Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala

I LOVE Indian food, but seeing as most of the recipes use heavy cream and lots of spicy flavors, my gut stopped loving it. SCD made me start experimenting with different types of milk, and I've found that Indian spices can be used in moderation without making it flaming hot. While I definitely miss the hot and fluffy naan, this recipe goes great the flat bread that I'm developing (recipe to come!). I serve it over a saffron cardamom “rice made from cauliflower.

When I first came across this recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala from Food&Wine a couple of years ago, I knew I had to try to make it SCD and Paleo legal.  I used a mixture of almond and coconut milk in place of the cream, but wasn't completely happy with the results. I just recently tried this new version with cashew cream and it is so much better! The coconut milk was too powerful in the old dish and masked some of the Indian spices, making it taste a little more Thai than Indian. Raw cashews are a very versatile food because they have virtually no flavor before they're cooked.  They take on the flavor of the dish they're put into, which is great for this recipe. I also used the cashew cream to thicken a Cream of Mushroom Soup which I can't get enough of right now!

The yogurt in the marinade helps to tenderize the chicken, but is not completely necessary. If you're Paleo and don't want to go through the trouble of making a cashew yogurt or something of the like, then you can use a little baking soda in the marinade to help tenderize the meat. Marinate the chicken with a little olive oil, all of the spices, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.




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Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala



Masala Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup plain dairy-free yogurt (we use the coconut milk yogurt from Against all Grain)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat


  • 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 3/4 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 cups strained tomatoes (also called tomato puree)
  • 1 tsp honey (omit for Whole30)
  • 3/4 cup cashew cream (recipe to follow)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


  1. Make the Masala marinade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Make a few shallow slices in the chicken and then place chicken in a large ziplock bag and pour marinade over it.
  3. Seal and place in the fridge overnight, or up to 48 hours.
  4. Remove the chicken from the bag and, using a paper towel, blot off the remaining marinade.
  5. Place chicken on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until just cooked through and showing some brown spots. Depending on the size of the thighs, it should take about 10-12 minutes. Turn once half way through. Remove from oven, and cut into cubes.
  6. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and ginger until slightly browned and softened, 6-8 minutes. Add the spices and stir for 1 minute.
  7. Add the tomatoes and honey.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Partially cover the pot and cook over medium heat until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  10. Add the almond milk and cashew cream then continue to cook over low heat for about 10 more minutes.
  11. Add the chicken, and simmer until chicken is warmed back through.
  12. Sprinkle in the cilantro.
  13. Serve hot over cardamon saffron cauliflower rice.
  14. To reheat, warm on until heated through.

To Make the Cashew Cream

Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in 3 cups boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain the cashews, but reserve the soaking water. Place the cashews in a blender with 3/4 cup of the soaking water and blend until smooth. It should be a similiar thickness of a greek yogurt. If it’s too thick, add a little water at a time to get your desired consistency.


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