Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
This healthy Instant Pot Tikka Masala recipe was inspired by the month I spent in India, otherwise known as 30 of the most delicious days of my life. India wasn’t a country I’d long planned to visit. In fact, before I went, I wasn’t even sure if I liked Indian food. Chicken tikka masala (and every Indian food recipe I tasted after) crushed that doubt in one bite.
After college, I knew I wanted to take a month to visit somewhere abroad, and when my future roommate mentioned that she’d always wanted to go to India and would I go with her, I gave her my logical 20-something-year-old response:
Sure! Why not?
A travel addict who relishes new experiences, I suspected I’d like India. I was wrong.
I LOVED it.
Everything about India captured my heart, from its color to its chaos to the warmth of its people to its CUISINE.
While there is much about India that I miss, it is the steaming, creamy curries, fluffy, tender naan bread, and vibrant spices for which I pine most.
As much as I adore Indian food, as does Ben—he lived and worked in India for two consecutive summers, though ironically we never overlapped—we almost never go out for it at home.
Perhaps it is the lack of a great Indian restaurant (anyone know of one in Milwaukee?), but part of me also is loathe to pay the high prices that Indian restaurants here command, when I know a) what the real deal should taste like (and cost) and b) that I can make something almost as good at home for a fraction of the calories and price.
Making Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala at Home
I’d had prior success making healthy, Indian-inspired recipes in my own kitchen, Paneer Tikka Masala, Slow Cooker Chicken Curry, Slow Cooker Butter Chicken, and Instant Pot Lentil Curry being three faves. (Any requests for others? Heidi’s recipe for Palak Paneer caught my eye). Since Chicken Tikka Masala is one of Ben’s favorite Indian dishes, I decided to try my hand at a skinny Chicken Tikka Masala that would do justice to the chicken curries we’d each experienced abroad.
While this Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala cannot compare exactly to the ones we ate in India, for an at-home version that takes minutes to prep, is made from ingredients I can purchase in a Midwest grocery store, AND is healthy, I’m pretty darn happy with it, and I am betting that you will be too!
For an extra bump of protein, I made the Chicken Tikka Masala with Greek yogurt. Whole milk yogurt is more traditional, but I found that a scoop of nonfat plain Greek yogurt achieved a similar effect. The spices are modified to ones you should be able to find easily, and if you have any trouble, I’m willing to bet my last bite that you can find an option online too (feel free to leave a comment if you are having trouble).
Why Make Chicken Tikka Masala in a Pressure Cooker?
As you no doubt deduced from the recipe title, I cooked this chicken tikka malsa in my Instant Pot.
Because authentic Indian food recipes often take hours to prepare (thanks to toasting and grinding whole spices, plus long simmer times), making pressure cooker Indian food is a natural, valuable shortcut to creating a similar effect in a fraction of the time. Also, because the pressure cooker doesn’t lose moisture, the chicken stays wonderfully moist.
In fact, I am so smitten with Instant Pot Indian chicken recipes, I made Instant Pot Butter Chicken. This Instant Pot Chicken and Rice has a few of the same healing spices (though its flavor profile is more subtle). (Check out more of my favorite healthy Instant Pot dishes in this post: 15 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes.)
Can I Make This Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala in a Slow Cooker Instead?
I haven’t tried yet, but I’m betting it would work! See tips for slow cooker and stovetop versions of the recipe in the notes section in the recipe below.
What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala
I kept it simple and served our chicken tikka masala with brown rice that I made in the Instant Pot as well.
Unless you own more than one Instant Pot (for which I am not judging—if you can’t tell from the recent influx of Instant Pot recipes on my site, I’m hooked myself), it’s going to take some foresight to make the brown rice in advance. If you haven’t, you can always make the rice on the stovetop while the chicken tikka masala cooks or serve it with naan bread instead.
This healthy chicken tikka masala recipe does already have a serving of veggies built in (thank you peas!), but if you’d like to bump up the veggie content of your meal further, it would be delicious with a side of roasted cauliflower or sautéed kale.
Whether you adore Indian food or are just starting to tiptoe your way in, this healthy twist on Chicken Tikka Masala is a wonderful mini vacation on a plate.
Close your eyes and inhale its sweet aroma. You can almost hear the Bollywood tunes playing through the streets!
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts — cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt — divided
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter — or coconut oil, ghee, or extra-virgin olive oil...I do think the butter is worth it here!
- 1 small yellow onion — finely chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic — minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon garam masala*
- 1 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne — use more if you like the dish spicy
- 1 can no salt added tomato sauce — (8 ounces)
- 1 can light coconut milk — (14 ounces)
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- Prepared brown rice — or naan, for serving
- Fresh cilantro — for serving
- Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and set aside.
- Add the butter to an Instant Pot and set to SAUTE. Once melted, add the onion, garlic, ginger, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is soft and the spices are very fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken pieces, stir to coat with the spices and onion, and cook, stirring often, just until the outsides start to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on HIGH pressure for 8 minutes. Vent to immediately release the pressure.
- Uncover and stir in the coconut milk. Turn the Instant Pot back to SAUTE. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and let it continue to simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the Instant Pot off, and then stir in the peas. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes, and then stir in the Greek yogurt (do not stir in the Greek yogurt right away or it may curdle). Enjoy warm with rice or naan and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.
- Garam masala is a blend of many spices and is very important to the final flavor of the recipe. It is available in most grocery stores and can also be found online here.
- Instant Pot Brown Rice: I've been playing around, and so far my favorite ratio is 1 cup long-grain brown rice to 1 1/4 cups water. Stir the two together, add a pinch of kosher salt, and cook on high pressure for 22 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. PERFECT. (Please note, this applies to long-grain brown rice only. Other rice types may have different cook times and liquid ratios.)
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat leftovers gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- To make dairy free: Use coconut or olive oil in place of the butter; replace the Greek yogurt with a non-dairy yogurt, such as coconut milk yogurt.
- To make on the stovetop: Instead of using the Instant Pot in step 2, melt the butter in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium high and continue with steps 2 and 3. After stirring in the tomato sauce and salt in step 3, cover and simmer over medium low until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Uncover the pot, stir in the coconut milk, and allow to simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the peas. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes before stirring in the Greek yogurt.
- To make in the slow cooker: Follow step 1 as written. Melt the butter in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat and continue with steps 2 and 3. After browning the chicken pieces, transfer the contents of the skillet to your slow cooker and add the tomato sauce and salt. Stir to combine, cover, and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours. When the chicken is done, stir in the coconut milk and frozen peas. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes, and then stir in the Greek yogurt. (Note that the sauce may be a thinner consistency when made in the slow cooker.)
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 6), about 5/6 cup with 1/2 prepared brown rice) — Calories: 355, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 79mg, Sodium: 654mg, Carbohydrates: 32g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 5g, Protein: 36g
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