How To Make Butter Chicken in the Instant Pot

How To Make Butter Chicken in the Instant Pot

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Meghan Splawn
Apr 11, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Have you tried making butter chicken yet? It's a warmly spiced curry balanced with tangy tomatoes, fragrant garlic and ginger, and just the perfect cozy hit of garam masala. The chicken is tender and infused with butter and the comforting sauce.

Most butter chicken recipes can take a few days, including a quick yogurt marinating session and a long stovetop simmer or braise, but Instant Pot butter chicken takes a mere 35 minutes — including preparing the aromatics and chopping the chicken!

Instant Pot Butter Chicken: Watch the Video

I don't want to call this "lazy butter chicken," but a spade is a spade and I've eliminated as much prep work as possible from this recipe. This Instant Pot butter chicken is light on cooking time, but bursting with flavor.

It's really all about squashing your curry craving quickly in a way that will satisfy everyone at the table. The vegetables are only roughly chopped, the chicken cooked whole to eliminate an extra cutting board and knife, and the electric pressure cooker makes plenty of extra sauce for future dinners.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

What Is Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken is a relatively modern dinner dish of chicken in a warming, lightly spiced tomato, butter, and cream sauce. Reportedly invented in Dehli as a way to revive leftover tandoori chicken (the sauce-moistened dry grilled chicken pieces), it became a restaurant staple thanks to its creamy, comforting sauce.

You might call the sauce for butter chicken an entry-level curry sauce. I frequently serve it to my young, spice-averse children, because the rich and creamy base mellows the spices in the garam masala, as well as the garlic and ginger that season the sauce.

What Is Garam Masala?

Garam masala is a staple spice blend in Indian cooking. Translated, it means "warm spice" and it often includes cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, and peppercorns. It has a deep warming flavor and scent but not a peppery bite. Buy the best garam masala you can for making butter chicken — it does a lot of the heavy flavor lifting in this recipe.

Read more: Inside the Spice Cabinet: Garam Masala

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Key Steps for Making Butter Chicken in the Instant Pot

We are really making two things in the Instant Pot with butter chicken: first a super-flavorful tomato cream sauce and then the chicken in it. These few key steps will make for the best sauce (and plenty of it) and tender, fragrant chicken.

  • Roughly chop the aromatics. You're going to purée the sauce, so don't worry about cutting the onions, garlic, or ginger too small before sautéing them in the electric pressure cooker. This step also prevents the aromatics from burning during the sauté.
  • Cook the chicken breast whole. Butter chicken is best served up in bite-sized pieces, but cooking the breast whole in the sauce is key to prevent overcooking in the Instant Pot. It also means you don't have to dirty an extra cutting board to cube the raw chicken. After cooking, you pull the whole breast from the sauce, purée the sauce, and chop the chicken. Use the same cutting board you chopped the onions, garlic, and ginger on.
  • Purée and thicken the sauce after cooking. The 10 minutes under pressure and the 10 minutes of natural release in the electric pressure cooker will render the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger soft, but what you really want for butter chicken is a perfectly smooth sauce. Use an immersion blender to purée the sauce inside the pot. At this point you'll add more butter and some cream or coconut milk to thicken and finish the sauce.
  • Save some sauce for later. The real boon of cooking the chicken whole and removing it before finishing the sauce is that now you have a generous pot of sauce. You can certainly serve it all with the chicken, or you can reserve about half the sauce for future use. You can use it for more butter chicken, but also as a sauce for enchiladas, a poaching liquid for eggs, or quick dressing for roasted vegetables.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Serving Butter Chicken

Once the sauce is smooth, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pot. Ladle the chicken and sauce onto rice (or cauliflower rice or quinoa) and top with cilantro and, if you're feeling ambitious, a dollop of raita.

This butter chicken is so easy and impressive that you'll find yourself making it as often for a quick weeknight dinner as you do for dinner guests.

How To Make Butter Chicken in the Instant Pot

Serves 4 to 6

What You Need

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 large

    onion, coarsely chopped

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, coarsely chopped

  • 1

    (2-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon

    garam masala

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 (28 ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 medium)

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream or coconut milk

  • Cooked rice, for serving

  • Equipment
  • Large cutting board and chef’s knife

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • 6-quart or larger electric pressure cooker

  • Immersion blender

Instructions

  1. Heat the pressure cooker to sauté and melt the butter. Using the sauté function, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 6-quart or larger pressure cooker.

  2. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and spices and cook until softened and fragrant. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté, stirring regularly until the onions begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, and salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

  3. Add the chicken and tomatoes, cover and set for high pressure for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and stir to combine. Add the chicken breasts and make sure they are covered by the sauce. Seal the pressure cooker and make sure the vent is closed. Set the cooker to MANUAL, HIGH Pressure and dial down the time to 10 minutes.

  4. Natural release for 10 minutes. The electric pressure cooker should take 10 to 12 minutes to come to pressure, then cook for 10 minutes. Let the cooker naturally release pressure for 10 minutes more.

  5. Remove the chicken and purée the sauce. Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board to cool slightly. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cream or coconut milk. Using an immersion blender, purée the sauce until smooth. (At this point, you can remove and reserve some of this incredible sauce for future use.)

  6. Chop the chicken and return to the butter sauce. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces, return to the butter sauce, and stir to combine.

  7. Serve the butter chicken. Butter chicken is typically served over basmati rice, but brown rice, quinoa, and cauliflower rice are wonderful alternatives.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover butter chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or frozen for up to for 3 months. Reserved sauce can be stored for 7 days as well and frozen for up to 6 months.

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