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If you’ve ever made butter chicken in the Instant Pot and just thought “Meh,” you’ve never tried THIS Instant Pot Butter Chicken! Boasting the perfect, creamy consistency and bursting with delicious, savoury flavour, this Instant Pot Butter Chicken is also easy to make as well as low FODMAP, Paleo and Whole30 compliant. This recipe now includes instructions for how to make non-Paleo/Whole30 white rice at the same time as the butter chicken in the Instant Pot, pot-in-pot!
The Road to Perfect Instant Pot Butter Chicken
I had never tried Indian cuisine until college, when a good friend introduced me to it. My roommates and I went with her to an Indian restaurant one night. She helped us figure out what to order as the dishes were new to the majority of us. As it was almost 20 years ago, I don’t particularly recall what we ordered; however, I do remember feeling absolutely gobsmacked. I had been missing out on such amazing tasting food for so long.
After that pivotal foodie experience, I started going to Indian restaurants frequently, and while I’ve tried many different dishes over the years, my favourite is definitely butter chicken. I would willingly bathe in butter chicken, it’s so good.
I’ve made butter chicken on the stove top, and when I got an Instant Pot, I tried making it in that, too. I was usually disappointed with the outcome.
It would turn out too watery, bland, and/or not have the right amount of fat content (It’s butter chicken, for heaven’s sake. Add some butter!). Sometimes, the sauce might contain the right blend of seasonings, but the chicken wouldn’t taste seasoned at all. When the chicken is bathed in a heavily seasoned sauce, you’d think it wouldn’t matter whether or not the chicken was seasoned. To my palate, it does.
Additionally, chicken breasts are very temperamental when it comes to Instant Pot cooking. You have to treat them just right, or they come out chewy and overcooked. Chicken thighs are a bit more forgiving, and a number of butter chicken recipes say you can use either breasts or thighs, but texturally, chicken breasts taste more authentic to me.
As you can see, to me, butter chicken = serious business. After trying a number of different recipes and being repeatedly disappointed, I began to question whether it was even worth making butter chicken in the Instant Pot.
Then, I started this blog and became inspired to write my own Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe. I tweaked and tested it for many months until I figured out how to get all of the elements – chicken texture, sauce consistency, flavour, and fat content – just right. Also, it was important to me that it was low FODMAP, so it couldn’t contain any onion or garlic, two very common ingredients in Indian cooking.
This challenge was epic – EPIC – but I’m pretty pleased with the results, and I hope you will be, too.
Low FODMAP, Paleo and Whole30 Butter Chicken
As mentioned above, this recipe is written to be low FODMAP, Paleo and Whole30 compliant. If you include the pot-in-pot white rice, it is still low fodmap, gluten-free, and lactose-free but no longer Paleo/Whole30 compliant. You’ll also want to serve the butter chicken over a starch fitting your dietary requirements. I suggest some serving options at the end of this post.
The equipment I use to make this Instant Pot Butter Chicken includes:
Instant Pot Butter Chicken: Ingredients & Tips for Success
I wrote this recipe to work with 2 large chicken breasts that are each about 1/2 lb. To start, I dry the chicken breasts with paper towels. This helps the marinade better adhere to the chicken. I then put them in a small mixing bowl.
This marinade is key to getting great flavour for your butter chicken. A minimum of 2 hours prior to cooking but ideally the night before, in another small bowl or a measuring cup, I whisk together the following marinade ingredients:
Garam masala – this is a premade spice mix found in most grocery stores in North America. The spices in garam masala typically include ground coriander, cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, and black pepper, all of which are low FODMAP according to Monash University’s Low FODMAP Diet App (although, be sure to check the label to ensure no high FODMAP ingredients have been added). These spices are commonly used in Indian cooking, and using a pre-made spice mix that includes them all makes things so much easier. I haven’t created my own recipe for garam masala yet but may in the future. Meanwhile, check out my low FODMAP homemade Italian, Taco and Pumpkin Pie Spice seasoning mix recipes.
Ground coriander – Although it is already in the garam masala, I add additional ground coriander to get my desired flavour.
Cayenne – the recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of cayenne. You can increase or decrease this amount depending on how spicy you’d like your butter chicken. By North American standards, on a scale of 1-5, I would consider 1/2 tsp of cayenne to be spice level of 1.
Salt and pepper
I pour the marinade over the chicken breasts. Then, I use tongs to slather the chicken in marinade until fully coated. If you do this with your hands, the marinade will stain them red.
I cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours but preferably overnight.
To add oniony flavour to the butter chicken without the onion, I finely chop the dark green leaves of a leek, which Monash University deems low FODMAP in quantities of up to 2/3 cup. We’re only calling for 1/2 cup for the whole recipe, so we’re well below the tolerable amount.
