Instant Pot “Butter” Chicken (with Coconut Milk)

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This Instant Pot Butter Chicken is an easy weeknight meal that is ready to eat in about 30 minutes. I love how it calls for pantry ingredients that you may already have on hand!

instant pot butter chicken in bowl with rice

Healthy Butter Chicken (Without The Butter)

If you’re looking for an authentic butter chicken recipe… this isn’t it. When I set out to make any recipe, I want to make it as EASY as possible, while also making it a little healthier. So, there isn’t actually any butter added to this particular recipe. Don’t hate me.

The reason I don’t add any butter to this “butter chicken” recipe, is because adding coconut cream gives this sauce a rich, creamy texture and adds plenty of fat to the dish. You could add a couple pats of butter, if you really want to, but I just don’t see how that would make this sauce taste any better. It’s really delicious as it is!

butter chicken ingredients in blender

Why the Instant Pot Makes it Easy

If your family is like mine, you may want a smooth sauce for this chicken, rather than one with chunks of tomatoes and onions. That’s why I blend everything together first, including the onion, garlic, and ginger, to make a pureed sauce that will be flavor-packed.

butter chicken sauce ingredients in the blender

This not only saves you chopping time (no need to dice the onions or garlic), but it also means you won’t have to attempt to blend the sauce together later when everything is piping hot.

If you would prefer to skip the blender, that’s no problem, though. Just be sure to dice everything as small as possible, in that case. The juices from the tomatoes and the liquid from the chicken is enough to bring the pot to pressure, so you don’t need to add any extra water to this recipe.

chicken in the tomato sauce in Instant Pot

Healthy Butter Chicken Ingredients

Like I mentioned above, I like to make my recipes as easy as possible, so this recipe calls for ground spices that are easy to buy at the store. I don’t have the time or patience to grind my own spices, so I use a garam masala blend in this recipe to help achieve a rich, Indian-style flavor easily.

To make this recipe, you’ll need these basics:

  • Chicken (or use cooked chickpeas for a vegetarian version)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Canned coconut milk (I just use the thick cream at the top)
  • Tomato paste (this helps thicken the sauce and gives it a great red color)
  • Garam Masala (Indian spice blend)
  • Ground cumin
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Garlic & Ginger (you can use powdered if fresh isn’t available)

It takes about 5-10 minutes to get everything into the pot, then it takes 20 to cook. Keep in mind that the Instant Pot takes several minutes to come to pressure, before the cooking cycle will begin, so be sure to start this process about 40 minutes before you want to eat.

can of tomato paste and coconut milk open

For this recipe, I use tomato paste the thicken the sauce and coconut cream for creaminess. (Without using dairy!) I only use the solid, thick cream for this recipe, and I reserve the leftovers for a smoothie or an easy curry recipe later.

Bonus: Cook Rice at the Same Time!

If you haven’t tried pot-in-pot cooking in your Instant Pot, this a great recipe for it. You can cook a bowl of white rice at the same time as your Butter Chicken!

pot in pot rice for the Instant Pot

To do this, follow the chicken recipe as directed, then add a 1- to 2-inch trivet over that (make sure it doesn’t press into the chicken, or you could trigger a burn error.)

Fill an oven-safe 7-inch bowl with 1 cup of white rice and 1 cup of water, and stir well. Place the bowl on top of the trivet, making sure there is at least 1 inch of space around the bowl when it’s seated in the Instant Pot. You want to make sure there’s room around the bowl for pressure to build in the pot.

Secure the lid and cook as directed. When the 10-minute natural release is completed, the rice will be cooked, along with the chicken! Be sure to use oven mitts to remove the bowl of rice and the trivet, as they will be very hot.

butter chicken overhead in bowls with rice

You won’t add the tomato paste or coconut milk to the sauce until after the chicken is cooked (they are too thick and could trigger a burn error), so when the cooking cycle is complete, you’ll just remove the chicken to shred it on a cutting board then stir in the remaining ingredients.

Be sure to season to taste, adding extra salt or a squeeze of lemon juice if desired. I like to serve this with fresh cilantro on top, but that’s totally optional.

