This Chicken Tikka Masala is the best Whole30 and paleo version inspired by the rich and buttery flavors of authentic Indian tikka masala. Tender chicken thighs are braised in an Indian-spiced tomato curry sauce to make a warm and comforting dish everyone will love.
For far too long, I claimed not liking Indian food but then I tried authentic Indian food and everything changed. Shame on me for missing out on the opportunity to incorporate the warming, spicy and smoky flavors of Indian-cuisine in my culinary creations.
I love the simple role curry plays in many Indian dishes, adding spicy, earthy flavor to meats and veggies. Not to mention, I prepared an Indian curry dish for my final project in culinary school, so I hold it close to my heart.
Today, I'm showcasing the heavenly flavor of Indian curry in a Whole30 and paleo soup-style Chicken Tikka Masala the whole family will love.
What makes this Chicken Tikka Masala Whole30 and Paleo?
In many Indian dishes, dairy-based yogurt is used for sauces, creamy curries and marinades. Unfortunately, dairy is forbidden on paleo and Whole30 protocols, so yogurt is out. In this recipe, dairy-free coconut cream is used instead to make the most delicious dairy-free tikka masala to serve with fluffy cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles. YUM!
💗 Why You'll Love this Recipe
- It's SIMPLE. You're going to love how quick and easy this variation of tikka masala is!
- Cooking method options. It can be cooked on the stove or in the Instapot.
- Perfect recipe for dietarty restrictions. Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, keto-friendly (see "variations"), paleo and Whole30.
- Ultimate comfort food. This chicken tikka masala is rich, creamy, smooth, spicy and insanely delicious! 😋
🥘 Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients
- Chicken Thighs (boneless, skinless) - diced in ½" cubes. While you can use breasts or thighs, I highly recommend using thighs as they are more tender and absorb the bold flavors much better without drying out.
- Green Bell Pepper (small dice) - adds subtle sweetness, texture and a pop of color.
- Yellow Onion (small dice) - builds on the deep, savory flavor and adds texture.
- Golden Potatoes (diced in ½" cubes) - or red potatoes.
- Garlic Cloves (minced) - deepens and enhances flavor.
- Tomato Sauce (can) - For Whole30 purposes, make sure the tomato sauce ingredients are compliant.
- Coconut Cream (can) - makes this dairy-free tikka masala smooth and creamy with a touch of tang.
- Avocado Oil - to coat the pot to prevent sticking.
- Salt & Ground Black Pepper - to highlight the natural flavors.
Tikka Masala Spices & Seasonings
In this chicken tikka masala, I used a mix of:
- Turmeric - is an earthy, bitter and peppery spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa
- Yellow Curry Powder - is a potent blend of coriander, cumin, yellow mustard seed, fenugree, green cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric and chili powder.
- Garam Masala - Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend made up of cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
You can find all of these spices in your local grocery store or health food store.
📖 How to Make Chicken Tikka Masala
1️⃣ Saute chicken, veggies and spices:
In a 6-quart stock pot, add avocado oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken, bell pepper, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and the spices/seasonings and saute until the chicken is no longer opaque (7 to 10 minutes).
2️⃣ Add remaining ingredients:
To the stockpot, add diced potatoes and stir well. Then, add tomato sauce and coconut cream. Stir well to combine.
Lower the heat and simmer, stirring often, for 25 to 35 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and cooked through.
Adjust spices and seasonings to taste and serve hot with cauliflower rice and cilantro. Enjoy!
♨️ Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
This easy tikka masala recipe is even easier in an Instant Pot pressure cooker. To make chicken tikka masala in the Instapot:
1️⃣ Program Instant Pot to SAUTE and warm avocado oil until hot not smoking (1 to 2 minutes). Add chicken and potatoes and saute until the chicken is no longer opague and the potatoes begin to soften (5 to 7 minutes).
2️⃣ To the pot, add bell pepper, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and the spices/seasonings. With the chicken and potatoes, saute the veggies until they begin go soften (2 to 3 minutes). Pour in tomato sauce and stir well.
3️⃣ Close the lid, seal the pressure valve and program Instant Pot to cook at HIGH PRESSURE for 10 minutes. Instant release pressure and wait for pressure valve to drop before removing he lid.
4️⃣ Stir in coconut cream (curry will continue to thicken from the heat of the Instant Pot upon standing). Adjust spices and seasonings to taste and serve hot with cauliflower rice and cilantro. Enjoy!
👩🏻🍳 Chef's Tips
Be sure to cut the chicken pieces and potato into the same size (½" dice), so one doesn't cook quicker than the other and burn.
The majority of garam masala blends are Whole30 compliant. As always, double check the ingredients. There are some blends with non-compliant stabilizing ingredients.
Veggie-loaded tikka masala: Tikka masala is delicious with cauliflower florets, sliced carrots, sweet potato and peas (add peas at the end so they don't get mushy).
Low carb & keto-friendly chicken tikka masala: Most of the ingredients are inherently low carb except for the potatoes. Instead of potatoes, you could use cauliflower florets, diced rutabaga, turnip or celeriac.
🍴What to Serve with Chicken Tikka Masala
To keep things Whole30 and paleo, serve with:
- Cauliflower Rice
- Zucchini Noodles
- Green Salad
Although, NOT paleo or Whole30, Chicken tikka masala is also great served with:
- Basmati Rice
- Jasmine Rice
- Brown Rice
- Naan Bread
♻️ Storing & Freezing
Storing: Let tikka masala cool before storing in a glass container or resealable bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Freezing: Cool completely and then store in a freezer-safe container in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
Curry powder and garam masala are both spice blends. The difference is primarily in the flavor profile. Masala is more warming and aromatic while curry has more dry heat and earthy flavor.
The biggest difference between these two rich and spicy dshes is butter chicken has less acidic and tangy tomatoes and chicken tikka masala has a thinner, more soup-like consistency.
Chicken tikka masala has earthy, smoky flavor with hints of dry heat. The rich and creamy masala sauce has mild heat balanced by coconut cream (or yogurt).
More Healthy Whole30 Dinners
Chicken Tikka Masala
- 1.5 pound Chicken Thighs boneless, skinless, diced in ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup Green Bell Pepper small dice
- 1 cup medium Yellow Onion small dice
- 1 pound Golden Potatoes diced
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- 28 oz can Tomato Sauce
- 1 14 oz can Coconut Cream
- 1 tbsp Avocado Oil
- ½ tbsp Turmeric
- 1 tbsp Curry Powder
- 3 tbsp [Garam Masala]
- 2 tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
- In a 6 quart stock pot, add 1 tbsp avocado oil and heat over medium high heat.
- Add in chicken, bell pepper, onion, garlic and spices and saute for 7-10 minutes or until vegetables soften and chicken is no longer opaque
- Add in diced potatoes and stir together
- Add in tomato sauce and coconut milk and stir to combine
- Bring heat to low and simmer curry until tomatoes and potatoes are cooked all the way through stirring often. This will take about 25-35 minutes.
- Adjust seasonings as necessary
- Serve hot and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro