Instant Pot butter chicken is savory and saucy and perfect with rice and naan for soaking up that delicious tomato-y buttery sauce.
Butter chicken is one of those dishes that holds a special spot in my heart. It was one of Mike and I’s go-to dishes to make and eat when we first moved in together. I wasn’t much of a cook back then but we both had a love of Indian food and when we wanted to stay in and play house, we would buy jarred butter chicken sauce and heat up some chicken and naan and have a cute night in of “cooking” even though it was more like heating up.
I’m much more adept at cooking now and Indian food is still one of those things we love to make and eat. Sometimes I’ll go all out and make a 24 hour dal and homemade naan but sometimes we’ll want something quick, easy, and flavorful without much fuss. For those days, it’s always Instant Pot butter chicken.
Urvashi Pitre’s Instant Pot butter chicken is perfection:
What is butter chicken?
Butter chicken, known as murgh makhani, is a chicken curry made with tomatoes, spices, butter, and cream. It’s mild and creamy and so incredibly delicious. It’s a fairly new curry, developed by a restaurant group called Moti Mahal in India.
Is this authentic butter chicken?
Yup, I would say so! This recipe is based off of Urvashi Pitre’s butter chicken and she has had a whole lifetime of making and eating it. Butter chicken is an Indian dish, very popular in North India and also widely eaten in South India.
Why does butter chicken taste so good?
Curry chicken is the ultimate comfort food and butter chicken is the most comforting curry because it’s warm and cozy, full of savory flavors that aren’t too spicy. The cream and tomatoes play off each other perfectly. The tomatoes add umami and acidity and the cream counters the acidity and adds a lovely texture and the added bonus of tempering the the heat of the spices.
What is the difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala?
Butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are very similar with distinctly different flavors. Butter chicken is creamier and not as spicy. Chicken tikka masala is more tomato-y and doesn’t have as much dairy. They’re both delicious!
- Diced tomatoes. Tomatoes are the base of butter chicken. Please use diced tomatoes and not tomato paste or sauce – diced tomatoes tend to have a lot more liquid in them which is key for the Instant Pot. You’ll want to add in the ENTIRE can of diced tomatoes, juice and all.
- Garlic. Fresh garlic adds so much flavor. Use a garlic press for extra ease.
- Ginger. Fresh ginger adds heat and a bit of warming spice.
- Spices. Turmeric, cayenne pepper, ground paprika, cumin. These are spices that you’ll probably have hanging out in the pantry. Make sure they’re fresh!
- Garam masala. This is a mix of spices that varies greatly from spice mix to spice mix but usually contains: fennel, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cumin, coriander, and red chili powder. You can make your own, but you can also buy a mix at the store.
- Chicken. Chicken thighs are best because they cook up juicy and tender.
- Butter. It wouldn’t be butter chicken without butter. Go for unsalted so you can control the saltiness of your butter chicken.
- Heavy cream. Full fat whipping cream adds luxurious creaminess and mixes with the redness of the tomatoes to butter chicken its iconic golden color.
How to make Instant Pot butter chicken
- Add. To the insert of the Instant Pot, add a can of diced tomatoes along with the garlic, ginger, and spices. Stir everything together, then nestle in the chicken pieces, whole.
- Pressure cook. Pop the lid on and pressure cook on high for 10 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to take the chicken out and set it aside on a plate.
- Blend. Use an immersion blender and blend the sauce until smooth. Or, carefully transfer to a blender and blend. When the sauce is smooth, let it cool slightly, 3-5 minutes.
- Stir. Stir in the butter, cream, then an extra bit of garam masala. The sauce should be lovely and thick, able to coat the back of a spoon.
- Simmer. Chop up the chicken into bite size pieces and add it back to the sauce in the Instant Pot. Set the pot to sauté on low and heat the chicken through and let the sauce bubble.
- Serve. Enjoy with freshly chopped cilantro!
Tips and tricks
- There no need to add extra water. Lots of water will cook out from the chicken so you don’t need to add extra water to the pot. If you do, your sauce will be thin.
- Let the sauce cool slightly before adding the butter and cream
- Finish with garam masala. Adding garam masala at the end makes all the difference. The garam masala added at the end adds a fresh burst of spice.
- If you’re getting a “burn warning” it’s probably because your diced tomatoes don’t have enough liquid. In this case, adding 1/4 cup chicken stock will help, but making sure you use a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes, including all the liquid in the can, is best!
What to serve with butter chicken
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Instant Pot butter chicken is savory and saucy and perfect with rice and naan.
- Add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, cumin, and salt in the Instant Pot. Stir throughly and nestle the chicken in.
- Put the lid on and set the pressure to high for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then depressurize.
- Carefully open the lid and remove the chicken. Use an immersion blender and blend the sauce until smooth. Alternately, carefully transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Let cool slightly for 3-5 minutes then stir in the butter, cream, the last teaspoon of garam masala. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Roughly chop the chicken then add back into the sauce. Set the Instant Pot to sauté on low, letting the chicken heat through. Top with the cilantro and enjoy with basmati and naan!
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 419 Calories from Fat 285
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 18.1g113%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.