I’ve been making this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe for years, but recently adapted it for the slow cooker. It is SO GOOD. I may never go back! Tikka Masala is the one dish that I never get tired of ordering at Indian restaurants and this version is super easy and tastes restaurant quality. Originally posted January 25, 2017.

chicken tikka masala with rice, naan, and cilantro.
Table of Contents
  1. Why make Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
  2. Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients 
  3. How to make Chicken Tikka Masala (Crockpot Recipe)
  4. How to serve Slow Cooker Tikka Masala
  5. How to store Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
  6. Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala FAQs
  7. Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

Do you guys have rules for how late you can text people? I mean of course it depends on who you’re texting. When I was growing up we didn’t make calls after 9pm. Is there texting etiquette these days? I’m always worried I’m going to wake someone up.

Eric and I are night owls and sometimes forget that people go to bed at normal times. One time my brother called me at midnight just to see if I really always stay up like I claim I do. I answered right away of course.

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a spoonful of chicken tikka masala.

That same brother (who is also named Eric) went to college out of state in the same town that our uncle lives in. Our Uncle Ron had a habit of calling Eric waaaay too early in the morning. This was before cell phones, so when you call your nephew’s apartment at 6am on a Saturday, you definitely wake all the roommates up. Eric asked him not to call so early. So next time he called at 7am and still woke up the entire apartment.

Eric realized that if Uncle Ron was getting up so early, that meant he was getting to bed early. So he calls him up at 11:30pm the next night, wakes up Ron, and says all chipper, “Hey Ron! I was just calling to let you know that I’m planning on sleeping in tomorrow!”

I would worry that someone might call me super early to get me back for texting them too late at night, but it wouldn’t even work because I would sleep right through it.

Why make Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

I LOVE chicken tikka masala. The tender chicken, the creamy sauce, the delicious spices! I know I could totally branch out when we go out for Indian…but chicken tikka masala has my heart.

The thing about Chicken Tikka is that the chicken is supposed to be grilled, or broiled on high, or something that gives you that roasted-on-the-outside, tender-in-in-the-center flavor. But cooking chicken in liquid all day in a slow cooker isn’t going to give you that.

So I basically just removed the liquid; chicken, spices, and a little butter is all that goes in the crock pot until the end when you add the sauce. The result is golden brown chicken that has that roasted flavor. (I’m really loving this method and want to try it with some other recipes!).

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients 

Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!

  • Chicken breasts
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon 
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Butter
  • Tomato sauce
  • Heavy cream
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Paprika
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh ginger
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Cilantro

Chicken Tikka Masala Slow Cooker substitutions

Next time I try this I’m replacing the cream with coconut milk, or perhaps coconut cream. It will make the final flavor a lot sweeter but would make this recipe dairy free, (if you used olive oil instead of butter) which is one reason people like the Slow Cooker Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce. They’re always tagging in #whole30, and and I’m over here like don’t look at me, I’m just here for the carbs.

How to make Chicken Tikka Masala (Crockpot Recipe)

This Chicken Tikka Masala is an old stove top recipe that I’ve been making for years. It’s a killer recipe. One time I made it for my friend Mir, who’s from Hyderabad, and he said it tasted authentic. He was probably just feeding my ego, but I don’t even care. This stuff is delicious.

I decided to see how it would work in the slow cooker and after a few trials I’m loving how it turned out. (I did the same with this stovetop Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce; here’s a link to the slow cooker version. It’s one of the top recipes on my site now. I actually decided to start working on a slow cooker Chicken Tikka recipe at the suggestion of one of the commenters on that post. Thanks for the idea Bethany!)

