Chicken Tikka Masala Meatballs are the easiest Indian-inspired recipe ever! These healthy chicken meatballs are covered in a homemade tikka masala sauce with tons of savory ingredients like tomatoes, turmeric, garam masala, ginger, and sweet paprika.
It was many years ago when I was first introduced to chicken tikka masala. It wasn’t a meal that came from a restaurant; it was a recipe that screamed to me to be made the first second I saw it.
And from that first bite, I was completely sold on the meal!
I’ve made chicken tikka masala lots of times over the years and also love this vegetarian chickpea masala (chana masala). But being that we also looooove meatballs so many forms, I decided it was time to come up with a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala Meatballs.
If you’re a chicken meatball fan, you know that they are cheap, easy, and fit into just about every cuisine. So naturally, these Chicken Tikka Masala Meatballs are great as an appetizer or a cozy Indian-inspired dinner at home!
This homemade tikka masala sauce is super savory without a lot of heat for a family-friendly dinner in half an hour. But, you can certainly spice it up if your family love to bring the heat!
This is a basic shopping list for the best Indian meatballs ever, but the full list of ingredients is in the green recipe card below, so be sure to keep scrolling down to check it out!
For the chicken meatballs:
- Slice of bread — white, wheat, or even gluten-free bread works
- Ground chicken
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Extra virgin olive oil
For the tikka masala sauce:
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh garlic
- fresh ginger
- spices: garam masala, sweet paprika, ground cumin, and turmeric
- tomato paste
- low-sodium chicken broth
- canned crushed tomatoes
This meal tastes just like my slow cooker chicken tikka masala but is ready in a fraction of the time! This is also the perfect appetizer for a dinner party or potluck.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala Meatballs
Here are the steps for how to make these easy chicken meatballs! The full set of instructions can be found in the recipe card below, so be sure to keep scrolling down to the card.
STEP 1: First, make the ground chicken meatballs. Pour the milk over the bread in a mixing bowl and mash it up into a paste. Then, mix in the rest of the meatball ingredients.
STEP 2: Use a measuring spoon or cookie scoop to make evenly sized balls and roll them into meatballs. Put them on a plate until they’re all rolled.
STEP 3: Cook the meatballs in a single layer. You may need to do this in batches so the meatballs don’t touch, depending on your pan size. Brown the chicken meatballs on all sides, and move them to a clean plate when they’re done.
STEP 4: For the homemade tikka masala sauce, sauté the onions until they begin to soften. Then, add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant before adding all the spices — garam masala, sweet paprika, cumin, and turmeric.
STEP 5: Now, add the tomato paste and cook until it starts to coat the bottom of the pan. Add a little chicken broth to deglaze the pan, and scrape up and of those flavorful bits. Whisk in the crushed tomatoes and the rest of the broth.
STEP 6: Finally, simmer the sauce until it begins to thicken, then add the meatballs and coat them with sauce.
Meatball Making Tips
After years and years of making meatballs, I’ve got some tried-and-true meatball making tips for you!
- Grossed out by sticky hands when you roll meatballs? Keep a wet towel (paper or kitchen) at your workstation and wet your hands before and while you roll out the meatballs. Damp hands will prevent the meat from sticking to your hands!
- Want to make meatballs ahead of time? You can always freeze them! Form the meatballs, then freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once they’re solid, drop the meatballs into a freezer-safe container or freezer bag and store up to 6 months. Simply thaw the meatballs in the fridge overnight or in the microwave and put them in any sauce for better-than-store-bought meatballs in no time.
- Don’t like touching raw meat? Use a fork to mix the meatball mixture and a cookie scoop to portion out your meatballs. A well-made meatball doesn’t need to be rolled by hand in order to bind together for cooking.
- What’s the deal with using a fork? I like mixing my meatballs with a fork for 2 reasons. First, using a fork means I don’t have to touch the raw meat with my hands. And second, you basically can never overmix your meatballs with a fork, like you can with your hands.
