Prep-Ahead Restaurant Style Tikka Masala

Guys, GUYS, GET EXCITED!! Are you ready? We are going to make the best darn tikka masala you have ever had. Seriously. When you first make this recipe you’ll be wanting to make it every night for dinner, and it’s so easy you will.

You ain’t got time for this? Skip to the recipe.

I’ve tried many recipes, pastes, prepared sauces and even frozen dinners trying to get my tikka masala fix. We love going to this local Indian restaurant, but their dinner is very expensive and we almost never eat out for lunch to go to their cheap buffet. Plus, sometimes I just want to use my hands and feel like the three-year-old I used to be. I want to connect with my masala in the most primal way possible and it really kills my whole vibe to look up from my food as I’m elbow deep in masala to see the family across the way giving me horrified looks. Because of this, I prefer to enjoy tikka masala in the safety and comfort of my own home. If I enjoy masala in my own home, I can also make gluten-free (GF) naan to go with it!

Indian curry recipe naan

If you would like to make GF naan too, I highly recommend Gluten-Free on a Shoestring’s recipe. It is pretty easy (compared to other GF recipes), it doesn’t take a lot of prep, and it is hard to mess up. Baking GF is a science, so be sure to follow Nicole’s recipe very diligently and don’t add or substitute willy-nilly. So pop on over to her blog and show her some love!

If you don’t want to make your own naan, don’t worry, your curry won’t be incomplete without it. I couldn’t find any GF options available to purchase online or in-store, so if you know a brand that makes GF naan let us know in the comments.

This recipe is adapted from Pinch of Yum. I hate when cooking takes forever and Lindsay’s recipe was the first that had a small prep-ahead step that shortened the cook time considerably. On the first day (or a few days before) you want to eat this dish, you will create a masala paste. This will give you 5-7 total tikka masala meals that will feed 4-6 people each. After that, you just need 5 ingredients and 30 minutes!

Indian curry recipe naan

I kept Lindsay’s masala paste recipe the same (why mess with perfection?), but added cream and sugar to the actual masala and doubled the amount of paste used per dish. If you want a lighter version, I recommend using the original recipe (it’s pretty great). If you want the velvety spiced restaurant style tikka masala of your dreams, continue below.


Restaurant Style Tikka Masala

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Perfectly spiced and balanced no-stress recipe, get off your butt and make this right now.

Adapted from: Pinch of Yum


Prep-Ahead Paste

-2 medium onions (one yellow onion, one purple onion)

-5 cloves of garlic

-2-inch piece of fresh ginger

-3 tablespoons grama masala (can be found in the spice aisle, get a good brand as this is very important to the overall flavor of the dish)

-1 tablespoon chili powder

-1 tablespoon turmeric

-1 tablespoon cumin

-1 1/2 teaspoons ground clove

-2 teaspoons salt

-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

-a small handful of cilantro stems (save the leaves to garnish)

-a handful of almonds (~1/4 cup)

-juice of one lemon

Tikka Masala

-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed

-1/2 cup masala paste

-1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or greek)

-1 10.75 oz can of tomato puree (use a good brand, makes a big difference)

-1 14oz can coconut milk (not light!)

-4-6oz heavy cream

-1/2-1 tablespoon sugar

-salt to taste

-More garam masala for true spice lovers (spice not spicy, if you want it hot add jalapeno, serrano, more cayenne, red pepper flakes, or habanero – this may change the overall flavor, proceed at your own risk)

-Rice (see below) and cilantro for serving

Traditional Indian Rice

-2 cups rice (I strongly recommend giving jasmine or basmati rice a try as their fragrant flavor is great with this dish)

-1/4 teaspoon ground clove

-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

-1 teaspoon ground cumin

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-Water for rice (Use amount recommended on your package of rice)


Make the paste ahead of time or on the day of:

  1. Prepare all ingredients. Get all your ingredients for the paste out and measured. Chop the onions into large chunks and place all ingredients into a food processor (or a blender but you may need to add a bit of water or chop everything finely by hand).
  2. Process! Run everything through the food processor until very fine (it will still have very small chunks).
  3. Divide and Freeze. Divide the paste into 1/2 cup measurements, seal in zipper storage bags, and place in the freezer (leave one out if immediately moving onto the next step).

Tikka Masala and Rice:

  1. Defrost paste. Take your paste out of the freezer and pop it into a warm bath of water for 5 minutes while you prep the chicken.
  2. Marinate the chicken. Take your cubed and trimmed chicken and place in a zippered storage bag with the yogurt and half the masala paste (1/4 cup). Seal the bag and massage everything together. Let this sit on the counter or in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare rice. Once the chicken has finished marinating, get your rice going. Make your rice as you normally do (on the stove, rice cooker, whatever) but add the spices listed above to the water and rice mixture and begin cooking.
  4. Toast spices. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once your saucepan is heated, place the rest of the paste mixture (1/4 cup) directly into the pot (no oil, we are toasting the spices in a way). If you want it spicy, add your peppers here. Keep the paste moving to prevent burning, and after the spices become fragrant and smell toasted (about two minutes) pop your spiced chicken yogurt mixture right in.
  5. Saute chicken. After adding the chicken, give everything a quick stir to get the paste off the bottom and let the chicken saute until almost fully cooked (3-5 minutes).
  6. Add tomato puree. Once your chicken has browned/cooked, add the full can of tomato puree and let cook for 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add coconut milk. After letting the tomato puree cook for a bit, add the full can of coconut milk and stir. Let this simmer, uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add cream, sugar, and salt. After the mixture has thickened add heavy cream and sugar. Taste your mixture and add more sugar/salt if needed, you can add more garam masala here if you want. If the texture of the sauce is still watery to you, add more cream to get a velvety texture. Let this sit for 1-2 minutes to warm the cream.
  9. Finish rice. When your rice is finished cooking, fluff it to get all the spices incorporated (the spices will float on the top of the water during cooking and will be stuck to the top of the rice after the water has been absorbed).
  10. Serve. Serve on a plate or bowl with rice on one side and tikka masala on the other. Top with chopped cilantro (trust me this part is a game changer), and devour. I also strongly believe this should be enjoyed with a cold glass of mango juice.

Please rate this recipe below and let me know what you think. I am always available to answer any questions, so make sure to comment below! Also, share your pictures with me on Twitter or Instagram (@MollyKamper) I love seeing your creations!

Also, we had a naan sacrifice to the bread monster we share our home with. Can you spot the bread thief sneaking around below?


Sing-off image 3

*I am not affiliated with any of the links or blogs used in this post*


5 thoughts on “Prep-Ahead Restaurant Style Tikka Masala

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