Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala is an easy and healthy, one-pot pressure cooker recipe for an extremely popular and flavorful Indian curry. Juicy and flavorful chicken in a creamy tomato sauce, and the best part is, you get the same rich taste without using any heavy cream!
Easy One-Pot Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
In this recipe, I took a classic restaurant-style recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala, which requires multiple steps and cooking methods, and made it easier by assembling the whole dish in the same pot. (Only one pot to clean! Yay!)
You don't need any extra accessories to make it, just assemble everything in the Instant Pot and you're good to go.
In this simple recipe, I marinate chicken, brown it, assemble the sauce and cook the chicken in that. Then I puree the sauce, dice the chicken and finish it with herbs and a tough of sweetness. And Chicken Tikka Masala is ready in about 30 minutes (excluding the marination time).
Simply pair it with cumin rice, or store-bought Naan and enjoy this classic in the comfort of your home.
What is Chicken Tikka Masala?
Chicken Tikka Masala, an Indian restaurant favorite, is a north-Indian curry in which tender and juicy, grilled pieces of chicken are simmered in a creamy onion-tomato gravy. It gets its name from the Hindi word 'Tikka', which refers to grilled pieces of meat, and 'Masala' refers to the spiced sauce here.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala Without Cream
In a typical restaurant-style Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, heavy cream is added towards the end to balance the warmth of the spices, and to make this dish rich and creamy.
Since this dish happens to be one of my children's favorite, I wanted to make an everyday, healthier version of it. So, I substituted heavy cream with plain greek yogurt and cashews, and got the same creamy taste without using any heavy cream.
Another reason of not using cream is that I don't always have it on hand. This no-cream recipe works out really well for my family for those times. You will be blown away with the flavors in this dish. Try it, I promise, you won't miss the cream. And the big bonus is, that you won't have to hit the gym after eating this 🙂
Option to add Heavy Cream: If you want to add an extra layer of richness to this curry, and prefer to add heavy cream, add about 1/4 cup after pressure cooking and simmer it for a few minutes.
Chicken Tikka Masala Origin- Is it Indian or British?
Chicken Tikka Masala is the British cousin of the popular Punjabi dish called Butter Chicken. It is said that Chicken Tikka Masala was developed in the 1960s, by the chef and owner of an Indian restaurant, called Shish Mahal, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Story goes that a customer ordered Chicken Tikka, which is chicken cubes marinated in yogurt and spices, put on skewers and grilled.
He sent it back to the kitchen complaining that it was too dry and needed some sauce. So, the restaurant's Bangladeshi chef improvised and made a sauce using a can of tomato soup, Indian spices and heavy cream. He dunk the pieces in the sauce and served it, and it was a hit. And that's how Chicken Tikka Masala was created.
It is hard to find an Indian restaurant across the world, that doesn't have this classic on its menu. And if you find one that doesn't, don't eat there:-)
What is the Difference Between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken
There are some subtle differences between these two show-stoppers of Indian cuisine. You will almost always find both these dishes on the menus of Indian restaurants. There are THREE basic differences between the two:
- Origin: Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in an Indian restaurant, called Shish Mahal, in Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1960s. And Butter Chicken, was invented in an Indian restaurant, called Moti Mahal, in New Delhi, India, in the 1950s.
- Sauce: Tikka Masala sauce is a more robust tomato sauce that is prepared by simmering pureed tomatoes with onions, ginger, garlic, cashews, yogurt, spices, and occasionally, cream. Butter Chicken sauce on the other hand, is a simpler sauce prepared with pureed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, spices and heavy cream.
- Creaminess: Traditionally, yogurt and cashews are used to get the creamy consistency in Chicken Tikka Masala. Some recipes call for heavy cream, but in a very small quantity. On the other hand, Butter Chicken gets its iconic rich and creamy taste by adding fresh heavy whipping cream.
As you see, both dishes have a lot in common, yet have small differences that define their taste. Overall, Butter Chicken is more creamy and sweet, and Chicken Tikka Masala is a bit more spicy and tomatoey. Here's a detailed recipe for Butter Chicken.
Ingredients for Chicken Tikka Masala
Here's what you need to make this mouth-watering dish:
- Chicken: Boneless skinless whole chicken breast or thighs. If using chicken thighs, reduce the cook time to 6 minutes.
