream or dairy-free yogurt.
- Swap the lamb for another protein. Feel free to change up the meat in this recipe. We also love chicken or beef. If you prefer a vegetarian option, you can try our tofu tikka masala or chana masala with chickpeas.
- Purchase boneless lamb. This is best for ease cutting it into chunks for marinating and broiling. American lamb is our favorite for quality and shopping local.
Storing & Reheating
Tikka masala makes great leftovers (which means it’s also perfect for meal prep).
Storing the tikka masala: Store leftover tikka masala in a glass storage container with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Reheating the tikka masala: When you’re ready to serve it again, transfer the tikka mixture to a sauté pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes until warmed through.
Reheat rice on the stove top method: add rice to a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water (and a pat of butter for richness) and heat over low, fluffing with the fork, until warmed through.
Reheat rice in the microwave method: lay a damp paper towel over top of rice and microwave for 1 minute on medium-high heat. Fluff rice with a fork, test the warmness, and repeat the process once more if needed.
Perfect for meal prepping and making ahead. This lamb masala stores well for make-ahead meal prep. Make the chicken in the simmer sauce, then store separately from the rice. Reheat everything according to instructions above.
More Indian Recipes to Try
- If you love this recipe, then you’ll also like our Tofu Tikka Masala.
- For a tasty vegetarian recipe, try our Madras Lentils!
- Love cooking with lamb? Try our Lamb Vindaloo or our Lamb Kebab (aka Lamb Kofta).
- Our Quick Chana Masala is another great vegetarian recipe. Perfect for weeknights!
- If you love meatballs as much as we do, then you’ve gotta try our Curry Meatballs!
- Our Beef Kofta Platter is the perfect weeknight family meal!
- Pair any of these dishes with a batch of Homemade Naan.
- We’re also in love with the classic rice dish, Biryani.
Garam masala is a delicious spice blend that can be used in a lot of meat and legume dishes. Use it in our Madras Lentils or Chana Masala. You can also use it in place of all the spices in our beef kofta and lamb kofta.
We recommend marinating the meat for no longer than 1 day in advance.
We have a whole host of ideas on how to use the tikka masala sauce.
It’s yogurt-marinated lamb that is grilled then simmered in a spiced coconut tomato sauce. The sauce is made with onions, garlic, ginger, spices like garam masala, tomatoes, and coconut milk.
Yellow onions are sauteed until golden brown with ginger and garlic. Spices like garam masala are added with tomatoes and coconut milk.
Tikka means meat that marinates in spiced yogurt then is grilled or roasted. Tikka masala refers to a dish that is made by simmering the tikka in a spiced tomato sauce.
Lamb Tikka Masala
- 2 tablespoons garam masala, divided
- 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ pounds boneless lamb leg, sirloin or shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
- 1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 serrano, seeded and minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
- 3 cups cooked jasmine rice or basmati rice and/or naan bread
- Cilantro or mint for serving
- Combine 1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon coriander, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag. Toss the spices around to combine. Add lamb and shake to coat. Add 1 cup yogurt, seal bag, and massage meat to coat. Transfer bag to refrigerator and marinate for 1 hour or up to overnight.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium. Add 1 sliced onion and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; cook until softened and starting to brown, 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add 4 chopped cloves garlic, 1 minced serrano, and 1 tablespoon grated ginger; cook stirring frequently until onions are softened and golden brown, about 7 minutes.
- Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon garam masala, remaining 1 teaspoon cumin, and ½ teaspoon cardamom; cook 1 minute.
- Add 1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them (or use your kitchen shears to cut them in the can). Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until thickened and deepened in color, 15–20 minutes.
- Stir in 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk and simmer until thickened, 5–7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oven to broil (high) with rack set in upper middle position Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside sheet. Arrange lamb on rack in a single layer (don’t scrape marinade off). Broil lamb until starting to char, 10–12 minutes.
- Add lamb to sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Serve with rice, cilantro, and naan if desired.