Taste the flavors of India with succulent Murgh Malai Tikka chicken kebabs paired with cool mint chutney, creamy peanut sauce, and toasted naan!
There are two foods I always look forward to eating on my trips to Indian. The first is Biryani and the second is this recipe, Murgh Malai Tikka.
Murgh Malai Tikka is a melt-in-your-mouth chicken kebab marinated in cream, yogurt and spices then cooked in a tandoor. It’s also a pretty healthy dish in comparison to the other, curry-heavy meals most associate with Indian food.
For my take on Murgh Malai Tikka, I’ve created a classic East Meets West pairing with two different dipping sauces to compliment my tandoori chicken kebab. To accompany the succulent kebabs, the first sauce is a mint-yogurt chutney, similar to the classic mint chutney you’d find in India, but cooled down a bit with creamy, Greek yogurt, and cilantro.
The second is a salty yet sweet, peanut sauce that works so well when paired with the charred kebabs and subtle Indian spices. Add in a toasty, warm naan and you’ve got yourself the perfect Indian-inspired meal!
Now, the key ingredient to making Murgh Malai Tikka is the cheese in its marinade. Marinating with cheese may sound a bit strange but once processed with the cream and yogurt the cheese creates a thick sauce that smothers the chicken, working to tenderize the pieces and adding flavor.
When choosing the cheese for this dish, it’s best to stick with a mild flavored cheese such as cream cheese, Havarti or muenster. For my version, I went with muenster for a few reasons —
- Muenster is light in flavor so it wouldn’t over power any of the spices in the marinade
- It has a creamy, smooth texture that when processed, would blend well when added to the cream & yogurt
- In college, I remember my friend Mary eating muenster cheese on her sandwiches so using it reminded me of her (Hi Mary, if you’re reading this! <3)
Since Murgh Malai Tikka has a few different ways of preparation depending on where you eat it, I’ve added a few ‘choose your own adventure’ options to this recipe. If you so desire, you can complete your marinade with just the cheese, yogurt and ground spices or you can choose to add in all or some of the optional ingredients!
Some Murgh Malai Tikka recipes call for the addition of cilantro leaves (though in India, they refer to the leaves as coriander leaves) & green chilis, both of which I chose to add to this recipe and can cause the marinade to have a green tint to it. If cilantro or chilis aren’t your thing, feel free to leave one or both out — either way, I promise your Murgh Malai Tikka will turn out great!
In India, these kebabs would typically be cooked in a tandoor — clay ovens heated to extreme temperatures then kept constant during the cooking process. Since tandoors are a bit rare in the States, a super hot grill will work just fine!
To achieve a similar cooking environment on your grill as tandoor, simply turned all of the burners to high and preheat your grill until it reaches at least 500*F before placing the kebabs on to cook. Continue cooking at this high temperature throughout, turning the kebabs only after you see a bit of char forms.
To serve, I highly recommend pairing these kebabs with the dipping sauces. It makes meal time more fun to taste the different flavor combinations, and although these kebabs are seriously succulent and juicy, they’re even better with the mint-yogurt chutney and peanut sauce.
I also served these kebabs with a side of naan, mostly because I love naan but also because I found these super cute mini naans by Stonefire at the store while shopping for kebab ingredients! My favorite way of eating the Murgh Malai Tikka was making folded naan sandwiches smothered in one of the sauces!
Hope you enjoy this recipe, it’s definitely a great way to warm up your grill for the Spring & Summer seasons while getting a taste of India!
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1” chunks and patted dry with a paper towel
- ½ teaspoon kala salt**
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon raw cashews +1 tablespoon raw almonds, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 3-4 hours & drained
- 4 ounces muenster cheese (or other light, mild cheese), roughly chopped
- ½ cup greek yogurt (whole or 2%)
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream or half & half
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- juice of ½ a lemon
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves — optional
- ½ green chili, seeded and roughly chopped — optional
- lime wedges for serving — optional
- 8-10 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30-60 minutes***
- Peanut Sauce & Mint-Yogurt Chutney, recipes to follow
- **If you don't have kala salt, simply substitute regular salt
- **Soaking the skewers will help them stay intact when placed on the grill
- In a medium sized bowl, season the chicken breast chunks with a ½ teaspoon kala salt (or regular salt), black pepper and crushed garlic, mixing well to ensure everything is coated.
- Set aside for 30-60 minutes while you make the marinade.
- For the marinade, add all the ingredients (drained nuts, cheese, yogurt, cream, ginger, garlic, salt, oil, spices, and lemon juice plus cilantro & chili, if using) to a large food processor and blend on high for 30-60 seconds until everything is creamy and smooth.
- Pour marinade over the seasoned chicken chunks.
- Cover and let marinate in your refrigerator 4-8 hours or overnight, should time allow.
- When ready to cook, preheat your girl to 500*F and prepare your chicken kebabs.
- To do so, shake some of the marinade from the chicken pieces and skewer the chicken onto the pre-soaked skewers, leaving an inch or so of room at each end of the skewer so you can easily grab them when on the grill.
- Lightly grease your grill to avoid sticking then place the kebabs on the grill, turning every 2-3 minutes once char marks have formed until fully cooked (8-10 minutes).
- Serve immediately with dipping sauces, naan, and lime wedges.
2 cloves roughly chopped garlic, toasted (see recipe below)
1/2 cup packed mint leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon kala salt**
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons water
**If you don’t have kala salt, simply substitute regular salt in its place.
To toast the garlic, lightly spray a frying pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly until garlic begins to brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will become bitter. Remove toasted garlic pan and place in a food processor.
Add all other ingredients except the water to the food processor with the garlic. Blend on high for 20-30 seconds to combine the ingredients. Drizzle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time until a sauce-like consistency is reached and herbs are well chopped. Place in a small bowl for serving.
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
1 small clove of garlic
2 tablespoons water
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons roughly chopped peanuts, optional for topping
Add all ingredients except the water to a food processor. Blend on high for 10 seconds to combine the ingredients. Drizzle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time until a sauce-like consistency is reached. Pour into a small bowl and top with chopped peanuts before serving.