Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala recipe with rich, aromatic sauce full of warm spices and flavor. Serve it with your choice of steamed rice or cauliflower rice for flavorful comfort food!

Close up top down image of bowl of chicken tikka masala and jasmine rice with chopped cilantro on top.

Indian food lovers, you’re going to go wild over this simple Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala recipe!

I shared this recipe for the first time back in 2014, and have revamped it to make it even more luscious and irresistible!

What is Chicken Tikka Masala?:

In case you haven’t tried it, Chicken Tikka Masala is a classic Indian dish of tender chunks of chicken slow cooked in a creamy aromatic tomato cream sauce. 

The word “tikka” means “small pieces of meat” in Punjabi, and “masala” means “mixture.”

The chicken is marinated in plain yogurt with lots of mild spices before it is stewed in that delicious tikka masala sauce.

What is special about chicken tikka masala? The incredible rich flavor, silky texture, and the indescribable medley of flavors. 

Top down image of a serving dish of chicken tikka masala sprinkled with fresh cilantro and a serving dish of jasmine rice.

What is the difference between chicken curry and chicken tikka masala? While both chicken curry and chicken tikka masala are generously spiced with many flavors and include a thick and creamy sauce, chicken curry typically references the coconut milk based Thai version, whereas Chicken Tikka Masala uses cream and butter for the sauce. 

More closely related are Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala, as they both contain very similar spices, although the sauce of butter chicken is primarily butter, just as it sounds. 

Is chicken tikka masala spicy? The way this recipe is written, you’ll end up with a medium spice level (and that’s being generous, as I find it to be quite mild).

If you love spicy food, add cayenne pepper or your favorite spicy chili to increase the spice level.

metal Indian dish of chicken tikka masala and a separate dish of steamed white rice. Fresh cilantro all around.

Before we get started, I want to point out that this recipe requires far more ingredients than I typically include in my easy dinner recipes.

There is a twofold silver lining: First, most of the ingredients are spices, so you may already have all of them on hand. 

Second, the majority of the ingredients for the chicken marinade are used in the sauce as well, so many of the ingredients are duplicates.

In spite of all the spices, I trust you will find this recipe is well worth the extra measuring. You should be able to find the simple ingredients at most grocery stores. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry some of the spices, you can find them online or at any natural food store.

Plus, the best part is this flavorful, delicious slow cooker version is so easy to prepare and doesn’t require any extra steps like browning the chicken or roasting the chicken.

It is designed to take all of the guesswork out of making this Indian classic so that you are left with a perfect restaurant-quality result every time.

Vertical image of a crock pot full of chicken tikka masala

This beautiful recipe is perfect for making ahead of time and enjoying throughout the week.

For those of you who are dairy-free, you can make my Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, which is dairy-free and paleo (and you can make it in the slow cooker instead of the pressure cooker).

Let’s discuss the ingredients for this delicious Chicken Tikka Masala recipe!

Ingredients for Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala:

Avocado Oil and Butter: Used to sauté the onion, garlic cloves and the spices for the sauce, we need a high temperature cooking oil in addition to creamy butter. You can also use olive oil or canola oil in place of avocado oil.

Chicken: Use either boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs. There is enough sauce to generously engulf 3 pounds of meat, but if you prefer your masala very saucy, stick with 1.5 to 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts. In essence, choose the amount of chicken based on how much sauce you like relative to the meat.

Plain Yogurt: Used to tenderize the chicken in the marinade, yogurt gets mixed up with a bunch of spices, ginger, and garlic for an incredible flavor fest.

Fresh Ginger, Onion, & Garlic: A generous amount of fresh ginger, a large onion, and garlic bring a slight kick and plenty of flavor to the marinade and sauce.

Spices: Garam masala (which is a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and a few other spices), curry powder (which is a combination of cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garlic powder), paprika, kashmiri red chili powder, and salt.

It’s this combination of spices that brings such huge depth of flavor to the dish. For the absolute best results, I recommend sticking with the spices listed in the recipe card rather than trying to make substitutions, unless you’re very confident in preparing Indian cuisine. 

Heavy Cream: The creaminess of the tikka masala sauce is attributed to heavy whipping cream. This ingredient is what is responsible for that silky smooth texture and luxurious richness. Use full fat coconut milk to make it dairy-free (this is what I do).

Tomato Sauce: Adding acidity and flavor to the sauce, canned tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes or tomato puree) bring powerful nuance to the flavor profile.

Tomato paste will work too, but I prefer smooth tomato sauce from a can. Make no mistake, tikka masala sauce tastes nothing like a tomato based sauce you get in Italian food, as the tomato is not the primary flavor. 

