When I was younger, the foods we ate were not overly adventurous. Traditional American, Mexican (or Tex-Mex), Italian (in the form of spaghetti or pizza… I know; let’s move on), and of course, Chinese food were probably the majority of what we ate. As I grew older, I am sure that some of the adventures we could have had were stymied by yours truly. I was a pretty particular eater when I was younger. For a while, if it was the wrong color, I would not eat it. Later, it became a texture thing, and then it was more of an “I’ve never had that, so it can’t be good” reasoning. I’m happy to share that as I moved into my late twenties and then through my thirties, I became a much more adventurous eater and now go out of my way to try foods I’ve never had before.
I tell you all of this because Indian food was not something I remember even being considered as an option when I was younger. I was probably in my late twenties or early thirties before I ever had Indian food. It was a few years later before I had good Indian food. I can distinctly remember the first time I had butter chicken curry. I lived in Pasco and had heard about this new place that opened near Yokes on Road 68, and one day we walked into this adorable little restaurant called Love Curry. With little to no knowledge of what to try, we asked which one was the fan favorite. With no hesitation, they suggested their Butter Chicken Curry, and it has been a life-long romance ever since.
As you can imagine, I had to learn how to make this recipe at home, so soon after that day at Love Curry, I went to the internet. I found a simple recipe that I’ve used over the years, but the Instant Pot version I’m sharing with you this month is now my favorite way to make it at home. You can see what makes it so easy in the tips below. Before we get to that, I would be remiss if I did not share with you the history of this Indian dish that is beloved worldwide.
Created through unintentional circumstances, butter chicken is the result of a lack of refrigeration and a need to not waste food. Around the 1950s, shortly after the partition of India and Pakistan, a gentleman by the name of Kundan Lal Gujral moved to Delhi and opened a restaurant he named Moti Mahal. Also the inventor of Tandoori chicken, Gujral did not want to waste the leftovers, so he created a gravy made from tomatoes, butter, and blends of herbs and spices (or masalas). In no time, this dish became a favorite throughout India, and soon, the world over.
Recipe tips and tricks
Traditional butter chicken curry takes time to prepare. It begins with an overnight marinade of the chicken (30 minutes if you’re in a pinch), and then you need to grill the chicken (using a tandoor if going truly authentic) before finishing with a slow simmer. Who has time for all of that? Sure, we may be able to devote the time to this every now and then. However, if you want to enjoy a delicious and homemade butter chicken curry, I suggest following this recipe and taking advantage of using a pressure cooker. Instead of a multi-hour endeavor, you can be enjoying your meal in under an hour.
The most time-consuming part of this recipe is peeling the garlic, making the prep time pretty quick overall. You can serve it over jasmine or basmati rice, or they have a good chickpea rice I found at Fred Meyer that went really well with it, too. Curry would not be complete without some naan, so I have included a nice paleo naan recipe that you can use if you want to keep this recipe gluten-free. I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do!
- TwoSleevers: “30-Minute Indian Butter Chicken Recipe | Instant Pot Butter Chicken,” March 31, 2017. https://twosleevers.com/instant-pot-butter-chicken/
- Bhateja, Apeksha: “What’s so Special About Butter Chicken, One of India’s Favorite Dishes?” Text. Fodors Travel Guide, December 15, 2020. World. https://www.fodors.com/news/restaurants/whats-so-special-about-butter-chicken-one-of-indias-favorite-dishes
- “The Butter Chicken Story - Shafali,” June 19, 2015. http://shafali.com/butter-chicken-story/
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 15 – 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 – 45 minutes
- 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
- 5 – 6 cloves peeled, whole garlic
- 1 – 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp garam masala (keep 1 tsp separately)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast tenders
- 4 oz butter cut into cubes (use coconut oil if dairy free)
- 4 oz heavy cream (use full-fat coconut milk if dairy free)
- ¼ – 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 cup tapioca flour
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (from a can)
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3 Tbsp EVOO
- a bunch of cilantro leaves
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp pepper, to taste
- Place all ingredients into an Instant Pot in the order listed, EXCEPT for the butter, cream, and 1 teaspoon of the garam masala. Mix the sauce well, then add the chicken on top of the sauce.
- Close the cooker and set for 10 minutes on high. Allow it to release naturally for 10 minutes before releasing all remaining pressure. Open up the pot and remove the chicken carefully and set aside.
- Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes, remove the chicken, and then blend together all the ingredients. Use a regular blender or an immersion blender if you have one.
- Add the cut up butter, cream, cilantro, and remaining 1 tsp of garam masala and stir until well incorporated. If the sauce is too thin, you can let it sit in the refrigerator for a few minutes to thicken to desired consistency. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Break the chicken up into smaller pieces (do not shred it) and add back into the curry sauce. Heat it over low heat if it has cooled too much.
- Serve over rice or zucchini noodles. Store in the fridge for 2 – 3 days.
- Make the batter: Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and add the coconut milk. Stir to mix completely.
- Make the garlic sauce: Smash everything together in a bowl until well blended.
- Heat a frying pan to medium heat and then dust with some of the garlic sauce.
- Add 1/2 cup of the naan batter mix to the pan and wait until golden brown (about 3 minutes).
- With a brush, carefully sprinkle more garlic sauce on the uncooked side, flip it over, and wait until golden (about another 3 minutes).
- Spread more sauce on the cooked side and flip it over again to cook it for 10 sec.
- You will get 2 – 4 pieces of naan depending on how big you make them.
Erika is a Certified Health Coach at Empowered Health Institute in Richland. She can usually be found either with her nose stuck in a book or experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.
Main Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.