Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala (No Cream)

February 28, 2019 (Updated: May 11, 2019) By Aneesha |

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Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala,  an easy and healthy, one-pot pressure cooker recipe for this extremely popular and flavorful Indian curry.  And the best part is, you get the same rich and creamy taste without using any heavy cream!

Tender juicy chicken tossed in tikka masala curry, served with rice and naan in a black bowl

What is Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is a north-Indian curry that gets its name from the Hindi word ‘Tikka’, which refers to grilled pieces of meat. In this curry, tender and juicy, grilled pieces of chicken are cooked in a rich and creamy tomato gravy.

Diced cubes of chicken tossed in tikka masala curry, served over cumin rice

Easy One-Pot Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

I took a classic Indian 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. You don’t need any extra accessories to make it, just assemble everything in the Instant Pot and you’re good to go.

Ingredients needed for making Chicken Tikka Masala in Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
Ingredients for One-Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

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 dishes, I wanted to make an everyday, healthier and lower calorie version of it. So, I substituted heavy cream with greek yogurt and cashews, and got the same creamy taste without using any heavy cream.

Another reason is that I don’t have that many recipes which use heavy cream. So, unless I have some leftover in the fridge, I rarely want to buy it for one dish, especially since I would end up using only a 1/4 cup for this recipe. This no-cream recipe works out really well for my family.

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 🙂

Adding cream in this recipe: If you want to add heavy cream to this recipe, who am I to stop you 🙂 About 1/4 of a cup should be good for this quantity. Simmer for a few minutes after adding heavy cream and you’re good to go.

Scooping some yummy chicken tikka masala with garlic naan

Chicken Tikka Masala Origin

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:-)

A bowl with chicken tikka masala served ver rice, along with garlic naan

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.

Two Myths about Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken

I come across these two misconceptions quite often. First, that one preparation uses boneless chicken and the other uses bone-in. Second, that one uses chicken breast and the other uses chicken thighs. These are all personal preferences and don’t make a difference to either recipe.

Both these recipes are so full of flavor, that whatever cut of chicken you make it with, you will be licking your fingers clean 😉

Recipe for Restaurant-Style Butter Chicken

How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala in 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 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 while you prepare other ingredients for the sauce. 

Steps showing How to marinate chicken for Chicken Tikka Masala
Marinating the chicken in yogurt and aromatics

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. By doing this, we seal the marinade flavors.  Remove the chicken and keep aside.

Cooking chicken in the Instant Pot for tikka masala
Sautéing chicken on both sides
Removing chicken in a plate
Remove chicken and keep aside

3. Prepare Sauce

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.

Sauteing aromatics and cashews to make chicken tikka masala
Saute aromatics and cashews for the sauce
Sautéing tomatoes, spices with yogurt to make Chicken Tikka Masala sauce
Add yogurt and saute a bit more

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. If using Instant Pot DUO, turn the vent to sealing position.

Cooking chicken on top of the sauce in the Instant pot
Place chicken back in curry and pressure cook

5. Release Pressure and Open

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. 

Pressure cooking in Instant Pot
Pressure cook

6. Blend and Simmer

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!

Removing cooked chicken to dice
Remove chicken and cut into bite size pieces
Pureeing the chicken tikka masala sauce with a hand blender
Blend the sauce
Adding Diced chicken with fenugreek leaves to the tikka masala sauce
Add dry fenugreek and simmer

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.

What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is best enjoyed with Jeera Rice (Cumin rice), or Butter Naan, and Cucumber Raita (Yogurt dip)! You can also serve this Brown Basmati Rice.

Making Pot-in-Pot (PIP) Rice with Chicken Tikka Masala

It is very easy to make rice in the same pot as chicken, using the PIP method. You will need a tall trivet and a separate container for rice.

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!

Skipping Marination in this Recipe

If you’re skipping the marination process, you can make this dish in under 30 minutes, from start to finish. Simply add an extra teaspoon of Garam Masala to the sauce to compensate for the flavors in the marinade. Skip Step 1 and add the diced chicken pieces straight to the sauce and pressure cook the same way.

I have made this recipe many times in my Hawkins pressure cooker, as well as on the stove-top.  Check out the Notes section for details on that.

How to Make Vegetarian Tikka Masala

You can 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.

Stove-Top Recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala

✅ Marinate the chicken and refrigerate for 15 minutes- overnight. If you don’t have the time for that, leave it till you prep the 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. 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, green chili, 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.

