Restaurant-Style Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

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Making restaurant-style chicken tikka masala at home is easier than you think. Learn how to make this iconic dish in an Instant Pot or stove-top quickly and effortlessly. You’ll never do takeout again!

Chicken Tikka Masala served in a black bowl with garlic naan

What is chicken tikka masala?

If you never had the opportunity to savor chicken tikka masala, this is how I would describe it for you –

Grilled chicken pieces (tikkas) which are crisp on the outside and succulent on the side are added to a creamy onion-tomato based gravy to make this finger-licking Indian chicken dish. Most Indian chicken curries are on the spicier side but you can make this one as mild as you want without impacting the taste. That’s what makes it such a popular dish worldwide.

Chicken tikka masala origins

Did you know that the favorite Indian curry dish of the UK isn’t completely Indian? 

It is said that – to cater to the British taste buds, an Indian restaurant (Shish Mahal) in Glasgow, Scotland first came up with this dish. They took the classic chicken tikka – a boneless grilled chicken dish and added it to a mildly sweet, creamy and tangy tomato-based curry to create a dish that took the UK with a storm and then spread across the globe.

Then there is the version that chefs around the world put their own spin on the original butter chicken recipe from Moti Mahal and it evolved to what we popularly now call chicken tikka masala. 

Whatever the origin, this dish has found a permanent place in menus of Indian restaurants and our hearts. 

Butter chicken vs chicken tikka masala – what’s the difference?

Some will argue that chicken tikka masala is the same as butter chicken, others will say that there are subtle differences in taste.

As far as I see it, they are different dishes with some similarities. The similarities would be that in both these dishes, marinated chicken is first broiled in the tandoor to get that smokey charred flavor before adding to the gravy.

The difference lies in the gravy. The butter chicken gravy is sweeter and milder, while chicken tikka masala gravy is spicier and more aromatic. Also, butter chicken sauce has a copious amount of butter in its gravy while Tikka masala does not.

What to serve with chicken tikka masala?
Chicken tikka masala is a versatile dish that can be served with a variety of Indian bread as well as rice. It can be a main dish or can be used as a side along with other Indian dishes. It is most often served with naan, roti/chapati, or basmati rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala served in a black bowl with garlic naan dipped in it
Chicken Masala with Naan

How to cook chicken tikka masala 

There are three steps to making Indian chicken tikka masala recipe – 

  1. Making the chicken tikka
  2. Preparing the tikka masala gravy
  3. Combining them together

How to make chicken tikka marinade 

For the marinade, I prefer using mustard oil since it imparts a lovely flavor to the dish. Other oil options include avocado, peanut or olive oil. 

  1. Chop the chicken into 2-inch pieces
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together thick yogurt, ajwain seedsmustard oil, minced garlic, grated ginger, lime juice, Kashmiri red chili powdergaram masalasmoked paprika, and salt.
  3. Place the chicken pieces into the marinade. Mix them in till they are evenly coated.
  4. Set it aside to marinate for 20-30 minutes. 

Steps to make Tandoori Chicken Tikka Marinade depicted in a collage

Grilling Chicken Tikka

An authentic chicken tikka masala recipe calls for grilling the marinated chicken pieces in tandoor (a clay oven). If you don’t own a Tandoor just like I don’t, don’t despair. You can replicate tandoor cooking in 3 ways – Using a grill pan, Mealthy CrispLid or an oven.

For this recipe, I am using a grill pan. To grill the chicken tikka using Mealthy CrispLid, follow this recipe of making tandoori chicken tikka

Grilling using a pan

  1. Add a tablespoon of mustard or avocado oil in a pan kept over high heat on a stovetop.
  2. When the oil heats up, carefully place the chicken in the pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Note: If using mustard oil, let the oil smoke first.
  3. Cook on high heat for a minute – both sides and then reduce the heat to medium-high. 
  4. Let it cook on each side for about 7-8 minutes. Set it aside.
  5. Add more oil if needed for the next batch and repeat the process of cooking each side for 7-8 minutes.

