Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala With Spinach & Cranberries

This healthy chicken tikka masala is a more nutritious version of the popular Indian curry dish. It’s rich and creamy, yet dairy-free and it’s full of nourishing ingredients like turmeric, coconut milk, spinach and cranberries. Serve over cauliflower rice, veggies or regular rice if you like. This recipe is also Paleo, Whole30 and keto-friendly with a small modification.


Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala With Spinach & Cranberries
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Chicken tikka masala and butter chicken are probably two of the most popular Indian curries, and this dish is my adaptation and tribute to both of them. I wanted to make a paleo version, so it’s rich and creamy, yet dairy-free and gluten-free. It’s like the healthier version of the classic. 

This is a great make-ahead dish and can be served with riced cauliflower or other veggies. The heat level is mild, but feel free to omit or reduce the amount of diced chilli used to make it milder.


Delicious. The whole family enjoyed this one and trust me, that is very rare!

★ – Mel

We’ve made this a few times and I keep meaning to write a review as it’s a really great recipe and incredibly simple. We substitute the spinach for kale (as we have a glut of that in the garden!), which works really well. I now make up big batches and freeze portions for the evenings that we don’t fancy cooking, as it’s a real treat. It doesn’t stay in the freezer long!

★★★★★ – Sarah


Butter Chicken vs Chicken Tikka Masala

I often get asked this so here we go. It’s easy to confuse butter chicken and chicken tikka masala as they look and taste somewhat similar. But, on closer inspection, you will be able to tell the difference. Butter chicken is a dish actually originating from India and was invented as a way to use up leftover tandoori chicken. It’s made with spiced tomato-based sauce cooked with butter and often cream. It’s often redder than orange in colour and is milder and sweeter. 

Chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, is a British adaptation. There is no one recipe that defines the truly authentic tikka masala but similarly to butter chicken, it’s made with marinated, often grilled chicken, lots of spices, tomatoes, cream or coconut cream. It has more coriander and is more orange in colour. It’s less buttery in flavour.

Both are delicious and if you like one, you will most certainly enjoy the other.

Chicken Tikka Masala (Paleo, Whole30, Keto)
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Nutrition Notes

My healthy chicken tikka masala is full of nourishing ingredients, such as turmeric spice with its anti-inflammatory properties, satiating coconut milk, vitamin-rich spinach, tomatoes, cranberries and coriander. Chicken, of course, is a great source of protein. Even though this dish is made with coconut milk, it’s not super high in calories but is filling due to fat and protein content. 

There is no added sugar except for dried cranberries, which can be omitted for those doing Paleo, Whole30 or keto diets. You will find the full nutritional breakdown with macros and micros in the recipe card below.

What You’ll Need

You will find the full list of ingredients, instructions and nutritional breakdown in the recipe card below. Here are some tips on ingredients and how to make this curry dish. 

  • Chicken: I used chicken breast meat in this recipe, but you can easily use chicken thighs, turkey, prawns or fish. For a completely vegetarian version, I would use a mix of pumpkin or sweet potato, carrots, carrots, mushrooms and chickpeas or tofu if you eat those.
  • Aromatics: garlic, ginger, onion and chili are used.
  • Spices: Turmeric, cumin, coriander seed powder, garam masala – these spices should be readily available in most supermarkets. Garam masala is an Indian spice blend and can be purchased in most supermarkets. It’s fantastic in curries and stews and is great to have in the pantry.
  • For Creaminess: I used full-fat canned coconut milk with 60% coconut content. Make sure to shake the coconut milk before adding to the curry, or scoop out the thicker part for a thicker, richer sauce.
  • Spinach can be replaced with chard, kale, broccoli or any other greens you have on hand. Cranberries add a lovely sour-sweet touch but can be omitted or replaced with some dried sultanas or diced apricots.
  • I used a teaspoon of honey for extra sweetness, but this can be omitted if you’re avoiding all sweeteners at the moment.
  • Arrowroot powder or flour is used to thicken the sauce. It can be omitted, or tapioca flour could also be used for this.
Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients
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How To Make Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala

Prepare most of the ingredients before you start cooking. You will need a large pot or saucepan, or a deep pan.

  • Saute onions and chili in a little coconut oil for 2 minutes.
  • Add chicken and stir for a minute, then mix in ginger and garlic.
  • Stir in spices and salt for 20-30 seconds to release aromas.
  • Add fish sauce, lemon juice, honey (optional), tomatoes, water, and coconut milk. Mix well.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on.
Making chicken tikka masala step 1
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  • Add cranberries and cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes. Then stir in spinach until wilted.
  • Mix arrowroot powder with some sauce in a separate bowl, return to the pan, and stir to thicken. Remove from heat.
Making chicken tikka masala step 2
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Servings Suggestions

I served chicken tikka masala with cauliflower rice for a lower-carb meal. You can make some regular rice or other vegetables to go with it. If you’re not following a grain-free diet, you can try my garlic naan bread as a side dish.

To prepare cauliflower rice, I finely diced half a head of cauliflower (you can use a mini food processor for this) and then pan-fried it in a little coconut oil for a minute or two – literally to heat through. White rice is also fine if you’re including it. You can also make my broccoli rice for something a little different.

Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala with Spinach & Cranberries
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Healthy Chicken Tikka Masala With Spinach & Cranberries

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Author: Irena Macri
Servings: 4 servings
Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Print Pin Save
5 from 7 votes
Calories: 491kcal
Rich and creamy, this paleo-friendly, healthy chicken tikka masala is a delicious curry recipe that you and your family will love. Made with spinach and cranberries for extra nutrients, it's hearty, satiating and super tasty. Serve over cauliflower rice or regular rice. Feel free to reduce the amount of chilli used for less heat. I've provided a few notes about the ingredients and step-by-step photos for this recipe above.

