Restaurant Style Butter Chicken in Instant Pot | Murgh Makhani

October 16, 2017 (Updated: April 18, 2019) By Aneesha |

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This easy pressure cooker recipe for restaurant style Butter Chicken, or, Murgh Makhani, will make your taste buds dance! Marinated and grilled chicken is simmered in a creamy tomato sauce and seasoned with toasted Indian spices. A light drizzle of heavy cream towards the end gives this dish its iconic rich and creamy taste.

Close up of Authentic Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken Origin

Butter Chicken or ‘Murgh Makhani‘ (literally means Buttery Chicken) is an authentic Punjabi dish that was created in the 1950s, in a super popular restaurant in New Delhi called ‘Moti Mahal Delux’.

The story goes that the founder and Chef of the restaurant decided to use left-over Tandoori Chicken in a rich and buttery tomato gravy.  Little did he know, that he was creating one of the most popular curry dishes from the Indian subcontinent.

It is so popular all around the world that it will be hard to find an Indian restaurant that doesn’t serve this dish.  Till date, whenever I am inviting my non-Indian friends over for an Indian meal, they always expect Butter Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala to be on the menu, and it sure is 🙂

What is the Difference between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala

There are some subtle differences between these two popular Indian curries. There are THREE basic differences between the two:

  • Origin:  Butter Chicken, was invented in an Indian restaurant, called Moti Mahal, in New Delhi,India, in the 1950s. And, Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in an Indian restaurant, called Shish Mahal, in Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1960s.
  • Sauce: Tikka Masala sauce is a more robust tomato sauce that is prepared by simmering pureed tomatoes with onions, ginger, garlic, cashews, yogurt, spices, and occasionally, cream. Butter Chicken sauce on the other hand, is a simpler sauce prepared with pureed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, spices and fresh heavy cream.
  • Creaminess: Butter Chicken gets its iconic rich and creamy taste by adding fresh heavy cream to a spiced tomato puree. On the other hand, traditionally, yogurt and cashews are used to get the creamy consistency in Chicken Tikka Masala. Some recipes call for heavy cream, but in a very small quantity.

So, you see how both dishes have a lot in common, yet have small differences that define their taste. Overall, Butter Chicken is more creamy and sweet, and Chicken Tikka Masala is a bit more spicy and tomatoey.

Here’s an easy recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala made in the Instant Pot

Close up of Butter Chicken made in Instant Pot

Authentic Butter Chicken Recipe made simpler by using the Instant Pot

I grew up eating Butter Chicken!  It happens to be my Mom’s favorite dish, and now my kids’ favorite too.

Not so long ago, it used to be quite an intimidating dish to make at home since you could never get it to taste like the “restaurant”. But years of perfecting this recipe, using quality ingredients and pressure cooking techniques, I can now get that slow simmered flavor at home!

So this one’s for my Mom and my kiddos- a super easy and authentic recipe for Butter Chicken.

Using Naan to scoop a bite of a Authentic Butter Chicken

Two Ways to Cook Chicken for Butter Chicken

Traditionally in butter chicken, the marinated chicken is grilled before adding it to the sauce.  The idea being that grilling seals the flavors of the marinade in the chicken and that boosts the flavor of the dish.

There are two ways I cook the chicken, depending on how much quantity I’m making.

#Option 1

If I’m making this just for the four of us, I cook everything in the same pot.  I place the marinated uncooked chicken on a trivet in the Instant Pot.  Placing it on the trivet elevates it from the sauce and allows those marinade flavors to seal the chicken.

marinated chicken placed on a trivet in instant pot
Chicken cooked on a trivet in the Instant Pot for Authentic Butter Chicken

# Option 2

If I’m entertaining guests and I have to make a larger quantity, I prefer to broil the chicken in the oven and then simmer it in the sauce.

Marinated chicken on a baking sheet for grilling in the oven
Grilled chicken for Authentic Instant Pot Butter Chicken

Make it Vegetarian: Butter Paneer | Paneer Makhani

This recipe is pretty versatile.  You can make it vegetarian by switching the chicken with paneer.  Simply marinate the paneer pieces, broil, them for 2 minutes and add them to the sauce after cooking it, in step 4 of this recipe.

You can make this dish dairy-free by substituting ghee with oil and heavy cream with coconut cream or a thick coconut milk.  I wouldn’t recommend using a fat-free or light version here. You need such little quantity anyway.

I have also used this sauce and put pre-made meatballs or veggie balls and you have Malai Koftas ready to impress!

How to Make Butter Chicken on the Stove

In this recipe video, I make the Butter Chicken in my electrical pressure cooker, Instant Pot.  But this recipe can be made on the stove-top too. Here’s how:

  1. Follow steps to marinate and broil or grill the chicken.
  2. In a dutch oven or a wide sauce pot, melt butter, add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 30 seconds on medium flame.
  3. Add tomato puree, spices, half the cream and the grilled chicken pieces with their juices.  Stir well and cook on medium flame for about 12-15 minutes, covered. Keep stirring every 2-3 minutes and if your sauce is beginning to look too thick, add 1/4 cup water so that it doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom.
  4. Open the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes uncovered.  Adjust seasoning and turn off the heat.  Let is rest for 5 minutes.  Add the remaining cream and garnish with chopped cilantro.  Serve with Garlic Naan or Cumin Basmati Rice and and Cucumber Raita (yoghurt dip).
Close up of Authentic Butter Chicken

Weeknight 30-Minute Easy Butter Chicken Recipe with Pot-in-Pot Rice

Easy Butter Chicken with Saffron Rice
Easy Butter Chicken with Saffron Rice

For nights when you don’t have the time to marinate the chicken, check out my 30-minute quick and easy butter chicken recipe. It has been tried and loved by many readers.

This recipe also includes instructions for making Pot-in-Pot Saffron rice, to serve with the chicken.

What to Serve with with Butter Chicken

Butter chicken pairs well with Garlic Naan or simple and fragrant Cumin Basmati Rice and Cucumber Raita (yoghurt dip).

Jeera Rice or Cumin Rice, is a popular Indian side dish where delicious and aromatic basmati rice is cooked with the nutty and earthy cumin seeds. It is one of the most popular accompaniment with Indian curries. Quick and easy recipe by Spice Cravings. #food #foodie #foodblogger #delicious #recipe #instantpot #recipes #easyrecipe #cuisine #30minutemeal #instagood #foodphotography #tasty #indian #basmati #rice
Cumin Rice
Cucumber Yoghurt Dip / Cucumber Raita, by Spice Cravings. Cucumber Raita is a yoghurt dip made by mixing together freshly chopped cucumber, cilantro, yogurt, salt, an Indian spice blend called Chaat Masala. #food #foodie #foodblogger #delicious #recipe #instantpot #recipes #easyrecipe #cuisine #30minutemeal #instagood #foodphotography #tasty
Cucumber Raita

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Top shot of authentic butter chicken

Butter Chicken: Authentic & Easy Murgh Makhani in the Instant Pot

Marinated and grilled chicken, simmered in a creamy tomato sauce, seasoned with toasted garam masala, coriander and cumin, and finished with a little heavy cream, this recipe for Authentic Butter Chicken will make your taste buds dance!
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Marination time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 3 people
Calories: 342kcal
Author: Spice Cravings

Ingredients

Marinade for Tandoori chicken:

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon Ghee : substitute with olive oil for dairy free
  • 14 oz. diced tomatoes pureed with hand blender or 4-5 ripe tomatoes pureed
  • 1 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste 1/2 inch ginger + 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red Chili Powder or cayenne
  • 2 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 2 teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar or white sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream : substitute with coconut cream for a dairy free dish
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro for garnish

Instructions

  • Marinate chicken: This step is optional, but highly recommended. If you don’t have the time for it, add an additional teaspoon garam masala in the sauce. Combine all ingredients listed under “Marinade”.  Add chicken and coat well with the marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes-overnight. 
  • Prepare sauce: For the sauce, heat the Instant Pot on Saute mode. Add butter (or olive oil for a dairy free dish). Then, add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add pureed tomatoes, all the spices and 1/2 of the heavy cream and stir well.   Reserve half the heavy cream for later.

