No need to visit your local Indian restaurant to cure your curry cravings! Tender, juicy chicken swims in a thick, rich, and creamy curry sauce that is well balanced. This Instant Pot Butter Chicken gets those authentic flavors just right for a medley of spice and richness that’s as real as it gets.
Indian food is hard not to love. Those bold spices create a sensational and unique flavor that makes me adore these dishes.
Like many people, I adore butter chicken. And that’s why I worked hard to find a way to fix my cravings for Indian food whenever I want it. My Instant Pot Butter Chicken can help you conquer your fears of cooking a different style of cuisine with ease. In fact, you won’t believe you can get that truly authentic taste with just a bit of effort in your own kitchen.
Marinated in Greek yogurt and simmered in a bold sauce sauce, the chicken stays perfectly juicy and bursts with flavor. Bite after bite, you’re going to love it!
Why this recipe
This is not the easiest butter chicken recipe, but I promise the result is so close to the authentic version that you’ll find it worth the effort.
- It uses a Greek yogurt based marinade to create a more flavorful and juicier chicken.
- The marinade helps to brown the chicken beautifully, adding another layer of flavor.
- The curry mix is true to the authentic butter chicken.
- It has the perfect liquid ratio, so the butter chicken sauce will come out creamy and thick.
We made so many batches to test out the recipe, so I gave away some to my friends. They told me it tastes SO GOOD, that it’s even better than the restaurant version.
Marinate the chicken
Marinating the chicken in the curry and Greek yogurt based sauce will keep the chicken flavorful and juicy. It also helps with the browning.
Your table should have the ingredients below before you start cooking.
I grouped the onion, ginger, and garlic in one bowl, because you will add them in the same step.
Brown the chicken
I highly recommend browning the chicken in a nonstick pan. Do not use Instant Pot for this step. The yogurt coating burns easily in the Instant Pot and it doesn’t brown evenly.
While the browning step isn’t a must, I strongly urge you to make time for it. We’ve tried making the dish with both methods, and the browning version makes a big difference. It produces a very appetizing looking chicken, a richer taste, and thicker sauce.
Cook in Instant Pot
The rest is easy:
- Saute the aromatics
- Cook the curry mix
- Deglaze the pot with lemon juice and tomato sauce
- Add the heavy cream
- Add chicken and cook at high pressure for 5 minutes
- Natural release for 10 minutes, then fast release
Now your curry is ready to serve! Scoop a big ladle of chicken with the sauce onto your steamed rice and enjoy!
I was hesitant to publish such a long and complicated recipe. But after so much testing, we decided this was the way to create the best result. If the steps look a bit daunting, you can make the dish on a weekend. I love my Instant Pot Butter Chicken for meal-prep. It holds up well in the fridge and in the freezer, and tastes just as great after thawing. It’s exotic and flavorful, perfect with steamed rice to soak up the thick, rich, and balanced curry sauce.
More delicious Instant Pot recipes
- Chinese Style Instant Pot Meatballs
- Easy Instant Pot Lentil Soup (Chinese Style)
- Instant Pot Braised Beef (Chinese-Style)
- Chinese Instant Pot Chinese Sausage Rice
- Instant Pot Pork Ribs (Chinese-Style)
If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
- 2 lbs (900 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon butter (Optional)
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/2 lemon , juiced
- 2 teaspoons Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika , smoked
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (Optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , divided
- 1 onion , minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger , grated
- 4 cloves garlic , grated
- 1/2 lemon , juiced
- 1 cup tomato puree (or canned tomato sauce) (*Footnote 1)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Chopped cilantro , for garnish (Optional)
- Cut the chicken into 2” (5 cm) chunks, trimming the excess fat and discarding it as you do, and place the chicken pieces into a large bowl.
- Add all the marinade ingredients into the bowl with the chicken. Mix until everything is evenly coated. Cover the bowl and marinate at least half an hour at room temperature, or up to overnight in the fridge.
- Combine the curry mix ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- (Optional) Heat the 1 extra tablespoon of butter in a large nonstick pan over high heat until the butter melts. Add the chicken into the pan in a single layer (you might need to cook it in two batches). Cook it until the bottom browns, 2 minutes or so. Flip to brown the other side, then transfer the chicken onto a big plate. (* Footnote 2)
- Turn the Instant Pot to the saute function and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add the onion, ginger, and garlic. Saute until it starts to brown, around 3 minutes.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and allow it to melt. Add the curry spices and salt. Cook until fragrant, another minute.