For Serving: Steamed white rice, brown rice, naan, or cauliflower rice.

The end result of all these ingredients slow cooked together is one of the all time best comfort foods.

Traditional Indian tikka masala includes ground cumin, ground coriander, and ground turmeric. To simplify the recipe, I replace all three with curry powder, as it contains all three in addition to garlic powder.

If you want to go with the original version, replace the curry powder with 1 teaspoon of each ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric. 

Now that we’ve covered the simple ingredients, let’s make it!

Chicken Tikka Masala in a serving dish with a serving dish of rice in the background

How to Make Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala:

Marinate the Chicken:

Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a container with a lid and combine chicken pieces. Stir until the chicken is well coated in marinade.

Chicken marinating in yogurt and spices

Seal the container and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (ideally 1 to 24 hours).

While the chicken is marinating, you can prepare the chicken tikka masala sauce.

Make the Tikka Masala Sauce:

Heat oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

Onion sautéing in a stainless steel skillet

Add in the minced garlic, grated ginger, garam masala, curry powder, paprika, kashmiri red chili powder and sea salt.

Stainless steel skillet with onions, garlic, ginger, garam masala, paprika, and more.

Stir until everything is combined and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes to allow the spices to open up.

Onions and spices mixed together in a skillet.

Pour the tomato sauce and heavy cream into the skillet and stir everything together until well-combined.

Skillet with spices, onions, tomato sauce and heavy cream being poured in.

Remove the sauce from the heat. There is no need to heat the sauce for longer, as it will be cooking in the crock pot for many hours.

Skillet with tikka masala sauce ready to be used.

Pour the tikka masala sauce into the bottom of the crock pot. Add the marinated chicken and stir until everything is well-combined.

Crock pot with tikka masala sauce on the bottom and marinated chicken on top.
All of the ingredients for chicken tikka masala stirred together in a crock pot.

Secure the lid on the crock pot and cook on Low Heat for 6 to 8 hours or High heat for 4 hours.

Once the chicken tikka masala has finished cooking, taste it for flavor and add more salt to taste. You can also stir in ¼ cup of fresh cilantro if you’d like.

Finished chicken tikka masala in a slow cooker.

Serve Chicken Tikka Masala with steamed white rice (I do jasmine rice) and enjoy! You can also serve it with my Ginger Turmeric Aromatic Rice for a real wild ride. Chicken tikka masala is also traditionally served with naan bread.

Store any leftover chicken tikka masala in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It will be even more flavorful the next day, so you’ll have something to look forward to.

Horizontal image of a bowl of chicken tikka masala with white rice.

And that’s it! An easy version of traditional Chicken Tikka Masala that you will want to put on repeat time and again! This delicious dinner will be a huge hit among friends and family.

Make a double batch of it if you’re serving more than 3 to 4 people or if you’re meal prepping for meals for the week. 

Angled shot of a bowl of chicken tikka masala with white rice.

If you love Indian cuisine, also try out these delicious favorites!

More Indian Recipes:

The next time you’re craving Indian food, whip up this delicious slow cooker recipe!

Enjoy this epic culinary adventure!

Bowl of chicken tikka masala with rice and a serving dish of chicken tikka masala with a gold fork and a gold napkin.

Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

4.39 from 34 votes
Classic Indian Chicken Tikka Masala made in the slow cooker results in tender chicken and the richest aromatic creamy sauce! Serve it up with your choice of steamed white rice, brown rice, or cauliflower rice for an amazing meal!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 3 to 4 Servings

Ingredients

For the Chicken Marinade:

  • 1.5 to 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts or boneless chicken thighs chopped into bite sizes
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 1 ½ tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp kashmiri red chili powder*
  • 1 tsp sea salt

For the Tikka Masala Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder**
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp kashmiri red chili powder*
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream***
  • 1 tsp sea salt to taste

Instructions

Marinate the Chicken:

  • Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a container with a lid and add in the chopped chicken. Stir until the chicken is well coated in marinade.
    Chicken marinating in yogurt and spices
  • Seal the container and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes (ideally 1 to 24 hours).
  • While the chicken is marinating, you can prepare the chicken tikka masala sauce.

