Chicken Tikka Masala (Paleo, Whole30, Keto)

It feels funny writing a recipe post on Tikka Masala. That is because I had never been a fan of ‘Tikka masala’ that is typically found in Indian restaurants across the US and in India. The main reason for my disinterest was the abundance of cream in those curries. Even when I was not ‘dairy free’, I never used to like cream in a curry because of the heaviness it imparted which subsequently tended to just ‘sit’ in my stomach for the next 24 hours!

So why am I now into Tikka masala suddenly? Well, this is what happened.  I have recently started teaching ‘Indian Cooking’ lessons and in almost every cooking session that I have had thus far, there are at least one or more folks asking me if I can teach them how to make ‘tikka masala’ 🙂 That’s when I realized the popularity of tikka masala among the ‘non-indian’ community. And it also struck me why folks love it so much. It is after all curry without all the spiciness or heat!. Adding cream definitely lightens up things for people who like the indian flavors but cannot handle the heat. That does make a lot of sense.

OK so ever since that revelation, my mind was bent on coming up with a ‘paleo’ version of chicken tikka masala.  And so finally I did come up with this delicious version that uses cashew nuts for the creaminess and I also made it tomato free since I avoid tomatoes too on my ‘AIP with reintro’ diet. Talking about ‘reintros’, I am so glad I can tolerate cashew nuts. I reintroduced them a couple months ago and so glad I am not sensitive to them. I mostly however, use them soaked beforehand. That way they are more digestible.

This Chicken tikka masala was a big hit with my family too. They love it with rotis and I like to have this with my cassava parathas/rotis. Btw, I made this curry twice already in the past month and I also made a video of it the second time around. Attaching the video below. Hope you like it! Please leave me a feedback below in the comments section or on my youtube channel!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chicken Tikka Masala (Paleo, Dairy Free, Night Shade free)
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, Fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
Marinated Chicken pieces grilled and cooked in a delicious, creamy, cashew nut based finger-licking curry flavored with a blend of aromatic spices. Completely Dairy free and Night shade free!
  • 1⅕ lbs of Chicken thigh pieces, cut into bite size pieces
For marination:
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (omit for nightshade free and add ground black pepper)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste (see note below)
  • 2 tbsp coconut yoghurt (you can skip if you don't have this)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
For the sauce:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp kasoori methi / dried fenugreek (optional)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp kashmiri chilli powder(omit for nightshade free)
  • ¼ tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp cumin powder
  • 10-12 cranberries fresh or frozen (thawed by soaking in hot water if frozen)
  • 15 whole cashew nuts soaked in hot water for 1 hour
  • About 1 to 1½ cups of water
  • fresh cilantro, finely chopped for garnish
To make ginger garlic paste:
  1. Grind equal quantity of fresh ginger and garlic cloves with extra virgin olive oil to make a thick paste. You can keep this in the refrigerator for about a week.
Marinating the chicken pieces:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the chicken pieces and add all the marinade ingredients. Mix using your hands to coat the chicken pieces well with the spice mixture. Keep aside for 1-8 hours. If keeping for more than 1 hour, keep the marinated chicken inside the refrigerator.
Cooking the Chicken:
  1. Pre heat oven to broil. Line a baking tray with Al foil to catch the drippings. Place the chicken pieces on skewers. Brush with oil and place under the broiler (about 2 inches away) and cook for about 10 mins. Flip them half way that is after 5 mins to make sure they are evenly cooked.
  2. Keep broiled chicken pieces aside. Reserve the drippings too.
Cooking the curry base:
  1. Heat a large bottom pan with the olive oil. Turn heat to medium and add the cumin seeds and the dried fenugreek(kasoori methi) leaves. Stir for 30 secs and then add the chopped onions. Stir fry and cook the onions for about 4-5 mins until soft. Next add the ginger garlic paste and cook for about 30 secs. Next add all the spices one by one and stir for another 30 secs to 1 min.
  2. Next add the cranberries along with a little bit of water. Stir and cook for about 1 min. Then cover and cook for about 2-3 mins until the cranberries are really soft. Turn heat off.
  3. Transfer this onion mixture to a food processor. Add the soaked cashew nuts along with a little bit of water. Grind to a fine paste.
  4. Pour this paste back to the pan. Add some more water about 1 cup to get the curry to a thick gravy like consistency.
  5. Now add the grilled chicken pieces to the curry(you can reserve a few pieces to serve separately as chicken tikka along side the curry) along with the drippings and cover and cook for about 5 mins on low heat.
  6. Turn heat off and add fresh cilantro leaves.
  7. Serve the curry with warm cassava rotis/tortillas.



Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala

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    • I have a Broil setting in my oven. You can use 500 F if there is no broil setting in yours. Hope that helps.

  1. Hi Indu, thanks a lot for sharing this recipe!
    Before I try my hand at this, can you tell me if this is gluten free?

    If not, what is the ingredient in the recipe which contains gluten and is there a substitute for it?

    • Hi Karen, yes you are right that all peppers are night shades including Kashmiri chilli pepper. I have corrected the recipe to indicate that you need to omit this too if you want to be completely nightshade free. As for me, I have found that Kashmiri chilli pepper powder is the mildest form of pepper and I seem to be able to handle it without a reaction. But everyone is different and we need to find out if we are ok with this ingredient. Thanks so much for your comment! Let me know if you end up trying this recipe!

  2. Just wanted to thank you for this wonderful recipe. I’ve made it (with some minor changes, as I didn’t have all the spices), but it was still very tasty.
    I made the cassava flatbread as well, but unfortunately that didn’t agree with me. It’s the first time I’ve used cassava flour, so maybe it takes time to get used to it.
    In any case, thanks for for this tasty recipe. I have no doubt I’ll be making it again. 🙂

    • Ronit thanks so much for your feedback! I am so glad you liked the tikka masala! As for cassava bread, it is a great healthy option for folks who have to be grain free however it cannot match in flavor to regular flour.

  3. I always look longingly at creamy curries and move along, not being able to have dairy or potatoes…your link up with #recipeoftheweek popped out at me! I’m so excited to be able to make an authentic curry that I can actually eat myself! Thank you!

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