Popular Instant Pot Recipes

If you need more ideas on how to use your Instant Pot, be sure to check out The Fresh & Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook, or try one of the fan-favorites below.

instant pot butter chicken in bowl with rice
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5 from 11 votes

Instant Pot "Butter" Chicken (with Coconut Milk)

Instant Pot Butter Chicken is a quick & easy weeknight meal, using common pantry ingredients. I love how all you have to do is add the ingredients in the pot, press a button, and walk away!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Instant Pot
Keyword instant pot butter chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Pressurization: 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 266kcal


  • 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes (and their juices)
  • 1 yellow onion , cut into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger (about 1-inch peeled)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less for a mild dish)
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (each breast should be 8-12 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt , plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (the solid part in a can of coconut milk)
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste (no salt added)
  • fresh cilantro , for garnish
  • 1 cup dry white rice (for optional pot-in-pot cooking)


  • In a blender, combine the diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Blend until smooth.
  • Pour the blended tomato mixture into the bottom of the Instant Pot, then place the chicken breasts on top. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the chicken, then secure the lid. Move the steam release valve to "Sealing" then cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Tip: You can cook a bowl of white rice at the same time as the chicken. To do this, place a 2-inch trivet over the chicken, then set a bowl on top of that. Rinse 1 cup of white rice in a fine mesh strainer, then add the drained rice to the bowl. Add in 1 cup of water and stir well, then secure the lid and cook as directed.
  • Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. When the screen reads LO:10, you can move the steam release valve to "Venting" to release any remaining pressure. When the floating valve in the lid drops, it's safe to open the lid.
  • Use oven mitts to remove the bowl of rice and the trivet, if you did the pot-in-pot cooking. Use tongs to transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board, and stir the 1/2 cup of coconut milk and the can of tomato paste into the tomato sauce in the pot. (The tomato paste helps to thicken the sauce and makes it a nice red color, but you can leave it out if you don't have any on hand. It still tastes great without it.)
  • Use 2 forks to shred the chicken, or use a knife to cut it into chunks. then add the shredded chicken back into the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. You can add more salt (I usually add another 1/2 teaspoon) or a squeeze of lemon juice if you need to brighten up the flavor.
  • Serve warm over rice, with fresh cilantro on top. The leftover chicken will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days in the fridge.



I do not recommend using brown rice instead of white for the pot-in-pot cooking, as brown takes much longer to cook. Be sure to check out my Instant Pot Brown Rice tutorial for details.


Calories: 266kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 729mg | Potassium: 771mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 258IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 3mg
Nutrition info is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, so it’s an estimate and not a guarantee. Be sure to use the labels on your ingredients at home if you need a more accurate result.

Additional Notes:

  • If you follow food combining to streamline your digestion, serve this Butter Chicken with cauliflower rice instead of brown rice. Or you can serve it over a pile of steamed veggies if you don’t feel like “ricing” anything.

If you try this recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it! And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too. We can all benefit from your experience!

Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite thing to make in the Instant Pot?

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Can you use frozen chicken? If so, does the cooking time need adjusted?

    Megan Gilmore

    Yes, definitely! It will depend on how large the chicken breasts are. If they seem big, I would probably cook them for 20 minutes at high pressure. If they aren’t that big, maybe just adding 5 minutes to the cook time (fo 15 minutes total) would be sufficient. You can always use a meat thermometer to make sure the insides reach 165ºF before shredding the chicken.


Do you think this recipe could be doubled if I only made the chicken and omitted the pot in pot rice? I have a 6 quart Instant Pot. Thank you!

    Megan Gilmore

    Yes, I think you could easily double it. Cooking time should stay the same unless you’re using particularly huge chicken breasts!


      So you can pile chicken breasts on top of itself so they’re more than one later in the instant pot? Thank you!!

        Megan Gilmore

        I’ve never tried piling on another layer of chicken for this recipe, but I imagine that it should work as long as the individual breasts are roughly the same size. I would just check them all with a thermometer at the end to make sure each one gets cooked through.


I do not have any fresh ginger. How much powdered ginger would I substitute for the fresh? I have everything else so I think I will make this tomorrow! Thanks!