Two ways to cook chicken:

  • Instant Pot: Place the marinated chicken (uncooked) on a trivet in the Instant pot, and pressure cook it with the sauce. This will allow it to seal the marinade flavors and cook everything in the same pot. Close lid and pressure cook for 6 minutes. 
    marinated chicken placed on a trivet in instant pot
  • Broil it in the oven: Alternatively, broil it or grill it for 6-8 minutes. We’re not cooking it through; just sealing the marinade flavors in the chicken.  Add grilled chicken pieces with their juices in the sauce in the instant pot.   Stir and then close lid. Set valve to Sealing and cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 5 minutes.
    Marinated chicken on a baking sheet for grilling in the oven
  • Open the lid after natural release of pressure (NPR). Add the remaining heavy cream and stir well. Garnish with chopped cilantro.  Serve with Naan or Cumin Basmati Rice!

Stove top recipe

  • Follow steps to marinate and broil or grill the chicken.
  • In a dutch oven or a wide sauce pot, melt butter, add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 30 seconds on medium flame.
  • Add tomato puree, spices, half the cream and the grilled chicken pieces with their juices. Stir well and cook on medium flame for about 10-12 minutes, covered. Keep stirring every 2-3 minutes and if your sauce is beginning to look too thick, add 1/4 cup water so that it doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom.
  • Open the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes uncovered. Adjust seasoning and turn off the heat. Let is rest for 5 minutes. Add the remaining cream and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with Garlic Naan or Cumin Basmati Rice and and Cucumber Raita (yoghurt dip).

Dairy-free variation

  • You can make this dish dairy-free by substituting ghee with oil and heavy cream with coconut cream or a thick coconut milk.  

Video

Notes

If you are new to the Instant Pot, please read my FAQ on Instant Pot Terminology and Accessories to learn more.
Cook time = Time to set for pressure cooking.  Total time includes 10 mins +/- for pressure build-up.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Calories: 342kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 159mg | Sodium: 853mg | Potassium: 553mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 23% | Vitamin C: 11.5% | Calcium: 9.2% | Iron: 14.6%
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Chicken Breast, chicken thighs
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Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Pari
    November 30, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Hi Aneesha, how are you? I’m planning to make this for a dinner party tomorrow (18 adults). I’ve few questions below. I would really appreciate your quick response on these.
    1) I was thinking about doubling the recipe. Do u think that would be enough? I’ll have 3 other items as main dishes like dal makhni, tandoori chicken & kadai paneer.
    2) My oven has bake & broil option. The broil has low and high setting. Which one should I use for this recipe?
    3) I was planning to make this today. Should I make the whole thing today or do u recommend I just do the sauce today and then broil the chicken tomorrow and boil it with the sauce.
    4) do you recommend any particular brand of Greek yogurt? I’ve a Safeway close by.

    Thanks a lot!
    Pari

    • Reply
      aneeshasg
      November 30, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Hi Pari, I am doing good, thanks, and I hope you’re having a lovely day as well! Your dinner menu sounds delicious by the way! I would love to help, so here are my answers to your questions based on how I adjust this recipe for that size of a gathering.
      1) 1 lb. of chicken should serve about 7-8 if you have 3 other main dishes. At my parties, Butter Chicken seems to be the preferred dish for many, especially kids, so I get around 3-3.5 lbs. of chicken for that size of a group. Doubling the recipe might be too tight, I would triple it. Again, you know your crowd best, plus you have tandoori chicken as well, so adjust based on preferences.
      2)Broil mode on high. Your sheet-pan should be placed such that the chicken pieces are about 3-4 inches away from the heating element.
      3)Make the sauce today, but don’t add the finishing portion of the cream. You can marinate and grill the chicken today and add it to the sauce (don’t have to heat it). Tomorrow, heat it in the oven or on slow heat, add the cream once it’s hot enough, heat it for another 3-4 minutes.
      4)Any brand of plain whole milk greek yogurt should work!
      Feel free to send any more questions. I hope you have a wonderful party tomorrow! If you get a chance post a pic or let me know how everyone liked it. Thanks!

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