Best Wine with Chicken Tikka Masala (tested)

In Scotland, Chicken Tikka Masala is the real national dish. It’s easy to see why. Let’s be honest, not many Scottish people actually eat Haggis! We Scots know what works with Chicken Tikka Masala and what doesn’t. Trust me.

Chicken tikka masala is a rich, creamy curry with a comforting tomato-based sauce. This dish is popular in many Indian restaurants and can be found on most menus. It is often served with rice or naan bread. It can also be served with pappadums (crispy wafers) for an extra crunchy texture. We tend to have those to start off the meal with a selection of chutneys and raita.

Surely, you drink beer with Curry, right?

Most people (wrongly in my view) think beer or lager when it comes to Indian food. Wine is usually not considered. The problem with beer is that it washes away all of the spices and the flavor with it. Personally, if I’m having a nice meal, I want to taste the incredible flavor that cuisine has to offer. Not just flush it away after each bite. With a little thought, you can select a wine to do just that.

Pairing With Tikka Masala

When pairing wine with Chicken Tikka Masala, think about the spice in the dish. How will it affect the wine? The spiciness of your dish is going to be a big factor, so consider that before you start looking at wines. A high-acidity wine can help balance out this spicy and comforting dish.

If you are serving a mild, soft-spiced version of Chicken Tikka Masala, consider a white wine. Ideally one with some body or sweetness. This can help balance out the creaminess of the sauce and add some complexity to the dish. If you are serving a spicier version, go for an off-dry red wine. One with high acidity that will stand up to the spice level in your dish.

The heat from your curry will seep into whatever liquid touches it. Depending on what kind of curry paste you use, some curries can have quite a kick.

Matching The Spice Level

For a mild tikka masala, I would recommend a crisp, white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. If you’re looking for something a little bolder that will hold up against the spiciness of your curry, try a Chardonnay.

For a medium to hotter spicy tikka masala sauce, you should pair it with a bottle of German Riesling. Or a California Pinot Noir. If you’re looking for something sweet and spicy then try out a Moscato d’Asti or a Sparkling Rosé.

A high-acid wine can help balance out this spicy and comforting dish

When you’re pairing wines with this dish, look for a high-acid wine. The reason for this is that high-acid wines can help balance out rich dishes. The common styles of high-acid wine include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Viognier.

Which high-acidity wines?

  • A good pairing with any food is to try to match the acidity level of your beverage to the spice of the dish. High-acidity wines can pair well with spicy dishes because they cut through some of the heat.
  • Try pairing a high-acid white wine or rosé with chicken tikka masala. Wines such as Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. These wines will help to cut through the richness of the dish and add some freshness to it.
    • Vermentino is a great choice for this dish. It has a slightly grassy flavor that will help to keep your palate interested.
    • Sauvignon Blanc is another good option. It has plenty of acidity and a fruit-forward flavor that pairs well with chicken tikka masala’s spices.
    • If you want something more full-bodied than either of these wines, try pairing your chicken tikka masala with Pinot Grigio instead.
  • Your wine selection should hold up against all of those spices and make sure it’s not overpowered by them. Choose a full-bodied white wine or rosé that has body but isn’t too heavy either. Something like a dry Chenin Blanc or a medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc will do the trick. This is also a great pairing if you’re looking for something that’s refreshing but not too sweet.

Be careful with red wine

While red wine can be a great match for Indian food, it’s important to keep the dish in mind when choosing one. Chicken tikka masala is traditionally served with naan bread, which will soak up some of the sauce from your plate. This will make a spicy red wine overpowering and heavy. Bolder reds with high tannins will intensify the heat, so those are best avoided.

The best red wine to drink with chicken tikka masala is Pinot Noir. Pinot Noirs are light red wines from the Burgundy region of France and tend to have high acidity and low tannins. They should be served at a cool room temperature (or even slightly chilled), which will help cut through some of the spice in your dish.

Conclusion

Pairing wine with Chicken Tikka Masala is simply a matter of picking a wine that suits your taste and matches the spices in the dish. If you’re looking for something that will cut through some of those spices, try pairing your meal with a dry white or rosé. If you really must have red wine, then opt for Pinot noir. Want something lighter and fruitier? Try pairing your chicken tikka masala with sparkling wines like Prosecco or Cava instead.

My own recommendation is Sauvignon blanc. The acidity level is perfect for a mild-to-medium spiced tikka masala.

If you liked this, check out my post on the Best Wine for Indian food.

My other tip is to use a tried and tested recipe that you know will work. This one from Tasty is as good as it gets. Just be sure to marinate your chicken for at least 24 hours to maximize the flavor and get that authentic taste.