Steps to make Tandoori Chicken Tikka Marinade in a pan depicted in a collage

Making tikka masala sauce

Instructions to make tikka masala using Instant Pot

A collage of images showing how to make chicken tikka masala step by step
Steps to make this easy chicken tikka masala recipe
  1. Select the Instant Pot ‘Saute’ mode and set it on ‘Normal’
  2. Once the oil is hot, add all the spices – let them sizzle for about 10-15 seconds.
  3. Add chopped onions, cashews, green chili (if using), chopped ginger, and garlic. Saute them for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, salt, and Kashmiri chili powder. Mix well. 
  5. The tomatoes will start to release water immediately. Add 1/2 cup of water and mix well.
  6. Scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure there is nothing stuck. Hit cancel and cover the lid. Pressure cook on high for 10 minutes.
  7. Once the cooking cycle is complete, release the pressure immediately by moving the steam valve to the venting position.
  8. Open the lid and give the sauce a quick stir. Remove the bay leaves carefully and discard it.
  9. Use an immersion blender and puree the gravy to a smooth paste. If using a blender, allow the masala sauce to cool down for at least 10 minutes before pureeing it. 
  10.  Add garam masala, honey and fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi) and give it a good stir. Add the chicken tikka pieces and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  11. [Optional step] If you like it extra creamy, add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to this gravy. Mix well.
  12. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice, rotis or naan. 

Stovetop instructions

You don’t need a pressure cooker to make chicken tikka masala. You can it make it over stovetop too.

  1. Follow the same sauteeing process as in Instant Pot.
  2. Instead of pressure cooking, cover the saucepan with a lid and let the onion-tomato gravy cook for about 10-15 minutes. 
  3. The next steps are similar to Instant Pot cooking too – puree the sauce, add the seasonings followed by grilled chicken tikka pieces. 

Variations

  1. Skip heavy cream to cut down on the calories. I don’t use it because cashews add enough creaminess to this dish. To make a nut-free version, skip cashews and use either heavy cream or coconut cream instead. 

Tips

  1. Make sure to chop the chicken thighs into equal-sized pieces for even cooking. 
  2. Use any oil with a high smoke point for making chicken tikkas. I prefer mustard oil for the flavor it imparts to the dish.
  3. Adding smoked paprika helps give that Tandoor-cooked taste to it. Feel free to skip it if you don’t have it.
  4. For best results, marinate the chicken for at least 20-30 minutes. 
  5. Time-saving tip – Marinate the chicken first and then move on to preparing the gravy. This will allow the chicken to absorb the flavors from the marinade. While the gravy is being pressure cooked, pan fry the chicken so that it is ready when the gravy is done cooking. 
  6. Meal prep tip – You can make a big batch of tikka masala sauce and freeze it. Thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator to use. Heat the sauce for about 7-8 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add seasonings such as honey, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and mix it in. Lastly, add the grilled chicken tikka pieces to it. Read this: Tikka masala sauce and it’s many uses.
An overhead shot of chicken tikka masala served in a black plate with garlic naan
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

If you are looking for Indian chicken and seafood recipes that go well with rotis and basmati rice, here are my top favorites – 

  1. Instant Pot Chicken curry – This simple and easy Indian curry chicken recipe is one more reason you’ll love cooking in your Instant Pot. 
  2. Salmon tikka masala  This delicious fish curry combines marinated bite-sized pieces of salmon in a creamy, spiced tikka masala sauce.
  3. Chettinad chicken curry – If you like spicy chicken curries then this fiery, aromatic Chicken Chettinad curry is right up your alley. It is so delicious that you’ll want to lick your plate off!
  4. Chicken Vindaloo – Learn how to make this tangy finger-licking chicken vindaloo curry in an Instant Pot or Stovetop. It is gluten and dairy-free and absolutely delicious! Serve it with warm pav (dinner rolls) for an authentic experience. 
  5. Prawns balchao – Prawns Balchao is a fiery dish that finds its origins in Goa. Prawns are stir-fried first and then added to a pickled curry sauce to create a dish that makes your taste buds tingle and leaves you asking for more.


Got a new Instant Pot? Check out the links below to make the most of your pressure cooker -  

This post was originally published on March 19, 2014, and has been completely updated with text, images including the recipe on January 21, 2020. 

