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Chicken Tikka Masala: 60 Minutes Start to Finish

Chicken Tikka Masala: 60 Minutes Start to Finish
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Diwali started on the 14th of November this year.  And since it lasts 5 days, celebrate it tonight!

Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated widely by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, has a lovely premise: It symbolizes the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.” Sounds like something we could all use right now.  Diwali is also a chance to celebrate the extraordinary cuisine of the Indian subcontinent.  Although I must admit, Chicken Tikka Masala is at the tip of the iceberg.  Boneless chunks of chicken are marinated in spices and yogurt and, through the wonders of the Instant Pot, they are combined in a rich creamy tomato coconut curry sauce. It’s wildly popular in Britain where it was almost certainly invented.

Is Chicken Tikka Masala truly a British dish?

As regular readers know, I relish a good food fight and there’s one around this dish. A food critic who writes for The Hindu, India’s second-largest English language newspaper, said he tasted the dish in 1971.  He wrote “It’s basically a Punjabi dish no more than 40 to 50 years old” which had periodic improvisations.  Not so fast say ethnic food historians, Peter and Colleen Grove. “It was most certainly invented in Britain, probably by a Bangladeshi chef.  In 2001 Britain’s foreign secretary at the time opined: “Chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences. Chicken tikka is an Indian dish. The masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy.”

Ali Ahmed Aslam and a dish of his Chicken Tikka Masal at his Glasgow restaurant.

Finally, consider this version of how Chicken Tikka Masala came to be.

In Glasgow Scotland, a British Pakistani chef called Ali Ahmed Aslam, had a restaurant called Shish Mahal. His son provided this description of how Chicken Tikka Masala came to be: “On a typical dark, wet Glasgow night, a bus driver coming off shift came in and ordered a chicken curry. He sent it back to the waiter saying it’s dry. At the time, Dad had an ulcer and was enjoying a plate of tomato soup. So he said why not put some tomato soup into the curry with some spices. They sent it back to the table and the bus driver absolutely loved it. He and his friends came back again and again and we put it on the menu.” Whatever your favorite story, Chicken Tikka Masala will likely be one of your favorite Indian mains to cook.  A 2012 survey of 2000 Britons named it their most popular foreign dish to cook, after Chinese stir fry.  Here is the recipe, followed by some other Indian recipes we love.

Chicken Tikka Masala in the Instant Pot

November 16, 2020
: 6
: 30 min
: 60 min
: Easy

Boneless chunks of chicken are marinated in spices and yogurt and, through the wonders of the Instant Pot, combined in a rich creamy tomato curry sauce.


  • For the Chicken Mixture:
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
  • 2 lbs chicken breast boneless and skinless cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
  • For the Sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 14 oz diced tomatoes (one can), undrained
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • Cooked rice, naan, or paranthas for serving (optional)
  • Step 1 Combine the Chicken Mixture ingredients in a ziplock bag, mix to thoroughly coat chicken and refrigerate at least 30 minutes up to 24 hours.
  • Step 2 Add olive oil to the Instant Pot. Using the display panel select the Saute function.
  • Step 3 When oil gets hot, add onion, garlic, turmeric, garam masala, and chili powder to the pot and sauté until onion is soft, 3-4 minutes.
  • Step 4 Add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pot and deglaze by using a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
  • Step 5 Add the chicken and the yogurt marinade to the pot and stir.
  • Step 6 Turn the pot off by selecting Cancel, then secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed.
  • Step 7 Using the display panel select the Pressure Cooker function. Use the +/- keys and program the Instant Pot for 5 minutes.
  • Step 8 When the time is up, let the pressure naturally release for 15 minutes, then quick-release the remaining pressure.
  • Step 9 Stir in the cream, add back the chicken, and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm over rice or with naan or paranthas as we did.

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