30 minute chicken tikka masala

Chicken tikka masala is a restaurant favourite just about everywhere. And you can make it in 30 minutes. For real.

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. You can let me know what you think.

Curries in 30 minutes

This is part of a series. There’s already a masala chicken curry. A madras. A jalfrezi.

Full disclosure. It’s not a new recipe. I’m redoing a series from 2017. It was called nearly restaurant style back then.

The recipes stay the same. I’m just updating the names. And the text. And the pictures. Pretty much everything other than the recipe.

I’ll be adding some new recipes too. I like this series. Always have. I’m hoping you will too.

The onions are the thing

If you’ve cooked Indian you know. Onions are the thing. And those onions need to be cooked. And that takes time.

There’s no getting around it. Well cooked onions are fundamental. But how you cook your onions isn’t cast in stone.

That’s where this approach is different. Stick some onions in the microwave. Cook them until soft.

Puree with a little oil and water. That’s the magic here. A kitchen hack that really works.

Do that and it takes minutes to make the curry. Literally minutes. Flavours like you get in restaurants. In 30 minutes flat.

Just a little cream for big, bold chicken tikka masala taste

I use very little cream in this version. Lots of coconut milk. But just a hint of cream for richness.

More than a little cream blunts all the nuanced flavours. And that just doesn’t work for me.

Might be restaurant chicken tikka masala heresy. That’s OK. I don’t care about rules. But I do care about tasty. This is tasty.

chicken tikka masala in a kadai from the front

This chicken tikka masala is all about building layers of flavour. I don’t want anything to come in the way of that flavour and my mouth.

BBQ tandoori chicken. Preferably over charcoal. That’s already huge. Layer on tomato. Spice. Coconut milk.

A bit of jaggery or brown sugar. Some lemon to balance it. And a hint of cream for richness. That’s what makes this special.

All tandoori masalas are not created equal

This chicken tikka masala uses quite a bit of tandoori masala. You can make tandoori masala or you can buy it.

If you buy it then you need to pay attention. Some tandoori masalas contain a lot of salt. A lot. A crazy amount in some cases.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself. But it can wreak havoc with this recipe. With any recipe really.

Taste your tandoori masala. If it tastes like salt it’s salty.

Check the ingredient list. Most countries require ingredients be listed in order of quantity from highest to lowest. If salt is number one or number two it’s salty.

Again, that’s not a problem in itself. You just need to be aware. If your tandoori masala is salty leave the salt specified in the recipe out.

Taste at the end. Decide. Does it need more salt? Add a bit at a time. Until it’s just right. You just need to manage it.

Commercial tandoori masalas also contain food colouring. I used a commercial blend for this recipe. So it would look like what you get when you make it.

I think it’s too red. But there’s not much I can do about that.

chicken tikka masala rice and dal from above

30 minute chicken tikka masala with a catch

You can make this dish in 30 minutes. Easy. But only if you make the chicken tikka ahead of time.

I’m fast in the kitchen. And pretty organized. And there’s no way one person can BBQ chicken tikka and pull this curry together in half an hour.

So don’t try. And don’t expect this to take 30 minutes if you don’t pre-cook your tikka.

Maybe plan for this one tomorrow. And make something grilled tonight. And cook the tikka while you are at it. It will keep a day.

Or make tikka and freeze it. Do that and you can make this dish any time you want. Just don’t refreeze your chicken. That does bad things to the texture.

Or team up. Put one person on making the tikka. And the other at the stove making the curry. I could make that work in 30 minutes.

Or bite the bullet and realize it’s going to take you 45 minutes. Maybe a bit more.

I suppose I should have called this “30 minute tikka masala as long as you pre-cook your tikka”. That’s a terrible name though. So I just couldn’t do it.

I’m sorry if I’ve led you astray.

The 30 minute technique works with any curry

The best part of all this is once you figure it you can reproduce pretty much everything on the menu. Madras, jalfrezi, dhansak, dopiaza. They all work.

This may not be the most intuitive chicken tikka masala recipe you’ve ever seen. I get that. It’s completely different from pretty much every recipe out there.

Don’t let that scare you. This works. It works well. Take a leap of faith. You will never look back.

Closeup of a spoonful of chicken tikka masala
30 minute chicken tikka masala in a kadai from above.
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4.88 from 16 votes

30 minute chicken tikka masala

Restaurant results in half an hour.
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 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp tandoori masala – see note. Please see note.
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt – about half if you are using table salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste diluted to the consistency of tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar or jaggery if you have it
  • 1/6 lemon – juiced
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream – I use 35 percent milk fat


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

  • Taste your tandoori masala. If it tastes like salt you have a salty product. Leave out the salt specified in this recipe. You can adjust at the end.
  • In a small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, garam masala, 2 tsp tandoori masala, kashmiri chili powder and kosher salt if you are using it. 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. You'll understand what I mean when you do it.
  • 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 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the heavy cream. Stir to combine.
  • Taste for salt. If you've left the salt out it's time to decide if it needs more. I can't help you here. Not until I take over global production of tandoori masala anyway.
  • Grab a spoonful of the sauce. Look at it. If it seems a little thick add a bit of water. Maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons. Stir and warm it through. Your goal is the lush restaurant gravy texture you know and love.
  • Garnish with a bit of cilantro or fried shallots if desired. Drizzle a little more cream overtop if you want "the look". Enjoy!


All tandoori masalas are not created equal. Some are well balanced. Some have lots of salt. I don’t know what brand you have and you probably can’t buy the brand I use unless you live in Canada.
Taste your tandoori masala. If it tastes like salt it’s salty. If salt is in the top 2 ingredients it’s really salty. If it’s salty leave the salt in this recipe out until the end.
Once you’ve stirred in the cream taste a bit of the sauce. If the flavours don’t explode in your mouth it probably needs a little more salt. Creep up on it. Nothing ruins a dish like too much salt…


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

42 thoughts on “30 minute chicken tikka masala”

  1. Just cooked this enjoyed cooking the recipe. Thank you for the cooking temperature support, I didn’t read the recipe properly adding the oil & water to the onions prior to microwaving not after, worked ok. My sauce wasn’t as dark as yours but great tip on the salt, yes I added it at the end. Keep them coming Fantastic!

    • Glad you enjoyed it. The onions might have been a little less done after microwaving as your microwave would have had to heat up the water and oil in addition to the onions.

  2. Looks delicious, the chicken is marinating right now and… It started raining… So barbecue is now out, is it possible to grill the chicken in the oven instead ? If so, what would you recommend ?

    Thanks !

    • Absolutely although probably a little late. I usually run my oven at 400F and put the chicken on a cookie sheet or a rack in a sheet pan if I feel like doing dishes. Flip them after about 5 minutes and cook to your target internal temperature. If you want a bit of char you can hit it with your broiler (grill to you I suspect) for a couple of minutes at the end.

  3. 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!!

  4. 🙂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☺️

  5. 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…

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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 🙂

  15. 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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