- Deglaze the pot with the lemon juice, being careful to scrape up everything from the pot. If there is caramelization left on the bottom of the pot it may burn during the cooking process.
- Add the tomato puree and sugar. Stir everything together. Cook the tomato mixture down, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Turn off the saute function and add the heavy cream. Mix until the curry base is a uniform orange color.
- Add the chicken to the Instant Pot and seal the lid. Make sure the valve on the lid is pointed to lock. Set to “Manual” and “High pressure”. For browned chicken, set the timer for 5 minutes. For unbrowned chicken, set the timer for 10 minutes.
- Once the cooking is finished, let the Instant Pot release naturally for at least 10 minutes before using the fast release.
- Spoon the hot chicken curry over steamed rice, garnish with cilantro if using, and serve as a main dish.
- Store the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Tomato puree is unseasoned and unsalted, while canned tomato sauce is slightly seasoned. I prefer tomato puree, but you can use canned tomato sauce as well.
- Browning the chicken before adding it to the curry adds an extra layer of flavor and seals the moisture into the chicken, leading to a thicker curry at the end of the recipe. This recipe still works great without browning. Your curry will just be a bit looser. Avoid browning the meat in the Instant Pot – this can increase the likelihood of burning the bottom and doesn’t brown the meat evenly, so I don’t recommend it.
Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.
Questions and Reviews
Could you use boneless chicken breasts instead of thighs?
Yes you can!
Thanks for this great recipe! I made it last night using a combination of chicken thighs and breast meat (it’s what I had on hand). It was spicier than the butter chicken we are used to, but that was a good thing! The steps aren’t really that complicated once you have prepped the ingredients. My other “sub” was that I didn’t have any tomato purée, so I used a tin of tomato paste and added water to make it up to 1 cup. Otherwise, made as written, including the browning, and will make again!
I have tried several butter chicken recipes and this one by far is the BEST! I will never look for another one again. We have already made this recipe several times, and we are never disappointed!
I made this last night– the first recipe I’ve cooked using the pressure cooker setting! It was a HUGE HIT.
I have 2 questions: first, the ingredients lists sugar, but I didn’t see sugar mentioned in the recipe instructions; second, can this be adjusted to slow cook (crock pot style) rather than pressure cooking?
Hi Amy, I’m glad to hear you like the recipe! And thanks for letting me know about the sugar. I just updated the recipe (add the sugar with the tomato puree).
I’m pretty sure you can make this recipe in a slow cooker (same ingredients). The cooking time should be the same like you make other chicken dishes (low for 6 hours).
I don’t have an instant pot can I make it on the stove?
You totally can! After adding all the seasonings and the chicken, add a cup water to the pot and let it simmer. The chicken should be cooked in 20 minutes or so.
Great thank you!
Also what is the difference between using Greek yoghurt and Greek style yoghurt? Can I use plain yoghurt?
I think the Greek style yogurt is the same (they are not from Greece but it’s strained and has lower liquid content and more protein.
If plain yogurt is the only type available, you can use it but you will need to strain the chicken before browning. And the process might remove some of the spice mix in the marinade so the chicken will be less rich. Alternatively you can try to strain the plain yogurt with cheesecloth, to get the Greek style yogurt.
Loving it more each time I cook it! Question: if I double it, does the pressure cooking time increase?
Hi Amy, you don’t need to increase the cooking time when you double the recipe.
How do I do this with a stovetop pressure cooker?
Hi Peter, at recipe step 8 (after adding everything and seal the pressure cooker), heat over medium heat to add pressure. Once pressure is added, turn to medium or medium low heat (while maintaining the high pressure), cook for 5 mins for browned chicken or 10 mins for unbrowned chicken. Once it’s down, let natural release for 10 minutes, then you can use a towel to cover the lid and run cold tap water over it to fast release the pressure.
