This is the best Instant Pot chicken tikka masala recipe! It uses a restaurant-style technique paired with the Instant Pot for an easier, insanely delicious Indian dinner recipe. The sauce is creamy, super rich, perfectly spiced but not too spicy, and the chicken is so tender. Low carb, too!
Chicken tikka masala is kind of a thing for me.
Of course, like most people, it was my first foray, my gateway drug, when I initially tried Indian food when I was 13 or 14. I was instantly hooked on England’s national dish: rich and creamy, savory in a way I couldn’t even explain, and with the most tender chicken. Ugh!
As I got older, it became my personal mission to recreate the chicken tikka masala I ate so regularly at the restaurants, but no matter how many recipes I tried, I just couldn’t do it. It was missing something: that complexity and richness was just absent. Still fine to eat, but more like a butter chicken (And hey – I have a really, really good actual butter chicken recipe. I have a great Whole30 or paleo butter chicken recipe, too!) than the chicken tikka masala I was used to.
Finally, I dove deep with my research and pieced together what I was missing: a long caramelization of the aromatics, followed by a caramelization of the tomato sauce, with a hefty dose of fenugreek leaves stirred in at the end. The end result, as I discuss in my authentic restaurant-style chicken tikka masala recipe, is just like what I was getting at the local curry houses. Takeout budget officially under control.
But, let’s face it, I don’t always have the time to caramelize and simmer and bubble and stir, but I still want authentic chicken tikka masala at home. Enter: the best Instant Pot chicken tikka masala recipe.
I’ve combined the techniques from my authentic restaurant-style chicken tikka masala recipe with the convenience and even cooking from the Instant Pot. It’s not a “throw it all in and secure the lid” recipe, no. But we’re trading the “dump and go” step for increased convenience and a major step up in authentic flavor, richness, and takeout quality. It’s next-level Instant Pot chicken tikka masala.
Why this recipe works:
- We use the Instant Pot to cut down on the simmering time without cutting corners on flavor.
- Caramelizing the aromatics and tomato sauce creates that authentic restaurant-quality chicken tikka masala taste that the whole family will love.
- The dried fenugreek leaves add a flavor to the dish that you’ll recognize from Indian restaurants but likely have left out of your own Indian cooking. I highly recommend getting some for your pantry!
How to make this Instant Pot chicken tikka masala recipe:
- Combine yogurt with spices and a bit of lemon juice, then marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least an hour. You can marinate it overnight or in the morning so it’s ready for dinner, too! If you’re on a Whole30, make sure to use a compliant yogurt or skip the yogurt altogether.
- When you’re ready to cook, heat your ghee or butter in the Instant Pot, then sauté the onion, followed by the serrano chile, garlic, and ginger. You’ll then caramelize these aromatics for about 10 minutes, or until they’re a nice even brown color.
- Add a couple spices and stir, then add the tomato sauce to the mixture. Transfer everything to the blender and blend until smooth, then pour it all back into the Instant Pot.
- Simmer this mixture for about 20-30 minutes or until it’s thick like a paste. Add the chicken, bell pepper, fenugreek, and salt, then cook it all on Manual High Pressure for 6 minutes.
- Quick Release, then stir in your coconut cream. Serve over cauliflower rice or steamed basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.
- For a mild Instant Pot chicken tikka masala, use only one serrano chile and deseed it first before chopping.
- Swap the green bell pepper for a red bell pepper for a slightly sweeter veggie.
- Use chicken thighs for an even more tender chicken.
- For a dairy-free version, use non-dairy yogurt to marinate and refined coconut in place of the ghee or butter.
- When steaming your cauliflower rice, throw in a jasmine tea bag to infuse a classic basmati flavor.
- If you’re on a Whole30, make sure you use a compliant yogurt to marinate your chicken. Kite Hill Unsweetened is great! If you can’t find it or prefer not to use it, that’s fine, too. Just leave it out of the marinade.
- Don’t skip the caramelization process! Yes, it takes time, but it’s completely worth it. If you skip this part, you’ll be missing out on the restaurant-quality flavor you’d otherwise get from this Instant Pot chicken tikka masala.
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala (Paleo, Whole30, Low Carb)
- 1/4 cup ghee or butter 4 Tbsp., use ghee if paleo or on Whole30
- 1 medium white onion diced
- 2 serrano chiles minced (deseeded for mild, seeds left in for medium/hot)
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh ginger grated
- 4 1/2 tsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 15- ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 green bell pepper deseeded and sliced into strips
- 1 Tbsp. dried fenugreek leaves
- salt to taste
- 1-2 cups coconut cream just the solid white part from a can of coconut milk or cream
- steamed cauliflower rice or basmati rice use cauliflower rice for paleo or Whole30
- fresh cilantro chopped
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all marinade ingredients besides chicken. Toss chicken in marinade to coat well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to overnight.
- In the Instant Pot in Sauté Mode, Normal Heat, heat the ghee or butter. Add onion and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat to Low Heat. Add serrano chiles, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until a nice, even toffee-brown color, about 10 minutes. Add 1-2 teaspoons water as needed if you notice the mixture sticking or drying out. If you cook this part over Normal Heat, monitor the mixture very closely. It will burn if you don't watch it well!
- When mixture is a toffee brown color, add garam masala and paprika; stir well. Cook a few minutes, or until fragrant, adding a couple tablespoons of water to reduce sticking, if necessary.
- Add the tomato sauce and stir well; transfer mixture to the blender and blend until smooth. Return sauce to pot and simmer for 15-25 minutes over Normal Heat or until thick like a paste, rather than like a sauce.
- Add chicken, sliced bell pepper, fenugreek leaves, and salt. Secure lid and cook on Manual High Pressure for 6 minutes. Carefully Quick Release.
- Add the coconut cream and stir until smooth. Taste and correct seasonings, adding more salt or fenugreek leaves as necessary. Serve over steamed cauliflower or basmati rice and top with plenty of chopped fresh cilantro.