A restaurant worthy tikka masala that requires very little effort thanks to the slow cooker. I’ve literally been trying tikka masala recipes for years–tried probably everyone on the internet, and surprisingly (and thankfully!) the easiest one was the best tasting. This recipe is naturally gluten and dairy free too, so more people can enjoy it. This Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe is also free of: soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts, making it free of the top-8-allergens. (You could also sub in cauliflower or chick peas for the chicken to make it vegan.)
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Why I love this Dairy-free Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
I lived in China for a semester, and believe it or not, that was the first time I tried Indian food. We found an Indian food restaurant and I remember being like “wow, what is this stuff?”.
Since my son’s milk allergy, nut allergies and wheat allergy, it’s been hard to find a safe Indian food restaurant that I don’t have to worry about milk or nuts being in a dish.
So, I was determined to find a safe way to make Chicken Tikka Masala at home. Boy, I did not know what a long journey I was going on. I’ve tried every top recipe–from big bloggers, to recipes with thousands of reviews and they were always so plain. I did the kind you have to marinate an entire day before, or food processor tons of fresh herbs and they were all disappointing.
Let me tons and tons of fails be put to use as you can skip to the head of the line with this easy meal. made the best way. I love that you can literally throw it in the slow cooker and let it do it’s thing. All you have to do is blend the sauce and make the rice once you’re ready to eat. The chicken is tender and the sauce is perfection. My whole family loves it so much that my oldest son always calls dibs on it, to take in a thermos for lunch at school.
What ingredients do you need for this easy chicken tikka masala recipe?
There’s nothing too crazy about this dish, and I love that it tastes mostly pantry ingredients and very little fresh ingredients so you can make it in a pinch without having to run to the store, once you have these spices on hand.
- Olive oil
- Boneless skinless chicken breast (or chicken thighs if you prefer)
- Yellow onion
- Tomato puree / or tomato sauce
- Canned coconut milk (found in the Asian isle–full fat!)
- Salt and black pepper
- Lemon juice
- Plain dairy-free yogurt
- Chili powder
- Ground turmeric
- Garam masala
- Pureed ginger
- Jarred minced garlic
- Tomato paste
- Fresh cilantro for garnish, if desired
- Rice to serve it with
What supplies do you need to make Dairy free Chicken Tikka Masala?
You need very little supplies, which helps with easy clean up:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Cutting board and knife for chopping cilantro
- A pan and lid for making the rice
- A slow cooker, also known as a Crock Pot, for cooking the Tikka Masala in
How is this Chicken Tikka Masala dairy free?
Most Indian cuisine use Greek yogurt or plain yogurt to tenderize the chicken and marinate it in. Thanks to the slow cooker, you don’t need to tenderize the chicken. You do need just a few Tablespoons of dairy-free yogurt to make the creamy sauce, but none to marinate the chicken in before hand which saves you a ton of time! You’ll notice most Indian recipes finish off all of the sauces with heavy cream (which is why they’re so yummy.) It’s easy to get around this with this dairy-free option: full fat coconut milk, found in the can in the Asian isle at my grocery stores. (You could also use cans of “coconut cream” found in the Asian isle too. I wouldn’t recommend light coconut milk, but you do you if you feel you want less calories.)
What dairy-free plain yogurt do I use for this Indian recipe?
I like to use So Delicious Unsweetened Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt. I find it is a great substitute for Greek yogurt. If you have any leftover (since my recipe only calls for a little) throw the rest in a delicious smoothie! There was one time I was out of dairy-free yogurt and in a pinch I used mayo (I know–not a traditional tikka masala ingredient), and it worked just fine in case you ever find yourself in a pinch too!
What kind of chicken should I use in this dairy-free chicken tikka masala?
You can use chicken breast or chicken thigh, but I’d recommend boneless and skinless for ease. You can either cut chicken pieces into bite sized before putting in the slow cooker. I did this in the pictures, and it feels more restaurant worthy to me. But, sometimes I’m in a rush and only have frozen chicken breasts, and will throw those in. In that case, I just take the chicken out and shred it once it’s tender.
An extra step that is worth it!
As you’ll notice, you will be using a lot of onions and while I finely dice them, and they get soft during the slow cooking, it just doesn’t feel as restaurant worthy to have a chunky sauce. So, I do take an extra step to puree the sauce. I simply take the chicken out, and then you can puree the sauce either by using a hand immersion blender, or by pouring the sauce into a blender and blending it until totally smooth. It also helps sneak tons of onion into my onion hating son’s mouth without him every knowing it. #MomWin It only takes a couple of minutes and gives you a silky sauce.
What do I serve with this Slow Cooker Tikka Masala?
In restaurants you’ll usually have it paired with white rice, which is what we like to do. If you want more whole grains, you can use brown rice. Or, for a low carb option, you can use cauliflower rice. You’ll also usually see a side dish of naan bread, but we skip that due to my son’s wheat allergy. I figure it has plenty of vegetables (the tomatoes and onions) blended into the sauce that I don’t bother with any other side dishes. I’m all about simple!
Do I have other dairy-free slow cooker recipes?
Yes, I do! Here are some other dairy-free crock pot dinner recipes that you will love as well:
- Slow Cooker Green Chile Enchilada Soup
- Slow Cooker Pork Tacos
- Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken Salads
- Slow Cooker Pork Chops
- Slow Cooker Pizza Soup
- Slow Cooker Creamy Green Chile Chicken
- Slow Cooker Minestrone
If you’re a fan of Indian food and want to an instant pot Indian Butter chicken, be sure to check out my Instant Pot cookbook, where that is one of the most popular dishes in the entire cookbook!
How to store leftover coconut chicken tikka masala?
Store any leftover chicken and tikka masala sauce together in an airtight container in the fridge. Store the rice separate. This should store well for 3 days.
Do I have a video showing how to make this chicken tikka masala?
Yes, I do. I hope this overview recipe video shows you how simple it is to make this popular Indian dish. If the video does not auto populate, it should be at the bottom of the recipe card. And, if all else fails, you can see it on my YouTube channel.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 large) or thigh
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- 2 and ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons plain dairy-free yogurt* see post above
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 and ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 Tablespoon pureed ginger (found in a squeeze tube in the produce section)
- 1 Tablespoon jarred garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- Fresh cilantro, chopped as garnish (optional)
- Cooked rice for serving
In a large slow cooker/crock pot place all of the ingredients, except for the cilantro and cooked rice. (Oil, chicken, diced onions, tomato sauce, coconut milk, salt, lemon juice, dairy-free yogurt, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, ginger, garlic and tomato paste.)
Turn your slow cooker to low and cook 6-8 hours if using frozen chicken. Or 4-6 hours if using fresh chicken. You'll be able to tell when the chicken is so tender it falls apart.
Remove the chicken and shred.
Using either an immersion blender straight in the slow cooker, or pouring the sauce carefully into a blender, puree until completely smooth. This is an extra step, but gives you that smooth, restaurant quality sauce you get with take out.
Add the chicken back in and stir to combine.
Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.
*Alternatively--if you want to use fresh chicken, and cube it before cooking you can do that too. I did that in the pictures, because it looks more restaurant quality, but usually just opt to throw the whole thing in and shred when done for time's sake. If using fresh, cubed chicken, cook 4-6 hours, or until tender.
See the post above for FAQs.
*Our allergies, while severe and that get re-tested frequently, are such that we can go strictly by what's on the label. I do not call companies to see what things are derived from, or call manufacturers to see about potential cross contact. If your allergies require you to do so, please do your own homework. I cannot assure you of any ingredient's safety, only you can do that. I simply share what works for our family
**If you are going to feed this to someone with food allergies, and you yourself do not have food allergies, I HIGHLY recommend having them check every single brand and ingredient you are using, to ensure they're OK with each part of the recipe. And, to make sure you've talked to them about how to avoid cross contamination in your kitchen.
Inspired and adapted from: Ministry of Curry's Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 736Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 244mgSodium: 1024mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 78g
DON’T FORGET TO PIN IT, SO YOU DON’T LOSE IT. WHILE YOU’RE THERE, CHECK OUT MY OTHER DIETARY SPECIFIC PINTEREST BOARDS.