Make the Tikka Masala Sauce:

  • Heat oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
    Onion sautéing in a stainless steel skillet
  • Add in the minced garlic, grated ginger, garam masala, curry powder, paprika, kashmiri red chili powder and sea salt. Stir until everything is combined and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes to allow the spices to open up.
    Stainless steel skillet with onions, garlic, ginger, garam masala, paprika, and more.
  • Pour the tomato sauce and heavy cream into the skillet and stir everything together until well-combined.
    Skillet with spices, onions, tomato sauce and heavy cream being poured in.
  • Remove the sauce from the heat. There is no need to heat the sauce for longer, as it will be cooking in the crock pot for many hours.
    Skillet with tikka masala sauce ready to be used.
  • Pour the tikka masala sauce into the bottom of the crock pot. Add the marinated chicken and stir until everything is well-combined.
    Crock pot with tikka masala sauce on the bottom and marinated chicken on top.
  • Secure the lid on the crock pot and cook on Low Heat for 6 to 8 hours or High heat for 4 hours.
  • Once the chicken tikka masala has finished cooking, taste it for flavor and add more salt to taste. You can also stir in ¼ cup of fresh cilantro if you’d like.
  • Serve Chicken Tikka Masala with steamed white rice (I do jasmine rice) and enjoy! You can also serve it with my Ginger Turmeric Aromatic Rice for a real wild ride. Chicken tikka masala is also traditionally served with naan bread.

Notes

*The Kashmiri chili powder can be replaced with ½ tsp red chili powder or you can omit it for milk chicken tikka masala.
**Use 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, and 1 tsp ground turmeric instead of curry powder if you prefer.
***Replace the heavy cream with full-fat canned coconut milk for a dairy-free version.
Store any leftover chicken tikka masala in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It will be even more flavorful the next day, so you'll have something to look forward to.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 6 · Calories: 370kcal · Carbohydrates: 7g · Protein: 42g · Fat: 18g · Fiber: 1g · Sugar: 4g
Author: Julia
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: chicken recipe, chicken tikka masala, Indian food, slow cooker
Did You Make This Recipe?I want to see it! Tag @the.roasted.root on social media!

This recipe was originally published on September 19, 2014. I updated the photos, added more information to the post, and updated the recipe to make it even better!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

Julia Mueller
Meet the Author

Julia Mueller

Julia Mueller is a recipe developer, cookbook author, and founder of The Roasted Root. She has authored three bestselling cookbooks, – Paleo Power Powers, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook. Her recipes have been featured in several national publications such as BuzzFeed, Self, Tasty, Country Living, Brit.co, etc.

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Questions and Reviews

  1. I love, love, love this kind of food. I never use my crock pot so I’m saving this recipe and gonna give it a try!!!

  2. Oooh, I bet your whole house smelled amazing while this was cooking! Love all the spices, and love how simple this is to make!

  3. like minds think alike – i posted a speedy tofu tikka masala on my blog today too..your crockpot version sounds fantastic!!! we should def. have a theme song 😛

  4. Oh man this looks so good. I want to dive into that sauce! Love me a good “throw everything in the crockpot” meal!

  5. I’ve been wanting to make this for so long and have been so intimidated – thanks for doing the leg work. I can’t wait to make this =)

  6. Chicken tikka….sooooooooooooo good! Oh man, when I was pregnant, I ate chicken tikka masala all the time. After my OB appointment, I would hit the Indian Buffet. There must have been something in it that I needed, because I put so much of that stuff away it was embarrassing. 🙂 This looks amazing!

  7. I love this dish. I love my crock pot. I work a 40 hr week. And needless to say my weekends
    are crammed. BUT I like to eat good tasting dishes. This is a perfect dish for me.

  8. Um yes x 1000!?!?! We love Indian food but it’s hard to make it at home. I would love to try a crockpot version of one of our favorites!

  9. I want to get all of this tikka masala into my belly this weekend. Including the chunks of lovejoy.

  10. Tried making this tonight – your pictures look fantastic! Followed the recipe to the letter, but mine came out a bit different. I would try blending the sauce mix with an immersion blender (and adding dairy after the sauce has cooled down) – as well as adding tandoori grilled chicken at the end if you’re looking for a dish similar to what you’d get in a restaurant. Still very delicious – this has inspired me to keep at it! Thanks for the post. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback and I’m glad you tried the recipe. Out of curiosity, did you use whole milk Greek yogurt and heavy whipping cream in the recipe? Did you use corn starch or tapioca starch?

      I should have noted this in the recipe, but both the low and the high setting on my crock pot tend to cook at a lower temperature than most crock pots, so I’m wondering if this had something to do with it. The chicken came out extraordinarily tender and the sauce very thick and creamy. Additionally, the sauce only got thicker and more flavorful as the leftovers sat in the refrigerator.

      Thanks again for trying the recipe and for your notes. I hope you’re enjoying your weekend! 😀

  11. Hello, just came across this recipe and it looks gorgeous! Just wondering, how would you do it without a crock pot? (I don’t own one!)

