Instant Pot: Chicken Tikka Masala

For tonight's dinner, we headed to... Britain! What? Did you read the title of the dish and think India? Technically, the dish is Indian inspired, but believe it or not, Chicken Tikka Masala is considered the national dish of Britain. It's also one of my favorite dishes to order when dining out at Indian restaurants!

If there's an ethnic cuisine that intimidates me, it would easily be Indian. The comprehensive list of various spices in many Indian recipes I've seen prevents me from even attempting to tackle it in the kitchen. But then I came across the following recipe in a Cook's Illustrated magazine I had stashed away. Looking at the recipe, I was surprised to see how approachable it is... even moreso when I had all the ingredients on hand.

I made a few minor substitutions and adjustments and the final dish rivaled the versions I've tried at local restaurants. Even my husband agreed and I have no excuse to make more Indian inspired dishes at home. The chicken is extremely flavorful and so moist/juicy, thanks to the yogurt it marinates in. The masala sauce is a beautifully rich sauce that is spiced perfectly without being too spicy but with a hint of sweetness. I served this dish over garlic fried rice which complimented the chicken tikka masala perfectly.

Note: I prepped this recipe in advance so it would be easy to complete and serve on a weeknight after a long day at work. The directions below reflect that and I believe the end result is much better preparing it as written below so the flavors to really shine. Additionally, no pressure cooking is needed for this recipe - the marinade does all the work to tenderize the chicken!

Chicken Tikka Masala
recipe adapted from Entertaining: Cook's Illustrated Spring 2009

Chicken Tikka:
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons table salt
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat & cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium garlic cloves , minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce:
2 - 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion , diced fine
2 medium garlic cloves , minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

For the chicken, combine cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger. After the seasoned chicken has 'marinated' for 30-60 minutes in the fridge, pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken and toss to fully coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.

In your Instant Pot the following day:

Plug in the IP with insert set in place.

Press SAUTE on the IP and heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Add garlic, ginger, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add marinated chicken and sauté until opaque, about 3-5 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, and salt.

Secure the lid of the IP and ensure the valve is set to SEALING.

Press MANUAL and adjust the time to 5 minutes on HIGH pressure.

The display will reflect ON while the IP comes to pressure. Allow a few minutes for your IP to come to pressure.

Once at pressure, the display will reflect 5 (the number of minutes you initially set) and will begin to countdown to 0 minutes.

When the IP beeps after pressure cooking for 5 minutes, turn the setting on top of your IP to VENTING. Doing so allows the IP to quickly release any remaining pressure (also known as QPR or QR). I use a wooden spoon to carefully turn the setting to avoid close contact with the potential steam. You may also want to turn your IP away from cabinets to allow the released steam to escape freely. The pin at the top of your IP will drop when all pressure has been released and it's safe to open.

Open up your IP when the pin has dropped (allow a few minutes for this to happen). The IP will automatically default to the WARM mode.

Stir in cream and adjust seasoning with salt if needed. 

Before serving, stir in cilantro into the sauce or garnish with cilantro if using.


To prepare this as a freezer meal, make the sauce, cool and freeze. Prepare the chicken, cool and freeze. When you're ready to serve it, defrost both sauce and chicken; heat sauce and warm chicken in oven, then combine... or if you want, add the chicken to the sauce and warm up together (although I think it tastes better when warmed separately then served together.)