This healthy, Instant Pot chicken tikka masala is a quick and easy Whole30 compliant version of the classic Indian dish. Ready in just 30 minutes, this flavorful dish will be a family favorite in no time!

This post was originally published on August 14, 2019 and updated with new photos and copy on April 18, 2022.

cubes of chicken smothered in tikka masala sauce over a bed of white rice and garnished with parsley in a white bowl with a gold spoon

What Makes This Recipe Great

Indian food is probably my favorite of all time. My mom and I love going to the Royal Taj in Columbia, MD because 1) it’s delicious and 2) I know I can get a safe gluten-free meal there! The nice thing about Indian food is that a lot of it is naturally gluten-free (minus the naan, of course)!

Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my go-to entrees to order, so I decided it deserved a spot on the blog. But in typical Mary’s Whole Life fashion, I needed to make a dairy-free, gluten-free, healthy chicken tikka masala version.

To make it extra easy, I crafted this recipe in the Instant Pot! It turned out delicious and is a quick, easy, and Whole30 compliant recipe I know you will love!

How to Make This Recipe

Traditional Tikka Masala includes heavy cream and/or yogurt and butter. In this healthy chicken tikka masala, I replaced these with coconut cream (just the hardened part at the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk) and ghee, and the flavors are incredible.

The best part about Indian food is the spices that go into everything – usually a bit spicy, some sweet and aromatic (cloves I’m looking at you), and lots of savory. This Instant Pot chicken tikka masala recipe is everything you love about Indian food, but healthier and Whole30 compliant!

glass bowls filled with recipe ingredients

Ingredient Notes

  • Chicken Breasts: I use skinless, boneless chicken breast and cut into cubes. You can also use skinless boneless thighs.
  • Ghee: Ghee is clarified butter, so it is typically more friendly to people who are dairy intolerant. However, if you have a dairy allergy, use vegan butter. I love Miyokos brand of vegan butter.
  • Minced Garlic: You can mince your own garlic from a clove or use a jar of minced garlic.
  • Onion: a yellow onion or sweet onion will work perfectly!
  • Tomato Sauce or Tomato Puree: Make sure to look for a can with just the plain sauce without added salt or spices.
  • Full Fat Coconut Milk: All you’ll need is the hardened part at the top of the can. Do not use regular coconut milk from a carton, as it is too thin.
  • Chicken Broth: Use chicken broth, chicken stock, or even chicken bone broth- whatever you have on hand!
  • Spices: Garam Masala, Ground Coriander, Cumin, Paprika, Chili Powder, Cayenne, Turmeric
  • Sea Salt: to taste- start small, add more if needed after cooking! 
  • Arrowroot Powder: This is used to thicken the sauce. You can also use Tapioca Starch.
an overhead view of an instant pot filled with chicken, veggies, and tikka masala sauce with a wood spoon stirring the contents

Step by Step

  1. Prep the Veggies: Press the “saute” button on your Instant Pot and add ghee. Once hot, add in onion, garlic, and all of the spices. Stir for 1-2 minutes until the onions begin to soften and the spices are very fragrant.
  2. Add the Chicken: Add in chicken pieces and continue to stir for 2-3 more minutes until slightly browned. Add in tomato sauce and chicken broth and stir to combine.
  3. Cook: Hit the “cancel/keep warm” button. Lock the lid and turn the vent to “sealing”. Cook on high pressure for 9 minutes, then manually release the pressure. 
  4. Make the Sauce: Stir in coconut cream (the hardened white part at the top of your coconut milk can), leaving the clear liquid in the can. Hit the “saute” button again and bring to a boil while stirring.
  5. Combine and Serve: Mix the arrowroot powder and water together to create the slurry. Add it into the pot and stir. It will thicken quickly. Add more salt to taste. Hit “cancel/keep warm” and let it sit until ready to serve. Serve over cauliflower rice for Whole30, or regular basmati rice for just gluten-free! Enjoy!
a close up of a ladle holding chicken tikka masala garnished with parsley over an open instant pot

Mary’s Tips & Tricks

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

To make this in a slow cooker, complete the first step using a sauté pan on the stove. Then,

  1. Add the cooked onions/garlic/spices to the slow cooker along with the raw chicken pieces.
  2. Add in tomato sauce and chicken broth, and stir. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 7-8 hours.
  3. Stir in the coconut cream. If the sauce needs to be thickened, turn the slow cooker on high.
  4. Make the slurry and add it in and stir for a few minutes.
  5. Serve over cauliflower rice for Whole30, or regular basmati rice for gluten-free. Enjoy!

