Authentic Butter Chicken | Murgh Makhani in Instant Pot

Top shot of authentic butter chicken

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!

Close up of Authentic Butter Chicken

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.  It’s funny how till date whenever I am inviting non-Indian friends over for an Indian meal, they always expect Butter Chicken or Chicken Tikka Masala to be on the menu.

Difference between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) is the British cousin of Butter Chicken.  So legend goes that somewhere in England, in an Indian restaurant, a customer ordered “Chicken Tikka“- grilled chicken skewers.

He sent it back to the kitchen complaining that it was too dry and needed some sauce.  So, the restaurant’s Bangladeshi chef improvised and made a sauce using a can of tomato soup, Indian spices and heavy cream, dunk the pieces in and finished the sauce with some ‘butter’, and that’s how Chicken Tikka Masala was born.

So, you see how both dishes have a lot in common- both include marinated and grilled chicken simmered in a rich tomato based gravy- one is more creamy (BC), the other, more spicy and tomato-ey (CTM).

Close up of Butter Chicken made in Instant Pot

Authentic Butter Chicken 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

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!

Stove Top Recipe for Authentic Butter Chicken

In this recipe, I made 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 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.
  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 Butter Chicken Recipe

For nights when you don’t have the time to marinate the chicken, check out my 30-minute quick and easy butter chicken recipe.


Quick & Easy 30-Minute Butter Chicken
Instant Pot Easy Butter Chicken with Saffron Rice by Spice Cravings. Tender and juicy chicken, cooked in a creamy-buttery tomato sauce, served with Saffron flavored Basmati Rice! This 'Easy Butter Chicken' is a quick & easy "weeknight" recipe. I simplified the butter chicken recipe, cut down cooking time, and still retained that amazing delicious flavor. #cooking #food #recipe #recipes #foodphotography #foodblogger #yummy #delicious #foodie

Dishes that Pair Well 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 Jeera Basmati 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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4 from 2 votes
Top shot of authentic butter chicken
Butter Chicken: Authentic & Easy Murgh Makhani in the Instant Pot
Cook Time
30 mins
Marination time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

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!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 342 kcal
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
  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. Two ways to cook chicken:

    1. Broil it in the oven: 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 and stir. Close lid, set valve to Sealing and cook on Manual/Pressure Cook for 5 minutes.

    2. Instant Pot: Alternatively, 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. 

  4. 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
  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 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.

  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).

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

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

If you are new to the Instant Pot, please read my FAQ on Instant Pot Terminology and Accessories to learn more.

 

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 Facts
Butter Chicken: Authentic & Easy Murgh Makhani in the Instant Pot
Amount Per Serving
Calories 342 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 34%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Cholesterol 159mg 53%
Sodium 853mg 36%
Potassium 553mg 16%
Total Carbohydrates 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 4g
Protein 26g 52%
Vitamin A 23%
Vitamin C 11.5%
Calcium 9.2%
Iron 14.6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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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! 
#spicecravings #chicken #butterchicken #india #food #foodie #foodblogger #delicious #recipe #instantpot #instantpotrecipes #easyrecipe #instagood #foodphotography #tasty #curry #indian #yum #wprecipemaker

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