  • Here’s a quick overview of how to make this slow cooker chicken tikka masala. For complete instructions, scroll down to the recipe card below!
  • Chop the chicken into bite size chunks. Add the chicken to the slow cooker.
  • In a small bowl combine cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt.
  • Sprinkle the spices over the chicken and use your hands to coat the chicken well. Sprinkle butter chunks over the chicken.
  • Put the lid on and cook on high for 2-3 hours, or on low for about 5 hours.
adding marinated chicken and butter to a crockpot.
    • When the chicken is cooked, remove the lid and add the tomato sauce and cream (turn the crock pot up to high at this point if it’s not already.)
    • Add butter to a small frying pan. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté until fragrant.
    chopped garlic and jalapeno on a wooden cutting board.
    sautéed garlic and jalapeno in a skillet.
    • In a small bowl combine ground cumin, paprika, and salt. Add the spices to the frying pan and continue sautéing for one minute.
    • Add lemon juice to the pan, stir it in and then remove from heat. Add this mixture to the crock pot. Add the minced ginger as well.
    spices, garlic, and jalapeno sautéed in a pan.
    • Replace the lid and let cook on high for another 20-30 minutes or until thickened and bubbly on the edges. Taste it and stir in some plain yogurt and the fresh cilantro.
    chicken tikka masala with rice and naan.
    • This recipe is pretty darn spicy as written. Feel free to reduce the cayenne pepper; there are 2 teaspoons total, which is quite a lot. (I wouldn’t omit the jalapeno though, it adds great flavor. Most of the heat comes from the seeds anyway, and we’re not using those.)
    chicken tikka masala with rice and naan.

    How to serve Slow Cooker Tikka Masala

    Chicken tikka masala is great with a side of jasmine rice, or you can fancy it up by adding other sides. Don’t overthink it, slow cooker meals are supposed to be easy! Here are some of my favorite Indian-inspired recipes. 

    Coconut Jasmine Rice with Cilantro << oh yeah baby, this is rice. Once you try jasmine rice you can never go back. 

    Homemade Naan Bread << there’s nothing more delicious than fluffy, puffy naan to scoop up all that tikka masala sauce with. 

    Roti – the Best Buttery Indian Flatbread << ok, I know I just talked naan up. They’re both so good, I cannot possibly choose.

    Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Rice << no, it’s not rice. Yes, it is delicious, and the perfect veggie side when you’re low-carbing it. 

    a fork tearing a bite of chicken tikka masala on a bed of rice.

    How to store Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

    Chicken tikka masala will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. If you don’t eat it all before then, you can freeze it. I like to put it into a labeled gallon (or quart) ziplock, then lay it flat so it’s easier to defrost. It will keep for 2-3 months and makes a great last minute meal, since all you have to do is defrost it and make some rice.

    Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala FAQs

    What is the difference between chicken tikka masala and butter masala?

    Chicken tikka masala has its origins in Great Britain (surprise!). The sauce is tomato based, and is tangy and spicy. Some cream is added, but the focus is on the tomato. In butter masala (also known as butter chicken), the sauce includes tomato but is creamier and richer. Its origins are in India. Both dishes usually involve marinating the chicken in yogurt and spices (we’re skipping the marinade here since the chicken will be soaking up amazing flavor in the slow cooker all day long). 

    Is chicken tikka masala white or dark meat?

    It depends on where you’re eating it. Chicken tikka masala is usually made with white meat–boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This is how you’ll often have it at Indian restaurants in the United States. You can absolutely substitute boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat, and yes, it will be absolutely delicious. Dark meat is often more tender and is less prone to dry out. You should use what you and your family usually prefer in this recipe.

    chicken tikka masala with rice and naan.

    Here are some other recipes you will love!

    Roti (Buttery Indian Flatbread) << one of my most popular recipes and is a perfect complement with this tikka masala.

    Chicken Tikka Masala Meatballs << made with ground chicken and the same sauce. Can you tell I’m obsessed with this dish??

    Slow Cooker Basil Chicken with Coconut Curry Sauce << one of the top recipes on my blog!

    Coconut Jasmine Rice with Cilantro << once you try jasmine rice, regular rice is just NOT the same.

    Homemade Naan Bread Recipe << nothing better than a buttery stack of naan with your curry.

    Indian Spiced Cauliflower Rice << I love gettin’ my veggies in this way.

