This Afghani-style malai chicken tikka is a mild twist on classic tandoori chicken tikka. With a tangy yogurt marinade, packed with warm spices, creamy nuts, and just the right hint of spice, this chicken tikka is a delicious alternative to the classic fiery-red version we all know and love.
👩🏽🍳Why This Recipe Works
Simple marinade! You will be pleasantly surprised by simple yet flavorful this marinade is! A small ingredient list produces super delicious chicken! Don't be fooled by the simplicity - although mild, this chicken is delicious!
No fancy cooking methods! You do not need a tandoor (clay oven) to make this chicken. You get a perfect char from the air fryer, too! You are not limited to any one cooking method - BBQ, grill pan, or even in the oven - all work!
Juicy chicken! While you might think that chicken breasts can be on the drier side, this malai chicken tikka is moist and juicy! The marinade ingredients act together perfectly, ensuring juicy chicken each and every time. For another juicy chicken recipe, you will absolutely love these homemade chickens seekh kebabs, too!
- Chicken breasts: I prefer the texture and meatiness of chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt best replicates the creamy texture of 'malai', and acts as a good tenderizer for the chicken breasts.
- Jalapeño: Jalapeño peppers add the right amount of kick to the marinade, without making it overwhelmingly spicy.
- Almonds & cashews: Almonds and cashews also lend to the creamy texture of the marinade.
- Spices: You will need salt and garam masala to season the chicken.
A full list of ingredients with measurements is located on the recipe card, below.
- Chicken breasts: You may use chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, if you prefer dark meat. Keep in mind that you will likely need to use more chicken thighs for this recipe, to keep the pieces large enough.
- Jalapeño: Feel free to use thai green chillis, or red chillis. If you do not like the spice, you can also omit it altogether.
- Lime: You may use lemon juice in the alternative.
- Spicy: Try out our tandoori style chicken tikka for more of a kick!
- Authentic: Authentically, malai chicken tikka uses thicker cream as the base of the marinade. If you can find it, feel free to use it!
Prep Work Before Cooking
Collecting all your ingredients - This will make cooking so much easier. Gather all the spices you will need, and keep them nearby.
Cube the chicken - Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes. Try to cut them in uniform-sized pieces so that they all cook at the same time and do not dry out. [photo 2]
Add the ingredients for the marinade into a blender. Blend until the almonds, cashews and chilli are all completely broken down, and the marinade is smooth. [photo 1]
Pour the marinade over the chicken in a mixing bowl. Let the chicken marinate for 20-30 minutes - The longer the better. [photo 3]
Before adding the chicken to an air fryer basket, drain off the excess marinade from the chicken. Spray with cooking spray, and air fry for 12-15 minutes at 390°F. [photo 4]
To get an even char on the chicken be sure to shake and turn the chicken as it cooks. Avoid overcrowding the air fryer basket as well, to allow the air to circulate.
🍽 Make Ahead & Storage
Make Ahead Instructions
You can marinate the chicken 24 hours in advance. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container.
Cooked chicken will store well in the fridge for 2-3 days, in an airtight container. You may also store the marinated chicken for up to 24 hours in an airtight container.
Reheat the chicken in the air fryer, covered in foil to avoid drying out the chicken.
⭐ Recipe FAQs
No - malai chicken tikka is not spicy! The small amount of jalapeño in the marinade is completely balanced by the yogurt. This makes malai chicken tikka the perfect option if you find regular chicken tikka to be too spicy.
Malai is a thick cream that is typically used in Indian cooking and sweets. It is rich in flavor and texture, which is what makes it so ideal for this chicken marinade.
📝More Flavorful Chicken Recipes
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Afghani-Style Malai Chicken Tikka
- Prepare the marinade: Add the ingredients for the marinade into a blender. Blend until the almonds, cashews and chilli are all completely broken down, and the marinade is smooth.½ cup Greek yogurt, 1 Lime, 1 tablespoon Ginger & garlic paste, 2 teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon Garam masala, 10 Almonds, 10 Cashews, 1 Jalapeño
- Marinate the chicken: Pour the marinade over the chicken in a mixing bowl. Let the chicken marinate for 20-30 minutes - The longer the better.2 Chicken breasts
- Air fry: Before adding the chicken to an air fryer basket, drain off the excess marinade from the chicken. Spray with cooking spray, and air fry for 12-15 minutes at 390°F.
- Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes. Try to cut them in uniform-sized pieces so that they all cook at the same time and do not dry out.
- To get an even char on the chicken be sure to shake and turn the chicken as it cooks. Avoid overcrowding the air fryer basket as well, to allow the air to circulate.
This recipe was originally published in October, 2020. It was updated in March, 2022 to include process shots, and detailed instructions and tips to make the best chicken tikka every single time!