Restaurant chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular Indian restaurant dish going. Creamy. A little bit sweet. A little bit savory. It has something going on for everyone.

I think it’s funny that restaurant chicken tikka masala isn’t an Indian dish at all. It was invented in the UK some time in the early 1970s.

Some say chicken tikka masala was invented in Glasgow

The best story around this dish is that it was invented in Glasgow when a bus driver complained that his curry wasn’t saucy enough.

The chef, who was eating tomato soup at the time, tossed some of his soup in the curry and sent it back out to the bus driver. The rest is history.



Piece of chicken tikka masala on a fork.

There’s no tomato soup in this recipe. Please don’t do that. I know there are recipes out there that use tomato soup, garam masala and cream.

That’s Indian spiced cream of tomato soup with chicken. I know that’s how the story goes but it has evolved. Improved. If your local Indian restaurant is still serving something that tastes like soup it’s time to find a new restaurant.

Build flavours for a really tasty chicken tikka masala

It’s a mild curry. One suitable for the most timid palates. You can make restaurant style chicken tikka masala for your kids. Or as a counterpoint to spicier dishes. It’s a crowd pleaser for sure.

Layering flavours is key. The chicken is first cooked in tandoori spice and then finished in a tomato cream sauce. Hints of coconut and almond and a bit of sugar round it out.

This chicken tikka masala is pretty straightforward and follows the Indian restaurant technique exactly. Do yourself a favour and read that post first. There are pictures to help you understand.

Skewers of chicken tikka kebab on a plate from above.


Pre-cook your chicken tikka

You can pre-cook chicken for all restaurant style curries. I do. Adds a bit of flavour to the chicken and keeps the sauce from getting to runny. It is optional in most recipes though.

Not this one. You need tandoori chicken or chicken tikka to start. It’s not hard. Make a runny paste with oil and the tandoori spice. Toss the chicken in to coat. Marinate for as long as you’d like.

I skewer the chicken to make it easier to handle. Makes it easier to make sure every piece cooks evenly. You don’t have to do this. If you do, wear some sort of gloves. Tandoori spice has food colouring in it. It stains like crazy.

You can make this right before you make chicken tikka masala. Or you can cook it ahead of time. Up to a day before. You reheat the chicken in the curry at the end. Like they do in restaurants.

You might want to cook a little extra as well. I can’t help myself. Comes out of the oven and I want some.


Chicken tikka masala in an Indian copper bowl from the front.

Grilling chicken tikka is an option

If you feel like going all out you can grill your chicken tikka. Adds a nice smoky flavour. I do that sometimes. In the summer when I can get to my grill.

Indirect high heat is best. As high as you can get it. Tandoors run around 700 plus degrees Fahrenheit.  So if you can get your grill to 600 F you are getting close. 

Watch it closely. At these temperatures little pieces of chicken can dry out fast. 

If you do grill your chicken tikka do yourself a favour and make lots extra. You will want to nibble. It’s really hard not to.


Chicken tikka masala, tarka dal and parathas table scene from above.

Be ready before you start cooking Indian restaurant style

This is Indian restaurant cooking. It goes fast. Prep your ingredient. Make your curry base and have some heated and ready to go. 

Measure out your ingredients. Put on some old clothes – the curry sputters.

You can make most of the recipes here with just about anything. This is chicken tikka masala. But you can still do what you want. Lamb tikka is really nice as an example…

Try this one if you always order chicken tikka masala in restaurants. Or if you are just getting into learning Indian restaurant cooking. Or if you just want a nice mild but still tasty curry. It’s a great place to start.


