chicken masala – nearly indian restaurant style

Chicken masala is big on homestyle chicken curry flavours. But with that wonderful Indian restaurant gravy. Homestyle meets restaurant cooking.

Chicken masala is what would happen if your local Indian chef decided they wanted their childhood fave. But made it restaurant style. Tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, chilis and spice all wrapped up in a lush, delicious sauce.

Chicken masala is not tikka masala

You probably already figured this out. But I want to be clear. This has nothing to do with chicken tikka masala. Nothing. Except maybe it’s a chicken curry.

There’s no tandoori chicken. There’s no cream. It’s not red. No coconut. Not the same thing at all. So now you know. Don’t say you weren’t warned. 

This is a classic Indian chicken curry. No exotic ingredients. Straight forward. Simple spices. You can probably get everything in this curry at your local supermarket. 

Except maybe the green chilies. But you could substitute jalapeños if you have to. I don’t think it would be all that different. Go with smaller pieces. And use less. Jalapeños have a bit more bite.


Bowl of chicken masala from above.


This chicken masala was inspired by homestyle cooking

I got the idea for this dish from an old classic Indian cookbook by Julie Sahni. Her chicken masala ingredient list isn’t a whole lot different than this one. Except the green chilies. That’s all glebe kitchen.

There’s a lot more cilantro than the original as well. I wanted something bright against the sauce. Something to really wake up the taste buds. But I didn’t want to stray too far from the original. Cilantro fixed it up nicely.

What changes is how the ingredients come together. Makes the dish completely different. Chicken masala – done restaurant style. You can read more about the techniques in this nearly restaurant style primer.


Spoonful of chicken masala over bowl of curry.


They could serve you this in an Indian restaurant

Indian restaurants serve curries that you just don’t see at home. That’s why you can’t ever seem to make what they serve. Almost all the recipes you see are home cooking. Indian home cooking is amazing stuff. 

But it’s not what you get in restaurants. They approach it in a way that lets them cook curries to order. In 10 minutes. Nobody would wait an hour for a curry. So they adapted. 

Full blown Indian restaurant cooking takes a lot of prep. The curry itself takes 10 minutes to cook. But you have to make this magic stuff called curry base. Or base gravy.

Whatever you call it, it is the Indian restaurant kitchen’s secret weapon. There are a ton of recipes based on it on this blog. Not a big deal really. Make it and freeze it. Always ready to go. Or you can go nearly Indian restaurant style.


Moody overhead shot of onion paste and chicken masala spices.


Onion paste is the other secret weapon

You can make a very tasty Indian restaurant style curry without curry base. Some restaurant style purists are probably jumping up and down fuming at that statement. But it’s true. Not quite perfect maybe. But very, very close.

Onion paste is my answer to curry base. Instant curry base. Microwave curry base. I’m pretty sure this is a glebe kitchen original. 

It’s basically the same thing. Curry base has a few more flavours built in. That’s true. But at the core curry base is just a lot of boiled onions. Onion paste is just a lot of microwaved onions.

And you can make onion paste for one curry. In around 15 minutes. Easy. And it works. 


Bowl of chicken masala on a white napkin on a plate from above.


Nearly Indian restaurant chicken masala

This is a simple curry. Straight forward flavours. Long on taste. Nearly restaurant style chicken masala is what you get when you take a family dinner classic and apply some restaurant technique.

This isn’t the flashiest curry on this blog. It isn’t that well known. But it is worth trying. Sometimes simple is a good thing…


Chicken masala in a bowl from the front.
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4.80 from 10 votes

chicken masala - nearly restaurant style

Chicken masala is a classic homestyle curry made like they would serve it in a restaurant
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken masala
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 444kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The onion paste

  • 2 cups onions - coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

chicken masala

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 3 pieces per thigh.
  • 1 tsp indian restaurant mix powder - see notes
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp mild kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi - dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt - use a bit less if you are using table salt
  • 2 inch piece of cinnamon bark - also called cassia bark
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste - see notes
  • 2-3 green chilies cut into large pieces
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste plus enough water to dilute it to the consistency of tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes - diced
  • 2-3 tbsp cilantro - coarsely chopped


The onion paste

  • Place the onions in a microwave safe dish and cover loosely. Microwave at 70 percent until the onions are soft and translucent. This takes about 10 minutes in an 1100 watt microwave oven.
  • Remove the onions from the microwave. Be careful. They will be hot. Like burn you with the steam 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.

