Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala is a restaurant-style delicious curry that is super-rich, creamy, full of flavor, and easy to make! Pair it with Naan or Basmati rice for the perfect meal.
(This post was first published in September 2018 and has been updated with new content)
I am usually a purist when it comes to traditional recipes, and can be quite skeptical when recipes call for deviating from the original. I grew up in India, eating so many versions of the best chicken curries - from Chicken Shahi Korma to Kadai Chicken in the best restaurants. Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my favorites! Paired with Naan or Basmati Rice, it becomes an absolute treat of a meal.
The traditional way to make Chicken Tikka Masala is to cook the marinated chicken pieces chicken in the 'tandoor' (clay oven) and then simmer the tandoori chicken in tikka masala sauce.
The 'tandoor' gives the chicken its char marks and a slightly smoky flavor. The sauce for the tikka masala is prepared separately. The tandoori chicken pieces are then added into the chicken tikka masala sauce and simmered together. Finally, cream is added for richness.
Make this recipe in the Instant Pot
However, I've found a way to make a simpler version of Chicken Tikka Masala in the Instant Pot - in under 45 minutes, including prep time. If you feel like treating yourself midweek, and do not have the time to make Chicken Tikka Masala the traditional way, then this Instant Pot Chicken Tikka masala is the recipe you need!
My Instant Pot Saag Paneer is another authentic Indian recipe that can be easily made in the Instant Pot.
Are you a fan of Paneer? Try making our Kadai Paneer recipe or try making Paneer Pizza at home!
Why this recipe works
- One-pot chicken tikka masala - low on effort, yet full of flavor
- Only 30 minutes of cook time
- As close to the authentic recipe as you can get!
- Boneless chicken - use either thigh meat or breast meat
- Yogurt - use regular full-fat yogurt
- Lemon/lime juice
- Minced garlic and ginger or use homemade ginger garlic paste
- Green chili or use bird's eye chili
- Kashmiri Red Chili Powder - Kashmiri red chili powder gives a deep red color to any dish but has very little heat. A close substitute is paprika powder.
- Turmeric powder (haldi powder)
Tikka Masala Sauce Ingredients
- Butter or ghee
- Cashews - Many recipes for chicken tikka masala avoid using cashews, but this is a key ingredient, DO NOT skip it!
- Tomatoes - use either fresh or tinned (I prefer using tinned for convenience)
- Spices - whole cumin, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, garam masala, bay leaves, cinnamon stick
- Coriander, cream for garnishing
Step by step Instructions
Start by soaking the cashews in a cup of hot water. Keep aside for later. Cut the boneless chicken into medium-sized pieces. In a bowl, marinate the chicken pieces in a paste of ginger-garlic-green chili, lemon juice, salt yogurt, turmeric, and red chili powder. Cover with cling film and keep the marinated chicken in the fridge.
Now move on to the Instant Pot and make the sauce for the chicken tikka masala. Turn on the IP and hit 'Saute'. Once hot, add the butter, followed by the whole spices. Sauté until the whole spices turn aromatic. Add the chopped onions and saute for a few minutes, until they turn translucent. Then add the cashews.
Now add 1/2 a cup of water to prevent the ingredients from scalding and triggering the 'Burn' notice. Deglaze the pot and add the spice powders and salt, followed by the tinned tomatoes.
Mixing together, and close the lid of the Instant Pot. Pressure Cook for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid of the Instant Pot once the vent drops, and discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
Add 1/3 cup water and use a stick blender to blend the cooked ingredients up to a smooth paste. The cashews will be cooked through by now, and they should be easily blended using a stick blender. Optionally, transfer the ingredients to a tabletop blender and blend until smooth. (Alternatively, you can also blend the cashews in a little water separately and add them to the sauce)
Then add the marinated chicken pieces to the sauce, and mix together. Ensure that the sauce is not too thick (this will trigger the Burn error). You can add 1/4 cup of water if the sauce is too thick.
Pressure cook for 5 minutes, followed by quick pressure release. Switch to Saute mode and cook for 4 minutes more to reduce the liquid, and thicken the sauce. Add cream (optional) and chopped coriander to garnish.
Your Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala is done! Serve with Naan or Instant Pot Basmati rice.
- Grill the chicken separately: Although this is a quick version of chicken tikka masala, feel free to take the traditional route if you have some time on hand. You can marinate the chicken and then grill it in the oven (or barbeque it) instead of cooking the chicken along with the sauce in the Instant Pot. Simply add the grilled chicken to the sauce made in the Instant Pot, and simmer in ‘Saute’ mode for 5 minutes.
- Don't skip cashew nuts: Cashew nuts are used to thicken the sauce and add body and flavor to the chicken tikka masala sauce. Soak them in hot water for 15-20 minutes before adding it to the Instant Pot to pressure cook. No cashews on hand? Use almonds instead or even almond meal (like I used in this Instant Pot Paneer tikka masala recipe) as a replacement for whole cashews.
