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!
Chicken Tikka Masala is a north-Indian curry, in which tender and juicy, grilled pieces of chicken are cooked in a spiced creamy tomato gravy.
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.
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 this dish. 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. 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 🙂
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:-)
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 fresh 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: 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.
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
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!
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.
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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
After Pressure Cooking
- 1 teaspoon Agave (or honey/sugar), adjust as needed
- 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek (Kasoori Methi)
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro for garnish
- 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.
- 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, 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.