Instant Pot Butter Chicken with Cashew Butter is a healthy Instant Pot recipe inspired by Indian butter chicken, but without the extra calories. The succulent pieces of chicken are spiced to perfection and cooked in a rich and vibrant tomato sauce. This is a quick and easy recipe that’s perfect for a weeknight!
Table of Contents
Butter Chicken is one of the most popular Instant Pot Indian recipes out there. I wanted to make a healthy Instant Pot recipe that has as much flavor, but is healthier. This recipe is a marriage between my Instant Pot Indian Chicken curry and Instant Pot Chicken Tikka masala.
Before you scroll down to look at the recipe ingredients, let me just tell you not to be put off by the number of ingredients. Once you get all the spices together, this recipe is so easy! The bulk of the work is gathering up the spices, cutting the chicken into bite-size pieces, and sauteing the onions. And some of that work can be done ahead of time.
This Indian Instant Pot Cashew Butter Chicken is sooo good! You can either serve it with warm, toasty naan that’s perfect for scooping up the chicken pieces or with basmati rice which absorbs the rich flavors of the sauce. Or maybe both – I love rice, but my husband loves naan, so I serve this curry with both!
I love the combination of chicken curry served with potatoes. The last time I made this recipe I served it with a South Indian Stir-fried Potato recipe. It’s one of my older recipes, so don’t mind the photography! It’s not an Instant Pot recipe, but I use the Instant Pot to pressure cook the potatoes for 0 minutes before adding them to the recipe and that makes them cook much faster.
Tips and Substitutions
Add More Flavor
This recipe tastes great the day you cook it, but it tastes so much better the next day. I find this to be the case with Indian curries, in general. So if you can make it ahead of time, I highly recommend it!
Ghee adds lovely flavor to this recipe and that’s why I love using it. I don’t generally buy ghee, but prefer to make my own with this Instant Pot Ghee. You can substitute butter or even vegetable oil.
There are Instant Pot Indian recipes out there that don’t require you to saute onions to a golden brown. As a matter of fact, some recipe authors say it doesn’t matter if you just saute the onions till translucent, which takes much less time. I’ve tried that and the results are fine but sauteing them till they’re a nice brown color (without burning!) gives Indian recipes unparalleled flavor. Just saying!
I feel it’s worth the extra time. When you’re sauteing in the Instant Pot on Medium heat, it’s possible your onions can brown too quickly. What I do is deglaze with a tiny bit of broth every so often. This incorporates the caramelization into the onion mixture without burning the onions. Sometimes I saute a larger batch of onions ahead of time, refrigerate them on the weekend and then use them as needed when I’m making a recipe during the week.
Green Chili Peppers
I find that jalapeno spiciness can be hit or miss. I’ll get one that’s super spicy and the next one can be mild. With serrano green chili peppers, I’ve found the spiciness level to be more consistent. If you don’t like a lot of spice, just add 1/4 of a chili.
Fenugreek is an herb that’s commonly used in Indian cooking. In Hindi, it’s referred to as ‘methi’. Methi leaves and seeds are common in Indian cooking. Fenugreek’s flavor has been described as a cross between celery and maple.
I like to use dried fenugreek leaves because of their shelf life and they’re easily available at Indian grocery stores or on amazon. I highly recommend fenugreek but if you can’t find it, omit it.
Kashmiri Chili Powder
Kashmiri chili powder is a special kind of Indian chili powder that has a bright red color without being too spicy. I actually use more than is called for in the recipe, so if you like your curries on the spicy side, you can add more.
It can be found at Indian grocery stores or on amazon. If you can’t find Kashmiri chili powder, go ahead and substitute a smaller quantity of cayenne pepper.
The great thing about Indian dishes is that you can make them as mild as you like by adjusting the quantity of chili powder or substituting paprika for the chili powder. The recipe, as written, is not very spicy (by my Indian standards!)
I like the addition of honey to balance out the tanginess of the tomatoes. Honey is optional, and you can also substitute it with brown sugar or white sugar.
Yogurt is another common ingredient in Indian cooking. I prefer to use whole milk yogurt rather than low fat. When you open the lid after the curry is finished pressure cooking, you may see that the yogurt appears to have curdled. I find that once the curry has been stirred and it rests for a bit, it looks just fine.
Tomato sauce is a canned tomato concentrate similar to tomato puree with minimal spices, used to make tomato-based sauces like pasta sauce. In the UK, for example, it’s called tomato passata.