- Avoid the 'Burn' error: While making thick sauces with tomatoes and cashews, the Instant Pot can often trigger the Burn notice. To avoid this, make sure you have sufficient liquid in the pot. If the sauce is too thick, or if you have not deglazed the pot before pressure cooking, the Burn error will get triggered.
This is a question I get very often! There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about these two curries - butter chicken or murgh makhani and chicken tikka masala. Aside from the fact that butter chicken was invented in India and that chicken tikka masala is actually a British invention, there are some key differences in ingredients used:
Butter chicken does not use onions or cumin but does use honey as a sweetener.
If your IP triggers a 'Burn' error notice despite adding water, here's what you can do: Hit 'Cancel' and release the pressure manually. Add 1/3 cup water, deglaze the pot and continue cooking the chicken in the sauce in the 'Saute' mode instead of the Pressure Cook mode.
Similar Instant Pot Indian Recipes
Instant Pot Paneer Tikka Masala
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- 700 grams boneless chicken thighs or breasts cut into cubes
For the marinade
- ⅓ cup yogurt
- ½ lemon
- 1 green chili
- 1 inch Ginger
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder see notes
- 1 tbsp salt
For the sauce
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp whole cumin
- 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 Onion chopped
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder see notes
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 400 grams tinned tomatoes or 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cream
- 1 tbsp Fresh coriander chopped
- Start by soaking the cashews in a cup of hot water and keep aside for later.
- In a blender, blend together the green chili, ginger and garlic. In a bowl, marinate the chicken pieces in this paste, along with the lemon juice, salt, yogurt, turmeric, and red chili powder. Cover with cling film and keep in the fridge.
- Turn on the IP and hit 'Saute'. Once hot, add the butter, followed by the whole spices. Sauté until the whole spices turn aromatic (2-3 minutes). Add the chopped onions and sauté for a few minutes, until they turn translucent. Add the cashews.
- Add 1/2 a cup of water, deglaze the pot and add the spice powders and salt, followed by the tinned tomatoes.
- Mix together, close the lid of the Instant Pot. Pressure Cook for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid of the Instant Pot once the vent drops, and discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
- Add 1/3 cup water and use a stick blender to blend the cooked ingredients up to a smooth paste(optionally, transfer the ingredients to a regular countertop blender and blend until smooth).
- Add the marinated chicken pieces to the sauce and mix together. Ensure that the sauce is not too thick (this will trigger the Burn error). You can add 1/4 cup of water if the sauce is too thick.
- Pressure cook for 5 minutes, followed by quick pressure release.
- Switch to Sauté mode. Cook for 4 minutes on Sauté mode until sauce has thickened. Add cream, and stir. Finally, add chopped coriander to garnish.
- Kashmiri chili powder is milder than regular red chili powder and gives a nice red color without too much heat. Optionally, substitute with paprika.
- Cashew nuts can be replaced with almond or even almond flour.
- If your IP triggers a 'Burn' error notice despite adding water, here's what you can do: Hit 'Cancel' and release the pressure manually. Add 1/3 cup water, deglaze the pot and continue cooking the chicken in the sauce in the 'Saute' mode instead of the Pressure Cook mode.
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Love tikka masala -- can't wait to try this out with my Instant Pot! Thank you for sharing!
I love that this is made in an Instant Pot! Tikka Masala is one of my favorite dishes.
I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of flavor in this dish. The instant pot makes this recipe a breeze. This can now be a midweek meal for my family.
This recipe is fantastic! I love a good chicken tikka masala and this way of cooking it makes it easy. I appreciate the detailed instructions and photos, too! Thank you.
I'm am loving this version of tikka masala! So quick and easy. Thanks for a great recipe.
I am really enjoying the recipe.
I'd like to vacuum bag and freeze some portions. For these portions do you think I should wait to add the cream until after it thaws right before I eat, or should I just add the cream now and freeze with the dairy?
Delicious!! Thank you, great recipe. I followed the recipe exactly except for a few changes(as suggested in notes) I grilled my chicken on a cast iron pan, then transferred to sauce and used my blender to get a smoother sauce. My immersion one was leaving it too grainy. Just yummm!!!
Thank you for letting me know! Glad you liked it, the hand blender can be a challenge, I agree. Good ideas grilling it on the stove top !
This looks so yummy! Is there a non-Tree nut substitute for the cashews? I would love to make this for my husband but he is very allergic to tree nuts.
Shinta Simon says
Thank you so much! I would suggest replacing the cashews with peanuts, if that is an option for your husband. I have also read that sunflower seeds are a good substitute. Hope you are able to try these options out sometime!
My daughter is allergic to cashews and peanuts. I'm thinking about trying the sunflower seeds! Thanks for that suggestion.