Dairy Free Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken tikka masala is a classic Indian recipe. I made my chicken tikka masala with coconut milk to be healthy and dairy free!
My Indian chicken tikka masala recipe is
- Gluten free
- Dairy free
- Easy to make
IS CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA HEALTHY?
I would not say traditional chicken tikka masala is healthy because it is made with heavy cream and white rice. But, if you substitute the heavy cream for coconut milk, and the white rice for brown or wild rice, it can definitely be a healthy meal!
You can also make whole wheat naan instead of traditional naan.
Get my wheat naan recipe here!
DOES CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA HAVE DAIRY?
Traditional chicken tikka masala does have diary. It is traditionally made with heavy cream. I made a dairy free version of chicken tikka masala by substituting coconut milk in place of heavy cream. Coconut milk in place of heavy cream also makes the dish much healthier.
DAIRY FREE CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA INGREDIENTS
- Spices can add so much flavor! They can also pack in some nutrition! The most potent spice in this dish is turmeric. Turmeric is widely researched for its medicinal purposes, helping with everything from joint pain to heart health to depression.
READ ABOUT TURMERIC FOR DEPRESSION HERE
- Garlic has been long used for its potent medicinal properties. Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body.
- Ginger is another plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Ginger too, has powerful anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties. This means it can help to fight disease all over the body!
- Onions have a relatively high amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C is crucial in iron absorption. And onions are yet another ingredient that have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Tomato sauce. Tomatoes are a powerful source of the antioxidant called lycopene. And while most vegetables are best eaten raw, the cooking process actually increases the antioxidant activity of tomatoes. Pretty cool, right?
- Coconut milk. Coconuts are rich in a number of nutrients: folate, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium.
- Fresh cilantro. Cilantro is a powerful chelator. This means that it can bind heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury, and help to pull them out of the body. Make sure you buy organic! Just as cilantro can pull toxins from the body, it can also pull toxins from the soil.
TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST DAIRY FREE CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Buy quality ingredients. I can't stress enough how quality ingredients can make or break a dish. And I'm not saying more expensive ingredients. I'm saying, choosing local fresh chicken; using fresh spices (not ones that have been sitting on a bright shelf for years); choosing fresh & un-bruised produce.
Let the chicken marinate. Don't try to rush this process. If you don't have that hour to let it sit, make it another night. Or, prepare the rice and sauce so that when the chicken is done cooking you can add the chicken right to the sauce and everything will be ready to go.
Taste test. This is an important part of every meal. But, everyone's salt and flavor preferences are different. If you notice the flavor is lacking, sprinkle in a bit of salt and taste it again. Salt truly can bring out the amazing flavors of this dish.
Frequently asked questions about my dairy free chicken tikka masala.
Should I use white rice or brown rice?
While sticky white rice is soo delicious, it does not pack much in terms of nutrition. It is okay in moderation, but eating it in large amounts or every day could cause some unwanted weight gain. If you absolutely love white rice and don't eat it all the time, enjoy it with this dish!
What can I use instead of cream in tikka masala?
Most traditional chicken tikka masala recipes you will find use heavy cream. If you are dairy free or looking for an alternative, coconut milk is a great substitute. Other cream replacements in tikka masala are plain greek yogurt and/ or milk.
Brown rice on the other hand, is considered a whole grain. It has much more nutritional value plus a lot of fiber. It definitely makes the healthier rice choice. I go back and forth between different types of rice: white rice, brown rice, wild rice, even black rice!
Is chicken tikka masala better than butter chicken?
This one is totally a preference! Chicken tikka masala and butter chicken are actually pretty similar, with the main differences in the amount of cream and tomatoes that go into the sauce. Chicken tikka masala has more tomato and less cream, while butter chicken has more cream and less tomato. Try my Butter Chicken Recipe
What Indian curries have dairy?
Most Indian food is made with some kind of dairy, whether it is butter, yogurt, or heavy cream. Check the recipe and/or check with the restaurant for their vegan options. Vegetarian options like vegetarian tikka masala would still include dairy but not meat.
Is tikka masala vegan?
No, tikka masala is not traditionally vegan because it is made with butter, heavy cream, and chicken.
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY DAIRY FREE CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA STOVETOP
Step 1: marinate the chicken
Start by marinating your chicken. I marinate mine for 1 hour before cooking, this gives time for the spices to soak in and the lemon juice and yogurt to help tenderize it.
