Chicken Tikka Masala. Is there a better-known curry house dish? I think not! Legend has it a Brit in an Indian restaurant sent back his dry spiced chicken asking for some “gravy” and the chef improvised, coming up with a creamy tomato sauce to coat the tikka – tikka referring little pieces of meat.

It may be an Anglo-Indian hybrid dish rather than anything more authentically Indian but by ‘eck petal, is it bloomin’ good to eat!

I can’t recall what the first dish was I ever had in an Indian restaurant but 6 years of living in South East London during my first spell at university to fuel the flames of my addiction to all food Indian, I had more than my fair share of Chicken Tikka Masala.

The thing is, as, with all takeaways, the menu often reads better than the food eats. All too often the sauce seems to be 3 parts cream to 1 part ketchup with a few spices waved over the top for good measure.

Disappointing in the extreme.

When you get a good one though, oh my is it sublime – the chicken will be marinated in a well-balanced yogurt based spice mix and cooked in the ferocious heat of a tandoor.

The edges will be blackened and there will be a hint of charcoal to the flavour which is pretty special by itself. The sauce is cooked separately and whilst being creamy, a good one will have bags of flavour and not completely drown the chicken. Decadent and rich but with just the right amount of chilli to prevent it becoming sickly.

Proper chicken tikka masala, restaurant quality but made at home

The recipe I am bringing you today is practically perfect as it delivers on all those criteria. I stumbled upon it on this blog and Amy’s description had me running to the kitchen to recreate it. Oh, my days was it sublime! Cue me sending sauce-stained selfies to Hungry Hubby after greedily tucking into an indecently large portion.

Further digging revealed the original recipe had been updated to contain methi (powdered fenugreek leaves) and I have to say, it does give this Chicken Tikka Masala that special summin’ summin’ that good takeaways pull off. It might be a bit pong-wiffy and linger when you cook with it but it’s worth having to air the house out to get the perfect flavour.

I tweaked the rest of the spices a little and have Anglicised the recipe by using canned tomatoes and single cream, as well as upping the amount of chicken so there is no danger of having had a bowl of sauce with two bits of chicken in (another unforgivable curry house sin!).

5 from 2 votes
Proper chicken tikka masala, restaurant quality but made at home
Chicken Tikka Masala

A British curry house classic all Indian food lovers need to try. It's rich and indulgent but so much better for you made at home. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 6 people
: 458 kcal
Author: Just Jo
  • 750 g chicken thigh fillets (skinless and boneless, cut into 1 inch pieces)
For the marinade:
  • 100 g Greek yogurt (a scant half cup will do)
  • 1/2 a lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (I use Kashmiri and mine is hot!)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp dried methi leaves or methi powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
For the sauce:
  • 1 tbsp butter (plus a little trickle of olive oil)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red or green chilli, minced (short squat ones unless you like the fire of Indian finger chillies)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried methi leaves or methi powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Small bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (approx 400g)
  • 250 ml single cream
  • 4 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1/2 a lemon, juiced
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together then add in the chicken and mix well. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour - if doing it overnight, don't add the lemon juice until you are ready to cook. 

  2. Preheat the grill to high and cover the grill pan with foil. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer, discarding excess marinade and cook close to the grill for 5 minutes a side or until the very edges start to catch and crispen up. 

  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan then add in the garlic. Add in all of the dried spices and stir well until you can smell their fragrance and then stir in the tomato purée and canned tomatoes with a little splash of water if needed. Cover and cook on low-medium heat for 10 minutes before stirring in the single cream. 

  4. Add in the cooked chicken and cook until the chicken is piping hot once again. Stir in as much fresh coriander as you like before serving with roti, naan or rice as liked. 

Recipe Notes

I always, always start curries off by measuring out the spices into small bowls so that I can quickly add them before any garlic (or onion) can burn. 

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