Chicken Tikka Naan Pizzas
When I closed out Wing Month with some chicken tikka wings, I remembered that I never shared this recipe for a chicken tikka naan pizza I made a couple years ago now. At the time, I had tried out two naan pizza ideas, one with paneer and the other with chicken, and the paneer was a clear favorite among the crowd, so I got the recipe up pretty quickly, but the chicken tikka incarnation was nearly as delicious and is totally deserving of its own post. So without further ado, enjoy this very tasty grilled chicken tikka naan pizza!
These naan pizza recipes presented a bit of a conundrum for me because when I made them, I didn't hold back on the toppings I used to create them. Then, when I went to write up the recipes, I realized just how long they were and knew they would look too daunting for some readers. That led me to scale back the paneer pizza recipe to not include the cucumber-mint raita in order to make the final product more manageable, but I'm not doing the same here for a couple reasons—the raita was more crucial for the overall flavor of the chicken tikka pizza, and the majority of the ingredients for the raita are in use in other places in this recipe, so it's not as big of a shopping commitment to include this sauce too.
While the raita provides a pleasing creaminess to the final product, it's the mint chutney that does a lot of the heavy lifting in the flavor department. This condiment—made from a lot cilantro and mint mixed with red onion, hot peppers, garlic, and ginger—packs a hefty heat and bite with a strong freshness that really goes a long way in the end pizza.
For the chicken tikka, I used my standard recipe that has served me well over and over again. The only difference was that I opted for chicken thighs over breasts this time around for a couple reason. For one, they just taste better than lean and somewhat bland chicken breasts. The other reason is because this chicken had to withstand being cooked twice—first on skewers to cook it through, then again once topped on the pizza—and chicken thighs are not as prone to drying out as breasts are.
While the chicken was marinating, I put together the naan dough and I implore you to make this at home. There's nothing quite like freshly baked bread, and as breads go, naan is a pretty easy one to put together. In fact, it was one of the first yeast breads I successfully made after years of having horrible experiences as a baker.
I think the real turning point in my luck with bread was switching from active dry yeast to instant yeast. Instant yeast requires no proofing—you just toss it in with the rest of the ingredients—and at least for me, it's always just worked. This naan requires two rises with the first happening after the initial kneading is done, and then a second rise after the dough ball is split into the individual portions—both rises take about two hours to double in size.
Once the naan was all ready, I threaded the chicken onto skewers so I could grill everything in one go—first the naan, then chicken, and finally the pizzas— in order to make the best use of a single batch of coals.
Naan is traditionally cooked in a tandoor, which is scorching hot and that heat helps result in the final soft and pillowy texture. Short a tandoor, using a freshly lit batch of the coals might just be your next best option since a large batch of charcoal can reach temperatures close to, or exceeding, 600°F. One important thing to be mindful of though is that the bread can go from browned to charred quickly on the grill, so it's important to keep a close eye on the cooking, which may only take a minute per side.
The chicken, on the other hand, is much more forgiving. These chicken thighs took about ten minutes total for me to cook, and since thigh meat doesn't dry out quickly, there's some nice leeway in the grilling here. Even cooking is the name of the game here, so turning the skewers every minute or so is ideal to get good browning on the outside and even doneness inside.
Taken altogether, the naan and chicken took about just about 20 minutes total to cook, leaving a good 20-plus minutes of heat to finish up the pizzas. To assemble them, I sprinkled some mozzarella on the naan followed by slices of red onion and pieces of chicken tikka that I had removed from the skewers. I then placed the pizzas over indirect heat, covered, and let them cook until the cheese had melted. Then off the grill I spooned on the raita and mint chutney followed by a sprinkling of fresh cilantro prior to serving.
I actually took this ingredient combination from some kati rolls I really love, and I'm happy to say they work just as well in pizza form. As far as pizzas goes, this is really up there in complexity of flavor, but everything works well together. Of course, just about everything comes straight out of Indian cuisine, so it makes sense that the earthy spiced chicken plays well with the fresh and hot chutney, cool raita, and soft and tender naan. The one real outlier is the mozzarella, which really solidified this as a "pizza" in my mind as well as complimented the heat and spices really well with its mild flavor and creamy character. So I've done two naan pizzas now, both pretty excellent, but I think there's a lot of to play with in this arena so I expect this won't be the last of these you see from me.
Chicken Tikka Naan Pizzas
- Yield 8 servings
- Prep 1 Hour
- Inactive 8 Hours
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 9 Hours 20 Minutes
- For the Mint Chutney
- 2 cups packed roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1 cup packed roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion (about 1 small)
- 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
- 1 to 2 small hot green chilies (such as Thai bird chilies), stemmed
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt, to taste
- For the Cucumber-Mint Raita
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup coarsely grated seeded hothouse cucumber
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- For the Chicken
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1-2 large lemons
- 1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon annatto powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
- Bamboo or metal skewers
- For the Naan
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 ounce (about 2 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cup whole milk, warmed
- 1/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
- 2 tablespoons ghee or butter, melted
- For the Pizzas
- 1lb low-moisture mozzarella, grated
- 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 handful of roughly torn fresh cilantro leaves
- To make the mint chutney: Place cilantro, mint, onion, lemon juice, chilies, garlic, and ginger in the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add additional water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, to form a thick, but pourable sauce. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to a week.
- To make the raita: In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt, cucumber, mint, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, and up to three days, to chill and let flavors meld.
- To make the chicken: In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, salt, coriander, turmeric, annatto powder, and cayenne pepper. Place chicken in marinade, cover, and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours.
- To make the naan: Whisk together flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add milk, yogurt, and 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter and knead with dough hook on low speed until dough comes together. Increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer stand, cover with plastic wrap, and let dough rise at room temperature until roughly doubled in volume, about 2 hours. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into 8 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise at room temperature until roughly doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Remove one ball of dough from baking sheet and stretch into a circle roughly 10-inches in diameter. Place dough on hot side of grill and cook without moving until bottom side begins brown and lightly char in spots, 1-2 minutes. Flip dough over and cook until second side has lightly browned and charred, 1-2 minutes more. Transfer naan to a plate, cover with a clean kitchen towel and repeat cooking process with remaining dough.
- Thread chicken onto skewers so each piece is just barely touching the next. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides and center of meat registers between 160-165°F on an instant read thermometer, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and remove chicken from skewers.
- To make the pizzas: Working in batches, place pieces of chicken on pieces of naan, sprinkle with mozzarella, and top with slices of red onion. Place naan on cool side of grill, cover, and let cook until mozzarella has melted, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pizzas from grill, spoon on mint chutney and raita to taste, add sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves, slice, and serve immediately. Repeat with remaining pieces of naan and ingredients.