- Always making tough meatballs? Well, the next section below is for YOU!
Why Are My Meatballs Tough?
Meatballs are such a delicious, protein-packed dinner option, but they can get tough, like a bad meatloaf. So, how do you stop meatballs from getting tough?
A pasty mixture of bread (or breadcrumbs) and milk, called a panade, helps to bind the meatballs together and keep the meatballs moist. Without this panade the meatballs will be tough, like overcooked burgers.
This is a trick I learned from my dad MANY years ago. His meatballs still are some of my very favorites to eat because of the panade method.
If you don’t have milk and bread on hand, eggs work in a similar way as a panade, and I use an egg with panko breadcrumbs as a meatball binder in my buffalo chicken meatballs.
Over-mixing can also lead to a tough, chewy meatball. I prefer to mix my meatball mix with a fork to keep it from getting over-mixed.
How Do You Make Ground Chicken Moist?
Chicken breast meat can be one of the driest meats, and ground chicken is often dry, too. So, how do you keep chicken meatballs from drying out?
Fat helps keep meat moist, so the fat from the milk in the panade I like to use adds that needed fat to the the ground chicken you’ll use for these meatballs. Any kind of milk works and you can even use Greek yogurt if that’s all you have on hand.
When you simmer chicken meatballs in sauce, like these baked chicken parm meatballs, it also helps bring moisture back to meatballs that may have dried out a little while resting. Keep simmering and spooning sauce over each meatballs until they’re perfectly juicy!
What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala Meatballs
You always want a carb with this chicken meatball recipe so you don’t waste any of the this outstanding tikka masala sauce. I always make naan or garlic naan to sop up all of that delicious sauce, but any flatbread or tortilla will do!
Rice is the most obvious carb to serve with tikka masala meatballs and even the most basic white rice is great here. If you want to up your dinner game, you definitely need to go with this cilantro lime rice!
Out of rice? Pasta or egg noodles, as well as cauliflower rice, will all work great with these meatballs!
While this carrot salad with tahini dressing and crispy chickpeas is meant to be a main-course salad, it would be a terrific side salad to go with these meatballs and will help your family get some more veggies into their days.
End the night with this super simple mint chocolate chip ice cream. It’s a no-churn ice cream (no ice cream maker needed!) that’s a great complement to the tikka masala!
For the chicken meatballs:
- 1 slice of bread (white or wheat)
- 5 tbsp milk (any kind)
- 1 lb ground chicken
- ¾ tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ tsp garlic powder
- Extra virgin olive oil
For the sauce:
- 1 small or medium onion, finely diced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 can (14 oz) crushed tomatoes
- Hot cooked rice
- Riced cauliflower
- Garlic naan
- To make the meatballs: Place the bread slice in a small bowl and pour the milk over the top. Allow the milk to soak in for about a minute. Using a fork, mash the bread until it becomes a thick paste.
- In a large bowl, mix the ground chicken, bread/milk paste, salt, pepper, and garlic powder together with a fork until well-combined. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop and roll out the meatballs and place them on a plate. The mixture will be sticky so using damp hands with prevent it from sticking to your hands.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet (12 inches or larger) over medium-high heat. Arrange the meatballs in the pan in a single layer without touching, leaving about ½ inch between them. Don't overcrowd the pan. If there are any left, you'll cook a second batch. Cook the meatballs until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total, and transfer the cooked meatballs to a clean plate. Repeat with a second batch if necessary, adding a couple of tablespoons of oil if the pan is dry.
- To make the sauce: Heat the oil in the hot pan and saute the onions, salt, and pepper for about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger; cook while stirring for 30 seconds. Mix in the garam masala, paprika, cumin, and tumeric; cook while stirring for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook it into the mixture until it starts to coat the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute.
- Pour in some of the chicken broth to deglaze the pan and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the remaining broth along with the crushed tomatoes.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes. Add the cooked meatballs back to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes, until heated through. Serve the meatballs over rice, noodles, or riced cauliflower with naan on the side.