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 1 red chilli long one, deseeded and finely diced
  • 4 medium chicken breasts diced (about 550 g / 1.2 lb total)
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 3-4 medium cloves of garlic grated
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1.5 teaspoon coriander seed powder
  • 1.5 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce add a little more salt, if not using
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice lime juice or apple cider vinegar can also be used
  • 1 teaspoon honey optional
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes tinned
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 4 large handfuls baby spinach or chopped English spinach
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries omit for Whole30 and keto
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or tapioca flour
  • Fresh coriander/cilantro for garnish
  • Cauliflower for making ‘cauli rice’

Instructions

  • Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and chilli and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a few times.
  • Add the chicken and stir for a minute. Then add the ginger and garlic and stir through again.
  • Add the spices and salt, and stir for 20-30 seconds to release the aromas.
  • Add the fish sauce, lemon juice, honey (if using), chopped tinned tomatoes, water and coconut milk and stir through.
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium and cook for 15 minutes, covered with a lid.
  • After 15 minutes, add the cranberries and cook uncovered for a further 2-3 minutes. Finally, add the spinach and stir through for 20-30 seconds, until it’s wilted.
  • Scoop some of the sauce to a small bowl and add the arrowroot powder/flour. Stir until dissolved and add back to the curry. Remove from heat and stir through – this will thicken the sauce slightly.

Notes

SLOW-COOKER: If using a slow cooker, do the first few steps and once you’ve added the liquids, set the timer as needed (4 hours on HIGH and more on lower settings). Add the spinach and cranberries at the end.
Check out this post for how I make cauliflower rice easily.
Nutritional information is calculated only for chicken tikka masala, not including rice or cauliflower.

Nutrition

Calories: 491kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 145mg | Sodium: 1005mg | Potassium: 1384mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 3069IU | Vitamin C: 39mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 5mg
Keywords: Indian Cuisine, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Dinner, Spicy
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    Irena Macri
    By Irena Macri

    About the author: Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share delicious recipes that I have cooked and loved. I am a published cookbook author, have been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition. You will find many healthy recipes as well as my favourite comfort food. More about me here | Subscribe to my newsletter and freebies

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    Comments

    19 Comments
    1. Beautiful! My partner enjoyed the dinner I cooked tonight 🙂 really nice addition of cranberries and spinach for a bit of change… I’d recommend this recipe and will cook again with other family members 😉

      1. Not sure, it didn’t specify on my packet. I am sure you can use either and it would still work.

    2. Great recipe! So quick and easy, good alternative to your wonderful Dahl recipe that I’ve made often recently. I have to make without onion and garlic, but use substitute of green parts of spring onions and garlic infused olive oil.
      I like to bulk out the veggies in these for extra fibre and nutrition.
      Thanks for all the wonderful recipes on your site

    3. 5 stars
      Lots of spices, Lots of flavor! I love all the detail you submitted and not to mention the alternatives! Thank you, it was a hit!! I used half chipotle from a can as I my groecer store was not carrying at this time. I didn’t have to use arrowroot but I was prepared with tapioca flour in case. It was a perfect consistency however I would try it in the future b/c Im sure it will be delicious thicker..I love my new spice which I had to buy Garam Masala.. I 100% recommend this recipe!!

    4. 5 stars
      We’ve made this a few times and I keep meaning to write a review as it’s a really great recipe and incredibly simple. We substitute the spinach for kale (as we have a glut of that in the garden!), which works really well. I now make up big batches and freeze portions for the evenings that we don’t fancy cooking, as it’s a real treat. It doesn’t stay in the freezer long!

    5. 5 stars
      Great tasty and SIMPLE dish. I made a small tweak and used 50g of milled cashews to thicken the sauce – rather than the arrowroot.

    6. 5 stars
      I never go wrong with your wonderful recipes. You make eating Paleo really fun! This was absolutely superb! I changed a few things. I used half an Anaheim pepper because they are milder and I can’t handle super spicy foods. I used a half cup of cashew milk and a half cup of chicken bone broth because I can’t digest coconut milk. I was out of spinach so I used one sweet potato diced, instead. I cooked it in my slow cooker for two hours on low. It was so delicious that I shared the recipe with my Vegan son who loves to cook and will leave out the chicken and add more veggies. I could eat this every day and never get tired of it. Thanks so much!

    7. I made this tonight and it was sooo delicious. I substituted white wine vinegar for the apple cider, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Because there is only the two of us, I am very pleased we can have the leftovers tomorrow.
      Will most definitely be making this again.

    8. Can the dried cranberries used in this recipe be replaced by fresh cranberries? I have an abundance of whole cranberries stored in my freezer, so I’m always on the lookout for recipes that incorporate that sweet-tart taste. If I were to sub fresh for dried, would one tablespoon of minced, fresh cranberries work?

    9. I loved this recipe. There is such a depth of flavor. I didn’t need to add thickening at the end. Maybe I cooked each step longer than directed? I was confused on whether or not to use the juice that is in the tinned tomatoes so I just used the tomato pieces. Maybe this is why I didn’t need any thickening? I will definitely save this recipe.

      1. I use the whole lot – piece and juices. And you’re right, not using the liquid is what kept your curry thicker. I am glad you enjoyed it!

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