This Instant Pot chicken tikka masala recipe is made in a pressure cooker with an Indian spice blend including garam masala, cardamom, paprika, and more. It features a dry rub as well as a homemade tikka masala sauce with coconut milk, crushed tomatoes, and a blend of spices.
I enjoy Indian food, but for a long time, I struggled to find a spice blend that came close to what I ate in an Indian restaurant. A friend from college emailed me a version of this recipe more than two years ago, and it quickly became a favorite at my house.
This chicken tikka masala recipe is loaded with spice. I can't speak to its authenticity because I'm certainly no expert in Indian cuisine, but I can tell you it's tasty.
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So about this dry rub...
I know someone will want to know if this dry rub is necessary, and I have to say, yes it is. I do not recommend skipping this step! You'll miss out on a ton of flavor.
If you absolutely need to cut back on the spices, I'd say maybe you could get away without the garlic powder or red pepper flakes, but don't quote me on that! I've played around with adjusting the seasoning amounts, but I always stick to these exact ingredients.
So, now you want to skimp on the dry rub time?
Here's the deal. At a bare minimum, you can let the dry rub do its thing for 30 minutes or so if you're in a pinch. I prefer to let it go for at least an hour, but if you have the time, I like for it to sit in the rub all day long.
Evenly coat the chicken. I prefer to use a gallon-size Ziploc because it's easy and mess-free. Just toss it all in the bag and massage the chicken until the chicken is fully covered.
What about the sauce?
The original recipe I received for this chicken tikka masala called for 1 cup coconut milk and only ½ cup crushed tomatoes, but I like my chicken tikka masala to be extra saucy. Plus, Instant Pot recipes always benefit from a lot of liquid (see my "burn" error tips below!), and I found that it was a better proportion of liquid to spices.
The only thing I've ever experimented with skipping is the tomato paste. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I've ordered my groceries through Kroger Pickup, and let's just say not everything gets substituted as it should. Case in point, I've ended up tomato paste-less more than once. While I still stand behind this ingredient and recommend you include it, I can attest that your pressure cooker chicken tikka masala will be just fine without it.
Instant Pot Burn Error
Honestly, I cannot tell you how many times I've made this recipe. Two dozen, maybe?
I make it the same way each time, with the exception of mixing up the spice amounts here and there, but twice now I've received the dreaded "Burn" error.
The Instant Pot gives a burn warning when there are bits of food stuck to the bottom of the pot, usually due to there not being enough liquid in the pot.
While this recipe has PLENTY of liquid, you might get a burn error if you're not careful enough when you sauté your chicken. You can prevent a burn error by meticulously scraping down the button of the pot while you cook the chicken. Give it a good scrape before you add the sauce ingredients.
Still got a burn error? Don't throw in the towel just yet! I have a tip that might save you a LOT of time.
If you receive a "burn" error, push the "cancel" button and do a quick release. Once your lid is released, open it up and pull out a couple of chicken chunks. Check your chicken to see if it's cooked or nearly cooked (165° F is cooked for poultry). I've had mine burn in the last minute or two of cooking, and it's been fully cooked, luckily.
PLUS, the chicken continues to cook later in the recipe when you boil down your sauce for 10 minutes, so you may not need to repressurize at all if your chicken in on the verge of being cooked.
Now, the bad news is, if you've received a burn warning before your Instant Pot has come to pressure or shortly into the cooking time, your chicken is likely raw. If your chicken is still visibly raw, scrape down the bottom of the pot with a flat spatula and try again.
If you get a second burn notice, refer back to my first tip. Check that chicken to see if it's cooked before you bother going through the trouble of re-pressurizing. The first time I ever received a burn notice my chicken ended up cooking through on attempt two even though it never hit full pressure.
Hopefully, these tips save your sanity just a bit. If you have any other tips, leave them in the comments.
Serve with rice
I like to make my rice in the Instant Pot, but you'd need to make your rice first and then the chicken afterward. The timing just doesn't make sense for me to do it this way (you end up with cold rice). So, I just make it in a pot on the stove according to the package instructions while my Instant Pot chicken cooks.
The overall cook time for the chicken tikka masala is about 30 minutes or so when you consider the amount of time it takes to sauté the chicken, mix in the sauce ingredients, let it come to pressure, let it cook, and then boil down the sauce. So, I start my rice after I've sealed the lid on my chicken and set it to pressure cook. That gives the basmati (which takes about 20 minutes) enough time.
Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- 3 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoon gound cumin
- 2 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon ginger
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoon butter, ghee, or coconut oil
- 15 oz canned coconut milk full fat
- 15 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- basmati rice
- Combine chicken cubes and all of the dry rub ingredients in a gallon size zipper baggie or a bowl, completely coating the chicken. Refrigerate for 1–6 hours.
- Turn pressure cooker on “Saute” and add the butter. Once melted, add the chicken and brown on all sides, flipping occasionally for 4 minutes. Be sure to keep the bottom of the pot free of burned bits (see recipe notes for tips on "burn" error).
- Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir until well combined.
- Cancel the "Saute" and close the Instant Pot lid, setting to "Pressure Cook" on High for 8 minutes. Be sure to turn the pressure valve to "Sealing."
- When the cooking time is complete, do a quick release. Remove the lid and set to "Saute" for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Serve over prepared basmati rice.
Ready for dessert? Check out these S'mores Macarons.