Easy Instant Pot Butter Chicken and Saffron Rice (with Dairy-Free option)

March 9, 2018 (Updated: April 18, 2019) By Aneesha |

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Tender and juicy chicken, cooked in a creamy-buttery tomato sauce, served with Saffron flavored Basmati Rice. This recipe for Easy Butter Chicken and Saffron Rice in the instant pot is the super-easy adaptation of my recipe for Authentic Butter Chicken.

Butter Chicken is one of my kids’ favorite Indian curries.  With this recipe, I simplified the cooking process to be less than 30 minutes, without losing any of that amazing rich flavor.

And to make it a one-pot meal, I cooked saffron rice in the same pot, using pot-in-pot (PIP) cooking method in Instant Pot pressure cooker. 

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

Traditional Butter Chicken Recipe

Zoomed in image of Instant Pot Palak paneer served in a white ceramic bowl
Another Classic: Saag Paneer / Palak Paneer

In my original recipe for Authentic Butter Chicken, I follow the traditional method and marinate the chicken overnight in yogurt and toasted ground Garam Masala.  Then, I grill it and simmer it in a tomato-cream sauce.

Marinating the chicken makes the chicken moist, juicy, and flavorful.  Grilling it adds a delicious char-broiled smoky flavor to it.  Believe me, all that effort is worth the time it takes to make it.

But, I was looking to simplify this recipe, to make it weeknight-friendly, so I would be able to make it more often for my kids.  After a few attempts, I finally succeeded, and it was approved by the Butter Chicken connoisseurs, my kids 🙂

Easy Instant Pot Butter Chicken and Rice – Perfect Weeknight Meal

In this easier and time saving Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe, I skip the marination, add extra Garam Masala to the sauce, use diced boneless skinless chicken and pressure cook it with pot-in-pot rice .  Try it and enjoy a restaurant style Indian treat, right in the comfort of your home, even on a weeknight!

The Origin of Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani, literally means ‘chicken cooked in a buttery rich sauce’.  It is an authentic Punjabi dish (North-Indian) that was created in the 1950s, in a super popular restaurant in New Delhi called ‘Moti Mahal Delux’.

The founder and chef of the restaurant decided to use left-over Tandoori Chicken (Indian-Spiced Grilled 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.

Close up of Authentic Butter Chicken
Restaurant-Style Butter Chicken Recipe

Why do They Call it Butter Chicken

The Indian name for Butter Chicken is Murgh Makhani, which means, chicken cooked in a buttery sauce. Back in the 1950’s, which is when this dish was invented, people cooked food in clarified butter, called Ghee.

To add a rich and creamy taste to a dish, fresh butter was added in the end. This fresh butter, also called ‘White Butter‘ was made by churning fresh cream. During the churning process, The whey would separate and what would be left behind was pure creamy fresh butter.

In a modern-day adaptation of this recipe, restaurants started using heavy cream instead of fresh butter, which gives this dish its iconic smooth and creamy taste. So, you don’t have to add butter to make Butter Chicken! But if you wish, you can replace the ghee or oil with unsalted butter.

Lactose-free, Paleo & Gluten Free Butter Chicken Recipe

This recipe can be made dairy-free by substituting the heavy cream with full-fat coconut milk. It’s as easy as that. There is no other substitution required.  And, this recipe is Gluten-free, which makes it perfect for entertaining as well.

To make this Butter Chicken Keto, simply skip the sugar and follow the rest of the recipe.   Instead of a rice side, have with some salad.

POT-in-POT Rice: How to Cook Butter Chicken and Saffron Rice in the same pot

In this recipe, I cooked everything in one-pot, using the pot-in-pot technique in my electrical pressure cooker, Instant Pot.  Since chicken and basmati rice have the same cook time (6 minutes on high pressure), it is a great combination to make in one-pot. Watch the video to see how easy this process is.

I assemble the butter chicken in the main pot of Instant Pot.  Then, I place a tall trivet and place the rice bowl on top of that.  I pressure cook it for 6 minutes.  After waiting for 10 minutes, I manually release the pressure.  That’s it!  Butter Chicken is ready to be served over Saffron Rice!

