chicken tikka masala – indian hotel style

There are chicken tikka masala recipes out there that are about garam masala and tomatoes. Or tomato soup. This is not one of those recipes.

This is the other end of the spectrum. Go for gold. Pull out all the stops. If you love chicken tikka masala you need to try this version.

Not everyone wants to go the distance. I get that. For some people tomato soup and garam masala is good enough.

I am not one of those people. If you are not one of those people read on.

Table scene - chicken tikka masala, dal, rice and chapatis.

Chicken tikka masala has humble roots

Indian cuisine is old. It has history. Real history. Truly old world. Timeless. Migrating people. Merging of cultures. Locavores adapting. Absolutely fascinating.

Chicken tikka masala isn’t part of that history. It’s new. Relatively speaking of course. We are talking about a cuisine with a history that goes back millennia. More.

The best story I know is chicken tikka masala was invented in the 1970s. Which is pretty old. But not really. Spoiler alert. It doesn’t even come from India.

Story goes like this. A bus driver goes to his local. Orders his regular. And decides it doesn’t have enough sauce.

So he sends it back. The pivotal moment.

The chef has an ulcer. He’s eating tomato soup. Like anyone with an ulcer would be eating tomato soup. Not my story. Just go with it…

The chef gets annoyed. Somebody is complaining about his masterpiece. And he’s stuck eating canned tomato soup.

He tosses his leftover soup in the guys curry. “That’ll shut this guy up” he’s thinking. A waiter delivers the chefs wrath. And it happens.

Culinary history is made.

Myth? Probably. But it’s a great story. What I really want to know is what curry the bus driver ordered. Anyone know that part of the story?

Chicken tikka masala in a black kauai from the front.

Choice of chicken tikka matters

This dish is about chicken tikka in sauce. Really good sauce. But sauce. So the chicken tikka has to be good.

Use whatever chicken tikka recipe you like. If it’s good enough to stand on it’s own it’s going to be good enough for this recipe.

I’d push you to this version of chicken tikka. But I’m already asking a lot with this particular recipe. I get that maybe that’s over the top. So I’m offering up a simpler version.

A little naga pickle really works in this version. If you can take the heat naga pickle is something you should consider. Such tasty stuff.

Spoon in a kadai full of chicken tikka masala

A little tang is nice

I like that tandoori tang in chicken tikka masala. But I don’t think day-glo red is right for hotel style. This is posh. Day-glo isn’t particularly posh.

So I had to limit the amount of tandoori masala that goes into this recipe. More tandoori masala. More red. A problem.

And the different brands of tandoori masala have wildly differing salt content. Another problem. I changed brands mid recipe development. And it messed everything up.

In the end I gave up. I stopped working on this recipe. And came up with my own tandoori masala.

Problem solved. You can still use commercial blends. You just have to be careful with how much extra salt you add. And be OK with how red your curry winds up.

I took these pictures using a commercial version. I thought I had it. The day I took pictures I tried a new commercial tandoori masala. And it was way too salty.

So if you make your version with the glebekitchen tandoori masala and it’s not the same colour that’s why. You’ll get the colour I wanted to see.

I will take the pictures again. Glebekitchen is supposed to be what you see is what you get. Pictures of my dinner. Always.

But I’ve had a lot of requests for this recipe so I can’t wait. And it was my dinner that night. Before I gave up on commercial masala. Please forgive me. Just this once.

Table scene with chicken tikka masala, dal and rice.

There are two gravies in this one

If you’re new to hotel style cooking it’s a little different from what you might be used to. If you cook restaurant style anyway.

Hotel style is super posh restaurant style. It’s still restaurant cooking. Cooking to order. But it brings a more discipline.

The basic idea is the same. There’s a gravy. It’s the base of the curry. But it’s a completely different gravy.

And in this chicken tikka masala there are two gravies. Yes. Two gravies. Think like a high end restaurant.

The sauces are foundational. Like French cooking. Which is why I love it. This is India meets Cordon Bleu. Like I said. Discipline.

There’s an onion gravy. I call that hotel gravy. It’s where the depth of flavour comes from.

And there’s the makhani gravy. Rich tomato flavour. Tang. A little sweetness. Another layer of flavour.

Not really makhani gravy actually. Tomato gravy. Because you use the version without the butter and cream.

Two gravies. One serious curry.

Chicken tikka masala in a kauai with cream drizzle from above.

Chicken tikka masala – hotel style

This may be the most complicated chicken tikka masala recipe out there. I haven’t looked that hard. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

So I get that this one isn’t for everyone. It’s not for the those with a passing interest. Not for the Campbell’s soup and garam masala crowd.

It is for those that are ready to go the distance. Those that are looking for something special. If that’s you then this one might be what you’re looking for.

