From the name, it’s easy to assume that Chicken Tikka Masala is an Indian dish, but as it turns out, its origins are hotly debated.
Some say the dish originated in a curry house in Glasgow, Scotland as a result of a customer complaint about dry chicken. Others claim it’s the creation of a Pakistani chef in London.
Regardless of its origins, Chicken Tikka Masala is a tasty way to liven up what might otherwise be a boring chicken dinner. It’s satisfying, easy to make and a great addition to your weeknight kitchen repertoire.
There are more complex versions of this recipe that require marinating the chicken in a yogurt and spice mixture, but we chose to use the Instant Pot pressure cooker to infuse that extra flavor in just about half an hour.
Shopping List for This Recipe
We like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe and other Instant Pot dishes, like our Instant Pot Chicken Paprikas. When cooked under pressure, chicken thighs develop a wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth tenderness that’s perfect for a dish with a creamy sauce like this one.
In addition to the chicken and some other common pantry items, you’ll need:
- Fresh ginger
- Garam masala (more about this below)
- Ground turmeric, cumin, and coriander
- Canned tomatoes
- Plain yogurt
- Fresh cilantro
- Steamed rice
- Naan flatbread (optional, omit for gluten-free)
What is Garam Masala?
One of the signature flavors in Chicken Tikka Masala is a North Indian spice blend called garam masala.
Since garam masala can include a dozen or more spices, there are many versions of the blend in authentic Indian cooking.
Store-bought versions will usually contain cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, cardamom, ginger, mace, nutmeg and black pepper.
Purchase garam masala in small quantities because it does lose its pungent flavor over time. Our favorite brand is Rani Garam Masala, an authentic Indian product we always find to be fresh and full of flavor.
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Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1-1/2 cups chopped canned tomatoes, undrained
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- 3 cups steamed basmati rice
- Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
- Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of black pepper and the garam masala. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Press the “sauté” button on the Instant Pot and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil along with the onion and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander and cayenne, and continue cooking 2 minutes longer.
- Add the tomatoes and chicken and combine thoroughly. Cancel the “sauté” function and lock the cover onto the Instant Pot. Use the “manual” function to set the Instant Pot to cook for 5 minutes at high pressure.
- While the chicken cooks, whisk the yogurt and heavy cream together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Once the chicken is done cooking, leave the Instant Pot on the "Keep Warm" setting, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then carefully open the valve to release the remaining pressure.
- Remove the lid and gradually stir in the yogurt-cream mixture until well blended. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Let the chicken warm for about 2 minutes longer, then plate individual servings of rice and top with chicken and sauce.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with wedges of toasted naan if desired.