Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala is the epitome of good Indian food! It starts with a simple marinade, and you can cook it entirely in the instant pot or on the stovetop! Serve with steamed basmati rice or my personal favorite, garlic naan!

delicious tikka masala with basmati rice

This is the mic drop of all instant pot meals!

Chicken Tikka Masala in the instant pot is my go-to recipe when I want flavorful Indian food in a flash without putting in a ton of effort!

So after months of recipe testing, I’m pleased to be bringing this meal to the blog. I love serving homemade chicken tikka masala with basmati rice. But if I’m feeling extra indulgent, I’ll also make a batch of homemade garlic naan. This is the perfect meal to make when it’s cold out or when you want good comfort food that’ll warm your soul.

Initially, when I shared this recipe, it was just the instant pot version. I received a ton of requests for directions on how to make it on a stovetop, so I tested the recipe, and now you have instructions for both, and no excuses not to try it. I wouldn’t say one version is better than the other; they do taste about the same. It just depends on how much time you’ve got and whether you own an Instant Pot.

Meals that are easy on the cook are my favorite kind.

chicken tikka masala made on the stovetop

It’s been a while since I shared an Indian recipe on the blog. It’s not something we make too often around here, although I often find myself wondering why that is because we both tend to enjoy them so much. My homemade butter chicken was an instant hit when I shared it years ago, both at home and on the blog. It’s an authentic recipe that was previously used in an Indian restaurant many years ago, and to be honest, we love it so much that I wouldn’t make butter chicken any other way.

In recent years I’ve also shared a chana masala with you. It’s super yummy and works really well with a dollop of yogurt to cool off all that spice. It’s a recipe I love whipping up when we’re going meatless! And for those of you that prefer a little protein, like hubby, there’s shrimp masala too.

marinating chicken for chicken tikka masala

What is the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala?

Okay, so first – murgh makhani and butter chicken are the same thing! Literally translated, ‘murgh’ means chicken, and ‘makhani’ means butter. It always makes me crack up when I hear people arguing that a recipe tasted more like murgh makhani than butter chicken!

Now, let’s address the difference between murgh makhani/ butter chicken and chicken tikka masala. So as we know, butter chicken contains butter. This isn’t always in the form of butter as we know it. Sometimes, it’s in the way of clarified butter or ghee, which is what I prefer to use in my butter chicken recipe. Butter chicken is also a tad bit sweeter (because of either sugar or sauteed onions) and milder concerning spices than chicken tikka masala. Chicken tikka masala packs more of a punch when it comes to spices and may or may not contain any butter. I reserve the ghee for my butter chicken and opt for oil when I’m making chicken tikka masala. However, ghee would work lovely in place of the oil in this recipe should you choose to use it.

Ingredients for chicken tikka masala recipe

  • Chicken: I prefer to use boneless, skinless chicken tender or chicken breasts for this recipe, but thighs will also work. Make sure to chop the boneless skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes so they cook evenly. For those who like dark meat chicken, the boneless skinless chicken thighs are a better option here as they’re more flavorful and more traditionally used.
  • Yogurt: used as a tenderizer in this recipe to marinate the chicken. This recipe typically uses plain yogurt, but Greek yogurt will also work.
  • Lemon juice: used as a tenderizer in this recipe to marinate the chicken
  • Fresh Ginger: the heart and soul of Indian food! You can use grated ginger or ginger paste for this recipe; both will work.
  • Garlic: the other heart of Indian food? What I’m trying to say is that both garlic and ginger are starting points for so many Indian and Pakistani recipes. You can use grated garlic cloves or garlic paste for this recipe; both work.
  • Seasonings and spices: both ground white or black pepper and garam masala are used to flavor the chicken. You’ll need a teaspoon salt for the seasoning. We’ll also use ground cumin, coriander, paprika, garam masala, fenugreek leaves, ground turmeric, and cayenne pepper for the gravy portion of this recipe.
  • Olive oil: we’ll use it to brown the chicken before simmering the sauce. We do use a bit more oil in the stovetop version than the one for the instant pot.
  • Tomato Puree: you want to use a tomato puree that doesn’t contain anything but pureed tomatoes. Italian passata or tomato sauce works really well! You don’t want to use whole tomatoes, diced, or crushed here. If that’s all you’ve got on hand, you can still use them; just run them through the blender so it’s a puree before adding them to the instant pot. It’s important to do this so our cream sauce doesn’t have chunks of whole tomatoes in it at the end.
  • Heavy cream: be sure to use heavy cream for this recipe. I’ve tested it with half and half as well, and though it does work, I find the heavy cream balances and mellows out the spices better because of the higher fat content.
  • Fresh Cilantro: Just for a little color on top of the dish once the masala is done simmering.
cooking chicken for tikka masala

How to make chicken tikka masala:

