This Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala is a super flavorful and aromatic Indian chicken curry made with marinated tender chicken cooked in a creamy sauce. This restaurant quality chicken tikka masala is so easy to make in the instant pot, that you will not consider take-out again. Make it along with pot-in-pot basmati rice for a complete meal.
Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the favorite Indian curry to order in a restaurant. Let's take a minute to acknowledge some other Indian favorites - Butter Chicken, Chicken Korma, Salmon Tikka Masala and for the vegetarians Paneer Tikka Masala, Saag Paneer, Dal Makhani and Chana Masala.
You might think that it is hard to get the exact flavor at home. However once you have the basic Indian spices, it is fairly easy to make this chicken curry in the pressure cooker or even on the stovetop.
Table of contents
- What is Chicken Tikka Masala?
- What is the difference between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken?
- How to make?
What is Chicken Tikka Masala?
Chicken tikka masala is a dish of chunks of roasted marinated chicken (chicken tikka) in a spiced curry sauce. The sauce is usually creamy and dark orange colored. We will change it up a bit to make it easy to make it in the instant pot, with the same great taste.
What is the difference between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken?
The two dishes are very similar but certainly have some subtle differences in how they are made.
Chicken Tikka Masala is a British invention. Below are some characteristics -
- uses chicken tikka as it's base, which is marinated grilled boneless chicken cooked in a tandoor or on a grill (we will modify this aspect a bit to simplify and make this a one-pot recipe)
- has a spicier tomato based sauce
- no butter used
- made with white breast meat
- very less cream used
- lemon juice added
Butter Chicken is a punjabi North Indian dish, created in a restaurant in Delhi. Here are some distinctive features -
- has a tomato based sauce. but less tomatoey than CTM.
- more buttery & more creamy
- very mild
- made with dark thigh meat
- cashew, honey used to sweeten
How to make?
There are 4 main steps to make Chicken Tikka Masala in the instant pot.
- Marinate the chicken
- Brown the chicken
- Make the sauce
- Pressure cook
Let's get started with the easy step-by step chicken tikka masala recipe.
Chicken Tikka Marinade
Add the yogurt, spices, ginger, garlic, lime juice to a bowl and mix them. Now add in the chicken breasts one by one and coat them with the marinade on both sides. Refrigerate this chicken tikka marinade for 30 minutes to 8 hours.
After getting the marinade ready, I gather all the other ingredients and keep them ready.
Brown the chicken
Now start the instant pot and let it heat on the sauté high mode (Press Sauté, then Adjust to more).
Layer the chicken breasts in the instant pot and let them cook a bit on both sides. It will just take a couple of minutes each side. Take out and cut into pieces. Note that the chicken is not completely cooked at this point. It just helps to seal the flavor of the spices into the chicken.
If you prefer cutting the chicken to smaller pieces before marinating, that would work too.
Change from the traditional recipe
This is the part that is different than the traditional Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. Ideally the marinated chicken pieces would be broiled in a tandoor (or grill) until they start to char and then added to the sauce.
To go the traditional route, cut the chicken to pieces before marinating. Then broil in the oven until they start to char (about 5-10 minutes). Then use in the recipe.
We are simplifying the recipe by browning the chicken in the pot. The only thing we lose is a bit of the smoky flavor from the chicken cooked in a tandoor. But trust me, you will still love this version of chicken tikka masala and will not hesitate to enjoy it for a quick weeknight dinner.
Making the Sauce
I like to have lots of sauce in my curries, so I can enjoy them with rice or naan.
You don't have to clean the pot. To make the chicken tikka masala sauce, heat some oil in the instant pot. Add onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add water and deglaze the pot so there are no brown bits sticking to the bottom.
Now add the tomato puree, spices and chicken. (Diced or crushed tomatoes will work too)
Pot-in-pot Basmati Rice with Chicken Tikka Masala
If you are planning to make pot-in-pot rice along, then keep it ready and place the trivet and the pot-in-pot steel bowl of rice with water. I used white basmati rice which cooks well in the same time. Other rice varieties may take longer to cook, which might not work well to cook along with chicken.
Learn more about the instant pot pot-in-pot method with this comprehensive guide!
Pressure Cook the curry
Close and pressure cook for 4 minutes, followed by 5 minute NPR (release pressure manually 5 minutes after the beep).
Open the instant pot and carefully remove the rice bowl (I use these tongs). Add in the cream, dried fenugreek leaves and stir it well. This easy chicken tikka masala is ready for you to enjoy with the rice.
If you like flavored rice, check out my cumin or jeera rice recipe. It goes really well with chicken curries.
If you are new to the instant pot, check out this Instant Pot Quick Setup Guide to get you started.
Can this Chicken Tikka Masala be made on stovetop without instant pot?
Yes, of course. The instant pot just helps to make the cooking faster with cooking food under pressure. You can cook the exact same recipe in a skillet. Cover after adding the chicken to the sauce and simmer until the chicken is cooked well. Stir at regular intervals.
- Use ghee or butter in place of oil to enhance the flavor.
- Use plain full fat or greek yogurt for the marinade. Pat dry the chicken to avoid extra liquid when marinating.
- I use Kashmiri chili powder which is mild, but adds a beautiful color to the curry
- I use canned tomato puree, however diced tomatoes will work too. If using fresh tomatoes, use 3 and puree or dice them.
- Use coconut milk to make it dairy free
You will love this Chicken Tikka Masala because:
√ It is warm, flavorful and comforting
√ It is easy to make in under 30 minutes in the instant pot
√ The thick and creamy sauce is perfect with rice or for dipping naan
√ You can make pot-in-pot rice along with the curry for a complete meal.
Hope you enjoy this Chicken Tikka Masala!
Looking for more easy Instant Pot Indian Recipes? Here are 23 Best Instant Pot Indian Recipes for you to try!
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe (Pressure Cooker)
- 1 lb Chicken breasts
Spices for sauce
Marinate the chicken
- Combine all ingredients for the marinade (except chicken) in a bowl and mix well. Add chicken and coat on each side with the marinade. Let is rest for anywhere between 30 minutes to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
Brown the chicken
- Start the instant pot in Sauté mode and adjust to high setting. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the chicken pieces and lightly brown on each side for about 2 minutes. Take chicken out of the pot and cut into pieces about 2-3 inches in size. (Note: The chicken is not completely cooked yet)
Prepare the sauce
- Add the rest of the oil to the instant. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes.
- Add water and deglaze the pot making sure nothing is stuck to the bottom.
- Add tomato puree, spices and mix well. Add any leftover marinade too. Add the chicken and stir it.
- (optional) In a steel bowl, add the ingredients for rice. Please a tall trivet and the bowl of rice on top of the trivet.
Pressure Cook the Curry
- Press cancel and close the lid with vent in sealing position. Change the instant pot setting to high pressure for 4 minutes. When the instant pot beeps, let it rest for 5 minutes then manually release the pressure.
- (optional) Using tongs, carefully take out the bowl of basmati rice. Then take out the trivet.
- Add cream, kasoori methi and stir well.
- Garnish with cilantro. Chicken tikka masala is ready. Enjoy with basmati rice and naan.
Note: Nutrition values are my best estimates. If you rely on them for your diet, use your preferred nutrition calculator.