Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala

This simple paleo chicken tikka masala is bold in flavor and will keep you full for hours! This recipe is made paleo by swapping cashew cream for yogurt.

Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala - simple tikka masala dish that is Whole30 friendly! |

Some people say that beets are the messiest thing to cook, but turmeric must come in as a close second. It takes just a tiny pinch . . . to stain my spatulas, my pans, my marble pastry board, my fingers, my clothes and even my face. Yes, my face. It’s also a pain to clean. All my bamboo spatulas have now taken on an interesting yellow ochre hue. It doesn’t come off. But I still love turmeric with the passion of 10 blazing suns. (Somehow, that sounded much better in my head.)

So when you get around to cooking this recipe, you will probably stain something, too. It is worth it.

Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala - simple tikka masala dish that is Whole30 friendly! |

Many of you probably know that I’ve started on the Whole30. Here are my Whole30 feels so far:

  • Missing sugar? Surprisingly, not yet. But I do scarf down fruits like nobody’s business. Thank goodness it’s summer.
  • Missing grains? Only when there are no more roasted potatoes left in the house.
  • Missing dairy? There’s a block of white cheddar in my fridge that’s been taunting me. I’m not tempted.
  • Missing alcohol? Not in the slightest. This can easily change during happy hour today.
  • So many eggs for breakfast. I’m still okay with that.
  • Day 2: I felt SO HUNGRY in the afternoon. I was ready to humiliate myself by grabbing all the crackers and pita chips lying around at work and shove it in my face. It was a close call.
  • Potatoes, not diamonds, are this girl’s best friend.

Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala - simple tikka masala dish that is Whole30 friendly! |

I’m beyond glad I made a large batch of this tikka masala earlier in the week. It has been the one meal that has kept me full for hours after lunch.

Usually, tikka masala is cooked with heavy cream and/or yogurt. (<— Sadly, not permitted under the Whole30.) Don’t fret though. I’ve come up with a fabulous dairy-free alternative: cashew cream. I’ve used cashew cream before for my vegan neapolitan cheesecakes, but it’s also perfect for savory sauces. It acts as a natural thickener and it’s a healthier way to add richness to a sauce.

Cashew Cream

Cashew cream = my secret weapon for the next 3.5 weeks.

To make the tikka masala, you’re going to need a few spices. If you don’t have all of them, don’t worry. A good ‘ol curry powder can take you long ways with this recipe.

Tikka Masala Spices

I know I mentioned before that this tikka masala will stain something in your kitchen. But take just one bite, and you’ll know why it was all worth it. It’s fantastic with cauliflower rice and some roasted potatoes. A flavor explosion in all the best ways.

Thank you, tikka masala.


Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala

Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala - simple tikka masala dish that is Whole30 friendly! |
  • Author: Lisa Lin
  • Prep Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 55 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6


Cashew Cream (save remainder for another dish)

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup water (240ml) + more water for soaking


  • 1 1/2 pounds (680g) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup cashew cream
  • 3 tablespoons cooking fat (I used avocado oil)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • kosher salt

Tikka Masala Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or cooking fat of choice)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons cashew cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (400g) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups (450ml) water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped cilantro for topping


  1. Soak cashews with cool water in a small bowl for 4 hours or overnight. You can also soak the cashews with very hot water for about an hour. Drain the water. Blend the soaked cashews and 1 cup of water in a blender until smooth.
  2. Chop chicken into smaller pieces. In a medium bowl, marinade chicken with 1/4 cup cashew cream, 1 tablespoon avocado oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Let sit for 10 minutes
  3. While the chicken is marinading, start making the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a deep sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  4. When the pan is hot, add the onions and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onions start to turn translucent. Add garlic and ginger and stir for another minute, or until the garlic starts to brown. Mix in spices and stir for 30 seconds.
  5. Add cashew cream, crushed tomatoes, water, and another generous pinch of salt (about 1 teaspoon). Cover sauté pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir occasionally.
  6. While the sauce is simmering, cook the chicken. Heat another pan with 2 tablespoons of avocado oil (or your favorite cooking fat) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add chicken pieces. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink on the inside, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  7. Add chicken to the simmering sauce and let it cook for another 5 minutes.
  8. Turn off heat. Season with more salt and pepper if you like. Garnish with cilantro.
  9. Serve with cauliflower rice or some roasted potatoes!