How to cook butter chicken and rice in the same pot in instant pot
Butter Chicken with Pot-in-Pot Saffron Rice

Accessories Needed for This Chicken and Rice Pot-in-Pot Recipe

  1. Tall Trivet
  2. Stainless Steel Bowl, or any oven-safe bowl

Click here to see more ONE-POT stacking recipes (PIP)

Make it Vegetarian- Paneer Butter Masala

The base sauce that I make this recipe is vegetarian.  So, you can easily switch the protein in this dish and make it vegetarian.  You can add Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese), extra-firm Tofu, mushrooms, or, a medley of veggies as well. Check out the recipe for a vegetarian favorite that I make with this sauce,  Paneer Butter Masala, or, Paneer Makhani.

Instant pot paneer butter masala, instant pot paneer makhani

What to Serve with Instant Pot Butter Chicken

I love pairing Butter Chicken with Saffron Rice! Both these dishes are aromatic and have intense flavor, as a result of which, they compliment each other so well.

Basmati rice is cooked in a Saffron infused broth to make Saffron Rice.  Saffron compliments the aromatic and nutty basmati rice and elevates it to an elegant side dish. Click here for the step-by-step recipe of Saffron Rice.

Another popular pairing with Butter Chicken is Cumin Rice (Zeera Rice).

Jeera rice , basmati rice flavored with fried cumin seeds
Cumin Rice
Cucumber Yoghurt Dip / Cucumber Raita
Cucumber Raita

A side of Cucumber Raita really completes this meal. Since this recipe uses warm Indian spices, yogurt balances that warmth and adds a cooling freshness to this Easy Butter Chicken meal.

★ Have you tried this recipe? Click on the stars ★ in the recipe card to let us know your feedback!

Easy Butter Chicken with Saffron Rice

Easy Butter Chicken and Saffron Rice (with Dairy-Free option)

Instant Pot Butter Chicken with Saffron Rice ! Tender and juicy chicken, cooked in a creamy tomato sauce, with pot-in-pot Saffron flavored Basmati Rice! This easy Butter Chicken recipe is a quick & easy ONE-POT meal, ready in 30 minutes. 
5 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
NPR: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 5 people
Calories: 371kcal


Butter Chicken

Add after cooking

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream OR, Full-Fat Coconut milk for dairy Free option
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Saffron Rice


  • Rice: Rinse basmati rice 2-3 times, till the water runs clear. In an oven safe bowl, add rice, water, saffron, that has been microwaved for 20 seconds in water, oil, salt and slivered almonds. Keep aside.
  • Sauce: Turn Instant pot on SAUTE. Turning on ‘saute’ will warm everything through while we assemble the recipe, thereby reducing the pressure building time. Add ghee or oil, ginger and garlic paste, tomato sauce and spices. I puree diced canned tomatoes, but you can also use ripe tomatoes and puree them. Add chicken pieces and stir.   If your instant pot gives you burn messages often, then add 1/2 cup water.
    Butter Chicken with Trivet on top for Instant Pot Butter Chicken & Rice Recipe
  • Place trivet and put the rice bowl on top of that. Close the lid. Cancel SAUTE. Pressure cook for 6 minutes on Manual/pressure Cook. Vent set to Sealing position.
    Steel bowl with rice, saffron and almonds placed inside the instant pot
  • Wait 5 minutes and release all the pressure by turning the valve from Sealing to Venting position (NPR 5). Open lid after pin drops.  Remove rice and fluff with a fork.
  • Turn on SAUTE. Add heavy cream or Coconut milk and saute for 2-3 minutes, till the sauce thickens a bit. Optionally, add sugar and stir. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with Saffron rice and Naan!
    Easy Butter Chicken with Saffron Rice

Stovetop recipe

  • Heat a saucepan on medium heat.   Add ghee or oil, ginger garlic paste, tomato sauce and spices. I puree diced tomatoes, but you can also use ripe tomatoes and puree them.  Add chicken pieces and stir.   
  • Add 1/2 cup water, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, till chicken is tender.
  • Add heavy cream or coconut milk and saute for 2-3 minutes, till the sauce thickens a bit. Optionally, add sugar and stir.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with Saffron rice and Naan!


