This Instant Pot chicken tikka masala is my favorite restaurant-style chicken tikka masala but with all the shortcuts! Tender bites of chicken are bathed in a rich, creamy, tomato sauce – honestly the best Instant Pot chicken tikka masala you’ll ever eat. Using techniques inspired by authentic recipes, this Instant Pot version of the Indian favorite is full of flavor but easier than ever to make.
What Makes This the Best Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- This method takes our reader-favorite chicken tikka masala recipe and adapts it for the Instant Pot. I’ll admit, it’s not a typical “set it and forget it” Instant Pot recipe, but it’s significantly more convenient than the stovetop + oven method.
- It’s a smooth, delicate balance of spicy and creamy that you’re going to fall in love with. The caramelization of the aromatics and tomato sauce is an absolute MUST-DO that’ll reward you with a deep, layered, complex richness from your Instant Pot chicken tikka masala.
- This recipe uses healthy, real, whole foods. It’s gluten free and grain free, low carb and keto-friendly. If you’re looking for a Whole30 or paleo option, check out our Whole30 Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala.
Key Ingredients for Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
Garam Masala – This spicy (but not hot) ingredient shows up in both the chicken marinade and the sauce. You really can’t skip it, and I don’t recommend trying to substitute anything for it, either. Garam masala is an incredible blend of spices that is super common in Indian cuisine. The spices are ground and then toasted to really draw out the flavors and aroma.
Fenugreek Leaves – If you have a hard time finding these in your grocery store, you can skip them, but I recommend trying to find them if you can! They taste a little like fennel blended with celery, and they’re important to a number of Indian dishes. If you’ve been leaving these out and then wondering why you just can’t match the flavors you get at a restaurant, that’s why! Fenugreek leaves will make a big difference in your Instant Pot chicken tikka masala.
Yogurt – There’s a little yogurt in the chicken marinade, which tenderizes the chicken and makes it incredibly juicy and not-at-all rubbery. Make sure to use a plain yogurt, without any flavors, otherwise you’ll throw off the taste of the whole recipe. If you’d rather, you can skip the yogurt altogether and just marinate the chicken in the lemon juice and seasonings. It’ll be a little less tender but still great.
- In step 3 of the chicken tikka masala recipe below, be very careful if you’re cooking on Normal Heat. You’ll have to keep a close eye on the mixture at this point, otherwise it will burn. I really recommend cutting back to Low Heat for this step.
- I wasn’t kidding before when I said the caramelization is a must-do. Don’t skip this part! Factor in the extra time (it’s really not much) so you can give this recipe the nurturing it needs to be next-level-amazing.
- Add a little water or chicken broth if you notice your mixture start to dry out or stick, or if you’re getting a burn warning on your Instant Pot. Don’t go overboard – you don’t want to thin the sauce out too much – but a little will be fine. I recommend starting out with just 1 to 2 teaspoons, then adding more as needed. Remember: you can always add, but you can’t subtract!
Other Instant Pot Recipes You Have to Try
- Instant Pot Country Style Ribs
- Instant Pot Orange Chicken
- 50 Low Carb Instant Pot Recipes
- Instant Pot Red Beans and Rice
- Instant Pot Jambalaya
- Japanese Curry in the Instant Pot
- Instant Pot Applesauce
- Instant Pot Chicken Wings
- Dreamy Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
- Instant Pot Jasmine Rice (Under 10 Minutes)
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Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- Medium bowl with lid (or plastic wrap)
- Instant Pot
- Large spoon or silicone spatula
- 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts approximately 2 pounds, diced
For the Marinade
For the Sauce
- ¼ cup butter 4 tablespoons
- 1 medium white onion diced
- 2 serrano chiles minced, see Notes for temperatures
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger grated
- 2 ½ tablespoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 green bell pepper seeds removed, sliced into strips
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves optional but recommended
- salt to taste
- 2 cups heavy cream
To Serve (Optional)
- cilantro chopped
- basmati rice
For the Marinade
- In medium bowl, whisk all ingredients for marinade until combined.
- Add chicken to bowl and toss to coat.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to overnight.
For the Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- Set Instant Pot to Sauté Mode, Normal Heat. Melt butter in Instant Pot.
- Add onion. Cook until softened, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to Low Heat. Add serrano chiles, garlic, and ginger. Cook approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture develops a nice, even, toffee-brown color. Should mixture start to dry out or stick, add water as needed, 1 to 2 teaspoons at a time. If cooking over Normal Heat instead of Low, monitor the mixture closely, or it will burn.
- Once desired color is achieved, add garam masala and paprika. Stir well. Cook 1 to 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Should mixture start to dry out or stick, add water as needed, 1 to 2 teaspoons at a time.
- Add tomato sauce. Stir well.
- Transfer mixture to blender and blend until smooth. See Notes for tips on blending hot liquids.
- Return mixture to Instant Pot and set heat to Normal Heat. Simmer 15 to 25 minutes or until thick and paste-like.
- Add chicken (and its marinade), sliced bell pepper, fenugreek leaves, and salt. Secure lid. Cook on Manual High Pressure for 6 minutes. When time is up, carefully Quick Release.
- Add heavy cream. Stir until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt or fenugreek leaves as necessary.
- Divide into portions. Optional: Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over basmati rice with naan.
- Serrano Chiles: You can adjust the amount of heat in your recipe based on how you use the serrano chiles.
- Mild: Use 1 pepper, seeds removed
- Medium: Use 1 pepper, seeds left in
- Hot: Use 2 peppers, seeds left in
- Tips for Blending Hot Liquids:
- Fill the blender no more than halfway. You may have to blend your ingredients in a few batches.
- After pouring the liquid into the blender, let it sit a few minutes to cool slightly before blending.
- Before blending, remove the center cap from the blender lid and cover the hole with a dish towel instead. This will keep pressure from building up inside the blender. Keep your hand on the lid to hold it down while blending.
- Make it Paleo/Whole30: Check out our Whole30 Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala!
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Cheryl Malik is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind the healthy, flavorful, family friendly recipes at 40 Aprons. She’s been a blogger for 10+ years and is known for her delicious recipes and detailed recipe instructions. Cheryl is a mom of three who lives in Memphis, TN.