I also grate 1 tbsp of fresh ginger root to add to this recipe, which is FODMAP free (woot!). Ginger is an ingredient common to Indian cooking, and I coarsely grate it in lieu of mincing as I keep it frozen until I’m ready to use it. I always end up with way more ginger than I can use before it goes bad, so I keep it in the freezer. I peel the part I want to use with a vegetable peeler and then grate it as it is too hard to mince or chop while frozen.
Sauté & Deglaze
When I’m ready to start cooking, I hit the Sauté button on the Instant Pot and add another 2 tbsp of garlic-infused olive oil to the pot (2 tbsp in the marinade and 2 tbsp in the pot to sauté). Once the display reads “Hot,” I add the leek and ginger and sauté them for 2 minutes. Then, I hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot and pour in 1/2 cup of low FODMAP chicken bone broth (I use Imagine Chicken Bone Broth, which is low FODMAP AND Paleo/Whole30 compliant – woot!). If needed, I scrape the bottom of the bowl clean with a plastic spoon and add the 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (with their juice!) to the pot.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken Magic: Add Chicken AND Marinade to the Pot
So, here’s where you need to be careful. Recipes that call for marinades typically tell you to discard the marinade after the marinating time is up. That is not the case here, so don’t discard it. Don’t YOU DARE. We are going to add both the chicken and the marinade to the pot, but in a very specific way to maximize the amount of flavour while not adding any additional spices.
To cast this magical spell, follow these steps very carefully:
Remove the bowl containing marinated chicken breasts from the refrigerator.
Remove and discard plastic wrap.
Using tongs, place the chicken breasts on a small plate.
Using the very best spatula you possess, scrape every last bit of marinade from the bowl that held the chicken breasts to the Instant Pot.
Stir the contents of the Instant Pot so that the spices mix in nicely.
Gently place the chicken breasts on top of the tomatoes, ensuring they aren’t touching the bottom of the pot. If you have to push more tomatoes towards the center of the pot to achieve this – do it.
Using your spatula, scrape the marinade left on the plate the chicken was just resting on into the pot. Don’t worry about stirring this in – the amount is very minimal.
Once you’ve performed these crucial steps, take a deep breath and relax. You did it. I couldn’t be more proud.
Then, close the lid, set the pressure release valve to “Sealing,” hit the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button, and set the timer for 5 minutes. Turn off the “Keep Warm” button.
Once the cooking cycle completes, allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then release the remaining pressure. Press “Cancel” on the Instant Pot. Open the lid.
Blend – Chop – Add Fat
Once the cooking is done, I place the chicken breasts on a chopping board. I return to the Instant Pot and carefully blend the remaining contents together using an immersion blender. For my particular blender and the amount of liquid in the pot, this can get kind of splatty, so if this is the case for you as well, blend it slowly.
After blending, I set the Instant Pot aside so that the liquid can cool for a few minutes, and while it’s cooling, I chop my chicken breasts into bite sized pieces (about 1″ or so). I allow the liquid to cool before adding the coconut cream and ghee so that the sauce doesn’t get too runny.
Once my chicken is chopped, I return to the pot and add the fat components – coconut cream and ghee – and stir until well blended. Then, I add the chopped chicken back to the pot and stir to coat in the creamy, luscious sauce. At that point, this Instant Pot Butter Chicken is ready to serve!
This Instant Pot Butter Chicken is yummiest when served over a neutrally-flavoured starch. As I am not a strict Paleo eater, I personally eat it over basmati rice. If you wish to keep this Paleo, Whole30 and low FODMAP, I recommend serving it over my Instant Pot “Garlic” Mashed Potatoes recipe (low FODMAP option). This is when two Instant Pots come in handy. If you’re not concerned with FODMAPs, cauliflower rice is also a great Paleo/Whole30 compliant option.
Update: Pot-in-Pot Rice
I’ve started experimenting with cooking rice in the same pot as the rest of the meal I’m cooking. This is called the “pot-in-pot” cooking method, and it makes things super easy if you plan on serving your meal with rice. It saves you from having to turn on your stove, and you can serve the rice from the same bowl that you’ve cooked it in in the Instant Pot, which saves you from having to wash another pot!
If you’re interested in cooking either white basmati rice or white long grain rice in the Instant Pot along with your butter chicken, you need an oven-safe stainless steel or glass bowl. I found a stainless steel oven-safe bowl on Amazon that has been working well and is the perfect size to cook 1 cup of rice.
There is a great guide (from which my instructions are adapted) on the food blog Paint the Kitchen Red showing step-by-step instructions on how to cook different types of rice using the pot-in-pot method. Since chicken breasts only require a short cooking time, as far as my tests have revealed, only white basmati rice or white long grain rice will turn out well at a 5-minute pressure cook time with a 10-minute natural release. I also tested brown basmati rice, and it came out al dente but was definitely edible. Regular brown rice and wild rice take much longer to cook and will probably not work with my butter chicken recipe but may work for other recipes.