  1. Start by marinating the chicken; this is the same for the stovetop and instant pot. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger paste, garlic paste, pepper, salt, and 1 teaspoon garam masala in a bowl. Whisk it together and let the chicken marinate in this for as long as you can. The more hrs it marinates, the tastier it will be!
  2. Sauté the chicken. You can do this in the instant pot or a skillet or pan if you’re making this on the stovetop. If you’re making this on the stove, you’ll want to remove the chicken before you saute the masala portion of this recipe.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients: if you’re making this in the instant pot, just add everything but the cream, place the lid on top, seal, and cook on high pressure. For the stove-top version, you’ll want to saute the aromatics with the spices and continue to cook with the passata. Lower from medium-high heat. You want the sauce to simmer and reduce a bit. Once the sauce is ready, add the chicken back to the pan.
  4. Add the cream and serve warm! Once the instant pot goes off, do a quick pressure release and stir in the cream. For the stovetop version, kick the heat up to medium and drizzle in the cream. Turn off the stove or the instant pot. Taste and adjust with salt or garam masala. You’ll also want to have some fluffy basmati rice prepared to serve this with.
stovetop chicken tikka masala

FAQs about this recipe

Can you make serving suggestions for this curry?

I like serving chicken tikka masala with basmati rice that I usually just boil. Basmati rice is cooked differently than traditional rice, and my recipe explains all of that in full detail! You could also make something like my chana masala or 30-minute brown lentil dal to serve alongside the chicken tikka masala. Homemade naan or garlic naan are a must with this!

Can I broil the chicken under the broiler and use it for this recipe?

I’ve only tested the recipe as written. Though many recipes call for the chicken to be cooked on a rack in the oven, my family has always prepared chicken tikka masala the way I’ve written this recipe.

Are curry powder and garam masala the same?

They are not. Though there are many spices that overlap between the two seasonings, they are very different in terms of flavor. Garam masala contains ingredients like black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. Whereas curry powder contains mustard seeds, and curry leaves, amongst many other ingredients.

For this recipe, I give a range for the amount of garam masala. Authentic brands are more potent, and you’ll need one 1- 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala, whereas mainstream brands will require a bit more to get that same flavor punch.

Additionally, I use a homemade garam masala that my mom makes and keeps my pantry well-stocked. Her recipe uses whole spices that she measures and grinds. I find her homemade garam masala to be way more potent than the garam masala you find in most grocery stores but about the same as garam masala bought from an Indian/Pakistani store. If you’re using a traditional brand, you’ll need 1 – 1½ teaspoons of garam masala. To make this even spicier, feel free to up it to 2 teaspoons!

creamy chicken tikka masala with basmati rice

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tikka masala on basmati rice with naan
Yield: 5-6 servings

Chicken Tikka Masala (Stove Top + Instant Pot)

Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala is the epitome of good Indian food! It starts with a simple marinade, and you can cook it entirely in the instant pot or on the stovetop! Serve with steamed basmati rice or my personal favorite, garlic naan!

Chicken Tikka Masala (Stove Top + Instant Pot)


chicken marinade:

  • 1 ½ pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (tenders or thighs), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: grated ginger (or paste) AND garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

tikka masala:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon grated ginger (or paste)
  • 8 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, AND garam masala (see notes for garam masala)
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can passata (tomato sauce or puree)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • cooked basmati rice + naan + chopped cilantro, for serving


  1. MARINATE THE CHICKEN: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger paste, garlic paste, ground white pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and garam masala. Add the diced chicken and mix; set aside for at least 20 minutes. If you’ve got time, I suggest covering with plastic wrap and letting it hang out in the refrigerator for 1-10 hours.


  1. STOVE TOP: Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large dutch oven or sauté pan. When heated, add the marinated chicken (along with the marinade) and let saute for 5-7 minutes so the chicken cooks through, stirring as needed to cook chicken evenly on all sides. Remove the cooked chicken to a bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet along with the grated ginger and garlic and cook for 1-minute scraping and removing any stuck-on bits. Then, add all the spices (including the fenugreek leaves,) and give it 30 seconds before adding the passata. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt and allow the sauce to reach a simmer, once simmering, add ¼ cup of water, lower the heat to low and allow the sauce to continue cooking for 14-18 minutes. Then, add the chicken back into the pan, stir to combine.
  2. INSTANT POT: Select the sauté mode on your instant pot when it’s hot, add the oil followed by the marinated chicken (along with the marinade) and let sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom. Add all of the remaining ingredients for the sauce (except the cream) along with ½ teaspoon salt and stir everything well. Cover with the lid, make sure it is set to ‘seal’, and let cook on manual high pressure for 9 minutes. Use the quick release lever to release the steam as soon as the timer goes off.
  3. BOTH IP + STOVE: Hit the sauté button on the instant pot or just kick the heat up to medium on the stove and drizzle in the cream; stir to combine. When the tikka masala reaches a gentle simmer. Turn off the stove/IP and taste. Adjust with additional salt or garam masala as desired. Serve warm with naan and cooked basmati rice.


  • For the garam masala in the gravy or tikka masala portion of the recipe, you’ll need 1-2 teaspoons based on the type of garam masala you used. For authentic Indian brands, you’ll want to start with 1 - 1 ½ teaspoon, for all other brands, I suggest using 1 ½ - 2 teaspoons. Keep in mind that you can always adjust with additional garam masala at the end if it isn’t spicy enough for you!

Have you made this recipe?

If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below. You can also share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LITTLESPICEJAR, I'd love to see what you made!