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. Hi Rebecca! Yes, you can, and I also recommend considering substituting coconut milk. Either will work. Enjoy!

    1. 5 stars
      Well, I made this yesterday and could have eaten the whole thing by myself!! I was raised in Trinidad & Tobago, so I love these spices, wasn’t hot at all to me, but I was raised on pepper sauce so might be spicy to others. All I know is it was perfect and loved having it with a little basmati rice. Was really delicious and SOOO easy. Thank you for this recipe. I will be adding it to my list of go-to recipes.

    2. I’m not usually one to comment, but this recipe is just THAT GOOD! I’ve been making it at least once a month since I first found it a year ago. Definitely one of my favorite meals to make! I follow the recipe exactly, and it always turns out great, with variations in spice depending on how hot the jalapeños are. Thank you!!

      1. I’m so glad you loved it Alyssa! I actually have this recipe on my menu plan this week! So fun. I’m so glad it’s working for you, thanks for leaving a comment!

    3. My husband, who grew up in India, said this was the in the TOP 3 of Indian dishes I have ever made after 20 years of cooking Indian food for him–and he loves my Indian cooking! He called it “restaurant quality.” I followed the recipe exactly, except increasing the spices and butter a bit, and used Half & half instead of cream. I served it with rice, chick pea samosas, and lime pickle (a traditional Indian condiment). It made an easy weeknight dinner too!

    4. My family and I absolutely LOVE this recipe! I follow it to a T. I am making it for my Husband’s 50th birthday dinner tonight. I bought samosas and naan from a local Indian grocery to go with it. <3

      1. How can you go wrong with this Chicken Tikka and some samosas and naan! Sounds like an amazing meal! Happy birthday to your husband. Thank you so much for leaving a review Ingrid!

    5. Loved your coconut chicken recipe. Unfortunately, this did not hit the Tikka Masala craving I had. Followed your recipe to a tee and it just didn’t have the same flavor I’ve come to know and love. Hope all is well :).

      1. I’m so sorry it didn’t hit the spot for you Andre! Thanks for being so nice in your review, even though you didn’t love the dish. You’re one of a kind :)

    6. Wow, this recipe is amazing. I used half a green capsicum, instead of jalapeno, plus put a lil cayenne pepper in the garlic, pepper, ginger, 🍋 juice mix. Left the yogurt on the side, for adding individually. Truly restaurant quality. A+++. Thanks so much for the inspiration! 🤩

      1. Woohoo! So glad you loved the recipe Andrew! Love your modifications. Thanks so much for sharing!

    7. We usually like your recipes but not this one. And we love chicken tikki masala and love spicy food. First, I made the mistake of using a Reynolds Slow Cooker liner and after a little time, I could smell plastic. I think there is just not enough liquid in the recipe until the end to use one. The chicken was sticking to the plastic but not far gone enough that I couldn’t pull it all out and dump it inside the crock. That being said, the spicy was WAY too hot and because of the appearance of all the cumin and paprika covering the chicken, my husband actually thought he was eating beef. This wasn’t a hit at our house, sorry. I could remake it and use half the cayenne, but we are so turned off at this point, we’ll pass on this one. I have made MANY of your recipes and always had good luck so this was an exception.

      1. Hi Carol! I’m sorry it didn’t work out this time. And now we know not to use slow cooker liners with this recipe! This is not a traditional crock pot recipe (very little liquid to start) so I’m not surprised it didn’t work out.

    8. I think I’ve commented before, but I have to do it again. I have made this more than any other recipe over the last couple of years. My husband and I are obsessed and he requests this more than anything else. I usually follow the recipe to a T with perfect results. BUT, if you have a high tolerance for spice, use 2 Serrano peppers instead of jalapeño. 

      1. Ooh I love the serrano sub Amanda! That’s a great idea. I’m so glad you are both enjoying the recipe! It’s a keeper :) Thanks so much for commenting!

    9. Hello, I have a concern. Is it normal for the chicken to be cooked through after 2 hours on low? It is still cooking but i am worried that the chicken will dry out or burn before dinner time.. what can I do to fix this..?

      1. Hi Ash, how did it go? The chicken will be perfectly cooked and crispy-ish on the outside. I just made this again the other day! It’s a favorite of mine.

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