    Ooh, and I just made your Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Muffins and they have come out really interestingly textured! Kind of fluffy and stretchy with a crispy outside. They are delicious but the texture is very unusual. Did you experience this? I wonder if it is because of the GF flour blend I used? (didn’t have Bob’s Red Mill brand on hand).

    Beautiful website by the way!

    1. Hi Tanya,

      Thanks for your interest! You can definitely make chicken tikka masala without a crock pot. I would start by sauteeing the onion, garlic, ginger, and turmeric in a large pot, then add the rest of your ingredients. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer on a low temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. You may not get as rich of a flavor, but my guess is it will taste great.

      In terms of the lemon poppy seed bread: I’m sorry it turned out with a strange consistency! My guess is this was definitely the flour blend, because if anything, mine had a slight crumble to it…still moist, but a bit crumbly. Let me know if you try it again using a different blend!

  12. I saw your comment (and recent recipe link) over at Everday Maven, and just had to come and read the recipe. So lovely, and a perfect family meal. I will try this with boneless thighs to make this almost a budget mea. Pinning etc.

  13. I made this recipe last night. Super tasty. I did add a few things once it had finished cooking. Some may sound weird (like the honey), but it worked! I added two tablespoons of honey, few more dashes of cinnamon, 1/4 cup more crushed tomatoes, maybe a 1/4 cup of chicken stock (just to thin it out a bit as once I added the yogurt and cream it was pretty thick), frozen peas and garbanzo beans. Will definitely be making this again, it was so nice to come home to a delicious smelling house! 🙂

    1. MMMMM! All those adjustments sound amazing, Kristin! I’m so glad you experimented with the recipe, and I’m thinking my next go with it will have to include your peas and garbanzo beans idea. I bet the honey would be a nice contrast to the spice as well! Thanks again and enjoy the rest of your week!

  14. This looks sooooooo yummy!!! So full of flavour. I cannot wait to give this a shot using tofu instead of chicken. I know my mom will love the chicken version though, so I am sending her the recipe 🙂 Awesome post! xo

  15. Looks great, can’t wait to try it! I have the garam masala spice handy…do you happen to know which of the listed spices this would replace?
    Thanks!

  16. Thanks for the great recipe. I made this for dinner as-is, no changes/substitutions, and it turned out wonderfully. Such a “quick” slow cooker recipe too. Mine took about 2.5 hours on high.

  17. I’m going to make this recipe this weekend! Do you use goat milk yogurt? Greek yogurt? Which full fat yogurt do you recommend?

    1. So glad you’re making the tikka masla this weekend!! I used whole milk plain yogurt, but I bet Greek yogurt would work just fine, too 🙂 Let me know what you think!

  18. Thanks for a great recipe-I plan to make it tomorrow. What might be some ways to make it lighter in calorie//s and fat? Thanks”

    1. So glad you’re planning on making the tikka masala! Because the bulk of the fat in this recipe comes from the cream, you’d have to take some of it out in order to lighten the calorie load; however, doing so will effect both the texture and the taste of the meal. As long as you’re okay with that, simply use less cream, or substitute some of the cream for lite coconut milk. Let me know how it turns out!

      1. Thanks!!! I thought I’d report back – overall this was a success! I decided to substitute fat-free greek yogurt for the full fat yogurt, and mixed 1/2 heavy cream and 1/2 fat free cream. I have to say that it came out delicious and quite rich tasting. In the interest of full disclosure, my husband and I generally stick to a low fat diet, so perhaps we are more “used” to the taste of lighter recipes but for those that are watching what you eat, I would definitely recommend trying this. I also reserved a bunch of sauce for the freezer and will make it with vegetables or paneer next week.

        I made double the batch as I typically like to have dinner made for the work week, and the only minor snafu I ran into was the slow cooker time – mine needed to be cooked for 3.5 hours on high, not 2 . Again, perhaps that’s because I made more meat.

        1. Thanks so much for reporting back! I know there are plenty of readers who are watching their fat intake, so I appreciate you letting me know the result!! I’m so glad you made a big ol’ batch and that you enjoyed the meal! Hope you had a great weekend! xoxo

  19. This was a great recipe. The recipe calls for fresh ginger and I do recommend using that, as I used dry (as well as dry turmeric), and I thought that the final product was a bit grainy. Next time I’ll definitely take the extra five minutes to use fresh ginger. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know about the ground ginger! I have never tested the recipe using ground ginger, so it’s good to know the result. So happy you made and enjoyed the tikka masala, and thanks so much for the feedback! 😀

  20. this sounds amazing! i need to make it! what do you think could be a good substitute for the heavy cream to make it dairy free? coconut milk?

