let’s get this out of the way upfront: i make no claims about the authenticity of this slow cooker chicken tikka masala. as is sometimes the case with highly desirable things that everyone wants to take credit for, the origins of this dish are a bit disputed, so it’s difficult to say what “authentic” is anyway.
what is not in dispute, at least in our house, is that this is some very tasty chicken tikka masala. also not in dispute is that it is easy to make, as i believe basically all slow cooker recipes should be.
maybe it’s just me, but if i’m reaching for my slow cooker, it’s because i don’t want dinner to be a big production and i’m probably short on prep time. to wit, all of those slow cooker recipes that have you sautéing vegetables and searing meat (aka dirtying pans) before you even get started with the slow cooker? i won’t have it.
(i don’t know for sure but i suspect the instant pot crowd is feeling smug right now because i think that machine can do all of those things and maybe even without supervision buuuut, i don’t have one, so instead i stick to selecting recipes carefully.)
therefore, this slow cooker chicken tikka masala uses raw chicken, canned tomatoes, and some spices to keep things simple. to keep prep streamlined, i recommend tossing the onion, garlic, ginger, and green chili into a little mini food processor, if you have something like that, to make quick work of mincing everything up. not a necessity, but as someone who is sometimes reluctant to get out one more appliance (and clean it afterwards), even *i* thought it was helpful here. (and shout out to my friend who politely asked why the heck i wasn’t using a small processor for tasks like this and got my wheels turning…)
once you have all of your ingredients assembled, you just combine them, stir, and let the machine do its thing while you do yours. oh, and if you want a dairy free version, soak some cashews so they’re ready to blend into a creamy alternative to heavy cream later.
when dinner time rolls around, i love serving this over sautéed spinach (hello, 30 second vegetable!), though rice is obviously a traditional choice (…which can easily be replaced with also-not-traditional cauliflower rice, if that’s your jam).
all of that is to say, regardless of how traditionally you serve this questionably authentic slow cooker chicken tikka masala, i feel quite confident that we have “delicious” and “easy” covered, which, let’s be honest, are way more important values to me at 6:15 on a tuesday night than hewing to a dubious heritage.
ps – i have a fun recipe coming on thursday to make use of leftovers from this slow cooker chicken tikka masala!
other indian recipes you might enjoy:
did you make this recipe? i’d love to know what you think of it! leave a comment below and share a picture on instagram with the hashtag #tastyseasons.
slow cooker chicken tikka masala - an indian restaurant takeout favorite - is easy to prepare, delicious, and comforting. no advance cooking necessary. gluten free, with a paleo/dairy free option. enjoy this easy, protein-packed dinner!
- 2 pounds (907 g.) boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" (2.5 cm) cubes
- 28 oz. (794 g.) canned low sodium crushed tomatoes
- 4 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, see notes
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 5 large cloves of garlic
- 1" (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger (2 tablespoons minced)
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 green chili, half of the seeds and ribs removed for medium spicy tikka masala
- ½ cup (4 fl. oz. / 120 ml) cashew cream (recipe below) or heavy cream
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ cup (2 oz. / 57 g.) raw unsalted cashews
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, see notes
- combine chicken pieces, tomatoes, and spices in a large slow cooker.
- combine the garlic, ginger, onion, and green chili in that order in a small food processor; pulse until everything is minced (it's ok if it starts to go past minced into puréed but don't blend it smooth). if you don't have a food processor, mince everything by hand (i recommend gloves for the green chili if you have sensitive hands like i do). add to the slow cooker.
- stir everything together well, cover, and set to cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours (the sauce will not be as thick with the 4-hour option).
- if you want to keep the recipe dairy free and use cashew cream, set the cashews to soak in a medium size bowl with enough water to cover them. just before the tikka masala is done, rinse the cashews and combine in a high-speed blender with the 1/3 cup of fresh (not their soaking) water, and the lemon juice, if you're using it. blend on high speed until smooth.
- when the tikka masala is done cooking, stir in the cashew or heavy cream and a few tablespoons of the cilantro. use the remaining cilantro to top individual servings. i love to eat this over sautéed spinach. rice (or cauliflower rice) is a traditional accompaniment. this freezes and reheats really well; i like to portion out leftover rice and chicken tikka masala into individual sized airtight containers for easy meals later. the tikka masala will also keep well in the fridge for a few days.
regarding the cardamom in the tikka masala and the lemon juice in the cashew cream, there was a difference of opinion in our house between those who love bright, citrusy flavors (me) and those who actually eat chicken tikka masala on a regular basis from a variety of sources (my husband). i preferred this tikka masala with the cardamom and lemon; my husband preferred it without and thought that version tasted more like other versions he had enjoyed in the past.
general recipe adapted from slow-cooker chicken tikka masala in the jan-feb 2017 issue of hannaford fresh magazine. spice blend developed in consultation with chicken with tomatoes and garam masala from madhur jaffrey's indian cooking (affiliate), chicken tikka masala from the dance of spices: classic indian cooking for today's home kitchen (affiliate), and chicken tikka masala from the food of india: a journey for food lovers (affiliate).
nutrition facts are based on using cashew cream
please note this page contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking from here, i will earn a small commission from amazon at no additional charge to you. i only link to products that i use and love. thank you for supporting tasty seasons!