Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken

Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken is a classic Indian restaurant favorite that is easy to make at home. You’ll love the combination of tender chicken thighs and a creamy, buttery tomato sauce. 

Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken served on a bed of basmati rice with a side of naan

There’s something special about Indian butter chicken—flavorful chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and spices and smothered in a delicious tomato sauce.

Traditionally, butter chicken is made with chicken cooked in a tandoor oven and marinated in a creamy curry to make it tender. However, when you make it in your electric pressure cooker, you can have tender butter chicken on your table in just 30 minutes. 

How to Make Instant Pot Butter Chicken in Any Electric Pressure Cooker

This Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, and Mealthy MultiPot. Pressure cookers are perfect for cooking chicken thighs until they’re tender and flavorful! (See more of my favorite Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Chicken Thighs Recipes here.)

Pressure Cooker Indian Butter Chicken combined inside the Instant Pot cooking pot

Browning Your Chicken in Butter

They don’t call this butter chicken for nothing! This Indian Butter Chicken recipe calls for a whole stick of butter! While I enjoy a lightened-up version of butter chicken, my family insists on making this full-flavored version.

Technically, you can reduce the butter and sub in half-and-half for the heavy cream, but I don’t recommend it—you’ll lose out on the flavor and thickness of the sauce. (This flavor is worth the calories, I promise!)

Don’t skip the step of browning the chicken in the butter, since this adds quite a bit of flavor to the meal.

If you’re in a hurry, brown just one side of the chicken thighs. The sauce will still get the flavor of the browning, but you’ll be out of the kitchen in half the time.

Indian Butter Chicken in the Instant Pot, with the browned chicken thighs on one side on top of the sauce

What Is Garam Masala and Where Do I Find It?

The spices you choose will make or break your Indian Butter Chicken.

The secret to a great butter chicken is garam masala, a blend of classic Indian spices. It seems like every brand makes a different blend that includes different spices. Garam masala generally includes cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, plus something to add a little heat like cumin or black pepper. 

While my local grocery store carries this spice, I prefer the blends available from a specialty spice store or an Asian food market. In a pinch, you can also make a quick garam masala at home.  

While this dish is mild by Indian standards, if you prefer to keep things extra mild side, substitute the fresh ginger for 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger and reduce the jalapeno peppers to just one.

(This is the way my grandkids like it; when I’m cooking for them, I’ll make a batch this way and add a bit more spice to my own bowl. )

Indian Butter Chicken inside the cooking pot, topped with cilantro

What to Serve with Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken

This Pressure Cooker Butter Chicken isn’t complete without a side of rice. Normally I’m not too picky about what kind of rice I use, but I definitely prefer to use basmati rice with this dish. 

I also like to do the hot water soak with Basmati rice. (Read more about it on my Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot White Rice recipe.)

Naan is also a must-have with this meal. When I’m in a hurry, I’ll use frozen naan from Costco or Trader Joes. However, when I want to make it extra special, I’ll make homemade naan

A close up of Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken served on a bed of basmati rice

Is Indian Butter Chicken the Same as Chicken Tikka Masala?

You might be surprised how often I’m asked if Tikka Masala is the same as this Indian Butter Chicken recipe.

Honestly, I find the two to be very similar. My favorite local Indian restaurant serves both Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala, and the only difference I can see is that their Tikka Masala includes onion.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Neena, one of my favorite food bloggers and my go-to expert on Indian food. In her excellent post for Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala, she says:

People often wonder what the difference is between the two most popular dishes at Indian restaurants: Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala. They’re very similar. And ever-evolving.

Every Indian restaurant probably has its own take, and opinions vary on what constitutes an ‘authentic’ version of this curry. But this much is true: Butter Chicken (Murgh or Chicken Makhani) originated in North India, whereas Chicken Tikka Masala is a British adaptation of Butter Chicken.

Both dishes are popular because they are relatively mild dishes and are a great introduction to Indian food.

No matter what you call it, you’ll love the results you get from this Pressure Cooker Indian Butter Chicken recipe!

If you haven’t tried Indian Butter Chicken before, you’re in for a treat!

Update:  This recipe has been on the blog for over five years, and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s such a forgiving recipe—I never measure the cilantro, use what peppers I have on hand, often eyeball the spices, and add more cream (never less!). As long as I serve it with naan and basmati rice, and my family is happy!

I’ve updated the recipe to be closer to how I currently cook it, so you’ll notice the recipe now places the spices in a different order than in the video. (I still wanted to show the video so you can see how easy it comes together!)

Yield: 6 - 8 servings

Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken

Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken

This Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot Butter Chicken is a classic Indian restaurant recipe that is EASY to make at home. Tender chicken thighs cook in a creamy tomato sauce—and it's ready in about 30 minutes!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes and juice
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger*
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds (if needed, roast on the stovetop in a small pan)*
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed minced cilantro
  • Prepared white basmati rice, for serving
  • Naan, optional, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a blender, combine the diced tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, ginger, paprika, cumin, garam masala, and salt. Blend to a fine purée and set aside.
  2. Select Saute and melt the butter in the pressure cooking pot. Add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and sear until they are nicely browned all over (about 2 to 3 minutes per batch). Remove chicken thighs to a cutting board and set aside. Repeat until all the thighs are browned. Turn off the pressure cooker.
  3. Add tomato puree to the cooking pot and scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any browned bits.
  4. Slice the chicken into large bite-size pieces. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot and stir to combine. Gently stir the chicken to coat the pieces.
  5. Cover and lock the lid in place. Select High Pressure and 5 minutes cook time. When cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker and use quick pressure release.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water. Add the slurry to the cooking pot. Select Saute and bring the liquid to a boil. Turn off pressure cooker and stir in the heavy cream, yogurt, and cilantro.
  7. Ladle the chicken and sauce over a bed of basmati rice, with a side of naan, if desired.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Creative Culinary and Spice Roots. Instructions updated in 2019 to match the cookbook; originally I added the yogurt and heavy cream before pressure cooking.

*Some members of my family are quite sensitive to spice; when I'm cooking for them, I'll cut down on the heat considerably by replacing the fresh ginger with 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and omit the roasted cumin seeds.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 389 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 9g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 10g Cholesterol: 199mg Sodium: 820mg Carbohydrates: 16g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 6g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 38g
Nutrition information is calculated by Nutritionix and may not always be accurate.

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