Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Lean chicken breasts are slowly cooked in a flavorful sauce made with tomato paste, coconut milk, ginger and garam masala to create a lightened up version of the popular Indian dish, chicken tikka masala. 
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala - The Lemon BowlWhy is Indian food so delicious? Oh wait, I know. Because most of our favorite dishes made in Indian American restaurants are full of butter and heavy cream. Dangit!!

Fortunately, I’ve found a way to boost up the flavor with low calorie, high impact ingredients such as fresh ginger, garam masala (an Indian spice blend) and light coconut milk. While this dish is often made with chicken thighs, I find that slowly cooking the lean chicken breasts makes them completely juicy and tender. Plain yogurt is added for added tenderization and tanginess (plus a hefty boost of protein and calcium!)

Cucumber Raita - The Lemon BowlTo serve, be sure to whip up a quick batch of Cucumber Yogurt Raita, a cool and delicious cucumber yogurt sauce that helps balance the richness of the dish. Fun Fact: if you used the full amount of cayenne to make the dish a bit spicy, the yogurt sauce in the cucumber raita will help combat the heat unlike water which only exacerbates the burn.

Of course, if cilantro isn’t your thing, simply leave it out at the end but I am 100% team cilantro so there is never enough garnish on my dish.

Your fork is waiting.

4.4 from 11 reviews
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Lean chicken breasts are slowly cooked in a flavorful sauce made with tomato paste, coconut milk, ginger and garam masala to create a lightened up version of the popular Indian dish, chicken tikka masala.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cubed
  • 1 medium onion - diced
  • 15 oz can coconut milk - light
  • 1 cup plain yogurt - low fat
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger root
  • 2 garlic cloves - grated
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne - optional
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro - optional garnish
  • cucumber raita (yogurt sauce) and brown rice - to serve
Instructions
  1. Place cubed chicken breasts and diced onion in the bottom of a slow cooker.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, yogurt, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, garam masala, cornstarch, salt and cayenne. Pour mixture over the chicken and onion and stir well.
  3. Cook on Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours. Serve with brown rice and cucumber raita on the side.
Notes
To lower sodium content, simply cut the salt amount in half.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cup Calories: 250 Fat: 9.2 g Saturated fat: 5.6 g Unsaturated fat: 3.6 g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 16.8 g Sugar: 7.8 g Sodium: 880 mg Fiber: 3.5 g Protein: 25.9 g Cholesterol: 62 mg

 

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Comments

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      Oh Amanda it is such a magical spice mixture!! If you’ve ever had Indian food, you’ll instantly recognize the intoxicating smell!!

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      I love ordering it in restaurants but it’s always so heavy and I feel guilty for weeks – lol. I love this version because we can eat it all the time and get all of those crazy good flavors without the heaviness. I hope you try it Brenda!

  1. says

    I’ve been all about the slow cooker lately – wonder why? ;)

    I have got to start making Indian dishes more at home, I bet this smells amazing!! Looks wonderful!

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      LOL you and me both!!!! It’s a life saver!! I hope you try this – Rich and Asher devoured it! Don’t forget to buy some naan bread. ;)

  2. says

    OK, this settles it. I’ve been wanting to make slow cooker chicken tikka masala at home for FOREVER, but every recipe I’ve come upon looks just way too complicated/overwhelming. This one is just perfect. And with that cool raita on the side? I’m drooling already.

  3. says

    I love Indian food, and could you believe I have never made Tikka Massala before? I am planning on making a vegetarian version however the chicken one looks really good too :-) I have jars and jars of Indian spices at home. I just love them all. Great recipe!!

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      It’s funny – I realized I had 3 (!!) jars of garam masala in my pantry the other day. Clearly I’m not doing enough Indian cooking!!! It’s really great in a veggie curry with chickpeas too. Ok you’re making me hungry!! :)

  4. says

    Ok, you and Sheila are convincing me to start cooking with garam masala! Friends had us over a couple of weeks ago for my first experience of home cooked Indian food. I loved loved loved it!! Now I need to make this in my own home!

  5. says

    I was just looking at a can of Light Coconut Milk from TJ’s in my pantry and wondering what to do with it. And I’m ashamed to say I’ve only used my beautiful slow cooker ONCE. And this happens to be my hubby’s absolute fav Indian food dish (well, actually, the only one he’ll eat!). Will definitely make it soon!

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      Oh good I’m so glad!!! I always keep a can of coconut milk on hand because it’s so versatile. I hope you like this!!

  6. Susan says

    Why is it that all of a sudden people are posting delicious-sounding crock pot recipes, when I have just decided I hate cooking in a crock pot? The problem is, when things are cooking for hours while I am at home (I am retired), the smell of the cooking becomes downright unpleasant. I had that experience just yesterday. I love Indian food, so I will make this on the stove top so the cooking aromas don’t become overwhelming.

