Chicken Tikka Masala made effortlessly in the Instant Pot! This delicious curry is super-rich, creamy and full of flavor.
(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 sceptical when recipes call for deviating from the original.
Traditionally, chicken tikka masala is made with marinated chicken, which is baked in the tandoor (clay oven), leaving its beautifully charred. The sauce for the curry is prepared separately. The chicken pieces are then mixed into the chicken tikka masala sauce and simmered together. The dish can be made richer with the addition of cream, if you prefer.
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!
In this recipe, the chicken tikka masala is made entirely in the Instant Pot, and comes together in under 45 minutes, including prep time.
Ingredients used to make chicken tikka masala:
This is a simplified version of chicken tikka masala, and I have made it several times, and I love how easy it is to customize. I previously published this recipe as a dairy-free chicken tikka masala and after feedback from readers, I have made changes to the recipe. This version of chicken tikka masala delivers all the good stuff!
The chicken is marinated ina yogurt-based marinade, making it succulent and tender. The sauce relies on cashew-nuts to develop that characteristic-rich taste, without the need for added cream. If you would like to add dairy to your chicken tikka masala, you can add some cream at the end to make the dish richer and creamier.
For the chicken tikka masala marinade, you will need:
- Boneless chicken - use either thigh meat or breast meat
- Lemon juice
- Garlic, ginger and a green chili
- Kashmiri Red Chili Powder
- Turmeric powder
For the chicken tikka masala sauce, you will need:
- Butter or ghee
- Raw Cashews
- Tomatoes - use either fresh or tinned (I prefer using tinned for the convenience)
- Spices - whole cumin, turmeric powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, garam masala, bay leaves, cinnamon stick
- Coriander, cream for garnishing
Step by Step Instructions for making Chicken Tikka Masala in the Instant Pot:
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.
At this point, you can 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.
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 chicken tikka masala is done! Serve with naan or Basmati rice.
Tips to make chicken tikka masala in the Instant Pot:
- Grill the chicken separately: Although my recipe 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 to 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 might get triggered.
What is the difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala?
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 very subtle, yet noticeable differences:
Chicken Tikka Masala uses the following key ingredients:
- Garam Masala
Butter Chicken uses the following key ingredients:
- (More) Butter
- NO Onions
- NO Cumin
- (More) Tomatoes
- Garam Masala
As you can tell, there are very subtle differences between the two dishes. You will find that butter chicken is generally tangier and has a hint of sweetness, has a thinner sauce and more butter than chicken tikka masala.
More Instant Pot Indian Recipes for you to try:
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- 700 grams boneless chicken thighs or breasts cut into cubes
For the marinade
For the sauce
- Start by soaking the cashews in a cup of hot water. 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.