    1. Hi Elena! Yup, you can use full-fat canned coconut milk. I’ve made a coconut milk version, and it turned out great. 🙂 Enjoy!

  21. LOVE this recipe, sweet friend! So I included it in my contributor post – “50 Fabulous Grain-Free Slow Cooker Meals” – over at Keeper of the Home. I hope it sends lots of new friends your way! 🙂

  22. I’m planning on making this recipe in my cricket tomorrow while I’m at work. There isn’t as much sauce as I expected. Will it be OK leaving it on low for 8 hours if the chicken is in frozen chopped up chunks or would you recommend adding a little chicken broth/stock?

    1. If it doesn’t look like there’s enough sauce, I’d say it’d be fine to add some chicken broth, or some more coconut milk. I’d think 8 hours would be a bit much, even with frozen chicken, but it’s tough to say as all crock pots seem to work differently. If you’ve cooked chicken breast on low for 8 hours in the past and the meat turned out tender rather than tough, I’d say you’d be fine!

    1. Absolutely! I’m a big fan of freezing in freezer bags (you can double-bag if need be). It should thaw and reheat like a dream 🙂

  23. Hi Julie,
    Do you know if substituting garam masala for any of the spices is ok? How much do you think would be approprate?

    1. Hi Jenna, I bet you could take out a few of the spices, and add garam masala, for sure! Sounds delicious! I’d say maybe take out the cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon, and add 2 teaspoons of garam masala. Let me know how it turns out!

  24. I tried this tonight – followed the recipie except I left out the jalepeneo because I hate their taste. In the end, I was fairly happy with the spice level before I added the cream & yogurt. After adding those elements I lost most of that flavor. Do you have any suggestions about adding heat or spice that don’t use jalepeneos or bell peppers (I’ve seen those used as well in Indian food and likewise despise their taste). I love spicy food and would love to be able to up the heat on this otherwise awesome dish!

    1. Hi Kate, I love the enthusiasm for spicy food! I like adding Thai chilis to both Indian and Thai food, leaving the seeds in. If you really want to kick the heat up a notch, you can add a habenero or two. After the recipe’s made, I tend to add sriracha or other chili sauce to my bowl just before eating, too, so that’s always a good option 🙂

  25. Yum. I have had this recipe bookmarked for awhile and finally made it tonight. It was amazing. I made it with the aromatic rice sans lemon and cranberries (picky kids). The rice was quite possibly the best rice I’ve ever made. I cooked the chicken tikka masala on high for about 3 hours. It was very tender. I imagine the flavors will only get better with the leftovers. Wonderful recipe. Thanks.

    1. I’m so happy you like it, Katrina!! The flavor does become even better after it refrigerates for a while..one of my favorite recipes to make in bulk and enjoy over the week, for sure!

  26. I pinned this recipe 3 years ago and have made it dozens of times since. It is a huge hit at my house! The best part is that it is a pretty forgiving recipe. For example, tonight I forgot about the yogurt to be added toward the end of cooking, so I added some sour cream right before serving and it still came out great. Other times I have been out of one of the spices and have been able to substitute or skip without the dish suffering. Paired with the ginger/turmeric rice, this dish is nirvana.

  27. I made this over the weekend as I love Indian food. Overall I was not impressed. It is blah and lacking something. I have made other recipes of this before and have really enjoyed it. I think this is lacking sweetness that usually is added using full fat coconut milk. I followed the recipe as directed, but did not make the rice as I like it served with plain jasmine rice. I won’t be making it again.

  28. Do you still have the version with the jalapeño? I absolutely loved that one. I never printed it and am kicking myself for it.

    1. Hi Dian! When I change recipes I typically keep the original on file, but I can’t find it for this one 🙁 I’m so sorry about that! I do think the major difference was 1 to 2 jalapenos (depending on spice tolerance) instead of the kashmiri red chili powder. I hope that helps! xo

  29. I was craving Indian food and had a bunch of chicken thighs that needed to be used. This recipe was easy and tastes authentic. I served it over jasmine rice. My picky eater son even liked it. The spices smelled heavenly. I was on a time crunch so was only able to marinate the chicken in the spiced yogurt for an hour. I would probably do it a bit longer next time. Meal was fully cooked after 3 hours. The 4 hours was not necessary. It was only my second time ever using a crock pot. The first time was only to makes some mulled cider when we had a snow storm. I usually just convert slow cooker recipes to instant pot recipes by converting the cooking times.

    1. I’m so thrilled to hear you and your family enjoyed the recipe, Ariel! That’s also great input that 3 hours on High worked just fine – this is very helpful to others who want to try the recipe 🙂 xo