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Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

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

Yield: 3 to 4 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

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!

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:

1. 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:

1. 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

2. 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.

Onions and spices mixed together in a skillet.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

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

7. 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.

8. 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 Information
Yield 6 Serving Size 1 of 6
Amount Per Serving Calories 370Total Fat 18gUnsaturated Fat 0gCarbohydrates 7gFiber 1gSugar 4gProtein 42g

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.

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Brian

Thursday 31st of October 2019

Can this be made with just chicken and a jar of chicken masala simmer sauce from Trader Joe’s? Thanks.

Aaron Muehlfeld

Wednesday 23rd of October 2019

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.

Jamie

Sunday 29th of April 2018

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.

Katrina

Monday 5th of September 2016

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.

Julia

Wednesday 7th of September 2016

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!

Kate Wilkinson

Sunday 13th of March 2016

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!

Julia

Wednesday 16th of March 2016

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 :)

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