- Aromatics: Onion, cut in chunks, Ginger and garlic, crushed or grated
- Cashews: Just a handful of cashews provide creaminess and a subtle sweetness to the gravy. Alternatively, you can use blanched almonds.
- Yogurt: I recommend using full-fat plain greek yogurt here to take advantage of it's natural creaminess. Greek yogurt acts as a great low-calorie substitute for heavy whipping cream in this recipe.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes not only provide taste but also a vibrant color to this curry, which is why it is critical to pick ripe tomatoes. Pick about 3 medium bright red Roma or plum tomatoes. If you cannot find the right kind, one 14oz. can of diced or whole tomatoes is sufficient for this recipe.
- Lime juice: Lime juice is used in the marinade for chicken so fresh is always my first preference. Alternatively, lemon juice can also be used.
- garam masala
- ground coriander
- ground cumin
- kashmiri red chili powder, alternatively use 1 tsp paprika + 1/4 tsp cayenne
- dried fenugreek leaves, they provide an earthy floral finish to the dish, but since there isn't a close enough substitute, skip them if you can't find them.
- ground Cardamom, adds a wonderful aroma to the curry
- Coriander, for garnish
- Honey, Agave or sugar, to add a touch of sweetness, optional though.
How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala in an Instant Pot
Pro Tip for Marination: I start by marinating the chicken, refrigerating it, and then doing the cutting-chopping for this recipe. This allows the chicken to sit in the marinate for an extra 10 minutes or so. If you want to plan ahead, the chicken can be marinated and refrigerated overnight too.
1. Marinate chicken
Combining yogurt, oil, ginger, garlic, spices and lime juice to make the marinade. Toss the chicken in it and coat it well. Refrigerate it anywhere from 30 mins- overnight.
2. Saute Chicken
Turn the instant pot on SAUTE high mode. When the display reads “hot”, add olive oil. Add chicken and cook it for one minute on each side to seal the marinade flavors.
Remove the chicken and keep aside.
3. Prepare Sauce
Add onion, ginger, garlic and cashews, and sauté for 2-3 minute.
Add tomatoes, spices, yogurt and sauté for another minute. Add water and use that to scrape off any brown bits stuck at the bottom of the pot. Cancel Saute.
4. Pressure Cook
Place the chicken back in the pot. Close lid and pressure cook on high pressure, 8 mins for chicken breast, or 6 mins if using thighs, on sealing mode.
5. Release Pressure and Open
Wait 5 minutes for natural pressure release, then release the pressure manually by turning the vent to ‘Venting’ in DUO model, or, press down the pressure valve in ULTRA model. If you're not in a rush, it's ok to let the pressure release naturally too. Open lid after pin has dropped.
6. Blend and Simmer
Remove chicken and dice into bite size pieces.
Using a hand blender, puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. To avoid splashing while pureeing, carefully lift and tilt the pot so the blender head gets fully submerged in the sauce.
Add chicken pieces, dried fenugreek and simmer on saute for 2-3 minutes. Optionally, add a splash of agave, sugar or honey to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, and you’re done!
Optional Step: If you like your curry extra rich and creamy, you can add 3-4 tablespoons of heavy cream and simmer it for a few minutes.
Make a Meal: What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala is best enjoyed with:
- Jeera Rice (Cumin rice): Basmati rice cooked with a subtle flavor and aroma of whole cumin, or Brown Basmati Rice for a whole grain alternative to white rice.
- Cucumber Raita: A cucumber yogurt dip that adds a cooling contrast to the flavors in the curry.
- Aloo Gobi: A mildly spiced side dish made with cauliflower and potatoes.
Making Pot-in-Pot (PIP) Rice with Chicken Tikka Masala
Assemble rice, salt, oil and water in the container. Place the tall trivet in the Instant Pot, and place the rice container on top. Close the lid and pressure cook. That simple!
Stove-Top Recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala
- Marinate the chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes- overnight. If you don't have the time for that, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients and prepare sauce.
