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Low-Fat Chicken Tikka Masala Cuts the Calories But Keeps the Flavor

By Tom Liddy | March 28, 2013 6:53am

NEW YORK CITY — One of my favorite Indian dishes is chicken tikka masala, a rich, creamy, tomato-based curry with tender, flavorful chunks of marinated and broiled chicken.

The problem is that most versions use cream and either butter or ghee to help develop those rich flavors.

But you don't have to sacrifice taste if you want to trim the calories.

This recipe uses non-fat yogurt to provide that creaminess without all of the added fat and calories.

Tempering the yogurt eliminates the curdling that can occur when the cold yogurt hits the hot cooking liquid and helps create a smooth dish that tastes much more decadent than it is.

The tomatoes in the dish are rich in lycopene, a powerful carotenoid that may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Cooking them ups the levels.

This is not to mention the health benefits of the spices that are in dish, including turmeric which has anti-inflammatory properties and are being studied in the battle against cancer.

Serve it up with Basmati rice for a delicious lunch treat.


¾ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

14 oz. plain, nonfat yogurt

3 tbs. tomato paste

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. coriander

2 tsp. turmeric

6 whole cloves, or ¼ tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

1 cup peas (frozen work just fine)

Salt and Pepper

1 tbs. ginger, sliced thin

1 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

1 lemon

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. neutral oil


1. Combine half of the yogurt, the juice of the lemon, ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. coriander, ½ tsp. cayenne, 2 tbs. of the tomato paste, 1 tsp. of the oil and the chicken in a plastic bag or bowl and marinate, refrigerated for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

2. When you're ready to make the sauce, heat a large skillet or wok on medium high heat. When the pan is hot add the oil. Then add the cumin seeds, cloves, garlic and ginger and sautee for about a minute, or until fragrant.

3. Add the onions and sweat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about five minutes.

4. Then add the rest of the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne and tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Sautee about 3 minutes to get the rawness out of the spices.

5. Add the crushed tomatoes and a cup of water. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium low and simmer, about 12 minutes.

6. While the sauce is reducing, turn on the broiler and add the marinated chicken to a baking pan sprayed with olive oil.  Broil about 7 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through and the edges are brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

7. Blend the sauce. Stir the remaining yogurt until smooth and then add the hot sauce to it spoonful by spoonful. Raising the temperature of the yogurt before adding it to the sauce stops it from curdling. When about half of the sauce has been added to the yougurt, stir the mixture back into the sauce.

8. Add the broiled chicken and simmer another 15 minutes. Then add the peas and cook another 3-5 minutes.

10. Garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice.