Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala – a flavorful, lightened up version of this classic Indian dish. With aromatic Indian spices, chicken, tomato sauce and coconut milk, it has become one of my favorite slow cooker meals.
This Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala is a beautiful, flavorful, go-to slow cooker recipe! It’s creamy and delicious, perfect for a cold wintery day during the holiday season!
I love Indian food, especially chicken tikka masala, but, sadly, I never really had Indian food until late in life and so I had to make up for it. This slow cooker tikka masala is so cozy, comforting and so easy to make you’ll want to include it in your favorite weeknight dinner recipe collection.
I didn’t have much experience with Indian food until my early 20’s when I traveled for my IT job. It was the first time I ventured out to new cities on my own and tried foods I had never experienced before. My favorite foodie city was Boston and my first very vivid memory of trying Indian food was there. Looking back I think how silly I was to be intimidated by all the spices I didn’t recognize but to impress a boy and a client, I decided to give it a go.
And it was in that place, a little hole in the wall in Boston, I fell in the love with the spices and naan. I mean who wouldn’t?!
I ordered several dishes just so that I could sample them all and hands down my favorite of the night was Tikka Masala. The color was vibrant, had a nice hint of curry but not overpowering and the garam marsala was tantalizing. Chicken can be bland but this was far from that, it was loaded with flavor.
Since that life-changing dinner, I’ve since experimented with making Indian dishes at home and my favorite is still chicken tikka masala.
What is Chicken Tikka Masala?
Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish of chunks of roasted marinated chicken in a spiced curry sauce made with a variety of spices. It is usually creamy and orange in color, and originates in the Indian subcontinent. It’s absolutely delicious and one of my favorite Indian dishes. Recipes vary, but here are the ingredients you will need to my healthier slow cooker version, which I’ve made countless times:
- Chopped yellow onion
- Bone-in chicken thighs with the skins removed
- Tomato sauce
- Minced garlic
- Grated ginger
- Curry powder
- Garam masala
- Salt and pepper
- Full-fat coconut milk
- Chopped cilantro
The Easiest Way to Make Chicken Tikka Masala
Over the year of making this dish, I found that the easiest way to make it is in the slow cooker. Typically I use sour cream or heavy cream in this dish, but I made some revisions for a friend who couldn’t have dairy and I was taking her a meal after she had a sweet baby boy. I substituted the dairy with coconut milk. And it was a huge success. I would never make it any other way. I took this to my friend and not only did her family love it but mine did as well. Bonus that this recipe was a healthier version too!
Although the ingredient list seems a little long, it’s not a complicated dish to make. In fact, with a slow cooker you literally just place all of the ingredients in the pot, turn it on and leave it to simmer. There are no pre-cooking steps, which I appreciate when it’s busy and I don’t have time for lengthy prep work.
- Add the onion to the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the chicken right on top of the onion.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken. Top the sauce with garlic, ginger and all of the seasonings: 1 tablespoon of the garam masala, paprika, turmeric, curry and salt.
- Gently stir together the sauce with the seasonings.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 3-4 hours on high (or 6-8 hours on low).
- Once it is finished cooking, using tongs remove the chicken thighs from the sauce and transfer them to a plate or cutting board.
- Remove the bones from the chicken and then shred all of the chicken meat. Once the chicken is shredded add it back to the sauce.
- Stir together the 3/4 cup coconut milk and the remaining teaspoon of garam masala. Pour coconut milk into chicken and sauce.
- Serve over rice or with flatbread and top with fresh cilantro.
I do need to tell you that the first time I made this it took some convincing to get my kids and hubby to try it. Like I was the first time I tried it, they were a little wary. But I am happy to report they loved it and everyone was happy. I love how easy it was to throw together and especially love how much flavor was packed into it. I’ve made it many times since and it always gets rave reviews.
I serve it with rice and naan, which the kids devour. I also love adding cilantro as a garnish and which is a nice touch not only because of the contrasting colors but added a layer of flavor, this is totally optional.
How do you store Chicken Tikka Masala?
What I love about this recipe is that it’s perfect for making ahead and the leftovers store beautifully. Sometimes I make a big batch and pop it in the refrigerator and it’s so easy to reheat when we have really busy weeknights. Stored in an airtight container and refrigerated, it will last for 1-2 weeks.
This makes a great freezer meal, too. Store it in an airtight container and freeze for 1-2 months!
This Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala is a repeat on our dinner menu and I think once you try it it will be a repeat dinner for you, too. Cheers to dishes with a ton of flavor, easy to make and experiencing dishes we didn’t grow up with. XOXO San
More Easy Weeknight Dinners
We all need great recipes for busy weeknights so here are a few more that I know you will love, too:
- Best Ever Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Sweet Ginger Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
- Broccoli Chicken Curry Casserole
- Easy Skillet Lasagna
Don’t forget to pin this recipe for HEALTHY SLOW COOKER CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA to your favorite Pinterest board for later.
Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
- 30 ounces tomato sauce
- 3 tablspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
- 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- Add the onion to the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the chicken right on top of the onion. Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken.
- Top the sauce with garlic, ginger and all of the seasonings: 1 tablespoon of the garam masala, paprika, turmeric, curry and salt.Gently stir together the sauce with the seasonings.Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 3-4 hours on high (or 6-8 hours on low).
- Once it is finished cooking, using tongs remove the chicken thighs from the sauce and transfer them to a plate or cutting board. Remove the bones from the chicken and then shred all of the chicken meat. I do this using two forks and just pull the meat apart.
- Once the chicken is shredded add it back to the sauce.Stir together the 3/4 cup coconut milk and the remaining teaspoon of garam masala. Pour coconut milk into chicken and sauce.
- Serve over rice or with flat bread and top with fresh cilantro.
This post has recently been updated from January 2017.