Chicken Korma vs. Tikka Masala: What Makes Them Different?

If you’re new to Indian food, you might be clueless and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sauces. Even more, each sauce contains an exhausting list of ingredients. The names aren’t exactly self-explanatory either, and Korma Masala and Tikka Masala are no exception.

Chicken Korma and Tikka Masala are two popular Indian dishes made with two different Masalas or spice blends, i.e., Korma (original Quorma). Knowing the difference between the two is essential to understand Indian cuisine.

But don’t panic. In this article, you’ll learn the primary differences: in ingredients, spices, and cooking method variations between the two sauces (and dishes). Here we come.

What is a Masala?

Masala:

a varying blend of spices used in Indian cooking.

Merriam Webster

But you may stop here and ask us: “Hey! What did you say? Are Chicken Korma and Tikka Masala seasonings, sauces, or dishes?”

You’re right. We were also confused before mastering Indian cuisine. But the issue is not with Indian cuisine alone.

In principle, masala refers to a seasoning or, more specifically, a blend of spices. When a specific masala is made into a paste, the sauce can take its name from the masala it’s made from. As for dishes, it’s common for them to be named after their most prominent or unique ingredient.

So, Chicken Korma Masala can be a seasoning, sauce, or dish. The same is the case with Tikka Masala.

What is Chicken Korma Masala?

To learn about Korma masala, you must first understand Chicken Korma, a creamy and mild southern Indian dish. We braise the chicken in the creamy sauce until it’s juicy and tender. We sear the chicken beforehand, which gives it a crisp golden texture before braising.

Indian chefs make the sauce from yogurt and spices such as poppy seeds, coconut, cashews, blended almonds, garlic, and ginger. It results in a creamy and nutty-flavored dish, which they serve with naan bread or steamed rice.

Store-bought Chicken Korma Masala helps you recreate the original taste of Chicken Korma without going through the trouble of making the sauce yourself. The dish is pretty aromatic, and the color ranges from yellowish to pale orange.

What is Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken Tikka Masala is a spicier complex made from Indian spices, cream, curd, tangy flavor, onions, and tomatoes. The dish begins with tandoori chicken and a skinless bird marinated in a spiced yogurt sauce. It’s then put in the oven and cooked until it’s smoky and juicy.

Chicken Tikka Masala takes tandoori chicken a step ahead by simmering it in another sauce of tomatoes, cream and onions. When cooked, the dish gets an orange color, thanks to turmeric and paprika.

Though some restaurants use lamb or beef, we mainly use chicken for the dish. Chicken is cut into bite-sized boneless chunks and then marinated with the sauce. 

Suppose you can’t get into the complicated process of preparing Chicken Tikka Masala sauce/gravy. In that case, the store-bought Chicken Tikka Masala can help you achieve the original taste right in your kitchen!

Chicken Korma vs. Chicken Tikka Masala: What’s the Difference?

Both Chicken Korma and Tikka Masala seem pretty similar to the untrained eye. If you don’t know the two and the ingredient list, it’s easy to mistake one for the other.

They have the exact origin; in India, they’re similar in some aspects, making you confused between the two. 

Chicken Korma and Tikka Masala are cooked and served the same way, with naan or steamed rice.

Now let’s go over the differences between the two.

Taste  

Compared to Tikka masala, Chicken Korma is less spicy. It has a mildly nutty, sweet, and earthy taste. It contains coconut, coriander, and nuts. If you opt for a memorable Indian or Pakistani Korma Masala recipe, Indian food enthusiasts advise you to add some almonds too.

Tikka Masala, in contrast,  is creamier and spicier thanks to the main ingredients: tomato cream, garam masala (a mixture of ground spices), and yogurt. Thanks to turmeric and coriander, it also has a slightly sweet taste, though this sweetness isn’t like Korma and is acidic. Additionally, you also get a bit of a smokey flavor.

Texture

Despite looking similar, the texture of the two is also different compared to each other; Chicken Tikka masala is drier than Korma. 

Chicken Tikka Masala can serve as an appetizer, whereas Korma is the main course. The reason is that we braise Korma, unlike Chicken tikka masala.

Although they look almost identical, they have a subtle taste and flavor difference. As chicken tikka masala is spicier, it works well with plain white rice or cheese naan. Being milder and earthier, Korma works better with something like coconut rice, and we can serve it with “nan,” “Roti” Pratha, or tortillas if it has some hot flavor in addition to its potent, sweeter taste.

Meat Cut 

Though this can be a point of difference, most cooks don’t always follow this recipe part. Traditionally, chefs make tikka masala with smaller boneless chicken pieces, while they make Korma with more significant cuts of meat, like chicken legs. 

Chicken Cooking Variations

To make Chicken Tikka, We sear them beforehand either in the oven or directly on a grill. It helps to improve the taste and make it epic.

Traditionally, in Korma, chefs boil the meat with the sauce together, but nowadays, they add the meat later. It doesn’t change the taste much, but it’s not 100% authentic.

Usage Variations

Chefs use chicken tikka masala to make curry or as a rub. We also use it to make curry vegetables for a vegetarian dish. We can also use it as a marinade to make chicken tikka.

