This healthy chicken tikka masala is packed with flavor and easy to make at home! It includes tender and delicious chicken simmered in a light and creamy spiced curry sauce. Serve with fluffy gluten free naan or rice for the perfect healthy weeknight meal!
If you’ve never had chicken tikka masala before, you’re in for a beautiful surprise. Indian cuisine has totally captured my heart in recent months—the food is hearty, comforting, and warming. And who doesn’t absolutely love gluten free naan?
When it comes to Indian food, curries totally take the cake. This healthy chicken tikka recipe includes tender chicken in a light spiced curry sauce with the perfect amount of heat. It’s great for meal prep because it stores and freezes well. Because this recipe is made in the Instant Pot, it’s on the table in 30 minutes! Faster than takeout, and you can make it healthier with just a few simple swaps.
Because the ingredients are so simple, this recipe is completely gluten free, paleo, and whole30. Add this one to your weekly rotation!
What Makes This Chicken Tikka Masala Healthier?
Chicken tikka masala is a incredibly delicious recipe with Indian roots. It typically includes yogurt-marinated chicken simmered in a rich and creamy spiced curry sauce. This is a healthier chicken tikka masala recipe because it’s:
- Made with whole ingredients: The main ingredients are just chicken, onions, coconut milk, tomato sauce, and fresh spices!
- Gluten free: There’s no need for gluten in this recipe. Just use a little arrowroot flour for thickening, and pair it with my gluten free naan!
- Dairy free: All you need is a little ghee and dairy free yogurt for the sauce.
- Garam masala – This is a spice blend you can find at any grocery store in the spice section.
- Chicken thighs or breasts – I like using chicken thighs for this recipe because it has a higher fat content and doesn’t dry out when cooked.
- Sea salt
- Onion – You can use yellow or Vadalia onions.
- Coconut milk – I recommend using full-fat canned coconut milk because it thick and creamy.
- Arrowroot flour – This helps to thicken the sauce. You can find this in the baking section near the gluten free flours.
- Lemon juice – Fresh or bottled both work.
- Garlic cloves: Use 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.
- Coconut milk: You can use a different dairy free milk or heavy cream (not dairy free) instead.
- Arrowroot flour: Swap this for tapioca flour.
- Dairy free yogurt: Use any plain yogurt of your choice!
How to Make Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala
The best part about this recipe is that it’s easy to make! Here’s how to make it in six easy steps:
1. Prep your spices. Combine all of the ingredients for the spice mixture in a small bowl and set aside. Add the chicken pieces to a medium bowl and season with 1 teaspoon of salt.
2. Sauté the veggies. Set the Instant Pot to SAUTE and add 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic, and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the spice mixture and stir until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Pour ⅓ cup water into to pot and stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and stir well to coat with the spices and onion. Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
3. Cook on high. Secure the lid on the pot and cook on HIGH pressure for 8 minutes. Release the pressure manually.
4. Simmer the sauce. Combine the coconut milk and arrowroot flour and whisk well. Remove the lid and set the pressure cooker to SAUTE. Add the coconut milk mixture to the pot. Simmer and let it cook until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes.
5. Stir and eat! Turn the pressure cooker off and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and lemon juice, and serve over rice or cauliflower rice garnished with fresh cilantro.
- You can find garam masala at most grocery stores.
- I recommend using chicken thighs for this recipe as the texture is much better once cooked.
- Getting your prep work done ahead of time makes all the difference. You can combine your spices, cube the chicken, and dice your onion as much as 24 hours in advance. Just store the chicken and onion in separate airtight containers in the fridge.
- Stir everything well when you deglaze the pot. There should be nothing sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Let the sauce simmer until it reaches your desired thickness. I like to bring it to a simmer in the Instant Pot, then simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Time saving tip: Use 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp ground ginger instead of fresh.
While traditional recipe use cream and added sugar, chicken tikka masala can easily be made into a healthy dish with a few simple swaps. You can use coconut milk in place of cream, and simple and fresh spices to make the dish flavorful.
Chicken tikka masala includes tender chicken in a mildly spiced tomato-based curry sauce. It’s a warm, creamy dish that is lightly spiced, buttery, and earthy.
Chicken tikka masala is one of the less spicy Indian dishes. It’s a mild curry that is lightly spiced and full of flavor.
Pressure Cooker Tips
The best and easiest way to cook a healthier chicken tikka masala is in a pressure cooker. What makes traditional Indian recipes so yummy is the beautiful array of spices and low and slow simmering. With a pressure cooker, you can cut the cooking time and still get the same effect.
I recommend getting a pressure cooker that allows you to both sauté and cook on low and high pressure. With this recipe, you will simply sauté the vegetables and spices directly in the pot, then add the chicken and tomato sauce, cover, and cook. Don’t skip adding the water to deglaze the pan. If you get an error when you try to cook on HIGH, it’s because there wasn’t enough liquid volume or items are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Storage and Freezing
TO STORE: Chicken tikka stores really well in the refrigerator and leftovers are amazing! Place any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
TO FREEZE: To freeze, just place the chicken tikka in an airtight storage container or freezer safe zip-top storage bag. It will keep in the freezer up to three months. For meal prep, the best way to freeze it is to fill a storage bag and flatten it out as much as possible so it’s easy to store.
TO REHEAT: Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat with a splash of water.
How to Serve
There are many different ways you can serve this dish! Try it with:
- Basmati Rice: Chicken tikka is typically served over a white rice like jasmine or basmati.
- Gluten Free Naan: Naan is one of the best sides because you can use it to soak up all the saucy goodness. Try my Gluten Free Naan Bread recipe!
- Roasted Vegetables: Looking for something low carb? Serve it over roasted vegetables or sweet potatoes.
More Chicken Recipes
- Healthy Chicken Broccoli Casserole
- Healthy Orange Chicken
- Grilled Chicken Skewers
- Paleo Chicken Tenders
- Baked Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional for kick)
- 2 lbs chicken boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons grated ginger
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot flour
- ½ cup dairy free or regular plain yogurt
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, optional for serving
- Prep: Combine all of the ingredients for the spice mixture in a small bowl and set aside. Add the chicken pieces to a medium bowl and season with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Saute: Set the Instant Pot to SAUTE and add 2 tablespoons of ghee to the pot. Once melted, add the onions, ginger, and garlic, and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the spice mixture and stir until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Pour ⅓ cup water into the pot and stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and stir well to coat with the spices and onion. Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
- Cook on High: Secure the lid on the pot and cook on HIGH pressure for 8 minutes. Release the pressure manually.
- Simmer the Sauce: In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk and arrowroot flour and whisk well. Remove the lid and set the pressure cooker to SAUTE. Add the coconut milk mixture to the pot and stir well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 7-10 minutes.
- Stir: Turn the pressure cooker off and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and lemon juice.
- Serve: Serve over rice or cauliflower rice garnish with freshly chopped cilantro. This is great with Gluten Free Naan!
- Garam masala is a spice blend available at most grocery stores. It’s crucial to the flavor of the dish—plus you’ll be making this more, so it’s a great investment!
- I recommend using chicken thighs as the texture is much better once cooked. Because thighs cut a little unevenly, smaller pieces are fine! You can also cut off the extra fat if desired.
- Make sure to stir everything well once you deglaze the pot. There should be nothing sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Getting your prep work done ahead of time will make this go fast. You can chopped your chicken as much as 24 hours in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also dice your onion and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- Time saving tip: Use 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp ground ginger instead of fresh.
Recipe by: Noelle Tarr and Kelsey Hite / Coconuts and Kettlebells | Photography by: Casey Colodny / The Mindful Hapa