    Indian Spiced Braised Chicken from A Dash of Sanity

    Slow Cooker Indian Spiced Chickpeas and Potatoes from Oh My Veggies

    Tandoori Chicken from Simply Recipes

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    Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala

    5 from 8 votes
    Prep: 10 minutes
    Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes
    Total: 2 hours 40 minutes
    Servings: 4
    Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala from The Food Charlatan. I've been making this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe for years, but recently adapted it for the slow cooker. It is SO GOOD. I may never go back! Tikka Masala is the one dish that I never get tired of ordering at Indian restaurants and this version is super easy and tastes restaurant quality.

    Ingredients

    For the chicken:

    • 1 pound chicken breasts, about 3, cut into bite-size pieces
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

    For the sauce:

    • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 tablespoon butter
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced fresh
    • 1/2 to 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, as desired
    • 1/4 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped

    Instructions

    • Chop the chicken into bite size chunks. Add the chicken to the slow cooker.
    • In a small bowl combine 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
    • Sprinkle the spices over the chicken and use your hands to coat the chicken well. Sprinkle 1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter chunks over the chicken.
    • Put the lid on and cook on high for 2-3 hours, or on low for about 5 hours.
    • When the chicken is cooked, remove the lid and add the tomato sauce and cream (turn the crock pot up to high at this point if it’s not already.)
    • Add 1/2 tablespoon butter to a small frying pan. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
    • In a small bowl combine 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
    • Add the spices to the frying pan and continue sautéing for one minute.
    • Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to the pan, stir it in and then remove from heat. Add this mixture to the crock pot. Add the minced ginger as well.
    • Replace the lid and let cook on high for another 20-30 minutes or until thickened and bubbly on the edges.
    • Taste it and stir in some plain yogurt. The amount is up to you. This makes it a little more creamy and also tempers the heat. Sometimes I don’t add any, if I’m feeding kids I add more.
    • Stir in the fresh cilantro.
    • Serve with hot rice and naan.

    Notes

    Source: adapted from this stovetop Chicken Tikka Masala; original recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1serving | Calories: 395kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 146mg | Sodium: 1636mg | Potassium: 617mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2170IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 117mg | Iron: 3mg
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Indian
    Calories: 395
    Keyword: chicken, Crockpot, masala, slow cooker, tikka
    Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

    Source: adapted from this stovetop Chicken Tikka Masala; original recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

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    Comments

    1. I made this last week for myself and my husband. We LOVED it. It was easy to make and absolutely delicious. My husband told me to hold on to this recipe, which means he approves! Thank you so much! 

      1. Hey Amanda! I don’t provide nutritional info for my recipes, but you can plug it into an online calculator! Google it, there are lots of free ones available. I hope you love the recipe!

    2. Holy cow this recipe was absolutely amazing. You’ve earned me as a fan for sure! Can’t wait to try literally everything else on your website. Thanks!!

      1. Thank you so much Kim! I feel like this recipe is a bit of a hidden gem, it doesn’t seem to get much attention, but everyone who tries it loves it! Thanks so much for commenting :)

      1. Hey Mia, yes! You can freeze it after it’s completely cooked in a ziplock for up to 3 months.

    3. Can you tell me what kind of tomato sauce you use for the tikka masala? Or is it tomato paste? Going to make this soon, can’t wait!

    4. This looks so delicious with your pictures, but unfortunately it did not work in my slow cooker. I did everything according to the recipe, but the Chicken did not brown at all and was already very watery after the first 2 1/2 hours with only the spices and butter. I added the cream and tomatoes, but it did not want to thicken as well. And Yes i used the cooker on High. It passed already 4 hours, when i decided to stop cooking it. The taste was delicious, but not the texture.
      I guess i need to bake everything in the pan first and then transfer to the cooker.
      But at least i gave it a try :)

      1. That is so strange Rosita! I’ve made this several times. Do you have an older slow cooker? I know sometimes they can get wonky if they are old. I’m sorry it didn’t work out!

      1. Yeah totally Katelyn! It won’t be as rich and may not thicken up as much, but it will still be tasty!

          1. That is so funny because I currently have 93 other comments waiting in the queue that I haven’t responded to yet. It popped up in my email and the answer was easy and I didn’t have to click over to look at the recipe. I guess it’s you’re lucky day haha!! ;)

        1. Beef = success! Added a bit more spice for the beef and did the first cook a little longer as the cubes of beef were about 1.5”. OMG who knew this first step would make foods so amazing!! Going to incorporate this method in more slow cooker recipes. Thanks so much. I’m glad I stumbled across your site. BTW it’s a good thing I tripled the recipe, it’s THAT good!