    Megan Gilmore

    With dried spices, I usually start with a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon so that the flavor won’t be overwhelming. I love ginger, so I’d probably start with 1/2 teaspoon, but if you have family members who aren’t you can start with less. And then you can always taste the cooked sauce later and add more to taste when you stir in the coconut milk and tomato paste.


We don’t have an instapot but we do have a slow cooker. Do you think this could be made in a slow cooker instead?

    Megan Gilmore

    Yes, I’m sure it could, but I haven’t tested that yet. Let me try it and I’ll get back to you! And if you try it first, please come back and let me know what you did. 🙂


Wow, I made this last night for dinner and the flavor was perfect! Definitely going into our regular rotation.


I don’t have the Garam Masala spice. Is there a substitute for this? I have cumin, nutmeg, and some of the other ingredients but not cardamon or ground coriander. I’d love to make this without running to the store. Any suggestions? I love your Thai Salmon Curry in the Instant pot and have made it several times. This is my favorite recipe book.

    Megan Gilmore

    I’ve heard that in a pinch you can use 1 part cumin to 1/4 part allspice as a substitute for Garam Masala, if you have that on hand? Since this recipe already calls for cumin, I would probably try adding 3/4 teaspoon more plus 1/4 teaspoon of allspice. Otherwise you can just experiment with adding a pinch of nutmeg or cloves and see how you like it. You can always season more to taste after it cooks! And I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying my Instant Pot book, too. That Salmon Curry is a family favorite over here, too!


Is it possible to make this dish in a normal pot and not an instant pot? If yes, how long would you leave the chicken in the simmering sauce? Thanks.


Is there a substitute for the coconut milk ? Thanks

    Megan Gilmore

    You’ll just want to add something creamy. Traditional recipes will call for heavy whipping cream, or you could try cashew cream or a store-bought non-dairy creamer for a dairy-free option.


We loved this simply yet delicious recipe! Thank you for giving us healthy alternatives.


Loving all of your recipes. They are so easy and I usually have everything in my pantry. My kids ate this right up! But, just for reference sake, can you tell me exactly how much 1 serving is….like is it 1 cup, or 1/2 cup?


I discovered your blog through cookie and Kate and LOVE it! I return to your recipes regularly. This one was easy and delicious… first time I’ve actually felt successful making Indian food. Thank you Megan!


The 10 minutes did not cook the chicken enough


Ahhh-maxing! Just moved to a more rural community and the food variety is non-existent. Was missing my Indian flavors!!! Not anymore!

Leslie Traylor

This was an excellent recipe. The blending of the onion, garlic and tomatoes went really well. I am not fond of garam masala, so I swapped the spices. I used my home made taco seasonings. The time and process made this tender chicken shredded for anything an easy and successful event.

Amelie Tow



OH MY GOODNESS! I have never made rice in the instant pot at the same time. That was fun! The coconut milk gave enough creaminess to the sauce that the extra butter was not missed. My husband and kids raved about it. It was not hard to make. The only thing I did different was I was low on ginger so I added fresh turmeric. This would be yummy to serve with naan and raita, too, next time. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!


Hi how would the cook time change if I’m using diced chicken breast? My husband cubed all my chicken 😵


Hi: Can you tell me how the cooking time change if I use chicken thighs?? Usually I don’t buy chicken breast

Lindsay anderson

Megan, this was absolutely DELICIOUS!! My husband and I devoured it and it tasted exactly like we’d hoped it would. Even my tomato-detesting 8-year-old asked for seconds and soaked up all the sauce with her naan. Can’t wait to make it again! Thank-you!


Amazing as always! I followed the recipe exactly and did the rice in the pot as well. I did feel like something was missing in the flavor, but then I recalled that I skipped the cayenne for the kids. I added some to my bowl and it was delicious! Thank you so much for making such easy and delicious meals for those of us with food issues!


Can I add cooked chickpeas along with everything else? I saw you suggested that on the slow cooker version of this recipe – just wondering if the chickpeas turn out ok in the instant pot with this recipe. thank you

Lauren Eller

I made this dish for a potluck and pretty much everyone asked me for the recipe! It’s so easy and delicious, I loved it because it has amazing flavors with minimal work.

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