Instant Pot Butter Chicken
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken is a comforting dish filled with tender bites of chicken in a creamy curry sauce. This easy Instant Pot recipe gives you the deep, satisfying flavors that you crave in a butter chicken recipe, with less time and effort.
The name “butter chicken” immediately conjures up thoughts of comfort food. This classic Indian favorite, called Murgh Makhani, consists of tender bites of chicken served in a rich and creamy curry sauce.
The tomato-based sauce is made with garlic, ginger and spices. The butter chicken sauce is finished with coconut milk (or cream), making it luxuriously rich and creamy. The luscious sauce is perfect for dunking chunks of naan bread or spooning over rice.
Indian cuisine is full of layers of flavor and spices, and it can take time to develop those flavors. By making butter chicken in the Instant Pot, you can achieve the same complex flavors with less time and effort.
This homemade butter chicken recipe is saucy, full of warming flavors, and made from scratch. This dish is richly flavored with warming spices, but it isn’t spicy in the sense of being hot. If you want a spicy curry, you can add cayenne pepper along with the other spices.
In my healthy butter chicken recipe I add a chopped bell pepper to bring more veggies into the meal. I also use creamy coconut milk in place of the heavy cream that you’ll find in most butter chicken recipes. While my recipe might be a variation on the traditional, I guarantee you it’s downright delicious.
If you are new to Instant Pot cooking, my guide on how to use an Instant Pot can help you to get started.
Butter Chicken Ingredients
- Butter: The sauce starts with butter for richness and flavor.
- Onion, Garlic and Ginger: These aromatic ingredients provide the first layer of flavor in the dish.
- Red Bell Pepper: This is not a traditional butter chicken ingredient, but it is an easy way to sneak a vegetable into the meal.
- Water: A small amount of water is used to deglaze the pot after sautéing.
- Spices and Salt: The spices you’ll need for butter chicken are garam masala, cumin, smoked paprika and turmeric. You should be able to find all of these spices at your local grocery store. Garam masala is a blend of spices that is often used in Indian recipes. If you don’t have garam masala, I highly recommend purchasing it for this recipe. Adding garam masala to your butter chicken allows you to add many spices with just this one spice blend. I guarantee you’ll be using your garam masala again!
- Tomato Sauce: I used canned tomato sauce, which is made with tomato puree and water.
- Chicken: You can use either boneless, skinless chicken breast or boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Full Fat Coconut Milk: Adding coconut milk after cooking makes the sauce rich and creamy. You can use heavy cream if you prefer.
How to make Instant Pot Butter Chicken
To make this Instant Pot butter chicken recipe, I recommend first getting your ingredients ready. Once you start sautéing ingredients in your Instant Pot the recipe moves quickly, so it helps to have everything ready first.
- Press the Sauté button on your Instant Pot. Add the butter to the pot and let it melt. Then add the onion and sauté.
- Add the garlic, ginger and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, for just 30 seconds, then press the Cancel button to turn off sauté mode.
- Deglaze the pot by pouring in 1/4 cup water, stirring, and scraping up any bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot. Stir in the spices.
- Add the tomato sauce and chicken and close the lid. Turn the steam valve to the sealing position and pressure cook for 10 minutes plus a 10 minute natural release.
- Quick release any remaining pressure and then open the Instant Pot. Remove the chicken, chop it, and stir it back into the sauce in the pot along with some coconut milk.
- Serve your Instant Pot butter chicken with Instant Pot white rice or Instant Pot brown rice (also see how to cook brown rice on the stove), naan bread and fresh chopped cilantro. Enjoy!
Can I use frozen chicken?
- Yes, you can make this butter chicken with frozen chicken. That’s the beauty of the Instant Pot! It can be a lifesaver when you forget to defrost your protein.
- To make this recipe with frozen chicken breasts, first make sure that your chicken breasts are separated and not frozen together in one large mass (as that would affect the cooking time). Increase the recipe cook time to 14 minutes at high pressure, followed by a 10 minute natural release.
- Use an instant read thermometer to check that the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165° F at the thickest part. If the chicken is not cooked through you can finish cooking it in the sauce using sauté mode.
- You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts to make butter chicken. Chicken thighs are especially moist and flavorful in this recipe. The cook time will stay the same.
- For best results, use full fat, unsweetened coconut milk in this recipe. Light coconut milk will make the sauce watery. You can use heavy cream in place of the coconut milk, if you prefer.
- To make the butter chicken spicy, add cayenne pepper, to taste. Start with 1/8 teaspoon and add more as desired.
- It’s easy to sneak extra veggies into this Instant Pot butter chicken recipe! Try adding a second chopped bell pepper or half a head of chopped cauliflower. Sweet potato would also be delicious – peel and chop into 1/2-inch pieces.
- You can make this recipe dairy-free, but it won’t be “butter” chicken anymore. To make dairy-free butter chicken, replace the butter with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. This butter chicken recipe is already gluten-free.
More Instant Pot Chicken Recipes
- Instant Pot Orange Chicken
- Honey Garlic Instant Pot Chicken Breasts
- Instant Pot Whole Chicken
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs
- How to Cook Frozen Chicken in an Instant Pot
- 28+ Instant Pot Chicken Recipes
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup water
- 28 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk, or heavy cream
- For serving: cooked rice, naan bread, chopped fresh cilantro, as desired
- Turn the Instant Pot on saute mode and add the butter to the pot. Once the butter has melted, add the onion. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until softened.
- Add the garlic, ginger and bell pepper to the pot and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Press cancel to turn off saute mode.
