Instant Pot chicken tikka masala is a simplified version of classic Chicken Tikka Masala! A delicious, yet easy way to make this popular Indian chicken curry recipe. Paleo-friendly and dairy-free.
(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.
While undoubtedly delectable, chicken tikka masala can be quite painstaking to make and requires a fair amount of prepping ahead.
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.
This is a simplified version of chicken tikka masala, and is entirely dairy-free. I skipped the cream, butter and yoghurt (all of which are used in the traditional recipe).
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.
Step by Step Instructions for making Chicken Tikka Masala in the Instant Pot:
Turn the IP to ‘Saute’ mode in the ‘More’ setting. Add the oil, followed by the onions, cumin, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Sauté until the onions turn translucent. Then add the chopped tomatoes.
Add the ginger-garlic paste, followed by the soaked cashews. Then add the tomato puree and 3/4 cup of water. Give the mixture a gentle stir to combine.
Your chicken tikka masala is done! Serve with naan (wholewheat flatbread) or rice.
Tips to make chicken tikka masala in the Instant Pot:
- Should I pressure cook or grill the chicken?: 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 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.
- Using Cashew nuts: Cashew nuts are used to thicken the sauce and add body and flavour to the chicken tikka masala sauce. Soak them in warm water for 15-20 minutes before adding it to the Instant Pot to pressure cook. No Cashew nuts on hand? Use almonds instead or even almond meal as a replacement to whole cashews.
- Serving Suggestion: You can have this chicken tikka masala with rice or lap it up with some homemade naan! If you are on a paleo diet,replace it with cauliflower rice or paleo-friendly tortillas.
Instant Pot ‘Burn’ notice and how to avoid getting one:
A recurring problem with recipes that call for thick sauces is that the newer models of Instant Pots will trigger a ‘Burn’ notice. My recipe is made in an earlier model of the Instant Pot Duo, and I have made it several times without any ‘Burn’ notice.
However, I do hear from readers who tell me that the ‘Burn’ notice triggers when they make this recipe – after the chicken has been added to the sauce and the IP is pressure cooking for the second time.
If your IP triggers a ‘Burn’ error notice, here’s what you can do:
Hit ‘Cancel’ and release pressure by switching the IP to ‘Venting’ mode. Check to see if there is any food residue that has stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot. If there isn’t any burnt food residue that sticks to the bottom of the IP, you can continue cooking using any of the following methods:
- Add 1/2 a cup of water to the sauce to thin it out and continue pressure cooking the chicken with the sauce.
- You could also continue cooking the chicken in the sauce after thinning it out with 1/2 cup water, but in the ‘Saute’ mode instead of the Pressure Cook mode.
Another way to avoid the ‘Burn’ notice trigger is to cook the chicken pieces separately before adding them to the sauce in the Instant Pot. Add salt to the chicken pieces, and pan-fry them in a little oil or grill them in the oven till just done. Add the cooked pieces to the sauce in the Instant Pot and simmer for 5 minutes in the ‘Saute’ mode.
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- 700 grams boneless chicken cut into cubes (use thigh fillets or chicken breast fillets)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil optionally, use ghee
- 2 large red onions chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
- 2 large tomatoes chopped
- 1 green chilli chopped (retain the seeds)
- 1.5 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
- ½ cup cashews soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
- ¾ cup tomato puree
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder use Kashmiri chilli powder which is low on heat and imparts a strong red colour
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves and stalks
- Turn the IP to ‘Saute’ mode in the ‘More’ setting. Add the oil, followed by the onions, cumin, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Sauté until the onions turn translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, followed by the chopped green chilli, ginger garlic paste and soaked cashews.
- Add the tomato puree and ¾ cup of water.
- Give the mixture a gentle stir to combine.
- Put on the lid of the IP, and with the valve in ‘sealing’ position, switch to ‘Manual’ mode, in ‘High’ setting. Set the time for 2 minutes. Let the mixture pressure cook, and let the steam release naturally (do not open the valve to release steam, let the vent go down on its own).
- Open the lid of the IP and carefully, take out the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Discard them.
- Using an immersion blender, blend together the ingredients to form a smooth sauce.
- To the sauce, add the red chilli powder, turmeric and garam masala.
- Add the chicken pieces and stir well, to combine the sauce and the chicken. Add salt and mix well.
- Put on the lid of the IP, and with the valve in ‘sealing’ position, switch to ‘Manual’ mode, in ‘High’ setting. Set the time for 4 minutes. Let the mixture pressure cook, and let the steam release naturally.
- Once pressure cooked, open the lid of the IP and stir the chicken curry. Add the chopped coriander leaves and stalks and stir to combine. Serve with your choice of rice or bread.
- Cashew nuts can be replaced with almond or even almond flour.
- If your IP triggers a ‘Burn’ error notice, here’s what you can do: Hit ‘Cancel’ and release pressure by switching the IP to ‘Venting’ mode. Check to see if there is any food residue that has stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot. If there isn’t any burnt food residue that sticks to the bottom of the IP, you can continue cooking using any of the following methods:
1. Add 1/2 a cup of water to the sauce to thin it out and continue pressure cooking the chicken with the sauce.
2. You could also continue cooking the chicken in the sauce after thinning it out with 1/2 cup water, but in the ‘Saute’ mode instead of the Pressure Cook mode.
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