Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Turkey Tikka Masala #ThanksgivingLeftovers #Recipe by Leslie Karst


This being the day before Thanksgiving, I'm guessing most folks already have their menu set and all their food purchased for the Big Day. So instead of a Thanksgiving dish, today I'm gifting you with a fabulous recipe for leftover turkey--Turkey Tikka Masala.

I have to admit to a bit of an addiction to the traditional version of the dish, Chicken Tikka Masala. Its creamy, savory, spicy (did I mention the cream?) flavor truly wows my taste buds, and I order the dish pretty much every time I go out for Indian food. But according to most accounts, this dish isn’t authentic Indian cuisine at all—it was invented in Great Britain, perhaps even Scotland. (See here for a fascinating history of the dish.) A few years back, the British Foreign Secretary even declared Chicken Tikka Masala to be the national dish of Great Britain. 

“Tikka” refers to the bite-size morsels the chicken is cut into (as opposed to the bone-in leg and thigh pieces traditionally roasted in Tandoor ovens). And “masala” simply means “spice” in Hindi, and is the word commonly used to refer to blends of spices used in cooking. The masala in this case is the spice-flavored sauce.

Because of my love of this Anglo-Indian dish, I was excited to see a recipe for it using leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the New York Times some years ago, which I held onto. And when I finally made it, I was glad I did! I now share it with you, as it's one of the best leftover turkey recipes I've ever eaten.

my end result, served with rice, cucumber raita, and chutney
Turkey Tikka Masala
(serves 6)

Ingredients for Marinade

4 cups cooked turkey meat, cubed
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika or chili powder
4 teaspoons turmeric or curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 garlic cloves, crushed
4 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
1 cup yogurt
Ingredients for Sauce

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
 6 cardamon pods, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
2 serrano chile peppers, finely chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-oz. can tomatoes
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped (plus a few extra sprigs, for garnish)
1 lemon, juiced


The Marinade

The first thing to do is cut up your cooked turkey or chicken into 1” cubes (4 cups of meat), and get it marinating. Here is my turkey, along with the mortar and pestle I use to crush spices I’ve roasted in a small cast iron skillet.

cubed turkey and coriander seeds

Mix together your marinade spices in a medium sized bowl, along with the garlic and ginger:

Then blend the spices with the yogurt, toss it with the cubed meat, cover and let chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight:

The Sauce

Next, prepare the sauce. Sauté the onion slices in 3 T vegetable oil along with the crushed cardamom pods, the bay leaf, the red pepper flakes, and the salt.

Cook the onion mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn, until brown and soft, about 10 minutes. Then, make a space in the middle of the pan, add another tablespoon of oil and let it get hot, then toss in the cloves of crushed garlic, the ginger, and the chili peppers (if using):

Let the garlic and ginger sizzle (like Paris, in the summer) for a few seconds and then mix it into the onions. Now add the tomato paste and the can of tomatoes along with its juice (crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them):

Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the liquid is mostly gone. Now it’s time for the cream! Hurrah! Pour in 2 cups heavy cream (yum!),

and then add the chopped cilantro. (Be sure to save some sprigs for the garnish.)

Season to taste with more salt, if needed (if your bird was brined or salted, be careful how much you add), and then simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, till it thickens—about 30-40 minutes.

Let it cool down, discard the bay leaf, and then blend the sauce. A hand-held mixer (the kind you stick into the pot) is best, but it can also be done in batches in a regular blender.

all blended and smooth

Broil the Turkey

Now for the finish: Line a large roasting pan with foil and lay the turkey pieces in a single layer upon it. (Add any remaining marinade in the bowl to the sauce. Since you’re using pre-cooked poultry, no worries about salmonella!)

Broil on high until the turkey starts to blacken in spots. (Keep an eye on it, as it can go from perfect to burnt-to-a-crisp in a flash!) No need to turn the meat over, though you may need to rotate the roasting pan once.

Dump the broiled meat into the sauce and reheat it till warmed through. Add the juice of one lemon and stir into sauce. Serve over steamed rice with cilantro garnish. (See photo at top of post for my results.)

This may all seem like a lot of work—and Indian food, though not complicated to make, can indeed be labor intensive—but it was absolutely delicious! Gonna make it again, for sure!

🍗  🌿 🍛

The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. Putting this early education to good use, she now writes the Lefty Award-nominated Sally Solari Mysteries, a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. 
An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. She and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai‘i.

Leslie’s website
Leslie also blogs with Chicks on the Case
Leslie on Facebook
Leslie on Twitter
Leslie on Instagram

WHAT A DEAL! For the entire month of November, Leslie's two Lefty Award-nominated books, MURDER FROM SCRATCH and DEATH AL FRESCO are Kindle Deals of the Month, on sale for only $1.99! Wow! 

Praise for Leslie's most recent Sally Solari mystery, the Lefty Award-nominated MURDER FROM SCRATCH:
“Karst seasons her writing with an accurate insider’s view of restaurant operation, as well as a tenderness in the way she treats family, death and Sally’s reactions to Evelyn’s blindness.”

Ellery Queen Magazine (featured pick)

All four Sally Solari Mysteries are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.




  1. I am saving this one, Leslie. Yummy!

  2. I have ordered the spices so I can make soon. What did you put on the cucumbers? Yogurt? and what else?

    1. Yogurt mixed with cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, and cilantro. And I salted the cuke slices to let them shed their water before mixing with the yogurt.

  3. Hi Leslie! I always look for leftover turkey recipes each year and this one looks delicious. Thank you for sharing!

  4. You picked up my wave length. I've been looking at recipes for butter chicken, which is very similar. It works great with tofu, too.
    Thanks for another angle on the cooking.

    1. You're so welcome, Libby! Happy to know another butter chicken fan!

  5. Happy Thanksgiving 🦃. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What a great idea for leftover turkey, Leslie! I love using garam masala as a spice. My friend recently gave me her curry chicken recipe, and it's amazing! She also added that she uses curry leaves to add that extra special garnish. I just got some at a local Indian store and am excited to use them.

    1. Yes, I use garam masala in lots of dishes--it's a great way to perk up vegetables and lots of other things!

  7. delicious recipe.. I am planning this amazing recipe on my son's birthday party.
    Hope everyone will like this. Thanks a lot for sharing this yummy recipe..

    recipe in hindi - Top lists

    chocolate cake recipe in hindi

  8. I have never tried to make a tika masala but have always loved eating it. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, I will have to give this one a try!