Hands down the Best Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe is right here for you! Air fried juicy Chicken Tikka pieces pressure cooked with homemade Tikka Masala Sauce. The Sauce is creamy, a bit tangy, slightly sweet & infused with the charred flavor from the chicken tikka pieces. Don’t miss the recipe video at the bottom of the post.
Chicken Tikka Masala in Instant Pot
Chicken Tikka Masala unlike Butter Chicken is always made with grilled or baked, or air fried Chicken Tikkas. If you skip making the Chicken Tikka you’ll end up with a normal chicken curry & not Chicken Tikka Masala 😀 The flavor will be pretty bland, trust me on this.
Here, we made the Chicken Tikkas using the Instant Pot Air Fryer lid and than quickly whipped up the Tikka masala sauce in the Instant Pot & pressure cooked them together to make the world’s Best Chicken Tikka Masala from scratch.
You can make the chicken tikkas however you want, like – skillet roast the meat, oven bake, or air fry them.
Find the Ingredients with actual measurements at the bottom of the post. The list below is just a reference.
- Chicken: Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breasts or thighs diced into 1 inch cubes. Perfect for making the Tikkas.
- Tomato Paste: Store Bought.
- Tomato Sauce: Store Bought.
- Onion: Use the purple onion for best flavors.
- Ginger Garlic: Use in the Paste form or use minced. You can try our popular ginger garlic paste recipe from the blog. It lasts for 6 months without discoloration!
- Yogurt: Use Greek Yogurt.
- All Purpose Flour: Works as a binder and helps bind the marinade to the chicken.
- Tandoori Masala Powder: Available in almost every Indian grocery store or even Whole Foods Market in the USA. You can sub it with cumin powder + garam masala powder ( sub quantities mentioned in the bottom of the post).
- Paprika: Lends that gorgeous, vibrant and beautiful color to the dish without any heat.
- Garam Masala Powder: Use the best you can afford. It has the potential to make or break the dish.
- Cumin Powder
- Honey: Lends a hint of mild sweetness to the dish and ties all the amazing flavors & the smokiness, earthiness from the spices. Don’t miss it!
- Heavy Cream: Adds a good splash of creaminess. You can also sub it with coconut cream or full fat coconut milk.
- Garnish: Chopped fresh Cilantro, a few drops of lime juice (optional).
- Cooking Fat: Butter & avocado oil or use any neutral oil.
Tips & Tricks
- Chicken Tikka: Don’t skip making the Chicken Tikka first. The charred flavor of the marinated chicken cubes (tikka) is a must in this dish, they create an amazing good flavor. You can also make them ahead & store them in the fridge. Later assemble them with the sauce & serve!
- Marinate the Chicken: Allow the chicken pieces to soak up in the marinade for at least 30 mins or overnight in the fridge. The best flavors guaranteed. This will also keep the air fried or baked chicken tikkas incredibly soft & moist.
- Tikka Masala Sauce from Scratch: We’ll be taking the good flavors of this easy homemade sauce a notch up by using air fried onion. Yes, air fry the onion along with the chicken & use it to make the sauce. The onion soaks up the dripping chicken juices in the air fryer & bursts with flavor! So irresistible!
- The taste of the sauce: You can totally control it! We love it slightly tangy, creamy, mildly spicy (heat from the garam masala) with a hint of sweetness. You can certainly make it spicy with cayenne pepper. But, we skipped using it. Tikka Masala Sauce has some texture & it’s never silky, smooth unlike Butter Chicken Sauce.
- Tandoori Masala: Now, this is an optional ingredient. Use it only if you have it, otherwise sub it with cumin + garam masala powder. Find the exact quantities at the bottom of the post.
- Make-ahead Tips: Make ahead the chicken tikkas & store in the fridge for 7 days. You can also half cook the sauce and store it in the fridge for upto 5 days in air tight mason jars. Just assemble the chicken tikka masala whenever craving strikes. Use the cream & honey while assembling the dish.