chicken masala

  • In a small bowl, combine the indian restaurant mix powder, turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, cumin, kasoor methi and salt. This is your spice mix. It goes in after the garlic ginger paste.
  • Heat 4 tbsp vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat until it shimmers.
  • Toss in the cinnamon bark and green cardamom. Let cook about 20 seconds. You will see little bubbles forming around the bark.
  • Add the garlic ginger paste and green chilies. Cook until the garlic ginger paste stops spluttering.
  • Turn the heat to medium low. Add the spice mix. That's the mix you made above and put in the small bowl - not just the Indian restaurant spice mix. Stir continuously until it starts to smell really good. This takes around 30-40 seconds. Watch it carefully. If you burn the spices at this point you have to start over. This is called blooming the spices. It is one of the secrets to Indian cooking.
  • Add the diluted tomato paste and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add half the onion paste and turn the heat up to medium high. Stir to combine. Cook for about a minute. Add the rest of the onion paste and stir again. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes. Don't worry if it looks dry. The chicken will release juices as it cooks. Instant delicious.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the chicken and stir. Cover and simmer until the chicken is done. It's done when you measure the internal temperature and it says 170F, about 12-15 minutes. An instant read thermometer is a handy thing to have here...
  • If the curry is a bit thick add a bit of water or chicken stock and stir. Add the diced tomatoes and cilantro. Let the chicken masala simmer another minute or so. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
  • Garnish with a bit more cilantro if desired.


The recipe for Indian restaurant spice mix can be found here.
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.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 444kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 893mg | Potassium: 703mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 465IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 3.2mg

15 thoughts on “chicken masala – nearly indian restaurant style”

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Romain
    Loving this style, so quick, tasty and effective!!
    Mine was a very light colour though, due to the onion paste I think. Next time I will use more heat, add the paste in say 3 batches and try to brown it and lose the water content…… ie. The Maillard effect? Or do you think this will overcook the paste?

    • Delighted to hear you are enjoying it. I would start with adding it in two batches as described in the recipe but trying a little more heat. Think frying the onion paste in oil. That’s what is going on in the pan.

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe was simply awesome. I have been trying for years to find a curry recipe that I could cook at home and then actually want to cook again. I was never able to make the ‘Base Gravy’ approach work and I have tried many of them (perhaps I am too timid with the heat). Really feel that this is a great approach to make a lot of different styles of curry. Love your writing style too.

    • That’s great to hear. Delighted that it worked out for you. Nearly restaurant style works with just about anything you want to make. And thank you for the kind words about my writing. I have a lot of fun with this blog:-).

  3. Hi Romain and thanks for the great recipes. Your Rogan Josh was spectacular and I’m moving on to this masala next- today even! Following on from your answer to Andy, I wanted to ask you: does this recipe become ‘Restaurant-Style” if I substitute the onion base with my already-prepared base gravy?

    • Not quite. The technique is what makes restaurant style restaurant style. There’s a lot of onion paste here cooked for a lot longer than you would in true restaurant style (with the small batches of base gravy fried in lots of oil at high temp). The onion paste is much thicker than base gravy and the chicken adds liquid to the mix so it’s a bit different.

      You would just need to make sure that you add enough base to balance against the spice because there is obviously a lot more spice in the nearly restaurant recipes. And you would need to balance that with the liquid the chicken throws. I think it comes down to feel when trying to move from one technique to the other. But in the end I think it would work out OK.

    • Many thanks for your quick reply- managed to make 2 pots of garlic/ginger paste during the wait. Won’t be using chicken (we’re veggies now!), however I think I think I’ll switch to having a go at making veg versions of one of either your Baingan Masala or Tikka Masala recipes. Keep up the good work…

      btw – a nice tip for the chicken tikka marinade if you’re interested (it was my main party piece when I ate chicken)… Instead of using food colouring to get the restaurant look, I used to whack a shrink-wrapped packet of beetroots with a rolling pin, stab a hole in the side, and squeeze-squirt the juice in to stain the marinated chicken- it’s mild flavour doesn’t detract from the end result. Same as you I grilled (hot as poss about 7 mins-ish both sides) + didn’t use yoghurt, but did use Groundnut Oil, also adding a diced onion, almond powder, a squirt of lemon or lime juice, salt, and garlic/ginger paste.

      God I miss that.


  4. Hi
    I saw your article about ‘curry base’. Looked good, so I made a batch and froze it in individual containers. Now I want to make a curry using the curry base but all your recipes appear to not use that. What am I missing?

    • There are three types of Indian recipes on glebe kitchen. There are traditional recipes done as they have always been done. There are nearly restaurant recipes (like this one) that use a hybrid technique. And there are full blown restaurant recipes that use the curry base. The full blown recipes are all identified as “restaurant style” and not “nearly restaurant style”. Look for those.

  5. 5 stars
    Tried this for first time and it was fabulous. Quick and easy to make. A big hit in my house. Will definitely make it again. 10 out of 10. Love all your recipes

  6. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe, much easier to make than boiling curry base for hours. I chucked in some red pepper and peas as well. Many thanks!

    • Great to hear! There are a few nearly restaurant style recipes on glebe kitchen and more coming.

  7. 5 stars
    Five stars as always, thanks Romain another super quick and super tasty curry. Love these nearly Indian restaurant curries!


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