This Instant Pot butter chicken is Indian restaurant quality but made quickly and easily in the Instant Pot! Full of flavor, rich, creamy, with tender pieces of chicken, it’s perfect over steamed rice with a side of naan.
What Makes This Recipe So Good
- With O being half-Pakistani, we eat a lot of Indian food, both at home and in restaurants. Butter chicken is always a fave – I even made it the first time I cooked for my father-in-law. He loved it, and not in a “I’m just humoring this crazy woman my son loves” kind of way, so you know it’s good.
- After making this dish on the stove for years, I knew I just HAD to adapt it for the Instant Pot. We’re talking restaurant-quality butter chicken, made quickly and effortlessly in the pressure cooker. Honestly, I kiiiiind of can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.
- Instant Pot butter chicken is rich and creamy, with TONS of incredible, deep flavors. Seriously, there’s no ingredient in this recipe that I’d say “Eh, it’s good if you use it, but if you don’t, it won’t make much difference.” Use all the spices and bask in their delicious spiceness. You’ll be glad you did.
- Basmati rice and soft, fresh naan are perfect compliments to butter chicken. If you plan ahead (or if you have 2 pressure cookers), you can cook your basmati rice in the Instant Pot, too. Serve it over cauliflower rice instead if you’re watching your carbs or grains.
Garam Masala – If you’ve ever had my BEST EVER chicken tikka masala, you’ve already been introduced to the warm, wonderful goodness that is garam masala. It’s a ground spice blend that’s common in Indian and Pakistani recipes, and the exact types and amounts of spices can vary from one blend to another. Typically, garam masala includes coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, and clove. You’ll find blends that include a variety of other spices, and some can be pretty hot.
Sweet Paprika – Unlike smoked paprika or hot paprika, sweet paprika is… well. Sweet. It’s not as sweet as sugar, don’t worry. In fact, if you’ve been buying paprika at the grocery store and it’s just labelled “paprika” then you’re in luck – that’s actually sweet paprika. It’ll balance some of the warmer spices in the Instant Pot butter chicken recipe, keeping the dish from being too hot.
Cardamom – The depth that cardamom gives a dish is SO, SO GOOD. It’s pungent and complex and kind of citrusy and a little minty, all at once. You can use ground cardamom or cardamom pods here, whichever you prefer.
- I prefer to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for my Instant Pot butter chicken, but you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead if that’s what you have. The chicken thighs will be juicier and give the dish more flavor, so keep that in mind.
- Paleo, on a Whole30, or just avoiding dairy? Sub the heavy cream with coconut cream. Set an unopened can of coconut milk in the refrigerator at least one night before you plan to make Instant Pot butter chicken. When you open the can, you’ll see a thick layer of coconut cream on top of the milk. Use that layer in this recipe and save the coconut milk for something else.
- Add the heavy cream (or coconut milk) AFTER you pressure cook the rest of the ingredients, not before. If you add it before, it could separate on you, which will affect the taste and consistency of the sauce.
- Liquid is a MUST when you cook in an Instant Pot, but you actually don’t need to add any water or broth here. The tomato sauce and chicken thighs will produce enough liquid to prevent a burn warning. Some pressure cookers are finicky, though. If you do get a burn warning, add a small amount of water or broth (like, ¼ cup max) and scrape up anything that might be stuck to the bottom of the pot, then try again.
Love Instant Pot Recipes? Try These!
- The Best Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- Instant Pot French Onion Soup
- Dreamy Instant Pot Chicken and Rice
- Instant Pot White Chicken Chili
- Instant Pot Dal
- Perfect Whole30 Instant Pot Tomato Soup (Vegan)
- Instant Pot Tom Kha Soup
- Creamy Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Dip
- ¼ cup butter or ghee
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 1 pinch ground cardamom or 6 cardamom pods bruised with flat side of knife
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs excess fat trimmed away, chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar or sweetener of choice, see Notes
- ½-1 cup heavy cream see Notes
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt to taste
- cilantro chopped, for garnish
- 1 cup steamed basmati rice or cauliflower rice; optional, to serve
- fresh naan optional, to serve
- Instant Pot
- Large wooden spoon or silicone spatula
- Set Instant Pot to Sauté mode. Add butter to pot and let melt, then add garam masala, paprika, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili powder, cinnamon stick, and cardamom. Stir well and sauté 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add chicken to Instant Pot. Stir well to thoroughly coat chicken in spices. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, and sugar. Stir well and cook 3 minutes in Sauté mode.
- After 3 minutes, secure lid on Instant Pot with valve in sealing position. Set to Manual High Pressure with 7 minute cook time. After cook time is up, carefully Quick Release pressure in pot and remove lid.
- Pour in heavy cream (see Notes) and lemon juice. Stir, then simmer mixture approximately 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve warm over steamed basmati rice with fresh naan and garnish with chopped cilantro.
- Heavy Cream: I like to use 1 cup of heavy cream, but it makes the sauce kind of thin. If you feel like your sauce is too thin, you can add a cornstarch slurry to thicken it a bit. Just whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cold water until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add the slurry to the Instant Pot in Step 4 and cook for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened.
- Make it Dairy Free: Use plant-based butter, and use coconut cream (only the solid white part of a can of coconut milk) instead of heavy cream.
- Make it Paleo: Use ghee instead of butter, coconut sugar or honey instead of sugar, and coconut cream (only the solid white part of a can of coconut milk) instead of heavy cream. Make sure your tomato products have no added sugar or sugar substitutes. Serve over cooked cauliflower rice, without naan.
- Make it Whole30: Use ghee instead of butter, 1 tablespoon coconut aminos instead of sugar, and coconut cream (only the solid white part of a can of coconut milk) instead of heavy cream. Make sure your tomato products have no added sugar or sugar substitutes. Serve over cooked cauliflower rice, without naan.
- This recipe was tested and perfected using my trusty 6-quart Instant Pot.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.