Warm and luxurious Instant Pot Butter Chicken is an easy 30-minute meal. It’s deliciously creamy and always a hit during weeknight dinners!
Butter chicken is a popular dish for good reason! Also called murgh makhani (“chicken with butter”), it’s made by simmering chicken in an Indian-spiced creamy tomato sauce. A generous amount of butter and cream lends its signature silky-smooth mouthfeel that keeps you going back for more.
My Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe is just as flavorful and luxurious as the classic South Asian curry dish, but comes with only a fraction of the work! The pressure cooker does most of the work for you in about 30 minutes. In the end, you have an aromatic, warm, and creamy dish that tastes like it came straight from your favorite Indian restaurant!
Simple Indian spices, heavy cream, and aromatics make this one of the best comfort foods to enjoy for crowd-pleasing family dinners or weekly lunches. If you love chicken curry and tikka masala, then you’ll love butter chicken!
- It’s a soul-warming and filling dish that’s easy to make in the Instant Pot!
- Every bite of tomato gravy-coated chicken showcases layer after layer of savory aromatics and rich, warming spices.
- It’s naturally gluten free, low carb, and keto-friendly. It’s also easy to make paleo and Whole30-compliant with a few simple substitutions.
- Eat it fresh or save the leftovers for later! Butter chicken stores and freezes really well.
Butter - Use good quality butter for the base of the buttery tomato sauce.
Aromatics - Onion (red onion, white onion, or shallots), garlic cloves, and fresh ginger give this dish a deep baseline of vibrant flavor.
Garam masala - This is an Indian spice blend made up of rich, warming spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, peppercorns, fennel, cloves, and more. It’s a staple in many Indian-inspired dishes, like chickpea lentil curry.
Dry spices - Cumin, chili powder, salt, smoked paprika, and turmeric build on the warm and earthy Indian flavors.
Tomato sauce - Use a can of plain, unseasoned tomato sauce. Italian-seasoned tomato sauce will not work here because the flavors will completely throw off this dish.
Water - Water is key for deglazing the Instant Pot and avoiding a burn notice. For added flavor, feel free to substitute the water for vegetable broth, chicken broth, or chicken bone broth.
Chicken thighs - I used diced, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but bone-in thighs also work. Chicken breasts are also an option, but the lean meat isn’t as juicy and flavorful as the fatty thighs.
Cream - To achieve the thickest, silkiest consistency, use heavy cream, half-and-half, or full fat canned coconut milk.
Cornstarch - It’s mixed with the cream to help thicken the butter sauce and give it a lavish, velvety mouthfeel.
Step 1: Saute the aromatics. Melt the butter in the Instant Pot on Saute mode. Cook the onion in the buttered pot until soft, then add the ginger, garlic cloves, and dry spices. Saute for 1 minute, then cancel Saute mode.
Step 2: Deglaze the pot. Pour the water into the pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits stuck on the bottom.
Step 3: Cook. Add the chicken, tomato sauce, and more water to the pot. Seal the lid on top and cook on High for 8 minutes. Naturally release the pressure for 10 minutes before manually releasing the remaining pressure.
Step 4: Thicken with cream. Remove the lid and turn Saute mode back on. Whisk the cream and cornstarch together in a bowl, then pour the mixture into the pot. Let the sauce simmer until it thickens. Scoop the butter chicken into bowls with cooked basmati rice, garnish with cilantro, then serve.
Tips and FAQs
- You can make butter chicken with leftover chicken thighs or breasts if that’s what you already have in the fridge! Stir the chicken pieces into the sauce along with the cream and cornstarch until they’re warmed through, then enjoy.
- For an extra rich flavor and texture, stir in an extra knob of butter (or ghee) when the butter chicken is done cooking.
- While this dish isn’t traditionally made with vegetables, you can bulk up the batch by sneaking in frozen green peas, spinach, or chopped kale at the end of the cooking process.
- To make Whole30 butter chicken, use ghee instead of butter, a can of sugar-free tomato sauce, canned full fat coconut milk instead of dairy, and tapioca starch instead of cornstarch.
What’s the difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala?
Both are Indian dishes made by simmering chicken (or another protein) in a rich tomato-based sauce, but it’s the consistency and level of spice that sets the two apart. Butter chicken sauce is subtly sweet, creamy, and has a very mild level of heat. Tikka masala sauce is lighter but comes with a spicy and earthy flavor profile.
What goes well with butter chicken?
The best way to serve butter chicken is with naan bread on the side and plenty of cooked basmati rice. You can take it up a notch by serving the batch with cilantro lime brown rice or coconut rice instead, or by swapping the rice for cauliflower rice or your favorite grains.
To make this a well-rounded meal, pair the butter chicken with side dishes like curry roasted cauliflower and roasted carrots with lemon yogurt sauce.
Is butter chicken spicy?
Traditional Indian butter chicken is generously spiced to give the flavor profile plenty of warm and smoky notes. It isn’t particularly spicy or hot.
Making it from scratch also leaves you in charge of the level of heat, which means you can bump up the spice with a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes if that’s what you like.
Can I make this with frozen chicken?
Yes, you can make butter chicken with frozen chicken thighs. The chicken can be cooked right from frozen in the Instant Pot but may require a few extra minutes to cook through (cook at high pressure for 15 minutes with 10 to 15 minutes of natural release).
Why is my Instant Pot giving me a burn notice?
This could mean that there isn’t enough liquid in the pot or there are pieces of onion or garlic stuck to the bottom. To prevent a burn notice, be sure to deglaze and scrape the bottom of the pot well, add water with the tomato sauce, and pour the tomato sauce directly over top of the chicken without stirring before cooking.
Refrigerator: Let the leftovers cool to room temperature, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Freezer: If you’re planning to freeze butter chicken for later, it’s best to do so before adding the cream. Once the butter chicken without cream is done cooking and has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze for 2 to 3 months. Let it thaw before reheating.
Reheating: Reheat the leftovers in a skillet over medium heat or the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes. Stir in the cream when it’s warm, then enjoy!
More Indian-inspired curry recipes
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Instant Pot Butter Chicken
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 ½ teaspoon fresh ginger minced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoon water
- 15 oz. tomato sauce canned
- ¼ cup water
- 2 lb. boneless chicken thighs diced
- ½ cup heavy creamm or more to taste; can use half and half
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- cilantro for garnish optional
- Add butter to your Instant Pot then press sauté and set it for 7 minutes. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Then, add the ginger, garlic, garam masala, cumin, chili powder, salt, smoked paprika, and turmeric and sauté for 1 minute. Turn the Instant Pot off.
- Add the water to the pot to deglaze it, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom.
- Pour in the tomato sauce and water, then add the diced chicken.
- Place the lid on top, ensuring the knob is in the “seal” position. Pressure cook on high for 8 minutes, then natural release for 10 minutes before manually releasing the rest of the pressure.
- Press “sauté” and set it for 5 minutes. Whisk the heavy cream and cornstarch together, then pour it into the mixture and let it simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.
- Sprinkle with fresh cilantro (optional) and enjoy!
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