Find the detailed step by step recipe along with measurements + Video at the bottom of the post.
Step #1 Marinate Chicken Tikka
All you need to do is dice the chicken into cubes & rub them with yogurt, spices, ginger garlic, oil and flour. Your marinated chicken Tikkas are ready.
Flour helps in binding the marinade with the chicken do not skip it!
Step #2 Air Fry Chicken Tikka
We’ll be quickly air frying the chicken tikkas and the onion squares in the Instant Pot using the air fryer lid.
Set the black air fryer basket inside the steel insert of the Instant Pot. Dump the onions & spray them with oil. Place the metal disc inside the black air fryer basket (this will convert the air fryer basket into 2 storeys). Spray with oil, the chicken won’t stick to the disc.
Now, arrange the marinated chicken tikkas in a single layer on the metal disc, Do not cover all the holes in the metal disc, this will prevent hot air circulation & won’t air fry the onions. Leave a few holes open as seen above in the pic.
Spray with oil. Put the air fryer lid on and plug it (you do not need to plug in your instant pot). You need to only plug in the lid.
AIR FRY the chicken tikkas at 350 F for 6 mins. Press CANCEL and open the lid carefully and place it on the heat proof disc of the air fryer. It’s very very hot, do not place the lid anywhere else!
You can use a torch to char the tikkas or even broil them for a few mins in using the air fryer lid (there’s a broil option) for an amazing charred look.
The chicken tikkas are ready, now let’s make the sauce quickly.
Step #3 Pressure Cook Chicken Tikka Masala
Chop the air fried onions. Plug in the Instant Pot and add butter on SAUTE function at NORMAL heat setting.
Saute the chopped air fried onion for 30 seconds and add the tomato paste + sauce and sauce for another 30 seconds. Add ginger garlic paste or mince and saute for 1 min.
Add the spices and saute for 30 seconds. In goes the water. De-glaze the pot very well scraping the sides & the bottom of the pot with the help of a spatula. There should not be any bits & crumbs stuck at the bottom. This will prevent the BURN error.
CANCEL the SAUTE function and PRESSURE COOK on HIGH for just 2 mins followed by a QUICK RELEASE. Stir in the heavy cream and garnish with chopped cilantro, what else do you need in life? 😀 A side of Naan or steamed rice perhaps…Lol!
Can Chicken Tikka Masala be frozen?
Yes, Chicken Tikka Masala can be frozen for upto 2 months. Always choose porion control freezer safe containers. Skip adding the cream. Add it while re-heating the dish later.
Check out our Quick and Easy Instant Pot Recipes.
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For making Chicken Tikka (marinating chicken)
- 1.5 pound chicken (** Boneless, skinless chicken breasts diced into 1 inch cubes)
- 1.5 tbsp Tandoori Masala (** or sub with ½ tsp cumin powder + ½ tsp garam masala powder + 1 tsp paprika powder)
- ½ tbsp Garam Masala Powder
- ¼ tbsp Cumin Powder
- ½ tbsp Paprika
- ½ tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste (** or sub with ½ tbsp minced ginger + ½ tbsp minced garlic)
- 1 tbsp Yogurt
- 1 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
- ½ Lime (** squeeze & add the juice)
- 1 tbsp Avocado oil (** or any neutral oil)
- avocado oil Spray
- Salt (to taste)
For Tikka Masala Sauce
- 1 cup water
- 1 medium onion (** use red onion, dice into large squares, separate each petal after dicing)
- 4 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 16 oz tomato sauce (** 452 g, I used 2 X 8 oz tins)
- ½ tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
- 1.5 tbsp Paprika
- ½ tbsp Garam Masala Powder
- ¼ tbsp Cumin Powder
- ¼ cup heavy cream (** you can use more)
- 1.5 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
- Salt (to taste)
How to make Chicken Tikkas in the Air Fryer?