Chicken tikka masala in an Indian copper bowl from the front.
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5 from 9 votes

restaurant chicken tikka masala

Restaurant chicken tikka masala is a mild, tangy curry with a hint of coconut and almond.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken tikka masala
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 614kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The chicken

  • 4-5 boneless chicken thighs or two chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp tandoori masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil

Restaurant chicken tikka masala

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp garlic ginger paste - recipe link below
  • 2 tsp Indian restaurant spice mix powder - recipe link below
  • 1 Tbsp tandoori masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste diluted in 2 Tbsp water
  • 15 oz curry base - recipe link below
  • 3 Tbsp coconut powder
  • 1 Tbsp almond flour
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream 35%
  • juice of 1/6 lemon


The chicken

  • Pre-heat your oven to 400F.
  • Combine 2 Tbsp tandoori masala powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil in a bowl that won't stain. Cut the chicken into big bite size pieces and combine with marinade. Let stand briefly.- or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator.
  • Transfer chicken to a sturdy cookie sheet and roast until it reaches an internal temperature of about 165F, about 15 minutes.

Chicken Tikka Masala

  • Combine Indian restaurant spice mix powder, tandoori masala and salt in a small bowl. This is your spice mix.
  • Combine the almond and coconut powder with enough water to get to the texture of coconut milk or heavy cream.
  • Dilute the tomato paste with enough water to get to the consistency of passata.
  • Heat your frying pan (don't use non-stick) briefly over medium heat. Add 3 Tbsp vegetable oil. Use all the oil specified. It's important.
  • When the oil starts to shimmer add the garlic ginger paste. Cook it, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
  • Turn down the heat and add the spice mix. This is the critical step. Stir it constantly for 30 seconds. If it starts to darken lift the pan off the heat. You want the spice mix to cook in the oil but not burn.
  • Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the diluted tomato paste and stir until bubbles form (the oil will likely separate). This takes around 30 seconds to one minute depending on the heat.
  • Add 3 oz of curry base. Stir until bubbles form (little craters really), around 30 seconds. Watch the edges of the pan. The curry can stick here.
  • Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the curry base and let cook until the bubbles form. Turn the heat down to low and add the pre-cooked chicken, coconut almond mixture and sugar.
  • Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don't add water.
  • Add the cream and stir. Mix in the lemon juice, garnish with a bit of chopped fresh coriander if you like and serve.


Tandoori masala powder is available in any Indian grocery.
The recipe for curry base is here.
The recipe for indian restaurant spice mix is here
The recipe for garlic ginger paste is here.
If you haven't read about Indian restaurant technique yet, do that before you start cooking.
Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go.
If you are making multiple curries, have your curry base warming in a pot on the stove. If you are just making one, microwave it to warm it up right before you start cooking.


Serving: 2servings | Calories: 614kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 55g | Saturated Fat: 40g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 1502mg | Potassium: 451mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 715IU | Vitamin C: 3.4mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 3.9mg


Make chicken tikka masala restaurant style that's better than you can buy!

23 thoughts on “restaurant chicken tikka masala

  1. I don’t even want to admit right now that I thought I’d made this before. After reading your recipe, and already knowing that you are THE expert in curry/meat EVERYTHING, I know this is the recipe I’ve got to do to get it right. Recipe by recipe, you are educating the midwest/me haha. Thank you!

    • I’d take a lesson in Kansas City BBQ as a trade any day:-) I’m so glad you are learning from my posts. That’s why I do it!

  2. Wow! This is amazing! I’ve been on a “quest” to duplicate my favorite restaurant chicken tikka masala (Mela in SF), and this is really close! Mela’s has a bit more buttery mouth-feel and a deeper tomato “layer.” But this is the closest I’ve ever come to ANY restaurant tikka masala! AWESOME. AND…thanks for the HOW to cook it. That seems half the challenge!

    I do have a few questions: a.) I couldn’t find “coconut powder” but I did find “coconut flour”. Is that the same thing? I had a difficult time getting the almond/coconut to become a “creamy” consistency….more like oatmeal. b.) do you ever use ghee in this? I was wanting more buttery/fatty taste and c.) is there a way to up the tomato flavor layer?

    These are all novice questions from someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing!!! I just found your website and am loving it! There’s so much more for me to explore here!

    • So glad you found me and delighted you like the recipe. Coconut flour is not the same as coconut powder. Using canned coconut milk would be much closer and take care of your problems with consistency. I use Maggi brand coconut powder. Look for that. You should be able to find it in San Francisco. Down in the Bay for sure…

      You are absolutely right – if you want more buttery use ghee instead of vegetable oil. It will be richer and perhaps the flavours will be a bit muted but the buttery taste will be there for sure. Maybe start half ghee, half oil and go from there.