Chicken tikka masala in a kauai with cream drizzle from above.
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5 from 16 votes

chicken tikka masala – Indian hotel style

Tender tikka morsels, hotel gravy, makhani gravy, spice and coconut milk come together to make this one serious chicken tikka masala.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken tikka masala, Indian hotel style
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 3 people as part of a larger Indian meal
Calories 753kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


Quick chicken tikka

  • 1 lb chicken thighs boneless, skinless. Each thigh cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 3 tbsp tandoori masala – you want a brand that isn't super heavy on the salt. Or you can make your own. See the link in the notes.
  • 2 tsp kasoor methi
  • 1/4 tsp naga pickle – optional but so tasty if you can stand the heat
  • 1 tsp kosher salt – an extra tsp of kosher salt if you are using the glebekitchen tandoori masala.
  • 3 tbsp neutral oil

The spice mix

  • 2 tsp tandoori masala – same story as above.
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4-2 tsp kashmiri chili powder 1/4 tsp is pretty mild. 2 tsp has a bit of kick. You decide.
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor powder – dried mango powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt – if you use the tandoori masala recipe below (no salt). If you are using a commercial tandoori masala I'd think about cutting it back to 1/2 tsp max and seasoning to taste at the end.

chicken tikka masala

  • 1 cup Indian hotel curry gravy – link below
  • 1/2 cup makhani gravy – without the added butter and cream (link below)
  • 5 tbsp neutral oil – canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • the spice mix from above
  • 2 tsp brown sugar – I'm not crazy about sweet curries so if you like it sweet you can probably add a bit more.
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream – optional. The cream adds richness but also blunts the flavour. Go with what you prefer. I usually leave it out.
  • enough chicken stock to get you to the consistency you want chicken stock is not cubes.


Make your simple chicken tikka

  • Combine the tandoori masala, kasoori methi, salt and oil. Stir to combine. If you like a bit of spice a little naga pickle goes nicely in this mix.
  • Add the chicken thighs. Mix. Use tongs for this. This stuff stains. Badly.
  • Marinate anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.
  • While the chicken marinates, preheat your oven to 400F. Pre-heat a baking pan.
  • Use your tongs to place the chicken onto the pre-heated baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven. Cook for around 6 minutes. Flip each piece and return the baking sheet to the oven. Continue to cook until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160-165F. This should take another 4-8 minutes or so. Really depends on how big your chicken thigh pieces are. When you've hit your target internal temp set the chicken aside.
  • If you can I do recommend using a BBQ. Asian groceries and restaurant supply stores sell these little wire mesh grates. They are awesome for grilling little pieces like tikka. No skewering required.
  • I strongly prefer charcoal over gas. Set yourself up for a direct zone and an indirect zone. Cook the chicken over the indirect zone until you get to an internal temp of about 150F then char the chicken up a bit over the direct zone. Those little Asian grill grates are really nice for this. You can just slide the grate, chicken and all from the indirect zone to the direct zone and back. Super handy. Remove the chicken when you get to 160-165F and set aside.

Make the hotel style chicken tikka masala

  • Make your spice mix. Measure out all the spices, kasoor methi and salt and toss them into a little bowl. It's all going in at once.
  • Pre-heat a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients over medium-low heat. Pick a skillet that has a lid. Add the oil.
  • When the oil starts to shimmer add the garlic ginger paste. Cook, stirring continuously, until it stops sputtering. This part can get a bit messy. Stand back. You want to drive the water out and cook the paste a bit. You don't want it to colour up.
  • Add the spice mix. All of it. Stir to combine and fry for about 30-45 seconds. You want the spices to fry in the oil If it looks dry or it's starting to stick reduce the heat and add more oil. You are blooming spices. This is where the magic happens. If you don't have a really good hood fan your house should smell like an Indian restaurant at this point.
  • Add the hotel gravy and the makhani gravy. Stir to combine. Get the oil worked into the sauce. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the coconut milk and brown sugar and then add the chicken tikka. Cover and simmer until the chicken tikka is warmed through.
  • Add the heavy cream if using.
  • Look at the consistency of the sauce. If you would like it a bit thinner add a bit of chicken stock and stir. You probably won't need any if you are using the heavy cream. Simmer for about a minute.
  • Serve with rice and naan or chapatis. A nice chana masala or tarka dal is always good too.


Do you prep. Make your hotel gravy. Make your makhani gravy. And think about making your own tandoori masala.


