I’m a sucker for curried Indian dishes and butter chicken has long been on my list to recreate at home in the Instant Pot. This dish is much more budget-friendly made at home and is a great change of pace from chili, soups, and more common winter staples.
Traditional recipes like this one use heavy cream and butter (as the name implies), but this recipe harnesses the heathy fats of coconut milk to give it that signature richness.
Dairy-Free Butter Chicken Recipe
If you haven’t had butter chicken before, it’s one of the less spicy Indian dishes and is even mild enough for kids to enjoy. If you have some grass-fed butter and cream around feel free to try the traditional version, but it’s nice to have a dairy-optional version on hand as well.
Coconut milk perfectly mellows the sweetness of tomatoes and warming spices of curry, coriander, and ginger making a creamy rich sauce. For this reason, I always crave this meal when I need something a little decadent and comforting (but still healthy!).
Like our other curry family favorite, a stir fry called Pakistani Kima, and other recipes in my cookbook, this meal takes about 30 minutes to make and only dirties one pan (or in this case, the Instant Pot).
How to Make Butter Chicken (Or, Ode to the Instant Pot!)
Oh Instant Pot, let me count the ways I love you…
If you were looking for a reason to justify springing for an Instant Pot, I’m here to help! I hate to choose favorites, but honestly my slow cooker isn’t getting much use these days, especially since the Instant Pot has a slow cooker option built right in.
Since the Instant Pot works as a pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and sauté pan as well, it takes me one step closer to simplifying my kitchen… always a worthy goal!
I also really notice a better texture and flavor when I cook with the Instant Pot, which isn’t always the case with a slow cooker. As to whether it’s a healthy way to cook, check out this podcast interview with Wardeh Harmon of Traditional Cooking School (she’s also an Instant Pot fan).
That being said, this recipe certainly works just as well in either a traditional slow cooker or in the Instant Pot, but of course with the slow cooker ingredients need to be prepped the night or morning before so it can simmer for at least 5 hours.
Without further ado, here’s how to make a savory, satisfying dairy-free butter chicken in just one pot:
Instant Pot Butter Chicken Recipe
Yield 8 servings
This simple yet decadent butter chicken rivals the restaurant version and is ready in a snap in the Instant Pot! Or, prepare it ahead and let simmer in a slow cooker.
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 TBSP butter, coconut oil, ghee
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 TBSP curry powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1 14 oz. can full fat unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional)
- Turn the Instant Pot on the Saute setting.
- Melt the butter/coconut oil in the Instant Pot and add the diced onion and minced garlic.
- Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
- Add the diced chicken and saute for another 5 minutes or until chicken is opaque on the outside. It does not need to be completely cooked as the pressure will finish the cooking.
- Turn off the Instant Pot.
- Add the curry powder, salt, garam masala, ground ginger, ground cumin, and ground coriander.
- Stir to combine.
- Add the tomato paste and coconut milk stir to combine.
- Put on the Instant Pot lid and turn to seal it.
- Turn the knob to "sealing" and set the pressure manually to high for ten minutes. Let come to pressure, cook, and then let pressure release naturally. (This means waiting until the pressure releases on its own and not turning the vent to "venting" to manually release the pressure.)
- Open the Instant Pot and stir in the greek yogurt.
- Serve over rice or cauliflower and enjoy!
For slow cooker option, combine all ingredients except coconut milk and yogurt and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Mix in coconut milk and yogurt just before serving.
Delicious topped with fresh cilantro.
Serving Size 1 cup
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 9 g
Saturated Fat 3 g
Cholesterol 115 mg
Sodium 488 mg
Total Carbohydrates 10 g
Sugars 5 g
Protein 66 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Do you have a favorite recipe for butter chicken or other yummy Indian dishes? Have you tried making them in the Instant Pot? Please share!