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      Oh I completely understand that Susan, especially being pregnant with a very strong sense of smell!!! But, my exhaustion levels and my busy toddler make the slow cooker too easy to resist at least once or twice a week. :)

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      I don’t use it enough but every time I do, my entire afternoon is filled with happy “dinner is already done” thoughts. :) xo

  7. says

    Liz,
    I need to figure out how to make my own tomato paste–I normally put a quart of crushed tomatoes into my slow cooker tikka masala, but this lightened version sounds pretty good to me! And my kids fight over the leftovers, so it’s a winning recipe in my book.
    Thanks!

  8. Brittany says

    Made your recipe tonight and it was delicious! I accidentally used regular coconut milk so I am looking forward to making it again next time with low fat. Thank you for sharing.

  9. says

    I have recently made the regular version for DH and he had already requested I make it again. Now I will have to try this because I love the healthier option and the fact that it’s a slow-cooker recipe. Win-win all around!

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      It is such a classic dish – my husband orders it every time!! He loved this version so I hope your hubby doesn’t mind the lighter version!!

  10. says

    Your without oil, healthy version of Chicken Tikka masala looks really really lustrous :) Never thought of adding corn starch though; I’m intrigued to give it a try ASAP :)

    Lovely, warm pictures.

  11. Kerry says

    Made this last night. I couldn’t reach the cornstarch in my cabinet so I used a little tapioca. The dish was delicious! My boyfriend kept eating it and later dipped naan in the sauce and snacked on that! I made the cucumber raita but didn’t have time to drain yogurt. I put it in the freezer for about 15 min and it thickenened up a bit. Added it to top of tikka masala-yum!
    Thanks for posting.

  12. Heather says

    I don’t know what I did wrong, the only change I made was to use Greek yogurt because I had it on hand but I cooked it exactly 4 hours on high and it looks curdled. Just totally disgusting looking, I’m so disappointed and wasted $10 of organic chicken and have no dinner tonight. :(

    • Liz DellaCroce says

      Oh no Heather!! I’ve never used Greek yogurt for this style of cooking so I can’t tell you if that was the problem. I use regular plain yogurt. I am truly sorry this did not work out for you – it is a HUGE favorite in our family. Please let me know if you try it again with the plain yogurt that I used!!

    • Sara says

      I made this last night and used Greek yogurt… I was a little suspicious when I came home and looked at it, but once I stirred well everything was fine. Husband and I both ate it and are no worse for the wear. :)

      I thought it was very good, even with my fake garam masala I mixed up with a bunch of spices, but I did miss the butter. Hopefully after making it a few more times I’ll get used to the healthy way. Thanks Liz!

      • Liz DellaCroce says

        Oh I’m so glad you liked it!! I’ve never made it with Greek yogurt but I’m glad it worked out!! Very impressed you made your own garam masala blend, too!

  13. Lisa says

    I’m very excited to try this recipe. However, I’m not a morning person (at all) so the thought of pulling this altogether before work sounds a little daunting. Do you think it’s okay to do all the prep the night before, store it in the fridge, and then throw it into my slow cooker first thing in the morning?

  14. Collin says

    Just finished this. I think you have way too much garam masala. Followed to a T and it was not orange/red like the picture (turned brown) and it tasted solely of that spice. Maybe do half or less of it. Also, in a 3.5 quart slow cooker the chicken was over cooked in 7 hours.

    • says

      Hi Collin – I’m sorry to hear the dish didn’t turn out as you had hoped! I do know that garam masala spice blends tend to differ quite a bit based on the brand you use as well as how old the spices are that were used to make the spice blend. Regardless, that doesn’t take away your experience so I truly apologize. I hope you try another recipe!! Thank you again for your feedback and Happy New Year!

  15. Talbot says

    Should the chicken be cooked when it goes into the slow cooker? Thanks! Looking forward to trying this recipe; looks delicious.

  16. Cliff says

    Nice recipe!

    To give it a boost of authentic tikka masala flavor, try mixing in a bit of dried fenugreek leaves immediately before serving, and you can even sprinkle some on to instead of cilantro or parsley as a garnish… Adds virtually no calories with this addition but nice flavor!

  17. Jerry says

    Found this recipe randomly on google. Decided to give it a shot. Turned out awesome. And I’ve grown up eating Indian food my whole life!

  18. jen says

    Made this tonight for my husband and sister-in-law. Used the high setting for 4 hours with chicken thighs. The chicken just melted in your mouth. I thought proportions of spices were right on. Color wasn’t as bright but who cares, taste was awesome. Husband licked his plate clean. One of my new favorite recipes. Thank you.

  19. kim says

    This turned out great! I noticed NO difference with the low fat ingredients. I combined your recipe with another recipe I found because I had these extra ingredients lying around:

    •1 tablespoon cumin
    •1/2 tablespoon paprika
    •3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    •3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    •2 bay leaves

    It WAS delicious but I noticed that it didn’t have that slight sweetness to it like I’ve had at the restaurants so I added a bit of sugar to taste. It was PERFECT. Thank you!

  20. Amra says

    Hi, I just bought a slow cooker, I thought that youghurt wasn’t suitable for slow cooker and that it will seperate….same with the coconut milk….?