- Heat a wide bottom sauce pot on medium-high heat. Add olive oil + butter/ghee. Add chicken and grill it one minute on each side to seal the marinade flavors. Remove chicken and keep aside. (Skip this step if you're skipping the marination process.)
- In the pan, add chopped onion, tomato, ginger and garlic, cashews and sauté for 4-5 minutes.
- Add tomato puree, spices and yogurt, and sauté for a minute. Add water and place the chicken in the sauce. When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Stir a few times to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom. If it looks dry, add a little water and continue cooking.
- Remove chicken and dice it into bite size pieces. Using a hand blender and jar, puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. Add the chicken back along with dried fenugreek. Simmer uncovered for 2-3 minutes. Add agave or a little sugar to balance the flavors.
Commonly Asked Questions for Chicken Tikka Masala
Marination adds to the flavor and tenderizes the chicken in this recipe. But, if you're short on time, you can skip the marination process, and prepare it in under 30 minutes. To compensate, simply add an extra teaspoon of Garam Masala to the sauce. Skip Step 1 and add the diced chicken pieces straight to the sauce and pressure cook.
Skip the chicken and use Paneer, Tofu, or mixed vegetables to make a vegetarian version of this recipe. Here is the detailed recipe for Paneer Tikka Masala.
There are common misconceptions about which cut is ideal for this recipe. You can choose whatever you prefer- chicken breast, thighs, drumsticks. As long as you cook them for the right time, this dish will turn out moist and flavorful. Here are the pressure cooking times for different cuts: Thighs: 6 mins, Whole Breast: 8 mins, Drumsticks: 10 mins, Bite-size pieces: 5 mins.
How to Make this Ahead of Time for a Party
- Prepare the Tikka Masala Sauce ahead of time, blend it and refrigerate it or freeze it. If frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator one day ahead of the party.
- On the day of the party, marinate the chicken for a few hours. You can also do this overnight. Broil it in the oven or air fryer for 8 mins per side. Rest it for 10 mins, cut in bite size pieces.
- To re-heat, transfer curry to an oven safe dish, add grilled chicken pieces and heat in a pre-heated oven at 250F for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, re-heat on stove or in the microwave. Garnish with cilantro
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Pro Tip for Marination: I start by marinating the chicken, refrigerating it, and then doing the cutting-chopping and sautéing for this recipe. This allows the chicken to sit in the marinate for 10 minutes or so. If you want to plan ahead, the chicken can be marinated and refrigerated overnight too.
- Make it in 30-Minutes: You can skip the marination and add an additional teaspoon of garam masala to the sauce and have it ready in half an hour.
- Extra Creamy Curry: You can add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream to make this curry extra rich and creamy.
- Using Chicken Thighs: This curry can be made with Chicken Breast as well as chicken thighs. If using boneless skinless chicken thighs, reduce the pressure cooking time to 6 mins.
- Water Quantity: This recipe has been tested in a 6 qt Instant Pot. If making this in an 8Qt size, increase water quantity to 1 cup. You may have to saute after pressure cooking to reduce the sauce a bit.
- Make Ahead for a Party: Prepare the sauce a few days in advance. On the day of the party, grill chicken, add it to the sauce and simmer for a few minutes in the oven or stove. Checkout detailed instructions above.
- Vegetarian Tikka Masala: Replace chicken with your favorite vegetarian protein, like Paneer or Tofu, and make this curry vegetarian.
- Dairy-free Substitution: Use cashew yogurt or coconut cream instead of greek yogurt.
More Chicken Curry Recipes on the Blog
- Restaurant-Style Butter Chicken: Authentic recipe for a classic Indian curry
- Chicken Korma: Chicken simmered in a coconut milk based curry seasoned with aromatic spices
- Easy Weeknight Butter Chicken with pot-in-pot Saffron Rice: A 30-minute meal with an easier take on butter chicken cooked with saffron infused basmati rice
- Mom's Homestyle Chicken Curry with pot-in-pot Cumin rice: My mom's homestyle, no fuss recipe with comforting flavors, cooked with cumin rice at the same time.
- Chicken Saag/Palak Chicken: A mild and delicious curry, in which chicken is cooked in a seasoned spinach sauce.
- Chicken Vindaloo: Another classic dish in which chicken is cooked in a spice paste made with dried red chilies, vinegar and aromatics.
