This slow cooker chicken tikka masala is the homemade version you’ve been dreaming of… bold and richly flavored, yet SO easy to make! Imagine coming home to the mouthwatering smell of this classic curry simmering away, ready to electrify your tastebuds!
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
There’s nothing better than knowing that dinner is taken care of. You don’t have to stand over a hot stove for 30 minutes or more, and you still get to eat a home-cooked meal!
Slow cookers are truly one of my favorite things… walking in the house and having the smell of this delicious curry hit you; it’s an amazing feeling.
Serve this chicken tikka masala with some basmati rice and naan bread for a perfect Indian meal at home!
HOW TO MAKE SLOW COOKER CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
In an effort to make this slow cooker version taste the most like the real deal, I added 2 extra steps to add seared flavor. But don’t worry, it’s still incredibly simple!
- Sear chicken in skillet, remove and dice.
- Cook onion, peppers, spices, garlic and ginger.
- Transfer mixture to the slow cooker and stir in tomato sauce.
- Mix sauce with yogurt, then add yogurt to the slow cooker.
- Stir in cilantro and eat!
COOKING TIPS FOR CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
- Take the time to sear – I know it’s a pain, and it’s an extra step or two, but searing both the chicken and the onion/pepper mixture adds SO much flavor!
- Use fresh spices – some of these spices may have been ones you’ve kept in the cabinet for a loooonnnggg time, but spices becomes less potent and flavorful over time, so use fresh spices for this recipe if possible.
- Temper the yogurt – if you add the yogurt to the hot sauce in the slow cooker, it may curdle, so it’s best to temper the yogurt by whisking some of the sauce into the yogurt, then mixing the yogurt into the slow cooker.
VARIATIONS OF TIKKA MASALA
- The No-Sear Method – if you’d rather not take the time to sear the chicken before adding it to the slow cooker, you can dice up the thighs ahead of time, season them with salt and pepper and add them to the slow cooker raw. I do highly recommend cooking the onion and pepper with the spices though… it adds SO much flavor.
- Other Proteins – tikka masala can be made with other proteins besides chicken if you’d like. Turkey, pork, shrimp, or even tofu would work well.
- Yogurt substitutes – if you’re completely against yogurt, you can use heavy cream or full-fat coconut milk.
- Longer cooking time – if you need or want this recipe to cook longer, don’t dice the chicken thighs, cook them whole, and they’ll cook for 6-7 hours. This will result in a shredded chicken tikka masala.
MAKING CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA AHEAD OF TIME
Most curries, in addition to this one, taste almost even better the next day! The flavors really have time to meld and intensify.
So feel free to make this dish ahead of time, then reheat the chicken in the sauce in a saucepan and enjoy!
STORING CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Leftovers, if you have any, should last 3-4 days if kept covered and refrigerated.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
My favorite way of serving this dish is alongside a big bowl of basmati rice, and with plenty of naan bread (preferably garlic naan!).
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT USED IN THIS RECIPE
- Slow Cooker – I prefer using a smaller slow cooker for this recipe, as I think it cooks the chicken more evenly, and this is the model I have and love. The exact slow cooker used in the photos is this one, but it’s pretty pricey!
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- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion minced
- 1 serrano pepper seeded and minced
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1 - 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger grated
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 3/4 cup whole-fat plain yogurt (not greek)
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro minced
- Heat oil in a large skillet over MED HIGH heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then add to the skillet once hot. Sear chicken 2-3 minutes per side, until very browned. Remove to a cutting board and slice into 1 inch pieces.
- Add onion, serrano, tomato paste, garam masala, tumeric, smoked paprika, cumin and sugar to same skillet over MED HIGH heat. Cook 3-4 minutes, until onion is soft and slightly browned at the edges.
- Stir in garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add 1/4 cup of water or chicken broth to scrape up any browned bits in the skillet.
- Transfer skillet contents to bottom of slow cooker. Top with diced chicken and tomato sauce, stirring well to combine.
- Cover and cook on LOW 3 hours.
- After 3 hours, remove 1/2 cup of sauce from the slow cooker and slowly pour it into the yogurt, while whisking quickly. This tempers the yogurt so it doesn't curdle.
- Stir all yogurt into the slow cooker and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve.
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INSTANT POT VERSIONAll ingredients are the same, but add 1/2 cup chicken broth
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add vegetable oil to Instant Pot and select "Saute". When hot, add chicken and cook for a 2-3 minutes per side each side, until well browned. You don't want to overcrowd the pot, so you may need to do this in batches.
Remove chicken to cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Add onion, serrano, tomato paste, garam masala, tumeric, smoked paprika, cumin and sugar to Instant Pot. Cook 3-4 minutes, until onion is soft and slightly browned at the edges.
Stir in garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds or so. Add chicken broth to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pot. Browned bits on the bottom can result in a BURN notice from the Instant Pot.
Return chicken pieces to the pot, along with tomato sauce. Stir slightly.
Close lid securely and make sure the valve is set to "sealing". Select "Manual" or "Pressure Cook" and adjust the +/- button until it reads 8 minutes.
When finished cooking, carefully turn the valve to "venting" for a quick pressure release. When the steam has all escaped, and the pin has dropped, remove the lid.
Use a slotted spoon to remove chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Select "Saute".
Add yogurt to a small mixing bowl. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the sauce from the Instant Pot and slowly pour it to the yogurt, while whisking quickly. This tempers the yogurt so it doesn't curdle.
Stir the yogurt mixture into the Instant Pot and let simmer for several minutes, until thickened to your liking.
Return chicken to the pot, along with minced cilantro. Stir and serve hot.
FOR A SMOOTHER SAUCE
- Scoop chicken pieces out of slow cooker or instant pot and set aside in a bowl (I like to use a slotted spoon for this).
- Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce right in the slow cooker, or transfer the sauce to a standard blender and blend until smooth. Be careful, as the sauce is very hot!
- Add chicken back to pureed sauce and proceed with step 6