Chicken Tikka Masala served in a black bowl with garlic naan dipped in it

The Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

4.67 from 6 votes
Making chicken tikka masala at home is easier than you think! Learn how to make this iconic dish in an Instant Pot quickly and effortlessly. You'll never do takeout again!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Marination Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8
Diet : Gluten-free, Paleo
Course : Indian
Method: Instant Pot, Stovetop
Cuisine : Main Course

Ingredients
  

For the Marinade

For frying the chicken (if using a pan)

For the gravy

Instructions
 

Preparing the marinade [10 minutes]

  • Chop the chicken into 2-inch pieces.
  • Combine all the ingredients under the marinade section in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the chicken pieces to the marinade and coat them one at a time so that each piece is evenly marinated.
  • Let the chicken sit in the marinade for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Timesaving tip: As the chicken marinates, start preparing the gravy. While the gravy pressure cooks, begin pan-frying the chicken pieces.

Pan-frying Chicken [30 minutes]

  • Add a tablespoon of oil in a pan kept over high heat on a stovetop.
  • When the oil heats up, carefully place the chicken in the pan. Don't overcrowd the pan. Note: If using mustard oil, let the oil smoke first.
  • Cook for a minute on each side and then reduce the heat to medium-high.
  • Let it cook on each side for about 6-8 minutes. Set it aside.
  • Add more oil if needed for the next batch and repeat the process of cooking each side for 6-8 minutes.

Making the gravy [ Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 25 minutes - includes pressure building time]

  • Heat oil in an Instant Pot using the Saute function set at 'Normal' mode.
  • Once the oil is hot, add all the spices - let them sizzle for about 10-15 seconds.
  • Add chopped onions, cashews, green chilies, chopped ginger, and garlic. Saute them for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes along with salt, and Kashmiri chili powder. Mix well.
  • The tomatoes will start to release water immediately.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water and mix well. Deglaze the pot - scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure there is nothing stuck.
  • Hit cancel and cover the lid. Pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  • Once the cooking cycle is complete, release the pressure immediately by moving the steam valve to the venting position.
  • Open the lid and give the sauce a quick stir. Remove the bay leaves carefully and discard it.
  • Use an immersion blender and puree the gravy to a smooth paste. If using a blender, allow the masala sauce to cool down for at least 10 minutes before pureeing it.
  •  Add garam masala, honey and fenugreek leaves (Kasoori methi) to the gravy and give it a good stir.
  • Add the chicken tikka pieces and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Take off heat.
  • [Optional step] If you like it extra creamy, add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to this gravy. Mix well.
  • Serve hot with rice, rotis or naan. 

Notes

Stovetop instructions
You don't need a pressure cooker to make chicken tikka masala. You can it make it over stovetop too.
  1. Follow the same sauteeing process as in Instant Pot.
  2. Instead of pressure cooking, cover the saucepan with a lid and let the onion-tomato gravy cook for about 10-15 minutes. 
  3. The next steps are similar to Instant Pot cooking too - puree the sauce, add the seasonings followed by grilled chicken tikka pieces. 
Variations
  1. Skip heavy cream to cut down on the calories. I don't use it because cashews enough creaminess to this dish. To make a nut-free version, skip cashews and use either heavy cream or coconut cream instead. 
Tips
  1. Make sure to chop the chicken thighs into equal-sized pieces for even cooking. 
  2. Use any oil with a high smoke point for making chicken tikkas. I prefer mustard oil for the flavor it imparts to the dish.
  3. Adding smoked paprika helps give that Tandoor-cooked taste to it. Feel free to skip it if you don’t have it.
  4. For best results, marinate the chicken for at least 20-30 minutes. 
  5. Time-saving tip - Marinate the chicken first and then move on to prepping for the gravy. This will give the chicken to absorb the flavors from the marinade. While the gravy is being pressure cooked, pan fry the chicken so that it is ready when the gravy is done cooking. 
  6. Meal prep tip - You can make a big batch of tikka masala sauce and freeze it. Thaw the sauce overnight in the refrigerator to use. Heat the sauce for about 7-8 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add seasonings such as honey, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and mix it in. Lastly, add the grilled chicken tikka pieces to it.

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Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 416kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 22gFat: 32gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 112mgSodium: 707mgPotassium: 505mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 864IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 42mgIron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

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Keyword : Authentic, Best, easy, Paleo

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My family loved this recipe!! Thank you for sharing. I substituted chicken with de-boned rabbit and it was delicious. My family raved about it!

  2. This was AMAZING!! I can stop looking for new chicken tikka masala recipes now because this will be our go-to recipe! Thank you for sharing Anu

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