I tried this recipe but mine turned out brown instead of orange! How did you keep yours orange?
very very good lots of flavor. my first time using my instantpot and I think I’m gonna love having this appliance in my house!
we are not huge on the cumin, so I cut that down in half and came out great. my curry sauce came out a touch more liquid than I’m used to and I wish I had naan on hand to make up for it. great recipe and cannot wait to try your other stuff. (found you via instagram btw)
How big is the can of tomato puree?
The can I got is 28 oz (about 800 g). It will be more than what the recipe calls for.
Had to really wipe down the chicken pre browning as it was too wet and wouldn’t brown. Also added in a handful of kasuri methi at the end and it really tasted like moti Mahal butter chicken
Can I make this recipe with a slow cooker? If so, how lunch would you suggest cooking it for? Thanks!
I’m pretty sure you can. I haven’t tested it but I think 4 hours on low is the way to go.
does this work in a slow cooker?
Yes it does!
Can leftovers be frozen? If so, how long can they keep?
Yes you can freeze the leftover. It should stay well for 3 months in the freezer.
Made this tonight and it’s sooo good. Browning the chicken is very much worth the time and effort. The whole family loved it, including my 4-yr old and 7-yr old (I didn’t use any cayenne pepper, but I think I will use some next time). This is one for the recipe book for sure!
I’ve made like 5 times, the flavor is amazing. However I ALWAYS get the burn notice! First time I made it I got it five times even after removing everything and ensuring nothing was left sticking to the bottom before putting it all back in. I never actually got it to finish cooking, I ended up taking the temperature of some chicken pieces after the fifth notice and they were like 180 degrees so it was safe to eat. Even with that objective failure of cooking on my part, it still turned out so good that I keen coming back. Consequent times I got the burn notice once or twice but I was prepared from the first attempt. I think it’s super important to brown the chicken well. I did the browning step but I have a feeling the crust didn’t develop as good as it should have, so it was still causing issues once it hit the IP. Anyways if you’re reading this, don’t worry about getting burn notices because it always turns out good regardless, but take extra care to brown the chicken well. I did 2.5 each side in two batches in a preheated cast iron. Might make it 3 batches next time to avoid crowding the pan.
Thank you so much for this absolutely amazing recipe! I made this for dinner tonight and it was the best thing I’ve made in a long time. So delicious and truly authentic tasting! I cannot get over how good this was! I have been craving butter chicken for weeks and thought I had all the ingredients to make the dish… But alas the little container of Greek yogurt I had in my fridge was not plain. It was vanilla. Smh. I was so upset and didn’t feel like going to the store. I ended up using sour cream in place of the Greek yogurt. I usually don’t like substituting, but it still turned out so damn delicious! Otherwise, I followed your recipe exactly – browning the thighs in a nonstick pan adds so much dimension and flavor and the fresh cilantro really kicks it up notch! I like my dishes pretty spicy so I increased the cayenne pepper just a smidge. Served it over basmati rice with some warm naan bread to soak up all the yumminess. This dish is bursting with flavor! I can’t wait to make this again! Next time with Greek yogurt of course…lol. Thank you again!
Hi Maggie, Thank you for providing such a wonderful resource for chinese recipes. I’ve had mostly good success with the ones I’ve tried. I followed the directions on the butter chicken, browning in a separate pan, but I still kept getting the burn alarm from the instant pot. It’s a delicious recipe but in the future I will make it in a dutch oven. Avoids the burn snafu and wouldn’t take that much time at all.
Just a brief question: you have smoked paprika listed in the marinade. Just wanted to confirm that in the curry powder you use sweet and not smoked paprika. Thanks, again!
So amazing. Better than any Butter Chicken I’ve had in restaurants. Maggie, you’re the best!
This looks amazing, I can’t wait to try! Is there a brand of garam masala that you recommend?
I used Rani garam masala and liked it!
Is it possible to substitute the heavy cream for coconut cream? My father in law is type one diabetic and I wonder if that would be a better option
Yes I’m pretty sure you can!
Fantastic butter chicken! Am a big fan of yours (and your recipes, of course). Even more delicious reheated. Thank you so much.
As someone who’s tried quite a number of butter chicken recipes in the past, this is the only one that had the depth of flavour I was looking for. Even my husband (who has not been a fan of my past curries) was very complimentary of the dish. It all came together quite quickly too; simple, easy and tasty. Can’t wait to try the other instant pot recipes on the site!