Calories: 753kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 69g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Monounsaturated Fat: 27g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 59mg | Sodium: 2084mg | Potassium: 1013mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 2127IU | Vitamin C: 39mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 6mg

29 thoughts on “chicken tikka masala – indian hotel style”

  1. Hi Romain , this may be a random question, but have you / do you work in the hospitality world ?

    I only ask as you know alot of info on the hotel mother sauce/ sauces and usually one would only know these things from learning in the trade…

    The kitchens i worked in also included white gravy and somtimes yellow gravy, i personally think most dished can be done without the last 2 sauces…..

    Keep up the great work !!

    cheers Brad

    • I did work in restaurants while I was in university but never at an Indian restaurant. I learned about hotel style by charming my way into the kitchen at a fancy hotel I was staying at in Bangalore. Once they shared the fundamental concepts the rest just fell into place for me (I am half Bengali so Indian cooking is in my blood). I will eventually add a yellow gravy but white is problematic for me as I am allergic to cashews.

  2. 5 stars
    G’day Chef
    Have had a look at a few of you recipes and tried the curry powder, garam masala and the tandoori masala. All excellent! So I decided to try a bit more. Let’s go the full 9 yards I thought. I have my own little Youtube thing going (not much there yet but more coming), have done what I would call a fair bit of cooking and catering and I also teach cooking to people with disabilities Marinated the chicken without yoghurt so I know the difference between a frypan and a spoon.
    Let’s go Hotel style. And let’s do it Glebe. 🙂
    I made the tandoori masala (again) and I marinated the chicken without yoghurt. Chargrilled the chicken over charcoal. Made the onion gravy and the Makhani sauce. Had it all ready to go for last night when a few family members came over for dinner. Got the Hotel style chicken tikka masala together and served with my own recipe of naan bread and smokey garlic butter. The only thing I changed was adding some capsicum and some lightly caramelized red onion to the masala. It was an absolute hit. Perfectly creamy and loaded with every flavor you want in a tikka masala. Because of visitors, I held back on the heat and added some finely chopped Thai chilli (the little tiny ones) to my plate as a side. I would have liked to add the naga pickle but it will have to wait until next time. The cashew nuts are fantastic. I have had that before in a tikka masala at a restaurant that serves fine dining Indian cuisine. All in all, the recipe was really easy to follow and make. Time consuming but EASY. Not for a beginner but someone with a little experience with cooking and reading recipes can do this. Just take your time.
    Respect to you, chef. I Will definitely try a few other of your recipes.
    Tikka masala is my favourite Indian dish though and I am considering making a video of this for my channel and naturally include your name as a creator.
    Hat off and a big thank you for the best Tikka masala I have tried so far.
    Perry (Perrys kitchen

    • Thank you! Delighted it was a hit. I usually don’t allow links to other content here but you wrote such a detailed and thoughtful comment I just cannot refuse:-)

      Now that you have both gravies made maybe have a look at the hotel style changhezi? I think of it as a chicken tikka masala turned up a couple notches…

  3. I just made this one tonight, and it blew us all away. But so did the restaurant version I made last month.

    It also blows me away how many bad recipes for this dish that are out there! I really feel lucky to have discovered your site – after way too many years of following poor recipes. Thanks Romain!

    • You can scale it up linearly with no problems at all. You’ve already done the hard part by browning the onions so there’s no concern about pan size and heat.

  4. Hi Roman. Love all your work on here. You are amazing! I have tried lots of your recipes, and I have a confession….your hotel sauce gravy goes right through me, almost as I am eating it! It is so rich. So my question is, can I substitute the hotel gravy for the restaurant style gravy (which I find superb), in your chicken tikka masala recipe? Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • That is too bad. Sorry to hear that.

      You could try it but a) the technique is quite different between hotel and restaurant recipes and b) the spicing and other ingredients are going to be different because hotel gravy had a different flavour profile from restaurant gravy. It’s tricky but you could play with it to see where you get…

  5. 5 stars
    Romain I’ve just made another one of these, my wife thinks I’ve got a problem, right up until she’s sitting in front of it! Suddenly it’s all worth it then. I love this recipe, next stop is the vindaloo when I eventually get out to the Indian spice shop and grab a few things rural Ireland doesn’t supply. Just throwing it out there but I still add the almond and lemon like the restaurant style, is it left out on purpose here? I added them after scratching my head for a few minutes wondering had I missed something, I find that they give the curry an extra lift to the next level. We’re all about extra with hotel style so just sharing my two cents

    • Haha. Imagine how my poor wife feels:-). Assuming you are making the makhani gravy with the nuts I find almond powder overkill. That said if it adds something you like then that’s all that matters. Amchoor powder has a tang and stands in for lemon for me but again go with what you (and your wife:-) like best!

