Instant Pot Butter Chicken

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Butter chicken (also known as murgh makhani) is one of the most popular Indian curries in the world. Who can resist this mouthwatering dish with chicken simmering in a mild curry sauce rich with butter and spices? It is so incredibly simple to recreate restaurant quality butter chicken in the comfort of your own home in less than 30 minutes, all thanks to the instant pot!

butter chicken served with rice and naan

There’s no need to grind up whole spices or go to different stores to find the ingredients. Every ingredient on this list can easily be found at the grocery store. I have tested a handful of butter chicken recipes (yes, we ate a lot of butter chicken this month) to give you this tried and true version. My 3 goals were to make it super simple for a weeknight dinner, to use easy to find ingredients, and not to compromise any flavor.

Butter chicken is one of the mildest compared to other Indian curries, making it a great hit for families with young kids. You can adjust the spice level by adding as much or as little chili as you wish. We’ve only started eating butter chicken recently. I was always a little hesitant to make it because my daughter used to think that ground pepper was spicy. I made this spiced-down (but still very tasty) version of butter chicken, and she was instantly hooked. This dish is now one of the most requested dinners in our household.

THE HISTORY OF BUTTER CHICKEN

Butter chicken originated in Delhi in the 1950s. During this time, a man named Kundan Lal Gurjal owned a popular restaurant called Moti Mahal. This restaurant was famous for its Tandoori dishes (Tandoor is a charcoal-based clay oven used popularly in northern India). The cooks at Moti Mahal developed butter chicken when they tried to prevent the chicken from drying out by cooking it with butter and tomato. Since then, it has been a worldwide sensation.

WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS FOR BUTTER CHICKEN?

Please scroll ⬇️ to the recipe card to see the full ingredient amounts and instructions.

  • Chicken thighs: use boneless and skinless chicken thighs. You can also use chicken breast. The cooking time will decrease to 5 minutes.
  • Butter or Ghee
  • Aromatics: I pureed the onions, garlic, and ginger to make the sauce smooth and creamy.
  • Spices: cumin, garam masala, turmeric, smoked paprika, and cayenne are classics for butter chicken.
  • Chicken Broth, Heavy Cream, Pureed Tomato: used to make a creamy tomato sauce.
  • Salt and Pepper: to season.

SHOULD I USE HEAVY CREAM OR COCONUT MILK?

You will see butter chicken cooked differently in different parts of India (north vs. south). Heavy cream is used for this recipe but some parts of southern India will use coconut milk. It all depends on your preference! The coconut milk will add a coconut flavor to the butter chicken. If you can’t eat dairy, then you can substitute coconut milk for heavy cream in this recipe.

HOW TO MAKE BUTTER CHICKEN IN THE INSTANT POT

Step 1: Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Start with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. You can add more to taste after cooking it.

Step 2: Using a food processor, puree the onion, garlic, and ginger into a smooth paste

Onions, garlic cloves and ginger in a food processor forming a smooth paste

Step 3: Combine all the spices (cumin, garam masala, turmeric, smoked paprika, and cayenne) into a bowl.

Step 4: Turn the Instant Pot on “Sauté” mode. Melt the oil and butter. Add the pureed garlic, onion, and ginger and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Then, deglaze the pot with chicken broth. Stir until well combined.

Step 5: Now without stirring, add chicken thighs, spice mixture, and tomato paste. You will need to layer the ingredients so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

A blow of spices for butter chicken: cumin, garam masala, turmeric, smoked paprika, and cayenne

Step 6: Close the lid and turn the steam release handle to the “sealing” position. Set the instant pot to pressure cook on HIGH PRESSURE for 12 minutes.

Step 7: Once it is done cooking, QUICK RELEASE the pressure by carefully turning the steam release handle to “venting”. Open the lid and turn it back onto SAUTE mode. Add heavy cream, and additional salt and pepper to taste.

TO THICKEN UP THE GRAVY: Leave it on “saute” for a few minutes to boil off some liquid //OR// Make a cornstarch slurry by adding 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a small bowl and adding an equal amount of cold liquid. Stir until a smooth paste forms and then add this mixture into the butter chicken. I love extra gravy to dip my naan bread in or pouring it on top of rice so I use the cornstarch method.

butter chicken in a black pan

WHAT TO SERVE WITH BUTTER CHICKEN?

Butter chicken can be served with rice, naan, or roti. Some vegetables that go great with butter chicken are cauliflower or spinach. If you like this recipe, try this country captain chicken next. It’s a delicious Indian-inspired chicken curry.

butter chicken served with rice and naan

HOW DO YOU STORE BUTTER CHICKEN?

Butter chicken needs to be stored in an airtight container and should be consumed 3-4 days after you make it. The amount of time between the food cooling to room temperature and when you put it into your refrigerator is key. It should be refrigerated as soon as it cools to room temperature to minimize bacterial growth.

CAN YOU FREEZE IT?

Yes, butter chicken makes great leftovers and it will last for 4-6 months in the freezer! If you know you’re not going to consume all the butter chicken within 3–5 days, your best option is to freeze the portion you want to save for later. Make sure to move the butter chicken, as soon as it is at room temperature, into an airtight container or freezer bag to be placed in the freezer. Once you are ready to eat it, thaw the frozen butter chicken in the refrigerator overnight (or approximately 8 hours) and then reheat it on the stove or microwave.

RECIPE

Instant Pot Butter Chicken

Quynh Nguyen
It is so incredibly simple to recreate restaurant quality butter chicken in the comfort of your own home in less than 30 minutes all thanks to the instant pot!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6
Calories 540 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (cut into 1.5-inch cubes)
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions
 

  • Sprinkle salt and pepper onto the chicken thighs (start with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper, then add more to desired taste at the end). Set aside.
  • Using a food processor, puree garlic, onion, and ginger into a smooth paste
  • Mix cumin, garam masala, turmeric powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper in a separate bowl
  • Press the [SAUTE] button. Add oil and butter into the inner pot
  • Once the butter is melted, add the pureed garlic/onion/ginger mixture and cook it for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
  • Then, deglaze the pot by adding chicken broth. Scrape any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot to avoid the "burn" message.
  • Now without stirring, layer in the ingredients in the following order: chicken thighs (spread evenly in the pot), spice mixture (sprinkle evenly over the chicken thighs), and tomato paste.
  • Close the lid and turn the steam release handle to the “sealing” position. Press [PRESSURE COOK] (or [MANUAL] for older models) and set the instant pot to cook on HIGH pressure for 12 minutes.
  • Once it is done cooking, QUICK RELEASE the pressure by carefully turning the steam release handle to “venting”. Open the lid and press the [SAUTE] button. Add heavy cream, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until the butter chicken reaches your desired consistency. If you wish to thicken up the gravy even further, you can use cornstarch as described in the notes below.

Notes

Thicken up the gravy: 
  1. Leave the instant pot on “saute” mode to boil off some liquid (approximately 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally), OR
  2. Make a cornstarch slurry by adding 1-2 tablespoon of cornstarch in a small bowl and adding an equal amount of cold liquid. Stir until a smooth paste forms and then add this mixture into the butter chicken. 
 
**This recipe was tested with a 6-quart Instant Pot DUO**

Nutrition

Calories: 540kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 28gFat: 43gSaturated Fat: 17gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 199mgSodium: 1290mgPotassium: 714mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1397IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 66mgIron: 2mg
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