Easy Weeknight Meal
Instant pot butter chicken will be a welcome change from your usual weeknight chicken dinner. Plop the ingredients into your Instant Pot, and turn it on. You are now are free to help with homework or do something relaxing: a cup of tea, or a cocktail (I won’t tell).
Butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani, is such a beloved dish that I will be adding a stovetop version shortly. Because there are times you want to putter and don’t mind measuring a few more ingredients, and working your way through a few more steps. I am embarrassed to say that I bought an Instant Pot almost two years ago on Black Friday and only unpacked it yesterday. Because pressure cooking was not a tradition in my family’s kitchen growing up, I resisted and feared it. Also, needing to learn a whole new cooking process and piece of cooking equipment felt daunting. The good news is that after watching the Vlog Naturally Brittany’s 13-minute “Instant Pot 101 for Beginners,” I was in business. The Instant Pot made this dish so easy and full-flavored that it is now going to be my weeknight go-to chicken curry.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Urvashi Pitre is the self-professed Butter Chicken Lady and has an essential instant pot website called Twosleevers.com. Who is to argue with Ms. Pitre when her butter chicken has been featured on NPR, the BBC, and in The New Yorker, and more.
My recipe follows Ms. Pitre’s recipe pretty closely, except for some tweaking of the spicing. I’ve reduced the amount of turmeric, butter, and cream because it was irresistible even without quite so much richness. She insists that one of the main differences between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala is that butter chicken should have no onions. The beauty of cooking is that you get to say what the most delicious version of your favorite foods is.
I also have a stovetop butter chicken recipe that suggests overnight marination and a few more bells and whistles, if you want a more hands-on method.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Instant Pot Butter Chicken Sauce
- 1 14.5 ounce can tomato purée
- 5 teaspoons garlic ~ Finely minced or grated
- 1 teaspoon ginger ~ Finely minced or grated
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne; substitutions
- 1 teaspoon paprika ~ Preferrably smoked
- 1 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 1 teaspoon garam masala ~ Buy or make
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1.5 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs ~ Cut in quarters; see Notes below about substitutions
To Finish the Masala
- 4 tablespoons butter ~ Cubed; coconut oil, or oil of your choice
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk ~ More to your taste, Ms. Pitre calls for 1/2 cup
- 1 teaspoon garam masala ~ Optional, to your taste; buy or make
- 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) ~ Optional
- 1/4 cup cilantro ~ Coarsely chopped
Cooking in the Instant Pot
- Gather all your ingredients.
- Place your sauce ingredients into an Instant Pot in the order listed in the recipe above, up to the chicken. Mix the sauce well then add the chicken on top.
- Close the cooker and set the pressure valve for 10 mins on high pressure, and let it release pressure naturally for 10 minutes. Release all the remaining pressure.
- Wait 10 minutes before finishing the masala, or your sauce will be too thin.
Finishing the Masala
- Gather your final sauce ingredients.
- Add the butter, cream, more optional garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves (if using), and the cilantro. Stir well. If the sauce is thinner than you want, place in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, and the sauce will thicken up. You are looking for it to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the chicken back into the masala and heat through. Garnish with more cilantro if you wish, and serve with your favorite rice or flatbread.
- Keeping: store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- See Ms. Pitre's Q&A for notes, if you have questions, especially: on tomatoes, using white meat, tofu, paneer or vegetables.
- If using frozen chicken in your Instant Pot butter chicken, push it into the sauce a bit so that it defrosts properly.
- You can substitute chicken breast for thigh meat, but you will need to cut each breast half into fours so it will be cooked in the recommended time.
- If you prefer a vegetarian dish you can sub out the meat with 6 cups of steamed vegetables, adding 1/4 cup of the water used while steaming to the sauce. Add the vegetables into the sauce after pressure cooking.
- If using tofu or paneer, add 1/4 cup of water to the sauce, pressure cook, and then add a 12-ounce block of firm tofu, or 14 ounces of paneer. Allow the sauce to flavor and heat through the tofu or paneer for 5 to 10 minutes.