Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Isn’t butter chicken just the most wonderful sounding name for a recipe? Today’s Instant Pot Butter Chicken has all of the comforting, soul-satisfying flavor any recipe with the word “butter” in it promises but is healthy, made easier in the pressure cooker, AND I’ve even snuck in a full serving of veggies to make it a true one-pot meal.
I have been smitten with Indian food ever since my post-college roommate and I spent a month traveling India after we graduated, especially the rich, saucy curries like Indian butter chicken.
If you aren’t familiar with butter chicken, it’s tender, falling-apart morsels of chicken in a creamy, mildly spiced curry sauce. Butter chicken is not spicy in the sense of being “hot;” rather it is fully flavored with layers of Indian spices and ingredients like ginger, tomato, curry, and coconut milk.
My former Indian travel companion is coming to stay with us this weekend for our annual girls’ reunion (a small group of my best college girlfriends and I are 10-years strong meeting up each summer!), so I thought it would be fun to surprise her with a dish to remind us of our travels.
With its ease to make, fab flavor, and ability to be enjoyed with one of both of our favorite Indian items, naan bread, Instant Pot Butter Chicken feels like the perfect choice for a casual dinner at home.
While we were in India, my roomie and I took a cooking class, where I quickly realized that part of the reason Indian food tastes so incredible is that it takes ALL DAY to make. There are whole spices to toast and grind, sauces to simmer, and bread to bake. The process is fun for an afternoon class while in India but impractical for day-to-day life at home, especially at 6:30 p.m. when the line between eating real food for dinner and eating chips + wine for dinner becomes alarmingly thin.
Enter: the Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken — All-Day Flavor, In a Fraction of the Time
I’ve been loving making Instant Pot recipes Indian, because the pressure cooker consolidates flavors in a way that mimics the effect of all-day stovetop cooking. This Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala has become a favorite of both mine and of many of yours too, so I wanted to explore making more Instant Pot Indian recipes.
I’ve also been loving making Instant Pot recipes with chicken, both Instant Pot chicken breasts and Instant Pot chicken thighs. Because the Instant Pot doesn’t lose moisture during cooking, it means recipes like this Instant Pot Chicken and Rice turn out perfectly tender every time. (More recipes can be found here: 15 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes!)
Whenever I’m creating a recipe, it’s important to me that you can find the ingredients at your neighborhood grocery store. If I can’t easily locate an ingredient near my house in Milwaukee, you won’t see it in one of my blog recipes, with very few exceptions. (The only one that comes to mind in recent memory is the paneer in this Paneer Tikka Masala…which I ended up finding at an Indian grocery story located two miles from my house. WHO KNEW.)
Thus, this Instant Pot Butter Chicken, while perhaps not the most authentic Indian butter chicken recipe in the land, will be one of the easiest butter chicken recipes you’ll find, starting with the ingredients.
I made this Instant Butter Chicken with coconut milk (look for it in the Asian food section of your grocery store), tomato sauce, and two spice blends, curry powder and garam masala. My grocery store carries both, but if you can’t find them, Amazon has several options, and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods sell them too.
In my usual style, this is also an healthy Instant pot recipe. I added cauliflower to the mix to make it half chicken/half veggie. I love the way the cauliflower breaks down and absorbs the butter sauce’s flavor. The cauliflower mimics the texture and appearance of the chicken too, so you almost don’t realize you are eating vegetables.
(If you are looking for vegetarian Instant Pot recipes, you could try omitting the chicken and using all cauliflower or explore some of my other Instant Pot recipes, such as this Instant Pot Lentil Curry or this healthy Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese.)
I hope this Instant Pot Butter Chicken inspires some fresh flavors and brings a taste of adventure to your kitchen. Even if you’ve never cooked (or eaten!) Indian food, I think you’ll be surprised and refreshed by the way something as simple trying a new recipe can transport you from the comfort of your own table.
Recommended Tools to Make Instant Pot Butter Chicken
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 small yellow onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 4 cloves minced garlic about 4 teaspoons
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Splash of water or low sodium chicken broth
- 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 small cauliflower or 1/2 large head, cut into florets (about 4 1/2 cups)
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small pieces (use coconut oil to make dairy free)
- 1/2 cup half-and-half or full-fat coconut milk, do not use light coconut milk, as it will water down the sauce
- 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt to make dairy-free
- Prepared brown rice quinoa, or naan, for serving
- Chopped fresh cilantro for serving
Add the coconut oil to the Instant Pot and set to SAUTE. Once hot, add the onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, curry, garam masala, chili powder, and salt. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn the Instant Pot to OFF. Add a splash or water or chicken broth and stir, using a sturdy plastic or wooden spoon to scrape loose any browned bits that have stuck. Make sure you remove all of the stuck on bits so that you don't trigger a burn warning. Add the tomato sauce and cauliflower florets and stir to combine. Lay the chicken breasts on top, then scatter the butter pieces over the top.
Close and seal Instant Pot. Cook on Manual (HIGH) pressure for 12 minutes. Once the time is up, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then vent to immediately release any remaining pressure. Open the lid and transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Cut into bite-sized pieces, then return to the sauce. Stir in the half and half or coconut milk. Let cool a few minutes, then start in the Greek yogurt (do not stir it in immediately or it will curdle). Serve with rice and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat leftovers gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- To make in the slow cooker (not tested, but this is my best estimate—some readers have tried and did report that the sauce ended up being thinner): Sauté the onions and spices in a skillet on the stove, then transfer to a slow cooker that is lightly coated with nonstick spray. Add the cauliflower, tomato sauce, and chicken, making sure the chicken is coated with the sauce. Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or low for 4 to 6 hours, until the chicken is cooked through. The cooking time may vary based on your slow cooker, so check early to ensure the chicken does not dry out. When the chicken is done, cut into bite-sized pieces, then return to the slow cooker and stir in with the half and half. Let cool a few minutes, then stir in the Greek yogurt. (Note that the sauce may be a thinner consistency when made in the slow cooker.)
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