Notes & Recipe Tips

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
The nutritional information does not include Saffron rice.  You can get that information on the Saffron rice recipe link.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.


Calories: 371kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 202mg | Sodium: 892mg | Potassium: 670mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1165IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2.8mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: chicken breasts, chicken thighs, Mughali
Did you try this recipe?Mention @SpiceCravings or tag #spicecravings!
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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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  • Reply
    Dana Griffiths
    August 25, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    5 stars
    This was sooooo delicious! I made this almost exactly as written, with a couple of minor substitutions for stuff I had on hand. I used chopped garlic for garlic paste, and 18% coffee cream instead of whipping cream, which made it a bit thinner, I think, but still….. the flavour! I am still basking in this meal 4 hours later. I paired it with your saffron rice recipe. Thanks so much for making this such an easy meal to prepare, and with such a great blend of spices.
    One note – I was making this for someone who doesn’t like things too spicy, so whenever there was a range, I went for the lower end. I figured if it was too bland I would increase it next time. I won’t need to – it was perfect the way it was.

    • Reply
      August 26, 2019 at 4:57 pm

      Hi Dana, I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe. It’s one of my favorite meals. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and rate this recipe. Try the chicken curry, I am sure you will like that too. Thanks again!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2018 at 2:30 am

    This recipe is just as advertised, very quick and easy but also flavorful and delicious. I’ve seen a lot of “easy” or “30-minute” recipes on other sites that had so much prep it took me almost two hours to make them. This one was so quick I rechecked the recipe to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I’ll be making this again very soon.

    My wife and I like some heat and I live in a Bangladeshi neighborhood so I added a lot of extra fresh spices that I ground up at home. I used a lot more garam masala than called for in the recipe as well. Also, this is the first time I’ve used the pot-in-pot cooking method for the rice and it worked perfectly.

    I had some challenges with thickening the sauce at the end. My Instant Pot has been giving me burn messages for other recipes (I’m still relatively new to using it) so I added the half cup of water as suggested. The sauce came out very thin by the end of the pressure cooking time. I added a half cup of coconut milk but this didn’t seem to thicken it at all. I ended up adding a bunch of corn starch to thicken it, because it had been simmering much longer than the 2-3 minutes called for in the recipe and we were very hungry. I might not use the extra water next time, but do you have any other suggestions for making thickening the sauce easier or more effective? The corn starch worked but it did lump up a bit and I feel like using coconut milk is more flavorful.

    • Reply
      November 13, 2018 at 9:48 am

      Hi Jeffery! I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe- comments like yours always makes my day 🙂 As for thickening the sauce, there are a few variables that can cause extra liquid. You can definitely skip the water next time. Another thing you can do is add coconut cream instead of milk. When you buy a can of full-fat coconut milk, the coconut cream tends to rise to the top. So, don’t shake the can before opening and skim that cream with a spoon and add that to the sauce. That is a more natural way of thickening than adding cornstarch and it will enhance the flavor too. If you try it, I would love to hear how you liked it. Thanks again, for sharing your feedback!

    • Reply
      November 13, 2018 at 9:50 am

      Oh, and please rate the recipe by clicking on the stars. It encourages other readers to try a recipe. Thanks much!

  • Reply
    October 27, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    5 stars
    OMG Aneesha, this is so good! I’d been checking out this recipe for almost a week wanting to make it, and tonight I finally did. I made some slight variations due to what I had on hand. #1, I used half chicken stock and half water for the saffron rice, and #2, I used a full cup of coconut milk for the gravy. Everything turned out divine, and I’m eating it now hoping I have the willpower to save some for my husband when he gets home later.

    Thank you SO MUCH for this recipe! It’s going to be a kitchen staple from now on.

    • Reply
      October 27, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      That is awesome Lisa! I am so glad you enjoyed it so much. It’s on repeat menu in my house:) Thanks so much for sharing!

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