  21. Joanna H. says

    I was so excited to try this! It came out fantastic but it def is NOT Chicken Tikka Masala. I’m fine with it because it was actually very good but it was not what I thought I was making lol.

    • says

      Oh no – I’m sorry it wasn’t what you expected! It’s definitely a lot lighter than the traditional version made with heavy cream. The goal was to create a healthy version of the Indian classic that can enjoy regularly without the guilt. :)

  22. Becky says

    MMMMMM! Incredible!!! I was sooo happy to find this recipe!!!! I’ve got this love affair going on with Indian food, and have a local buffet that I’ve frequented way too often!!! This recipe is definitely going to help me break that habit. This is every bit as good as that restaurant’s!

    Question, though: Looking at the nutritional information, it says serving size is 2 cups, but that there are 4 servings. I know I used a little less than a full pound of chicken… but I only got a total of 4 cups. Is two cups really the serving size?

    Thank you so much! A friend told me just 2 weeks ago maybe about your blog – to date I’ve tried this and the Turkish Red Lentil Soup – keep these incredible recipes coming!!!!

    • says

      I’m so glad your friend told you about my site!! And I’m thrilled you’ve enjoyed the recipes so far!! :) And oh my goodness I’m so sorry – that should definitely be one cup!! I just updated the recipe. Please forgive my type-o!!

  23. Kirsty says

    I’m so happy I found this I have been following a diet that is similar to the paleo and I’m DYING for a curry! The only thing is that I can’t have cornstarch, would I be able to replace this with coconut flour or almond flour? Or could I leave it out?

  24. Kp says

    Was really looking forward to this dish but when I got home and looked in the slow cooker it was half burnt and the other half curdled, followed the recipe, disappointed :(

    • says

      Oh dear!! I’m so sorry to hear that KP!! We make this dish regularly and that has never happened. Did you happen to make any substitutions or changes to the recipe at all? I would love to help you figure out a way to make this work!! Thank you for letting me know either way and again, I’m so sorry it didn’t work out for you.

  25. Jackie says

    Hi! I’m thinking about making this recipe tonight. Do you think it will work well if I keep the chicken breasts whole? Your chicken wasn’t dry even though you cubed it?
    Thanks!

  26. Joe says

    I’m making this for my wife, I think she’ll like it. Is the sauce suppose to be light? I made the mixture to the T and it’s not really red like in the picture? I put it in the fridge and I’m going to put it in the crockpot before work. Does it get darker as it cooks maybe?

  27. Amber says

    First time making an Indian dish at home that turned out. So easy. Delicious and my hubby whom I could never convince to even try Indian cuisine had seconds. Thanks!

  28. JT says

    Instead of using chicken can I use beef? We just had chicken curry today so I am trying to serve something different tomorrow but this recipe really looks good! Can I also use Greek yogurt instead of plain yogurt?

  29. says

    Do you think all the ingredients could be put into a freezer bag and frozen to be made at a later time? I’d love to make this and have on hand for those busy weeks.

    Plan on making this next week !

  30. Ashley says

    I’m so excited to try this tomorrow! I make tikka often for the fam but started working for a family in the evenings and don’t have time to cook and am relying on crock pot meals! I’m happy to be able to do one of our favorite dishes without it being time consuming!

  31. Mahendra says

    Liz, I tried your recipe last night as I recently bought a slow cooker and wanted to try this out. As a Desi (someone from India), I have to say it was awesome! I have sent the link to your recipe to both my daughter and her mom (now I am sharing recipes with the women in my life!)

    I made a couple of small changes. Firstly, I used 2-3 Tbl spoons of ginger-garlic paste (we use these in a lot of Indian recipes and so had that around) instead of the fresh grated stuff and secondly, I added a few strands of Saforn after reading some of the comments just to make sure it was red/orange in color. Oh, and I doubled your suggested cayanne with 1 Tbl spoon of chilli powder. :-)

    Lastly, I used store bought garam masala. But next time I will try our home made garam masala (which consists of cloves, cardamom and cinnamon).

    • says

      Oh my goodness I am so truly honored that you enjoyed my Americanized version of a classic!! Love your tips and substitutions. I have used ginger/garlic paste before but can’t always find it. Sounds delicious!! Thank you so much!

  32. Debby says

    Remember that slow cookers do not cook at the same speed – some of the overcooking/undercooking, burnt comments can be related to using a slow cooker that is too large for the amount of ingredients or has a different cooking heat than another., is a different material, has a different venting system etc.

  33. adam says

    Can I cook for two hours in the slow cooker on high and then finish it off in the oven for 30-45 mins? I was a bit late getting it into the slow cooker lol
    Cheers.

Trackbacks

  1. […] When it comes to Indian food, one of my very favorite dishes is Chicken Tikka Masala. If Whole Foods has it in their hot foods section,  you can bet I will take a little tray of it. And when it’s on the menu, it’s one of my favorite things to order. But why be limited by needing someone else to make it? Liz from The Lemon Bowl created this flavorful, lean recipe that slow cooks to perfection while you are off at work or school. I can’t wait to make it myself. Get the recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala on The Lemon Bowl. […]

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