As its name indicates, they use Korma masala mainly to make chicken korma, though it can cause other Mughlai cuisine. Korma has several variations, the most famous ones being Vegetable korma and Navratan Korma ( named after nine courtiers of Akbar, the Mughal emperor.)

Similarities Chicken Korma vs. Tikka Masala

As you already know, both these dishes are of Indian origin. Thus, they have many similarities, making it hard to distinguish between them. Let’s go over them below.

Origin story

Pork and beef are forbidden in Muslim and Hindu communities in most of India. Therefore, chicken and meat have become the most common meats. Many dishes have these as their main ingredients.

Cooking styles

We cook both these dishes similarly to each other. Chicken is first marinated. Then we cook. We may fry them in a pan or grill them until it’s golden and crisp. Then we throw the chicken into a creamy sauce, resulting in a curry.

The cooking time is also similar. You need about 45-60 minutes to prepare both dishes. Though the cooking time is impacted by factors such as the sauce and its thickness, usually, it’s a pretty accurate estimation of the time needed to cook them.

Side dishes

They serve chicken korma and chicken tikka masala with similar side dishes, mainly naan bread or steamed rice. People also consume them in surrounding countries such as Pakistan and Nepal.

Therefore, chicken korma and chicken tikka masala are both creamy and tasty. The main difference is that the latter is spicier thanks to garam masala, while the former has an earthy and nutty taste.

Sauce vs. dry masala

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If you’re in the market, you may have encountered two types of Chicken Korma and Tikka masalas; sauce and dry masala. Here are some of the best dry masalas and sauces you’ll find.

Dry Korma Masala

If you use dry korma masala, you need to make the sauce yourself. The masala acts as the spices in the sauce. First, you must put some oil in the pan and let it heat up. Then add ginger, garlic, onions, and some yogurt.

Then we add the dry masala, which gives it the taste required. Shan Masala is the best quality imported masala with no added preservatives or food coloring, which provides it with the best flavor and makes it healthy!

Dry Tikka Masala

Dry tikka masala will give you the Indian touch it needs to be complete, and it’s an entirely traditional way of making Chicken Tikka Masala. We can use it as a rub and for curry (as in our case). 

As with dry korma masala, you’ll need to make the sauce from scratch. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onions. Then add ginger and garlic until you smell the aroma. Then instead of individual spices, we add the tikka masala into the mix.

Pataks Korma Cooking Sauce

It’s also gluten-free and gives your easy Korma the taste it needs to compete even with the best restaurant that serves kormas! All you need is one jar and one pack of chicken breast, and you’ll be ready to cook the best Korma you’ve ever had!

Maya Kaimal Tikka Masala Sauce

This tikka masala sauce is a rich blend of tomato and Indian spices such as cumin, clove, and cinnamon, giving it a fantastic flavor that’ll be hard to distinguish from the real. Just grill or cook chicken in the oven and cook it in the sauce. Your Chicken Tikka Masala is ready to serve.

Chefs have thoroughly tested this recipe to provide you with the best flavor – and without any hassle!

Is Chicken Korma Masala gluten-free?

Chicken Korma Masala is entirely gluten-free. It being gluten-free primarily depends on the ingredients used in the recipes. Let’s look at what these are and whether they’re gluten-free.

IngredientsStatus
ChickenGluten-free
OnionGluten-free
GarlicGluten-free
GingerGluten-free
Oil/GheeGluten-free
Coconut FlourGluten-free
AlmondsGluten-free
MilkGluten-free
ButtermilkGluten-free
Tapioca Starch (used in Store-Bought) MasalaGluten-free
Herbs and SpicesGluten-free
SaltGluten-free

Is Chicken Tikka Masala gluten-free?

Chicken Tikka Masala is gluten-free. Like any other recipe, the gluten status depends on the recipe ingredients. Below are the details about all the ingredients. 

IngredientsStatus
ChickenGluten-free
GarlicGluten-free
GingerGluten-free
Oil/GheeGluten-free
AlmondsGluten-free
MilkGluten-free
YogurtGluten-free
CreamGluten-free
TomatoesGluten-free
LemonGluten-free
Corn starch (used in Store-Bought Masala)Gluten-free
Herbs and SpicesGluten-free
SaltGluten-free

If you’re gluten-sensitive, you can get a gluten-free option too.

Is chicken korma masala spicy?

No, Chicken Korma Masala isn’t spicy. Despite the pungency of chilis and spices, the heat level is pretty mild, and you can tolerate it easily. The reason is cream, milk, almonds, and nuts add to the overall sweetness of the curry. Chicken Korma Masala is considered close to butter chicken for being a balanced mix of spicy and sweet flavors, which sometimes leads to confusion.

Final Thoughts

Most people who try Indian foods tell them apart by their ingredients. But those with little prior knowledge usually cannot detect subtle taste changes between the two dishes. They return to where they began and keep scratching their heads about the differences between the two dishes.

Hopefully, after reading through the article, you have understood the differences between the two. Let us know how helpful this article has been for you and what you want to know more about using the comment section below.

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