How to Serve

The best way to serve this healthy chicken tikka masala is over a bed of white rice. For those that are not gluten-free, feel free to also pair this with naan bread (you can find this in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s!). Otherwise, this dish served without bread is just as delicious!

Storage

Store leftover Instant Pot chicken tikka masala in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop and serve over leftover rice or fresh rice!

If you’d like to freeze your Instant Pot chicken tikka masala, place the leftover sauce and chicken in a freezer-safe, airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat. Make a fresh batch of rice to serve it over.

FAQs

Do I need Garam Masala to make this Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala?

Yes, you definitely need to have some Garam Masala to make this. It is a traditional Indian spice blend and it makes everything delicious. I got mine on Thrive Market because I love knowing Primal Palate spices are organic and gluten-free, but you can find Garam Masala at most grocery stores!

Should I get an Instant Pot?

The answer to this question is, YES. This is the Instant Pot that I have and it was pretty much the best purchase I’ve ever made. Well, maybe not EVER, but pretty darn close. So many people tell me that they are intimidated/scared to use one. DON’T BE! Once you get through the first time using it, you will see how incredibly easy and life-changing it is. Just in case you’re not ready to hop on the Instant Pot chicken tikka masala train, I have also included slow cooker directions for you below.

Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala

While both of these dishes are similar in looks, they differ the most in taste and flavor! The ingredient list is almost identical, however, what really highlights Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala is the amount of each ingredient used. Each recipe also features a different way to cook the chicken. You really can’t go wrong with either dish and in my opinion, Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala should really be: “I’ll take both butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, please!” If you’re looking for a fun way to get the flavors of butter chicken, check out my Paleo Baked Butter Chicken Meatballs.

a big white bowl filled with chicken tikka masala and garnished with parsley over a bed of white rice with a gold fork.

More Instant Pot Recipes

Instant Pot Short Rib Ragu

Whole30 Instant Pot Hawaiian Chicken

Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli and “Rice” Casserole

Instant Pot BBQ Chicken Bowls

Gluten-Free Instant Pot Taco Pasta

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Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala

This healthy, Instant Pot chicken tikka masala is a quick and easy Whole30 compliant version of the classic Indian dish. Ready in just 30 minutes, this flavorful dish will be a family favorite in no time!
4.98 from 44 votes
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Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 large onion , diced
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce or tomato puree
  • 1 13.5 oz can full fat coconut milk
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1.5 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt (to taste- start small, add more if needed after cooking!)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne , more if you like heat!
  • 1 tsp turmeric

Slurry

Equipment

Instructions
 

  • Hit the "saute" button and add ghee. Once hot, add in onion, garlic, and all of the spices. Stir 1-2 minutes until the onions begin to soften and the spices are very fragrant.
  • Add in chicken pieces and continue to stir for 2-3 more minutes until slightly browned. Add in tomato sauce and chicken broth and stir to combine.
  • Hit the "cancel/keep warm" button. Lock the lid and turn the vent to sealing. Cook on high pressure for 9 minutes, then manually release the pressure.
  • Stir in coconut cream (the hardened white part at the top of your coconut milk can), leaving the clear liquid in the can. Hit the "saute" button again and bring to a boil while stirring.
  • Mix the arrowroot powder and water together to create the slurry. Add it into the pot and stir. It will thicken quickly. Add more salt to taste. Hit "cancel/keep warm" and let it sit until ready to serve. Serve over cauliflower rice for Whole30, or regular basmati rice for just gluten free! Enjoy!

Notes

Slow Cooker Option

To make this in a slow cooker, complete the first step using a sauté pan on the stove. Then,
  1. Add the cooked onions/garlic/spices to the slow cooker along with the raw chicken pieces.
  2. Add in tomato sauce and chicken broth, and stir. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 7-8 hours.
  3. Stir in the coconut cream. If the sauce needs to be thickened, turn the slow cooker on high.
  4. Make the slurry and add it in and stir for a few minutes.
  5. Serve over cauliflower rice for Whole30, or regular basmati rice for gluten-free. Enjoy!

How to Serve

The best way to serve this healthy chicken tikka masala is over a bed of white rice. For those that are not gluten-free, feel free to also pair this with naan bread (you can find this in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s!). Otherwise, this dish served without bread is just as delicious!

Storage

Store leftover Instant Pot chicken tikka masala in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop and serve over leftover rice or fresh rice!
If you’d like to freeze your Instant Pot chicken tikka masala, place the leftover sauce and chicken in a freezer-safe, airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat. Make a fresh batch of rice to serve it over.

Nutrition

Calories: 486kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 39g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 24g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 128mg, Sodium: 1149mg, Potassium: 948mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 279IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 51mg, Iron: 5mg