- Stir in the garam masala, smoked paprika, cumin, turmeric and salt.
- Pour in the ¼ cup water and stir, scraping up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Add the tomato sauce and the chicken to the pot.
- Close the Instant Pot lid and turn the steam valve to the sealing position. Press the Pressure Cook/Manual button and set the cook time to 10 minutes at high pressure. The Instant Pot will take about 15 minutes to reach pressure and then the cook time will begin counting down.
- When the cook time ends, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes by leaving the Instant Pot alone. Then, carefully move the steam valve to the venting position to release any remaining steam and pressure. When the pin drops down, open the Instant Pot lid.
- Remove the chicken to a clean cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile, stir the coconut milk into the sauce in the Instant Pot.
- Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and return it to the Instant Pot.
- Serve chicken and sauce over rice, with naan bread and chopped cilantro if desired.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To make the butter chicken spicy, add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste.
- Nutrition information assumes that all of the sauce will be consumed, which it may not be.
This is one of my favorite go-to recipes. I’ve found that adding both carrots and diced tomatoes are really tasty with this meal. Dicing and freezing fresh ginger ahead of time also speeds up prep time. This is a supremely tasty way to get me and my husband to happily eat vegetables. Thank you!!
So good and easy! I added some sriracha to give it more of a kick! Turned out perfect
We tried this recipe for the first time tonight and the instant pot kept saying “burn” despite us adding all the correct amounts and liquids. We even took the lid off, stirred everything around and tried again with the same results. Any thoughts or tips?
Make sure you deglaze the pot well by scraping the bits off the bottom in Step 4 of the recipe. If you are still having an Instant Pot burn warning or this happens frequently with your pot, you can troubleshoot that with my post on the instant pot burn warning here.
This recipe was very easy to make and turned out delicious! Im definitely making this again!
Question: Does this recipe work with all sizes of the Instant Pot? I have an 8-quart.
It should work in both a 6 quart and 8 quart. I have only tested it in a 6 quart pot. You may be more likely to get the burn message in an 8 quart pot because the 8 quart is more prone to the burn message, especially with tomato-based sauces.
This recipe came out delicious, and my husband and I loved it! (I, too, did get a burn message – first time ever! – even though it seemed like the bottom was clear before adding the chicken and tomato sauce.) I chopped the onion and red bell pepper in my processor which made the chop much finer than in your instructions, but we really liked the way it blended into the sauce that way. I do regret not adding the half of green bell pepper I had in my refrigerator though. I served it over brown basmati rice and with warmed garlic naan. I do have one question… We like our Indian food on the moderately spicy side. What spice would you suggest adding to give it a bit more of an Indian spice flavor?
I’m so glad you enjoyed this! If you want it spicier, you can add some cayenne pepper, to taste, as noted in the recipe notes.
Could I cut my chicken into bite size pieces before cooking?
You can, but you will want to reduce the cook time to prevent the chicken from overcooking. I would try 4 minutes at high pressure followed by a 10 minute natural release.
Hi! I don’t have an Instant pot, so I decided to try this out in the crockpot and it turned out great! I’m not too familiar with these spices, but I’m excited to try them out in more recipes. I’ll probably increase the spices a tiny bit next time. Thank you for another great recipe!
How long did you slow cook for? Low or high heat?
As other commenters mentioned, I also received the dreaded Burn message. I had to cancel and open up the pot and add another cup of water. It just doesn’t have enough liquid in it as tomato sauce is considered too thick as the standalone liquid most of the time to build pressure. I’m sure the flavor would have been better if I didn’t have to water it down so much, but sadly this recipe is not a keeper for my Instant Pot recipes.
I’m sorry you received a burn message. Thoroughly scrape up all the bits in step 4 of the recipe to prevent that.
I was just wondering, if I decrease the amount of ingredients, say half (I only have to feed myself), does the cooking time diminish at all or does it remain the same?
Thanks so much! This looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it!
The cooking time stays the same for a half recipe. If you decide to halve the recipe, I would recommend using the full 1/4 cup of water. Enjoy!
I struggled with this recipe too due to the Burn warning in spite of how well I thought I had deglazed the pot. I did however cook this in an 8 quart instant pot as that’s all I had. I added 1 cup of extra water to fix the issue and although it still tasted ok, it wasn’t the butter chicken taste I was hoping for.
I’m eager to try this recipe using extra firm tofu or tempeh.
Since neither of those need to “cook”, just get heated through and soak up the sauce flavors, how long would you suggest I cook it for? My guess is about 4 minutes.
Four minutes is good starting time for tofu. You can experiment with the time if you make it more than once. Let me know if you find the perfect tofu cooking time!
This recipe looks so good. Would I be able to do this in a slow cooker? If so, what would you suggest for cook time? Thanks!!
Yes, you can make this in a slow cooker. I’d recommend sautéing the onion on the stove (recipe step 1) before adding it to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours, or until the chicken is cooked through.
I got the food burn warning as well. I deglazed it well beforehand and it still happened. I ended up stirring it and trying again, only to have the same warning. I also had to add extra water like the other post above. Very frustrating. I really love your recipes and use them all the time. This was the first one I have ever had an issue with. Thanks for helping me make dinner most nights.
I’m sorry to hear that – I know how frustrating it can be. Tomato based sauces can be tricky in the IP and are often the culprit of the burn warning. Some Instant Pots also seem to be more prone to the burn message – I know my 8 quart pot is much more likely to give the burn message than my 6 quart. This post about the Instant Pot burn message has some tips about what to do if it happens. The meal can most often be saved! Thank you for trying my recipes!