This chicken tikka masala is the best slow cooker recipe for easy family dinners and big batch meal prep. It’s creamy and a little bit spicy, and pairs perfectly with a side of basmati rice and naan.Jump to Recipe
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We’re so excited to finally share with you a new recipe we’ve been developing for months: Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala!
This dish was the perfect place for us to start learning how to cook with Indian spices, since it’s technically an Indian-inspired dish that was most likely created in the UK (its origins are still debated). If you’re new to South Asian cooking, this approachable recipe is a great stepping stone for getting comfortable with the unique flavors of this cuisine.
It’s been a long and fun journey perfecting our chicken tikka masala recipe. I think we’ve made it about a thousand times now, tweaking ingredients and amounts little by little until we found the right balance. (Okay, maybe not a thousand times). The ideal chicken tikka masala is creamy and complex, with a little sweetness and a little spice, and tender chicken that melts in your mouth. So we considered all factors – the flavor, texture, color, even the smell – each time we made a new batch, and revisited as necessary until it was perfect.
There are two parts to a traditional chicken tikka masala: the chicken tikka and the masala. The chicken tikka is boneless pieces of chicken marinated in Indian spices and yogurt, then cooked in a tandoor oven. Masala actually means spice blend, but in the context of chicken tikka masala it represents the creamy curry served with the chicken. We don’t have a tandoor oven (and we don’t expect you do, either) so our slow cooker seemed like the next best thing.
We love using our slow cooker whenever we can for easy one-pot dinners or big batch meal prep. When it comes to this chicken tikka masala recipe, the biggest benefits of a slow cooker are:
- Easy prep: Just add tomato puree and marinated chicken and turn it on
- Hands-off cooking: Cooks for 6 hours without needing any attention (perfect for busy weekends or WFH days!)
- Large capacity: Prepare 3 pounds of chicken in a 4-quart slow cooker with no problem to feed the whole family
- Time for making sides: Chicken tikka masala is best served with a side of basmati rice and naan – you can prepare these while dinner cooks itself
- Easy cleanup: Slow cooker meals mean you only have one pot to wash at the end of the night – and who doesn’t want that?
This Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala recipe uses a lot of spices, but it’s super straightforward and hard to mess up! All it takes is a little bit of prep the night before and a few unique spices.
Here’s how to make our Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala:
- Cut up chicken into 2-inch chunks
- Coat chicken in lemon juice and salt, then mix in yogurt, kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric, cumin, garam masala, ground coriander, paprika, powdered ginger, onion powder, and minced garlic
- Marinate chicken in the fridge overnight
- In the morning, pour tomato puree into the slow cooker, then add the marinated chicken
- Cook on LOW for 6 hours
- After 6 hours, stir in heavy cream, tomato paste, butter, and powdered fenugreek
- Garnish with cilantro and serve with basmati rice and naan
Getting the right texture was a huge challenge while developing this recipe. We learned to rely on spices to achieve the depth of flavor we were looking for while preserving the creaminess of the curry. A lot of chicken tikka masala recipes use sautéed onion, but no matter how small we chopped our onions or how much we softened them, we still noticed their texture in the final dish. So instead we added onion powder to our chicken marinade and found that the flavor still comes through, but our curry is much smoother and creamier.
Also, mixing in some additional ingredients with the heavy cream at the end of cooking helps thicken the curry without compromising its flavor. If you just use heavy cream, it can dull the flavor of all the delicious spices that went into this dish. But by balancing the heavy cream with tomato paste and just a hint of butter, the spices really come through for an incredibly tasty, creamy, thick curry perfect for dipping naan into!
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
- 3 lbs chicken breast
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 6 tbsp plain yogurt thick, like siggi's
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tbsp kashmiri red chili powder
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp powdered ginger loosely packed
- 3 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 3 cups tomato puree
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp powdered fenugreek
Garnishes & Sides
- Cilantro chopped, optional garnish
- Basmati rice steamed
- Cut the chicken breast into 2-inch chunks and add to a large bowl.
- Season chicken with salt and lemon juice, then mix until well-coated.
- Add yogurt, minced garlic, kashmiri red chili powder, onion powder, powdered ginger, garam masala, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and ground coriander to the chicken. Stir until marinade is well-combined and chicken is coated.
- Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, pour the tomato puree into the slow cooker. Add the marinated chicken, then cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.
- After 6 hours, turn off the slow cooker. Stir in heavy cream, tomato paste, butter, and powdered fenugreek until well-combined.
- Optionally garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot with basmati rice and naan.