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala (No-Cream)
MARINADE for chicken:
- 1.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken Breast or Thighs
- 2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoon garlic 2-3 cloves, crushed or grated
- 2 teaspoon ginger 1/2 inch piece, crushed or grated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1.5 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder (or Paprika)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoons coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons lime juice : juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion coarsely chopped/sliced
- 1 tablespoon garlic 3 cloves, crushed or grated
- 1 tablespoon ginger 3/4 inch piece, crushed or grated
- 1/3 cup cashews
- 1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz can), or, 3-4 medium ripe fresh tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1.5 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional, skip for mild curry)
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder 5-6 pods, de-seeded and crushed
- 3 tablespoons plain full-fat greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup water
For Finishing: After Pressure Cooking
- 1 teaspoon Agave (or honey/sugar), adjust as needed
- 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek (Kasoori Methi)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
- Combine all ingredients listed under "Marinade" and toss the chicken in it, till well coated. Refrigerate it while you prepare for the sauce.
- Turn the instant pot on SAUTE high mode. When the display reads "hot", add olive oil. Add chicken and cook it for one minute on each side. By doing this, we seal the marinade flavors. Remove the chicken and keep aside.
- Add onion, ginger, garlic and cashews, and sauté for one minute. Add tomatoes, spices, yogurt and sauté for 30 seconds. Add water and stir. Turn off Saute.
- Place the chicken back in the pot. Close lid and pressure cook on high pressure, 8 mins for chicken breast, or 6 mins if using thighs. If using Instant Pot DUO, Turn vent to SEALING.
- Wait 5 minutes, then release the pressure manually by turning the vent to 'Venting' in DUO model, or, press down the pressure valve in ULTRA model. Open lid after pin has dropped.
- Remove chicken and dice into bite size cubes. Using a hand blender, puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. Add chicken pieces, dried fenugreek and simmer on saute for 2-3 minutes. Add agave or honey to balance the flavors, and you're done!
Optional Step For Extra Creamy Curry
- I usually stop at the previous step, but if you like your Tikka Masala extra creamy, you can always add a 3-4 tablespoons of heavy cream and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Alternative 30-Minute version
- If you are in a rush, you can skip the marination process in Step 1 and add the chicken straight to the sauce and pressure cook. Simply add an extra teaspoon of Garam Masala to the sauce to compensate for the flavors in the marinade.
- Marinate the chicken and refrigerate till you prep for the sauce.
- Heat a wide bottom sauce pot on medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add chicken and grill it one minute on each side. By doing this, we are sealing the marinade flavors. Remove chicken and keep aside. Skip this step if you're skipping the marination process.
- In the pan, add chopped onion, tomato, ginger and garlic, cashews and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add tomato puree, spices and yogurt, and sauté for a minute. Add water and place the chicken in the sauce. When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir a few times to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom. If it looks dry, add a little water and continue cooking.
- Remove chicken and dice it into bite size pieces. Using a hand blender, puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. Add the chicken back along with dried fenugreek. Simmer uncovered for 2-3 minutes. Add agave or a little sugar to balance the flavors.
Notes & Recipe Tips
- Pro Tip for Marination: I start by marinating the chicken, refrigerating it, and then doing the cutting-chopping for this recipe. This allows the chicken to sit in the marinate for 10 minutes or so. If you want to plan ahead, the chicken can be marinated and refrigerated overnight too.
- For an Extra Creamy Curry: You can add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream to make this curry extra rich and creamy.
- This curry can be made with Chicken Breast as well as chicken thighs. If using chicken thighs, reduce the pressure cooking time to 6 mins.
- Estimated Time includes roughly 10 mins for pressure build-up. Cook time = Time to set for pressure cooking.
- This recipe has been tested in a 6 qt Instant Pot. If making this in an 8Qt size, increase water quantity to 1 cup.
- If you are new to the Instant Pot, please read Quick Set-up Guide or Terminology and Commonly Asked Questions to learn more.
- Recipe updated to make it a convenient one-pot recipe, with updated tips and photos.
This recipe was originally posted in 2017, but was updated in 2019 with new photos, helpful information, tips, and step-by-step photos.