Chicken Tikka Masala served over rice in a black bowl

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Diced cubes of chicken tossed in tikka masala curry, served over cumin rice

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala (No-Cream)

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala! A quick and healthy, one-pot pressure cooker recipe for this extremely popular Indian curry.  And the best part is, you get the same rich and creamy taste without using any heavy cream.
4.6 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
NPR: 5 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 236kcal
Author: Spice Cravings

Ingredients

MARINADE for chicken:

SAUCE:

After Pressure Cooking

  • 1 teaspoon Agave (or honey/sugar), adjust as needed
  • 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek (Kasoori Methi)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish

Instructions

  • Marinate:  Combine all ingredients listed under “Marinade” and toss the chicken in it, till well coated. Refrigerate it while you prepare for the sauce.  
  • 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. By doing this, we seal the marinade flavors.  Remove the chicken and keep aside.
  • Prepare Sauce: 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.
  • 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. If using Instant Pot DUO, Turn vent to SEALING. 
  • NPR 5, then QR: 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. 
  • Blend and Simmer: 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.

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.

STOVE-TOP Method

  • 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, green chili, 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. 

Video

Notes

  • 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.
  • Extra Creamy Curry: You can add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream to make this curry extra rich and creamy
  • 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 my FAQ on Instant Pot Terminology and Accessories to learn more.
  • Recipe updated to make it a convenient one-pot recipe
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 1012mg | Potassium: 673mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 650IU | Vitamin C: 10.5mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2.2mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Chicken Breast, chicken thigh, creamless
Did you try this recipe?Mention @SpiceCravings or tag #spicecravings!

This recipe was originally posted in 2017, but was updated in 2019 with new photos, helpful information, tips, and step-by-step photos.

HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Sofia m
    September 22, 2019 at 11:42 am

    5 stars
    Yes! Finally a great tasting CTM without heavy cream. Really enjoyed it and making it again for a potluck. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      September 22, 2019 at 12:46 pm

      Super! Thanks Sofia, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I love the fact that I can make it more often and not have to worry about calories 🙂 Thanks for rating the recipe!

  • Reply
    Katie
    August 25, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    This was really tasty, but to me it tasted nothing like Chicken Tikka Masala. Maybe it was because I used fresh tomatoes which is what I had available. I am not sure if I did something wrong…don’t get me wrong though, it is still delicious.

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      August 26, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      Hi Katie, sorry it didn’t taste as expected for you. I agree with you that it’s the tomatoes, especially since this recipe has been made/tested multiple times by me and many readers. Tomatoes make or break this dish and fresh tomatoes have many variables in terms of taste, ripeness, seeds, juiciness etc., which is why I rely on the consistent texture, color and taste of canned tomatoes. I would request you to try it one more time using canned tomatoes instead, I’m sure you’ll see and taste the difference. I hope this helped!

  • Reply
    LINDA WASSERMAN
    June 14, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    5 stars
    The end result is delicious. However, in the recipe instructions you say to “add water” but nowhere does it say how much water. I used 1 cup water; what is the correct amount? Another question; should the can of diced tomatoes be drained? Please send the answers to my email address. Thanks, Linda Wasserman

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      June 15, 2019 at 6:20 am

      Hi Linda, thank you, I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe! As for water, the recipe instructions for ‘sauce’ mention the 1/2 cup of water. Please take a look at the recipe card again and you’ll see it. As for the diced tomatoes, no draining required. Hope this helps! And thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  • Reply
    Sam
    May 23, 2019 at 10:57 am

    5 stars
    Made this last night- unbelievable! Thanks for a recipe without heavy cream!

    • Reply
      Aneesha
      May 23, 2019 at 11:44 am

      Hey Sam, thank you for trying this recipe, I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much! I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

  • Reply
    Sprinkles
    May 11, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Looks like a great dish. Question is relayed to the water you mention in the Notes section. I do have an 8QT IP. O see no wayer listed in the ingredients list so should one add the 1 c water for the 8QT in with the sauce ingredients? Thanks.

    • Reply
      Aneesha | Spice Cravings
      May 11, 2019 at 10:19 pm

      Hi Sprinkles, Thanks for pointing that out, somehow I missed listing water in the ingredient list even though I have mentioned it in the video and main content. I updated the recipe now. Yes, you add water with the sauce ingredients. Once it’s done, if the sauce is thin you can simmer it on saute and reduce it to your preference. Hope you love it!

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