Chicken tikka masala is a popular Indian restaurant dish that’s perfect for the slow cooker or pressure cooker. This dairy-free, paleo & whole30 version will have your kitchen smelling amazing.
Updated 2019 with Instant Pot instructions
What is Chicken Tikka Masala?
Let’s break it down literally. We all know what chicken means. Tikka means bits or pieces and masala is a number of spice mixtures ground into a paste or powder for use in Indian cooking. Chicken tikka masala – cut up chicken cooked in a spiced tomato-based, creamy sauce. Notice how I said earlier this was an Indian-restaurant dish and not an Indian dish? While creating this recipe, I learned that chicken tikka masala isn’t a traditional Indian dish from India. The origin of chicken tikka masala is up for debate but the most accepted answer seems to be that it first appeared in the UK. Yup, chicken tikka masala is a British Indian dish. Interesting, huh?
Dairy-Free / Paleo / Whole30 Version of Chicken Tikka Masala
What I love about chicken tikka masala is that it’s a recipe that you can really make your own. No two chicken tikka masalas are the same. This is my version. Traditionally this dish is made by marinating chicken in spices and yogurt. Obviously I did not use yogurt since this version is dairy-free, paleo, and whole30 compliant. For the yogurt substitute, you can use either coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk. I prefer to use coconut cream. Some people will tell you that if you’re using full-fat coconut milk you should only use the white cream at the top only. This is just their personal opinion. You can use just the top cream or shake it up and pour it all in which is what I did in the pics you see here. When the chicken is done cooking it should be so tender that is shreds easily with a fork. Whether or not you shred your chicken or keep it whole is up to you, it won’t make a difference with the taste.
Electric Pressure Cooker Version (Instant Pot)
The pressure cooker version is slightly different in that you saute the seasonings with the onion and garlic. This is done enhance the flavors but also because most pressure cookers have a saute function which makes it easy to do. If you do this, your masala will probably be a darker color, almost like a roux for a gumbo. While I list doing this as instructions for the pressure cooker, it’s technically optional. If you’re short on time or don’t want to bother, dump the spices in with the diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Yes, of course this is not limited to the pressure cooker. You can always saute the vegetables with the seasonings before adding them to the slow cooker.
Other Indian inspired recipes you might enjoy:
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala VIDEO:
- 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes
- 15 ounces coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp garam marsala
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- Dash of pepper
- Handful of fresh cilantro for garnish
- Add all ingredients to the slow cooker. Stir to mix well.
- Cook HIGH 2-4 or LOW 4-6 hours.
- Turn the Instant Pot to saute, LOW temperature. Once hot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Cook a few minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garam masala, paprika, salt, ginger, and pepper. Saute 1 minutes.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes. Deglaze the bottom by of the pressure cooker by scraping and bits off with a wooden spoon. Stir in tomato paste and chicken.
- Close lid and seal valve. Set high pressure and cook 9 minutes. Quick release pressure.
- Stir in coconut milk & serve.
I like to serve this with cauliflower rice to keep it paleo and whole30. Even if you do not have any dietary restrictions, this chicken tikka masala dish is still good. You can serve it the traditional way which is with rice. If I’m going that route, I usually use brown rice. You can use your preferred rice whether it be basmati rice, brown rice, white rice, etc.
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