Nearly Indian restaurant style chicken tikka masala is about as good as you can make without diving right in and learning full blown restaurant technique. Smooth sauce. Well spiced. Layered flavours. Might even be better than you get at your local Indian restaurant.
That’s a pretty bold assertion. I know. But I also know how to cook Indian restaurant style chicken tikka masala. And I actually like this version better. I’ve left the cream out of this version. Used coconut milk instead. And that is a big difference.
Cream blunts all the nuanced flavours. Just doesn’t work for me. Maybe that’s a bit of restaurant chicken tikka masala heresy. Maybe I’m a heretic. I don’t care about rules. But I care about tasty. This is tasty.
Building flavours. That’s what this is about. Grill tandoori chicken. That’s already huge. Cook the onions well. Bloom the spices in oil. Those are fundamental to any Indian cooking. Ditch the cream. Coconut milk for richness. A bit of sugar and lemon to finish.
Onions are always the key to Indian curries. They need to be cooked well. Really well. This is critical. Fundamental really. And it takes time. Lots of time. Time spent standing over your pot. Restaurants don’t have time. They use pre-cooked curry base to cook to order. That’s their secret.
Nearly restaurant style simplifies restaurant curry base. That’s the secret here. Stick some onions in the microwave. Cook them well. Puree with some oil and water. Do that and it takes minutes to make the curry. Literally minutes. Like they do in restaurants.
The best part of all this is once you figure it out it works with pretty much all restaurant style curries. Madras, jalfrezi, dhansak, dopiaza. They all work.
Nearly restaurant chicken tikka masala is different from a lot of recipes out there. Don’t let that scare you. This is way better than most of them. Take a leap of faith. You will never look back.
This is as close to Indian restaurant chicken tikka masala as you can get without cooking restaurant style.
- 2 cups onions - coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 3 pieces per thigh. or 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 tbsp tandoori masala - you can get this from any Indian grocer.
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp tandoori masala
- 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp tomato paste diluted to the consistency of tomato sauce
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup coconut milk or more - up to 2/3 cup if you want it creamier
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/6 lemon - juiced
- Place the onions in a microwave safe dish and cover loosely. Microwave at 70 percent until the onions are soft and translucent. This takes 10 minutes in my 1100 watt microwave. I can't predict how long it will take in yours...
- Remove the onions from the microwave. Be careful. They will be hot. Let them cool slightly. Place the onions, 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 1 cup of warm water in a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.
Combine the tandoori masala, salt and oil. Stir to combine.
Cut chicken into large bite size pieces. Combine tandoori marinade with the chicken. Toss to coat the chicken and let sit, refrigerated, for one hour or so.
Thread the chicken on skewers (pre-soaked is a good idea if you are using wood). Grill, over medium high heat until just done. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Alternately, you can broil them. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, garam masala, 1 tbsp tandoori masala, kashmiri chili powder, and salt. This is your spice mix.
- Heat 4 tbsp vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat until it shimmers.
- Add the garlic ginger paste and cook until it stops spluttering.
- Turn the heat to medium low. Add the spice mix and stir continuously until it starts to smell really good - around 30-40 seconds. Watch it carefully. If you burn the spices at this point you have to start over.
- Add the diluted tomato paste and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the onion paste and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5-6 minutes. Cover it loosely. It will splatter. If it doesn't your heat is too low. The curry will darken a bit as it cooks.
Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the coconut milk and brown sugar and simmer for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the pre-cooked tandoori chicken and lemon juice. Simmer until the chicken is warmed through - another 2 minutes or so.
Garnish with a bit of cilantro and diced green chili pepper if desired.
You can buy garlic ginger paste but it's easy to make and homemade is way better. Here's an easy recipe for garlic ginger paste. If you cook Indian fairly often it's so worth it to whip up a batch. It will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
If you are a fan of creamy chicken tikka masala add it. It's entirely up to you!