Dairy-Free Chicken Tikka Masala

A couple weeks ago my husband and I came across an amazing Indian restaurant in downtown Atlanta.  We both fell in love with the Chicken Tikka Masala.  I looked up the recipe to make at home and to my disappointment, it was full of full fat yogurt, heavy cream, and salt.  

I didn't want to give up on this recipe, I wanted to create a dairy free version that would be flexible for all diets.  What could I use in place of cream and dairy in this recipe?  Cashew cream!  I remembered seeing a recipe on Pinterest and it serves as a great dairy free and vegan substitute!  

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I went in search of a cashew cream tikka masala recipe.  I stumbled on Healthy Nibbles and Bits' Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala recipe and decided to recreate the recipe and calculate the macros as well!

Nutrition: 6 servings

(per serving) Calories: 183kCal   Fat: 11g   Carbs: 8g   Protein: 10g   Sodium: 114mg   Sugars: <1g


Cashew Cream (save rest 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 TBS cooking fat (I used avocado oil)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • kosher salt

Tikka Masala Sauce:

  • 1.5 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 TBS cooking fat (I used coconut oil)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • kosher salt
  • 2 TBS coconut oil (or cooking fat of choice)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS freshly grated ginger
  • 1 TBS ground coriander
  • 2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6 TBS 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 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, marinate 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 TBS 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!

Needless to say this recipe was the bomb dot com, even my husband loved it!  I opted to put my serving of the tikka masala on a bed of spinach for a low carb option, and my husband chose brown rice.  The great thing about this recipe is that it is so versatile for every dietary need and restriction.  

This recipe sparked my love affair with cashew cream.  I will be creating some new recipes for the blog using cashew cream in place of regular dairy products.  I'll keep you all posted!

Food, PopularNikki Ticknor