    5. I love your basil curry chicken and am so excited to try this recipe! Do you think it would work well using chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts?
      Thanks!

      1. Hey Kelsey! Funny you should ask that. I tested this recipe first with thighs, because I liked it so much in the Basil curry. But my husband and I decided that for chicken tikka, we liked to have distinct chunks of chicken instead of shredded. It changes the consistency of the final result quite a bit. I did it with whole thighs, then shredded post slow cooking. Maybe if you cut it when the chicken was raw you would get the same effect as the pictures above. For the record, I really liked it with thighs, but it didn’t feel quite the same as traditional tikka masala. Let me know how it goes!

    6. So according to wikipedia, Tikka Masala was invented in Scotland by a Pakistani or a Bangledeshi guy. You need to find somebody from the UK to help you comment on the authenticity of this dish haha.

      1. Yes someone else just commented to say it was someone in Scotland who came up with it! I knew it originated in Britain somewhere. Buuut I figure it’s been around long enough that Indians (especially ones who’ve lived in the states for 20 years, like Mir) can comment on authenticity levels. Don’t they have chicken tikka masala in India? I don’t know, I’ve never been. Maybe not. Bottom line though…This stuff is amazing, I don’t care if it’s authentic or not!! :)

    7. Oh man, as soon as I’m done nursing I’m making this first! We all went to our favorite Indian place around Christmas time. My dad cautioned me to get the mild instead of medium just in case. Even with little heat, my poor little man had a rash for days. Indian is one of my go tos for making dinner so I’m bummed.

      Our time and still is, no calling after 9:30pm or before 9:30 am. And no trampoline on Saturdays till 10 am.

      1. Oh man that’s such a bummer! I’ve never dealt with kids having allergies or problems with my milk (there’s just not enough of it :) But no spicy food! That would be so hard! Maybe you could make it but just leave out all the pepper?

        And no tramp before 10?? that’s how eric and I get to sleep in in the summers, haha! Trampoline at 7am…and earplugs.

    8. I am soooo a night owl, I don’t understand people that are up at 6 ready to face the day!!!
      Chicken tikka is one of my favorites at the local Indian restaurant, this is a great technique!!!

      1. Me neither Mariana! Sometimes I wish I made an effort to be a morning person…but I would totally miss staying up late!

    9. when i was growing up, there definitely was a rule – not before 10am. (we were always up way before 10am but my mom in particular would be NOT PLEASED if she had to answer the door in her bathrobe and/or in the middle of breakfast because someone was incessantly ringing the doorbell to see if i could come out to play.) this was also back when answering machines were a.) a thing and b.) separate from the phone so the other thing that would drive my parents crazy is that my friends would call, but not leave a message, and just keep calling back. so you’d have to listen to the phone ring AND the answering machine pick up, play the greeting, and beep, rinse, repeat. …did i mention it was in our dining room? haha. fond memories!

      now i encourage anyone to use the do not disturb feature on their phone. i have mine set to come on between 1am and 7am, and still allow calls from “favorites.” so i won’t be woken up/bothered by a random text from a friend, but if either of my parents call or it’s a rare night my partner and i aren’t together and he calls, those will come through. (because at those hours it’s probably an emergency.) and of course it doesn’t affect the alarm.

      anyway long comments about phonecalls aside, this chicken looks so good! i love the idea of doing the sauce at the end – i have really gotten away from using my crockpot lately in favor of the dutch oven just because i don’t like all the liquid that comes from crockpot cooking. this is a really smart work around.

      1. Ummm that is genius. Morning restrictions seem way more reasonable to me than night restrictions! Because seriously if you show up at my house before 10am these days I WILL be in my pjs :) I should totally use that Do not disturb feature, that’s so smart. I didn’t know you could set it to still get calls from certain people! PS you need to bust out the crock for this one. for reals.

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