5 Ingredient Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala – at home – on the couch – in 30 minutes. THIS IS HAPPENING.

Chicken tikka masala in a bowl with rice.

Welcome to the most creamy, luscious, medium-spicy, weeknight-manageable, must-have-it-NOW chicken tikka masala.

It is everything you want tikka masala to be: packed with flavor, with just enough browned bits on your chicken to keep it interesting, tangy but also rich, with that signature bronze-orange tikka masala color. Scoop it up over hot rice with a shower of fresh cilantro and you are in tikka masala biz-ness.

Chicken tikka masala in a pan.

The Secret Ingredient

Okay, you might have opinions about this, but personally I like to approach chicken tikka masala as a five ingredient recipe:

  • Chicken
  • Yogurt
  • Tomato sauce
  • Cream
  • Masala paste

Let’s talk about the masala paste. In order to approach this as a five ingredient recipe, we need to establish that one of the “ingredients” is a MASALA PASTE with lots of fragrant and punchy and deeply flavored ingredients.

You make this masala paste once, it is done in about five minutes, and then it lives in your freezer so that forevermore you will have the ability to make this chicken tikka masala as a – you guessed it – quick, easy, five ingredient recipe.

Masala Paste on a spoon

Are you following?

So the first order of business here is making the masala paste. Today. Right now. End of story. One five minute batch of masala paste = many batches of this five ingredient CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA with hardly any thought or effort.

If you can, if you will, if you need good recipes that taste like your favorite Indian restaurant just came into your house, please make that masala paste which will transform into this sauce which will cover this chicken which makes the simplest chicken tikka masala happen in your life, in your very own home, on your very own couch in your very own sweats because HELLO.

Only the best for tikka masala.

Chicken tikka masala in bowls with rice.

Ways To Make Chicken Tikka Masala

This recipe is written to be done on the stovetop, but you could make it in the Instant Pot or a slow cooker for a more hands-off approach. I prefer the traditional stovetop version, but all ways are very delicious.

Check out the notes section of the recipe below for specific instructions for both!

Check Out Our Video For How To Make Chicken Tikka Masala:

This recipe is one of our favorite Indian dishes. Recipes can vary from place to place and restaurant to restaurant, but it is typically always served with hunks of chicken that are marinated in spices and yogurt and then served in a creamy curry sauce. While we don’t have a tandoori oven at home, typically the chicken would be roasted first. For a more in-depth look at Indian food including influences, methods, definitions, and more, check out this amazing post called Indian Cooking 101 by our friend Anu from Simmer to Slimmer!

A bowl of chicken tikka masala sauce on a bed of white rice.

Chicken Tikka Masala


Chicken Tikka Masala – creamy, perfectly spicy, and ready in 30 minutes! you won’t believe how easy it is to make this at home!


Chicken Tikka Masala:

  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup masala paste (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 12 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 cup heavy cream (sub a 14-ounce can of regular coconut milk)
  • 12 teaspoons kosher salt
  • rice and cilantro for serving

Masala Paste:

  • 2 onions (about 3 cups when chopped)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon each chili powder, turmeric, and cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • a small pile of cilantro stems
  • juice of one lemon


  1. MASALA PASTE: Pulse all ingredients into a food processor until smooth. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the paste for this recipe – freeze the rest for your next batch! Boom!
  2. MARINATE CHICKEN: Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Marinate with 1-2 tablespoons of masala paste and the yogurt for about 30 minutes in the fridge.
  3. COOK CHICKEN: Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Cook the chicken in batches, undisturbed, until each piece is nice and browned on the outside. Remove from pan and set aside. (Chicken does not need to be fully cooked at this point.)
  4. SAUCE: Add 2-3 tablespoons of masala paste to the same skillet. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add the tomato puree and browned chicken; simmer for 10-15 minutes. (Chicken should now be fully cooked.)
  5. FINISH: Stir in cream or coconut milk. Season with salt. Let stand for a while so the sauce will thicken up a bit. Serve over rice with cilantro. HEAVEN.


Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala: Same ingredients and instructions for steps 1 and 2. At step 3, add chicken, masala paste, and tomato puree to the Instant Pot, and cook at high pressure for 8 minutes. Use the quick release. Add cream in at the end.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala: Same ingredients and instructions for steps 1 and 2. At step 3, add chicken, masala paste, and tomato puree to the slow cooker, and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Add cream in at the end.

Tomato Puree: You can buy canned tomato puree at a lot of grocery stores. Otherwise just plain tomato sauce (it’s just a little thinner) or use canned tomatoes and run them through the food processor or blender till smooth. The idea is just plain pureed tomatoes without seasoning. 

Dairy Free Chicken Tikka Masala: Coconut milk or light coconut milk can be used and it’s delicious! It will just be slightly less thick and creamy.

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: chicken tikka masala, masala paste, Indian restaurant, chicken dinner recipe

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Nutrition Facts are for 6 servings, not including rice.

One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of best healthy gluten-free recipes. Check it out!

The post Chicken Tikka Masala appeared first on Pinch of Yum.

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