      If you want more tomato flavour in your chicken tikka masala maybe up the amount of tomato paste? You might be able to get some tips from Mela as well if you ask nicely. I find restaurants usually willing to share if you show a sincere interest…

  3. This sounds great thank you! I’ve tried twice to make chicken tikka masala but had no idea there was a base!! The last time I tried to make tikka masala, it tasted bitter for some reason. Is this because I burnt the spices? Thanks again for this, I will definitely be trying when my new blender arrives!

  4. Thanks for this! Recipe looks brilliant! I’ve tried twice to make this with other recipes, but never knew there was a base! The last time I tried, it tasted very bitter so I’m guessing I must have burnt the spices (I’m very new to the world of Indian cooking). One question, what difference does it make adding things like peppers and carrots to the curry base? Look forward to hearing from you and thanks for the awesome tips! ?

    • Bitter sounds like burnt spices. Be careful at that stage. I find adding peppers and carrots to base tends to make my curries all taste like carrots and peppers. I prefer to keep the base simple and let the individual recipes shine through. Good luck!

  5. Hi, can’t wait to try this chicken tikka masala recipe.
    I am a little confused, the only place I see curry powder is in the Indian restaurant spice mix but for the chicken tikka masala instructions, you say to “mix the curry powder, tandoori masala and salt in a bowl, this is your spice mix”?
    Further on in the instructions it says to add the spice mix,maybe I’m reading it wrong, but could you clarify this for me. Laurence.

    • I’m guessing you are in the UK? If so it’s called tomato puree and comes in tubes or small tins. You don’t make it (although I suppose you could). Rather you buy it.

  6. Hi if I am making this for 4 people do I just double the ingredients and how much coconut milk do I add for 4 as I can’t get coconut powder

    • Doubling these restaurant style curries doesn’t work well unless you have a really big pan and high heat. You need the curry base to caramelize. Best to make it in two batches and keep the first batch warm while you make the second one. If you can’t get the coconut powder I would guess about 1/4 cup of coconut milk per batch would work out.

      • Thank you. I have made the Dopiaza and the madras this week. Amazing. My 30 year search for a decent home made curry is over. X can I also ask is TAndoori masala curry spice mix, the same as tandoori spice mix.

        • So glad to hear they are working out for you! Tandoori masala is the tandoori spice mix from the Indian shops. It says tandoori masala on the container where I am. I’m pretty sure it is the same thing as tandoori spice mix.

  7. As a Brit, my take on the story how Tika Masala evolved was that it was actually in Birmingham in the West Midlands, as this area historically has a very large Indian immigrant population due to industry & as India is a member of the Commonwealth. All restaurant style currys evolved in the U.K. to suit British tastes & taste nothing like authentic curries. In fact Tika Masala doesn’t even exist in India. As Tika Masala is my favourite curry, along with Chicken Bhuna, I’ll give this a go & see how it turns out

    • It’s not just the UK. The British style curry is big in North America. The technique actually adapts pretty well to more authentic spiced curries. I will get around to posting some of my hybrid recipes soon. Hope you like my take on CTM.

  8. This recipe is fantastic! I have adapted it to a vegan version and honestly, it tastes better than a resturant tikka masala!! I thoroughly enjoy the Indian cooking technique and it makes a huge difference to the final result. I also use your recipe for the curry base – I have made others before but yours is by far the simplest, which I think allows each curry’s identity to shine through. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to cook curry like that at home!

    • I’m so glad you like it. And that you get why I keep the curry base simple. Letting each curry shine through is exactly why I don’t like too much flavour in the base.

      Better than restaurant in your own kitchen. That’s so great to hear.

    • You could add a tsp of Kashmiri chili powder to the restaurant spice mix, tandoori masala and salt. That would give it a nice medium hot profile. If you want hotter still use a hot chili powder instead. No guarantees on what that will taste like though.

  9. This is the best tasting curry I’ve ever made! I’ve previously bought lots of books on BIR curries but none turn out as good as this. Bang goes my diet.

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