In a large bowl or bag, mix together the ½ cup full fat coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 6 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika.
Slice the 3 chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Add the pieces of chicken to the marinate and toss them around so that each piece is totally coated.
Allow the chicken to sit and marinate for an hour.
NOTE: This is when I prepare all the ingredients for the tikka masala sauce so that it is ready to go after my chicken is done cooking.
Step 2: bake the chicken
After 1 hour, preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the pieces of chicken to metal skewers (I use stainless steel).
NOTE: Make sure you line the tray with parchment paper! This not only helps to prevent the chicken drippings from burning and creating smoke, but also saves you time cleaning the pan!
Cook the chicken for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. While the chicken cooks, you can start preparing your sauce and rice.
Step 3: make the sauce
HOW TO MAKE DAIRY FREE CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA SAUCE
In a large pan or wok, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. I like to use a wok because you can throw the ingredients in and I don't have to worry about the sauce splashing all over the stove (another clean up hack).
Add the diced yellow onion to the pan and cook it until the onion is completely soft.
Add the 2 tablespoons minced ginger and 8 cloves of minced garlic. Stir them around just until they are fragrant.
OVERCOOKING GARLIC WILL MAKE IT BITTER! So, don't ever let your garlic get dark brown.
Next, add all the spices and stir them in just until they are fragrant.
NOTE: it is best to measure your spices out ahead of time so you can add them all in at once.
Stir in the 1 tablespoon of tomato puree, 3 ½ cups of tomato sauce, 1 ½ cup water, 1 cup coconut milk, and the cooked chicken. Stir to combine. Cover your pan with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Allow it to simmer so that all the flavors come together nicely. I like to let mine simmer for ~20 minutes while I cook the rice. But on days I'm in a pinch I start the rice right after I put the chicken in so that it is done even quicker.
HOW TO SERVE CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Chicken Tikka Masala is best served with a bit of cilantro on top. The cool cilantro flavor compliments the spices in the dish. Also, chicken tikka masala is not the same without rice! Use whatever rice that you prefer. And last, you always want fresh naan bread with your chicken tikka!
Hope you enjoy!
Other dairy free Indian Recipes you might like:
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Dairy Free Chicken Tikka Masala
- stainless steel skewers
- Parchment paper
- Baking tray
- wok or other large pan
For the chicken marinade:
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk or plain yogurt if not dairy free
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger approximately 1 thumb/inch of ginger
- 2 teaspoon pink sea salt
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
For the tikka masala sauce:
- 1 tablespoon avocado or coconut oil
- 1 lg yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon minced ginger
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 ½ cups tomato sauce
- 1 ½ cups filtered water
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- ½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- Fresh naan bread wheat naan for a healthier option
- White or brown rice brown rice for a healthier option
For the chicken:
- Chop your chicken into bite sized pieces.
- In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, minced ginger, salt, cumin, garam masala, and paprika. Add the chicken and toss to coat the chicken completely. Allow to rest for 1 hours so the chicken can soak up the flavorings.
- After 1 hour, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper (the parchment paper prevents the chicken drippings from burning on the pan).
- Add pieces of chicken to stainless steel skewers.
- Arrange the skewers on the pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
For the tikka masala sauce:
- Meanwhile, in a large pan or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook them until they are soft.
- Add the ginger and garlic and cook until just fragrant.
- Add the spices (cumin, turmeric, coriander, paprika, chili powder, garam masala) and stir in until just fragrant.NOTE: it helps to measure out the spices beforehand so that you can quickly add them to the pan at once.
- Add the tomato puree, tomato sauce, and water. Allow the pan to come to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk and chicken. Cover the pan and let it cook on low heat until you are ready to serve it. I like to let it simmer for ~20-30 minutes to enhance the flavor more.
- Serve with fresh cooked rice and naan bread. Add chopped cilantro on top to cool down all the warm spices.
Your chicken tikka masala looks so creamy and flavourful Rosemary! I love reading all those awesome benefits to this delicious Indian dish! Thanks for sharing this one!
Heidi | The Frugal Girls
Your chicken tikka masala looks so delicious and I love all the tasty flavors in your homemade sauce! ?
Thank you Christie! It is so good and feels much less heavy when it's made with coconut milk instead of the heavy cream!
thank you!! All the flavors come together so nicely! I love garam masala
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