This post featuring my slow cooker gluten-free tikka masala recipe contains affiliate links.
For many many years I refused to eat Indian food. I don’t know why, though, because Indian food is very tasty and loaded with flavors I love. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, so I avoided it.
But that has all changed in recent years.
My son LOVES Indian food so he begs me to take him to his favorite Indian Restaurant in Denver, India’s. The more we go, the more he wants to go back.
So you could say I’ve developed a taste – and liking for – Indian food over the years. It’s taken me time, but now I truly enjoy it!
On top of that, Indian food is quite gluten-free friendly. A vast majority of authentic Indian dishes are made with only gluten-free ingredients, and the only thing I have to worry about, for the most part, is the naan, which is an Indian flatbread made from wheat.
When I was at the library the other day meeting a client for a nutrition coaching session, I stopped by the cookbook section and checked out a few cookbooks. One cookbook in particular caught my eye, The Indian Family Kitchen by Anjali Pathak. My son has been begging me to learn how to make Indian food – so this book seemed like a good way to start making some of his favorite foods.
My son and I went through the cookbook together, and we bookmarked at least 20 recipes. Seriously, 20 recipes!!
I don’t know if I’ll get to them all, but I agreed to start with one. He chose his go-to dish – and perhaps the most famous Indian dish of all – Chicken Tikka Masala.
There is NOTHING in tikka masala that contains gluten, so I was on board to give it a try.
What You Need
The first thing you’ll need to do in order to make this gluten-free tikka masala is head to the grocery store. Most of us don’t have the slew of spices at home needed to make this spice-filled dish.
Spices: I had a few spices I needed already – like cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon and ground ginger, but I needed ginger paste, garlic paste, garam masala and coriander.
I also purchased spices for other recipes in this cookbook, so my cart was filled with amazing spices, and hefty price tag, at the end of my shopping trip. Oh well.
Yogurt: The recipe calls for Greek yogurt, which is a thick and creamy yogurt. You may not know this about me, but I have an aversion to all things creamy. If it looks like sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt or ranch dressing, I ain’t eating it.
That said, I will cook with [some] those ingredients as long as the end result isn’t creamy. For example, I would add yogurt to a cake and eat the cake, but I wouldn’t eat pasta covered in a creamy alfredo sauce.
This recipe calls for quite a bit of plain Greek yogurt, which I swapped with a dairy-free cashew yogurt (personal preference). If I make this recipe again, I think I’ll use the Greek yogurt as the cashew yogurt was a bit runny.
Chicken Thighs: While there are literally hundreds of ways to make chicken tikka masala (Google it, everyone has their own spin on how to make it), the one common ingredient in all of the recipes is chicken. I used boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs. I don’t think this would taste as good with chicken breasts.
How to Make
I mostly followed the instructions in The Indian Family Kitchen cookbook – of course – adding my own spin on things.
The first step is to create the tikka paste to marinade the chicken thighs. The paste includes a mixture of spices (turmeric, chili powder, garlic paste and ginger paste) as well as yogurt. Mix all those ingredients together and massage it into the chicken to marinade. Add the chicken to your slow cooker and set aside.
The next step is to create the masala sauce.
I’m not going to lie to you, making the sauce requires some effort. I approached it from a lazy chef perspective (aka, throwing everything in at once) and it worked just fine.
I added oil, onions, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, garlic paste, ginger paste, garam masala, coriander, cumin, Kosher salt and pepper to a large pan and started cooking it all together. I then added jalapeno peppers, canned tomatoes and a little dairy-free butter into the pan.
I sauteed everything together (the smell was intoxicating) and right before it was done, I added a little more yogurt to the mix (you could add more yogurt to taste if you like it creamier).
I then added everything to the slow cooker, mixed it together with the chicken, and turned the slow cooker to cook for 4 hours.
Please note that the original recipe in The Indian Family Kitchen cookbook calls for grilling the chicken and then pouring the sauce over the chicken. The slow cooker thing is my own spin on things. I wanted the meal to stay warm all day until my family was home to eat it.
I think slow cooking the dish made things a bit more liquidy (it wasn’t a thick sauce). It was fine though, and still very tasty. And the smell in my house was incredible!
Please note that in traditional chicken tikka masala, the chicken is baked in a tandoor oven, which is a cylindrical clay or metal oven. Most of us don’t have such an oven in our house, so either slow cooking or grilling the chicken is how we have to do it. When you order tikka masala at an authentic Indian restaurant, you can bet they are baking their chicken in a tandoor oven!
Slow Cooker Gluten-Free Tikka Masala Recipe
This recipe takes a little preparation, but when you come home after work, you’ll have a wonderful taste of a classic Indian dish awaiting you.
I served mine atop basmati rice and garnished with cilantro.
I asked my son what he thought after he woofed down the meal. He said it was really good and spicy, just like he likes it. He did, say, however, it didn’t taste as creamy as traditional tikka masala. I told him I struggled to put the yogurt in because of my aversion to cream. He understood and still loved it.
Now instead of begging me to go to India’s, he’s begging me to make this gluten-free tikka masala recipe again, as well as berating me about when I’m going to make one of the other recipes we bookmarked in the cookbook. I’ve got my work cut out for me indeed!
I’ll share other recipes if they turn out as good as this one. Stay tuned!
Gluten-Free Tikka Masala (Slow Cooker)
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 2 jalapeno peppers seeded and diced
- 2 Tbsp garam masala
- 1 Tbsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 Tbsp butter or dairy free alternative
- 2 Tbsp Greek yogurt up to 6 Tbsp total ok if desired
- 1 tsp Kosher salt more to taste
- 1/4 tsp fresh gound pepper
- 1 Tbsp cilantro for garnish
- Mix all tikka paste ingredients in a bowl. Add chicken and coat well. Place chicken into your slow cooker.
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, cardamom, cinnamon and cumin seeds. Cook until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and ginger paste and jalapenos. Cook for another minute.
- Add garam masala, coriander and cumin along with 2 Tbsp of water to the mixture. Stir well.
- Add tomatoes and butter, along with 1 cup of water to mixture and simmer for 15 minutes to cook off some of the liquid. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the extra goodies stuck to the pan. Add salt and pepper (to taste).
- Add mixture to slow cooker, give it a little stir, and set slow cooker to cook for four hours.
- Once mixture is cooked, add two more tablespoons of Greek yogurt (or more if you like it creamy, up to six total tablespoons). Stir well.
- Serve garnished with fresh cilantro over basmati rice (optional).