    • Just to add, I was using commercial tandoori masala, I’ve since thrown a full box of it in the bin. The difference with your homemade is night and day (cold night vs summer day). I see what you mean about the amchur, it makes a huge difference. Might be worth adding the lemon juice as optional for the unenlightened haha

  6. Thank you so much for this recipe, it’s great. I’ve been trying different recipes for this dish off and on for over a decade and this is by far the best.

    Thank you thank you thank you!

  7. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, I made this last night and wow, was it worth the effort. Actually to be fair, not that much effort – I made the tandoori masala and both gravies in advance so now I have a freezer full of nice things for next time…

    The dish was wonderful – really rich flavour and smooth and creamy, even though I skipped the double cream at the end. I was really impressed with the simple tikka marinade too. I cooked it on the BBQ and it was really good, better than the yoghurt based ones I’ve done in the past. Plus the oil helps prevent any danger of sticking to the grill. I’m going to try your more complicated chicken tikka next time.

    One question – have you found an easy way to cut chicken thighs so that they don’t come off the skewer? I’ve been lazy recently and used chicken breasts as they are easy to cube and skewer, but I used thighs last night and I agree that the taste is better. It’s just a pain to stop them falling off.

    Thanks so much for the recipe – we really enjoyed it.

    • Awesome! That’s the beauty of hotel style (restaurant style as well). Once you have a supply of prepped gravies and spice mixes dinner comes together quickly. Getting started is a bit daunting but once you get into it things become much more manageable!

      Delighted you liked the tikka as well. I’m firmly in the no yoghurt camp thanks to some good advice from a restaurant in Bangalore.

      For thighs on the skewer – I cut the thighs into fairly big and longish chunks. Typically 3 or maybe 4 pieces per thigh. When I skewer I put the skewer through at one end of the piece and fold it so I can get the skewer through a second time. If the pieces are too big for a curry (they never are for me) you can just cut them in half before adding them into the dish.

    • I use double pronged skewers, stops things rotating as well, Weber sells them but you can get generic ones cheaper. A kebab rack or attachment to rotisserie works as well.

  8. 5 stars
    Gotta leave a rating. Give credit where it’s deserved and all that. Made this last night and man, I thought the restaurant-style I’ve been making (also from this blog) was good… This is definitely noticeably elevated. I’m also learning the value of fresh ingredients now too.

    I have to find a better tandoori masala mix (or make the one from the recipe!). The color of mine was decidedly more brown.

    But for anyone out there thinking about this one – dooo iiiit. My wife said she doesn’t like ordering Indian food from restaurants anymore. It always leaves her disappointed after I’ve started making these spicy beasties.

    (Just something I experimented with which I really ended up liking: add about one handful of finely diced potato when making the curry base when adding the tomatoes and ensure it cooks down. Adds a slight dimensional change to the consistency and body of the gravy. Makes the gravy a touch thinker if you like that sort of thing, and carries beeeg flavor!).

    My belly salutes you, sir. Keep up the glorious work! I’m staying tuned for that Parathas recipe! 😀

    • Delighted you liked it and thank you for taking the time to write such wonderful comment. About the colour. I actually think mine is too red. I suspect I have some Kashmiri chili powder that has food colouring in it (some sort of fake). I need to take new pictures with a different Kashmiri chili brand I think…

  9. Hey Romain hope all is well. I have had great success with every one of your recipes I have tried so far even down to cooking a Chicken Madras for my Son and his 10 mates for his bachelor party. Many Thanks. Now my curries are so so much better these days but I still have issues trying to make my own Chappatis which I prefer over Naan they always turn out to dry. Any chance you can touch on different breads in the future..

    • I’m good. Thank you for asking. Hope things are well with you as well!

      I’m working on a paratha recipe (that’s my favourite) but I think it will need a video to really explain it right. It’s coming but I don’t tend to make videos in the summer because they are a lot of work and I have to get my Canadian summer fix in.

      Chapatis I am still a fair ways off but I think a bit of oil in your chapati before you cook it and a good brushing of ghee when it comes off the tawa helps a lot.

      Stacking chapatis as they come off to steam a bit seems to help a bit too but I really don’t have it nailed so…

  10. 5 stars
    You’ve done it again! What a flavour and oh so silky I’m in heaven and the rest of the family love it as well.
    Thank you Romain.
    PS what’s next????

    • Delighted you liked it. This one took me a while.

      Kathi roll is next I think. A little Indian sandwich fun.

  11. I love your recipes! Our local Indian food restaurant was so bad I had to learn how to cook Indian food at home. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you. I always have most of the spices I need on hand (Love Indian food) and make my own blends-small batches, no salt. This is my very favorite curry. Thank you!
    Seriously, do people actually use tomato soup for this? EW!

    • Sad but true. Tomato soup and garam masala…

      Super happy to hear you are enjoying the recipes!

5 from 16 votes (11 ratings without comment)

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