So, at the point you’re ready to close the lid on the Instant Pot to cook the chicken, put the trivet on top of the chicken with the handles up. It’s okay if it’s not entirely level – the bowl won’t have enough room to fully tip over. Rinse 1 cup of white rice in a fine mesh sieve and add to your oven-safe bowl. Add one cup of cold water to the bowl and stir. Place the bowl on top of the trivet in the Instant Pot. Close the lid; set the pressure release valve to sealing. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Turn off the “Keep Warm” button.
Once the cooking cycle has completed, allow for a 10 minute natural release, and then release any remaining pressure manually. Using hot pads, carefully remove the oven safe bowl to a hot pad. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.
FOR POT-IN-POT RICE (LOW FODMAP, NOT PALEO/WHOLE30):
1 cup white basmati or white long grain white rice
1 cup cold water
A minimum of 2 hours prior to cooking (but preferably the night before), dry chicken breasts with paper towels and place in a small mixing bowl. In another small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together marinade ingredients and pour marinade over chicken breasts. Using tongs (and not your hands as the marinade will stain them red), flip chicken breasts as much as necessary to fully coat in the marinade. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
When ready to cook, finely-chop leek leaves and grate ginger. Hit the “Sauté” button on your 6-quart Instant Pot Pressure Cooker (or a comparable pressure cooker) and add 2 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil. Once the display on the Instant Pot reads “Hot,” add leek and ginger and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Hit “Cancel” on the Instant Pot. Add chicken bone broth and scrape the bottom of the pot clean with a plastic spoon. Add canned tomatoes with their juice to the Instant Pot.
Follow these instructions very carefully: Remove bowl of marinated chicken breasts from the refrigerator. Remove and discard plastic wrap from the bowl. Using tongs, place chicken breasts on a small plate. Using a spatula, scrape every last bit of marinade from the bowl into the Instant Pot and stir to combine with everything else in the pot. Place chicken on top of tomatoes, ensuring they are not touching the bottom of the Instant Pot but are resting on the tomatoes. Scrape any juices or marinade left from the chicken on the small plate into the pot, close the lid, set the pressure release valve to “Sealing,” hit the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button, and set timer for 5 minutes. Turn off “Keep Warm” button. Once the cooking cycle has completed, allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, and then release any remaining pressure. Hit the “Cancel” button.
Open lid. Using a fresh set of tongs, remove chicken to a cutting board. Using an instant read thermometer, check the temperature of the thickest chicken breast. Chicken must be at least 165° F to be safely consumed. Allow the chicken to rest on the cutting board.
While the chicken is resting, using an immersion blender, carefully (and slowly if the liquid gets splatty) blend the remaining contents of the Instant Pot until smooth, and set aside to cool. Chop chicken into small, bite-sized pieces (about 1”). Add coconut cream and ghee to the Instant Pot and stir well to combine. Finally, add chicken pieces and any juices from the cutting board into the pot and stir to coat in the sauce.
Serve over a starch component, such as my Instant Pot “Garlic” Mashed Potatoes (Low FODMAP, Paleo and Whole30), basmati rice (low FODMAP but not Paleo/Whole30), or cauliflower rice (Paleo/Whole30 but not low FODMAP).
UPDATE: Pot-in-Pot Rice: to cook white basmati or long grain white rice along with the chicken (which are low FODMAP but not Paleo/Whole30), you’ll need an oven-safe stainless steel or glass bowl (I use this one. It’s stainless steel, 1.5 quarts and 7.25 x 7.25 x 3.75 inches in dimension). Pour 1 cup of rice into a fine mesh sieve and rinse with cold water. Pour rice into the oven-safe bowl. Add 1 cup cold water and stir. Place bowl on top of the trivet. Close lid; set timer for 5 minutes. Allow for a 10 minute natural release, then manually release any remaining pressure. Open lid. Wearing hot pads, carefully remove the oven-safe bowl from the Instant Pot. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.
This cooking time is for 2 large chicken breasts that are approximately ½ lb each.
Pot-in-pot rice: this cooking time works well for white basmati rice or long grain white rice only. Other types of rice may have different results. I also tested brown basmati rice with this recipe, and it came out a bit al-dente but was definitely edible. Regular brown rice requires a much longer cooking time and will not work with this particular recipe. These instructions are adapted from Paint the Kitchen Red’s awesome guide on pot-in-pot rice, which includes cook times for a variety of rice types.
Last updated: 4/30/21 – Cooking time altered; added ingredients and instructions for pot-in-pot rice.
Keywords: instant pot butter chicken, low fodmap butter chicken, paleo butter chicken, whole30 butter chicken, indian recipes, pot-in-pot rice