Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken cooked in tomato sauce served on rice

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Yes! I succumbed. After years of trying to stay away from the very British interpretation of “curry”, it is time to be fair and accept that some of the British Indian food is absolutely delicious – the chicken tikka masala for example.

This Instant pot chicken tikka masala recipe is not an average weeknight chicken dinner recipe. It is a bit more involved because it is a two step recipe. Having said that, with a little bit of planning this can be made mid week . Even after a busy day, searing an already marinated chicken and putting it into an instant pot will take a brief few minutes. And keep the leftovers for a couple of days. The flavors only improve with time.

To keep the flavors as close to what you would get in an Indian restaurant in London, there must be that chargrilled flavor. And to bring in those smoky flavors, we are using a few ingredients and a few techniques. Because we want to keep this as simple as possible, there is no grilling involved.

How to make the smoky chicken tikka masala in the instant pot

For this easy chicken tikka masala recipe, we add the smoked paprika, we add fire roasted tomatoes. Sear the marinated chicken in a pan to get that smoky effect. This extra step is worth the effort. All these things together make a dish that is every bit like the one you would get in an Indian restaurant.

Chicken pieces being seared along with the tikka masala marinade.

You do however have to have a fair amount of spices in a tikka masala. I like to use ground cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne, kashmiri chilli powder and garam masala in both the marinade and the sauce. And my secret ingredient for a really good chicken tikka is Fenugreek leaves and onion powder. The Fenugreek rounds the flavors off and brings the dish together and the onion powder adds an umami.

Substitutions for onion powder and dried fenugreek leaves

Use one medium onion, finely diced and saute it in oil before adding other ingredients to the instant pot. This will change the texture of the final dish and you will also need more oil than what’s listed in the recipe.

The dried fenugreek leaves don’t really have a substitute. It’s also not an ingredient that you may just have laying around. If you have fenugreek seeds powder, use a small pinch in some oil before adding other ingredients.

The fenugreek leaves add that oomph, but is not a make or break ingredient. So skip it if you are not inclined to buy a huge pack of kasuri methi ( dried fenugreek leaves). Fresh fenugreek leaves are a different variety of fenugreek and are not a substitute for this dried version.

chicken cooked in a creamy tomato sauce

Notes : You may be tempted to make it with boneless meat. But if you are not serving it to kids, I recommend keeping the bones in. Also use a combination of breast, thigh and drumsticks. This adds a lot of flavor and keeps the chicken from drying out.

You may be thinking – “There are so many steps involved but I want a simple dish I can cook in the instant pot”. If you divide the process between two days, it becomes more manageable. Marinate on day 1, and cook on day 2.

Sometimes life happens and you are unable to plan ahead. You can still make a pretty good chicken tikka masala. You will just have to do all the steps in the same day. But remember to give the chicken time to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Chicken cooked in tomato sauce served on rice
5 from 4 votes

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Tikka Masala
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Marinating time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
Servings 6 servings


For Marinade

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt whisked
  • 1/2 tsp smoked spanish paprika
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika / kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 4 tsp cumin powder
  • 4 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 3 tsp ginger paste
  • 3 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 lb chicken bone in medium pieces

Sauce ingredients

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped fire roasted tomatoes canned
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tsp chili powder (spanish paprika/ kashmiri chilli/ degi mirch)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cream / yogurt whisk the yogurt if using
  • 2 tbsp cilantro chopped

To finish

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro to add after chicken finishes cooking
  • 1/4 cup cream

Searing chicken

  • marinated chicken
  • 2 tbsp oil


Marinate Chicken

  1. whisk the yogurt and add the spices and the ginger & garlic paste in a medium size bowl. Add in the salt and mix to combine. Add in the chicken pieces and make sure the marinade coats each piece completely.

  2. Cover and let this marinate for 3 hours or upto 48 hours in the refrigerator.

Sear Chicken

  1. One hour before you are ready to sear, bring chicken out and allow to sit in room temp.

  2. Heat a skillet. Add in the oil and put chicken pieces into it – a few at a time, without crowding the pan. Keep the heat high. Do not turn the chicken until it is ready to release from the pan on its own. Sear on all sides and remove to a separate plate. Continue with the rest of the chicken.


  1. Put the instant pot on saute mode

  2. When hot, add in the oil. Add in both the kinds of tomatoes and sauté for a bit. Then add all the spices, water, cream/yogurt. Add in the seared chicken and the 2 tbs of cilantro.

  3. Now put the instant pot on manual mode, close lid and pressure cook chicken and the sauce for 8 minutes on high.

  4. Allow to release pressure naturally for 20 minutes.

  5. To finish , Add in the 1/4 c cilantro and the cream to the chicken after the pressure releases. Mix well.

  6. Serve with a cumin pulav

Recipe Notes

  • Use plain greek yogurt that is full fat.
  • if doubling recipe, do not increase water quantity
  • If you find the sauce a bit on the thin side after you finish cooking, remove chicken from the sauce and put the Instant pot on saute mode to cook off some of the sauce.
  • You can cook the chicken longer and reduce the natural release time.
Progressive Eats Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is Instant Pot Favorites, and our host is Karen who blogs at Karen’s Kitchen Stories. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious fiesta inspired dishes!

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