NUTRITION INFORMATION: Amount Per Serving: Calories: 376, Total Fat 26g, Saturated Fat: 8.5g, Sodium: 202mg, Cholesterol: 72.6mg, Total Carbohydrate: 10.7g, Dietary Fiber: 2.7g, Sugar: 4g, Protein 26.7g

  1. VEGAN OPTION: Swap the chicken breasts for tofu!
  2. Cashew cream will keep refrigerated for up to a week.
Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala - simple tikka masala dish that is Whole30 friendly! @healthynibs

28 thoughts on “Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala

  1. Farrah

    hahaha, I so agree on the turmeric, but this definitely does look worth it! 😛 + yay for cashew cream!

    The no-yogurt thing is probably what would do me in on Whole30. (Well, that and a billion other things, most likely. 😡 ) I wish you the best of luck! Can’t wait to try making this!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Thank you so much, Farrah! So far, I haven’t really been craving yogurt (or even chocolate!) yet. I think it sooo helps that it’s summer and I can just eat all the fresh fruits all day long!

  2. Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom

    Lisa!!! I’m so happy for you!!! You’re doing it! OK, so many things. . So many eggs for breakfast. YES! and potatoes .. I felt the same way!!! and ohmygawd, you made cashew cream. . you are amazing!!! I would love a HUGE plate of this with cauliflower rice!!! LOVE this recipe!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Thanks, Alice!! After many days of eating eggs in the morning, I think I need to change things up! I made some fried plantains this morning to break up the routine a bit, but I need to think of other creative solutions!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Thank you so much, Felicia!! The tikka masala is actually pretty simple to make. Just marinade the chicken in cashew cream for a little bit while you make the sauce. If you don’t have all the spices around the house, I would just use 2 to 3 tablespoons of curry powder instead. Hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions!

  3. Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine

    Yum! I am starting the Whole30 in a couple of weeks while my mom is here– my husband is joining in on the fun. I have a Whole30 Prep pinterest board, so will pin all your recipes to it!

    I also have a tikka masala recipe with cauliflower rice on my site– I make it with coconut milk, so it should still be fine. I love the idea of using cashew cream though– I’ve never made it before, so will definitely be giving it a try!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Yum, I bet the coconut milk gives the cauliflower rice great flavor! I’ve been using cashew cream for EVERYTHING. From this tikka masala to dressings. I highly recommend that you experiment with it while you’re on the Whole30. And good luck!!

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  5. KalynsKitchen

    Just letting you know I featured this recipe in my Deliciously Healthy Low-Carb Recipes Round-Up for July 2015! Great recipe; I think my readers are going to love it!

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  7. Lynne

    I made this tonight. It’s got to be the best tasting curry I’ve ever made. The consistency was perfect! Works greet with the roasted cauliflower. It’s my first time trying cashew sauce too! Will be making this a LOT!!!!

    1. Lisa Post author

      Lynne, I can’t thank you enough for trying out the recipe and letting me know how it turned out! I’m SO happy that you enjoyed it!! This made my day!

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  10. Amanda Brooke

    Made this tonight for the first time — delicious! I HATE to cook, and I even made the cashew cream! Substituted curry powder for the spices because I could pay $1.99 for curry powder at Trader Joe’s or spend $$$ getting the individual ones. It’s hard to believe this is paleo and Whole30 compliant. I will probably try making a whole bunch of the sauce and freezing it for later! Thanks so much for the great recipe.

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