nearly indian restaurant style chicken tikka masala

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.

Leave the cream out for big, bold tastes

I’ve left the cream out of this version. Used coconut milk instead. And that is a big difference.

This chicken tikka masala will make you forget about takeout.

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.

Restaurant style chicken tikka masala with chicken tikka skewers close up/

Chicken tikka masala is about building flavours

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.

A little trick to make restaurant chicken tikka masala at home

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.

That’s 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. Read all about nearly restaurant style cooking here.

This works with any restaurant style curry

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.

Restaurant style chicken tikka masala with chicken tikka skewers.

Want to make another nearly restaurant curry?

Chicken saag curry

Madras chicken curry

Chicken jalfrezi

Restaurant style chicken tikka masala with chicken tikka skewers.
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4.91 from 11 votes

nearly restaurant style chicken tikka masala

This is as close to Indian restaurant chicken tikka masala as you can get without cooking restaurant style.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken tikka masala, restaurant chicken tikka masala, tikka
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Calories 582kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The onion paste

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

quick tandoori chicken skewers

  • 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 kosher salt

chicken tikka masala

  • 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


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 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.

tandoori chicken skewers

  • 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.

chicken tikka masala

  • 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!


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 582kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 42g | Saturated Fat: 30g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 1112mg | Potassium: 773mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 10.6mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 4.8mg

36 thoughts on “nearly indian restaurant style chicken tikka masala”

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, this recipe is simply superb!! Another one of the greats! Will make make again every now and then. Thank you so much!!

  2. 🙂Thanx for response.
    I’ve made several of your curries now since I first posted you. Pleased -to say the least!
    I understand re: you loving your day job. Still…(!) Take care. Barbara☺️

  3. Hi Romain, Barbara here🙂 Can tou let me know what weight 1 cup of onions comes to? btw, give up your day job -& write cookery books instead. I’m Sure you’d make a fortune! Your recipes are pretty darn Good🍛

    • I will try to remember to weight onions when next I have some chopped. My guess is around 4-5 ounces in the meantime.

      Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe someday I’ll do a book but I do love my day job so…

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is outstanding in my opinion. I have made many home-made Tikka Masala but they never seems to taste like restaurant quality. This one is beautiful – definitely a winner!

  5. 5 stars
    recently discovered your site. Excellent!
    Tried this recipe and on the whole it worked for me. I like to make the recipe verbatim, which I did, next time I will adjust to my personal taste, just a little less salt.
    I’m going to try the base using chilli marinated prawn next, I have a sneaky feeling that it will work.
    Sincerely looking forward to trying some more of you culinary delights.
    Thank you

    • Delighted you found me. I see I failed to specify kosher salt in this recipe. My bad. Kosher salt is coarser than table salt so if you go with 2/3 of the recommended amount I think you’ll be about where I like it. Apologies for that. I’ve updated the recipe.

      Chili marinated prawns. I have a sneaky feeling that will be awesome.

  6. 5 stars
    This has become one of my favourites! Add some precooked BBQ chicken pieces and it’s even tastier. Also answering a question from above, I’ve tried adding half a red/green pepper chopped small into the onion mix and then microwaved and it adds extra flavour similar to that of the curry base. Yummy. Thanks Romain. Keep them coming

  7. I absolutely love these recipes. I made this curry last night, my second attempt at restaurant style cooking, and it went down extremely well with everyone and it turned out better than I was expecting it to. This has to be the best Tikka Masala I have ever tasted!

  8. Hi

    I saw some people asking for an option to microwave. The answer is quite simple. Just cook the onions on medium heat in about 4 tbsp oil, sprinkle some salt on top and gently cook for 10-15 minutes until slightly golden at the edges and translucent. Blend as rest of recipe says and voila! Onion paste.

  9. Hi Romain,

    Just discovered this site. I’ve made many curries, the long laborious ones often come out great, the shorter and easier ones, not so much. A way to make delicious Indian curry without spending a whole afternoon in the kitchen is a godsend. That is why I’m so excited about finding this site.

    Problem is, I don’t have the freezer space for containers of curry base,so I immediately started thinking of a cheater base of pressure cooked onions pureed and mixed with roasted tomato paste and spices bloomed in oil. Then I discovered your nearly Indian restaurant technique.

    2 questions:

    is there a reason you do not include the spices and tomato from your curry base in your nearly restaurant technique?

    if using the nearly restaurant technique in your restaurant curry recipes, do you compensate for the lack of flavour in your simpler base?

    I’m willing to experiment, but if you have already done so I would like to hear about the results.

    Thanks for the hard work that you put into your website. Off to make my first batch of kari ayam.

    • Hope you find many, many recipes here.

      I don’t include the spices and tomato from the curry base because I came up with the nearly restaurant technique to simplify the whole process. The spices in the curry base simmer for a long time. To my taste, this cooks out the raw flavour of the spices. In the nearly restaurant style you don’t have the same luxury of time.

      If you compare the nearly restaurant to the restaurant style you will see there is quite a bit more spice (and a larger portion). The tastes in the curry base are really background flavours and quite subtle. The base tastes like vaguely curry flavoured onion soup. It is very, very mild.

      Curry base is a generic recipe. It can’t overpower the end curry. That’s why I don’t ever add the so called “secret” ingredients like carrots, green peppers (capsicum) etc. I don’t want those tastes in every curry I make. I would be really careful about adding any strong flavours if you go the pressure cooker route.

      I have never tried a restaurant style recipe using the nearly restaurant technique directly. Conventional curry base is really thin so if you want to go this route make sure you match consistency (think cream).

      Good luck with your experiments and please do report back.

    • Thank you so much for your response, your explanation makes so much sense. I do not want to limit myself to your nearly restaurant recipes, so I will find a way to make this work. Knowing that I’m going for a vaguely curry flavoured onion soup flavour with consistency of cream is a very clear objective to strive for. Knowing that any spices added need a long cook to lose their raw flavour is solvable.

      I’m now thinking of making a concentrate that can be frozen in ice cube trays and diluted when thawed. This will solve the freezer space problem, and allow me to use all of your curry recipes.

      I will let you know how it goes.

  10. Just made this and it is really good, won’t be going to the takeaway any more, I’ve cooked a few of your curries now and they taste great. So glad I found your app.

  11. Love this so glad I found this site going to have a go tomorrow can’t wait! Do you know any spices I should leave out or can tweek in any way as my partner suffers from ibs

    • Thank you for saying so and I hope you like it. I’m not a nutritionist so I really can’t say what might or might not set things off. Sorry I can’t be more help.

  12. I’m using this tikka masala recipe and have added too much coconut milk. Do you know if there is a way to counteract the coconut taste? Would adding lime juice help or hinder?

    • I don’t know a way except to dilute. . Do you have time to do another onions and spice worth of sauce to dilute it?

    • Thanks for your speedy reply – and your honesty! I’ll make another batch tomorrow. I really appreciate your website and your help 🙂

  13. I make the tandoori marinade for your chicken shashlik recipe, can I add tandoori masala powder to this and use as the marinade for this tikka masala recipe?
    (Absolutely love the shashlik recipe!)

    • Anne, glad you like the shashlik recipe. You can use the tandoori marinade from the shashlik unchanged. No need to add the tandoori masala. Using the tandoori masala is just a shortcut for people that don’t want to do it the more involved way. Using the tandoori marinade will give you better results.

    • I usually use a powdered tandoori masala for the grilled chicken in this dish but Sharwood’s or Patak’s tandoori pastes would do just as well.

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