- Dice the skinless boneless chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes, keep them in a bowl. Add all the ingredients mentioned above in the "For making Chicken Tikka" section into the bowl. Rub well to coat all the chicken pieces with the marinade. Leave for 30 mins before you begin air frying them.
- Set the Instant Pot, do not plug it. Place the air fryer basket inside the steel insert of the Instant Pot.
- Throw in the cubed onion pieces in a single layer inside the air fryer basket. Spray with oil.
- Now, place the air fryer steel disc insert inside the air fryer basket. Spray the disc with oil and arrange the marinated chicken pieces in a single layer. Do not over crowd and leave a few openings (holes) on the metal disc open (refer the video or steps pics above). It's a must for hot air circulation.
- Spray the chicken pieces with oil. Put the air fryer lid on. Plug it.
- Hit the AIR FRY button and set the temperature to 350 F and the time to 6 minutes. Hit the START button to begin air frying the chicken tikkas.
- Once, the air frying cycle is over the Instant Pot will begin to beep. Hit the CANCEL button and carefully open the lid (it's very very hot) and place it on the heat proof base that comes along with the air fryer lid. DO NOT place it anywhere else because it's super hot!
- Now, if you prefer the charred look on the chicken tikkas go ahead and char the chicken tikkas with a torch or you may also put back the air fryer lid and hit the BROIL button to char the chicken pieces for a few minutes. I used a torch for fun 😀 The beautifully charred Chicken Tikkas are all ready now. Let's make the world's best Tikka Masala Sauce.
- Also, remove the air fried onion pieces from the air fryer basket and finely chop them.
How to make Chicken Tikka Masala Sauce?
- We will be making the Tikka Masala Sauce in the Instant Pot and not the air fryer. So, keep aside the air fryer basket along with the metal disc. Plug in the Instant Pot.
- Rinse the steel insert of the instant pot if you feel like. We did not rinse it.
- Hit the SAUTE function and keep it at NORMAL heat setting. Add butter and when it melts completely add the finely chopped air fried onion and saute for just 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato paste and sauce and saute for another 30 seconds.
- Now, add the ginger garlic paste or minced ginger garlic and saute for another 60 seconds.
- Add the spice powders like the cumin, garam masala and the paprika and saute for 30 seconds. Add honey and mix well.
- Add 1 cup water and de-glaze the pot very well by scraping the sides and the bottom of the pot with the help of a spatula. There should not be any bits or crumbs stuck at the bottom of the pot. This is very important & shall prevent the BURN error.
- CANCEL the SAUTE function, put back the instant pot lid, seal the valve and PRESSURE COOK on HIGH for just 2 minutes.
- Once, the cooking cycle is over the instant pot will begin to beep. Do a quick pressure release (QPR) by moving the valve from the SEALING to the VENTING position.
- Add the cream and mix well. Garnish with chopped cilantro and enjoy!
- Measuring Units used, 1 cup = 240 ml & 1 teaspoon = 5 ml
- Tandoori Masala Sub: Use ½ tsp cumin powder + ½ tsp garam masala powder + 1 tsp paprika powder.
- No Air Fryer Lid: You can skillet roast the chicken tikkas, or oven bake them or even sear them in the Instant Pot on SAUTE function set at NORMAL heat until brown spots/charred spots form.
- No air fried onion: Use raw finely chopped onion and saute the onion until translucent.
- Ginger Garlic Paste sub: Use minced ginger and garlic.
- Heavy Cream: You may increase the quantity.
- Spicy Chicken Tikka Masala: Add cayenne pepper powder according to your preference.
- Honey: It adds a subtle sweetness and balances the strong flavors of the dry spices. You may certainly increase the quantity.
- Storing Tips: Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala lasts for upto 5 days in the fridge. Make sure to store it in dry, clean, air tight containers.
- Re-heating Tips: Re heat the dish either in the micro wave with sprinkles of water. You can also heat it on the stove top stirring frequently. Add more cream and chopped cilantro and serve hot.