Tomato sauce can be stirred in with the remaining ingredients and many Instant Pots will seal just fine. However, some Instant Pots are more prone to the BURN error. So I play it safe when I give you instructions and tell you not to stir the tomato sauce in. You’ll PROBABLY be okay stirring it in, but I can’t guarantee it.
I like this Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe to have a bold tomato flavor. If you’d like to tone down the tomato flavor, you might consider using 3/4 cup of tomato sauce.
If you can’t find cashew butter, take a couple of tablespoons of roasted cashews and blend them to a smooth paste, adding enough water or broth to get the blender moving. If you add too much water the mixture may be too grainy and watery.
Gram flour is a commonly used Indian ingredient. It’s known as besan in Hindi. If you’ve ever had pakoras at an Indian restaurant, they’re made with besan. The gram flour thickens the curry and has a complementary flavor.
If possible, use a homemade garam masala, preferably ground fresh. You can also use store-bought garam masala. If you’d like to make your own garam masala, here’s a quick way:
- 2 tsp whole cloves (1 1/2 tsp ground cloves)
- 2 (2-inch) pieces of cinnamon stick (1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cardamom pods (1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
- 1 nutmeg (1 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder)
- 2 Tbsp fennel seeds (2 Tbsp ground fennel)
- 3 pieces star anise (1 tsp powdered star anise)
- 5 tsp whole black pepper (1 Tbsp black pepper powder)
- 1 Tbsp whole mace (1 tsp mace)
Grind in a coffee grinder or mix powders together and store in a cool dry place. The aroma is heavenly!!
If you’re new to the Instant Pot and aren’t familiar with how to use it, please read the Instant Pot DUO Beginner’s Quick Start Guide or the Instant Pot ULTRA Beginner’s Quick Start Guide first and then come back here to learn how to make this recipe for Healthy Instant Pot Butter Chicken.
Healthy Instant Pot Butter Chicken – Ingredients
- Garam Masala
- Chili powder
- Tomato sauce
- Green chili pepper
- Cashew butter
- Chickpea flour (besan)
How to Make Healthy Instant Pot Butter Chicken (Step by Step Instructions)
- Turn on Saute Mode
- Saute whole spices in ghee.
- Saute onion mixture and add powdered spices.
- Saute spices and stir in chicken and broth.
- Stir in yogurt and tomato sauce.
- Pressure cook for 4 minutes.
- Do a natural pressure release (NPR).
- Thicken the curry.
How to Turn on Saute Mode
- Instant Pot DUO: Select the Saute function.
- Instant Pot ULTRA: Select the Saute function and press Start.
Saute Whole Spices in Ghee
- Once the inner pot has heated up, add ghee.
- When ghee has melted, add whole spices (cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves) and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
- Add onion, ginger and garlic.
Saute Onion Mixture and Add Powdered Spices
- Stir in green chilis and saute the onion mixture until onions are rich golden brown. This may take 10 to 15 minutes.
- Press ‘Cancel’. The spices will cook in the residual heat.
- Stir in coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, salt, fenugreek and honey.
If the onion starts to stick to the bottom or burn, add a teaspoon or two of broth to deglaze, and continue sauteing. Do this as often as needed until the onions are cooked properly.
Saute Spices and Stir in Chicken and Broth
- Saute the spices with the onion mixture for about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the chicken and broth.
Stir in Yogurt and Tomato Sauce
- Add yogurt and stir till combined.
- Add tomato sauce on top but DON’T stir.
Instant Pot Duo Pressure Cook 4 minutes
- Close the lid and make sure steam release handle is in Sealing position
- Press Manual (or Pressure Cook) and + or – until the display reads 4 (4 minutes).
Instant Pot Ultra Pressure Cook 4 minutes
- Close the lid.
- Select Pressure Cook mode and adjust the time to 4 minutes (00:04).
- Press ‘Start’.
Pressure Cooking Process (Duo and Ultra)
- Instant Pot display will change to On.
- Once the Instant Pot is pressurized, the float valve will go up.
- The display will count down to 0; it will then switch to Keep Warm mode and display L0:00 or 00 00 and begin to count up the number of minutes since pressure cooking completed.
How to Naturally Release Pressure (NPR) on the DUO and ULTRA
- Allow the pressure to release naturally (NPR). The float valve will be in the down position. This may take 15 to 30 minutes. [Find out more about the pressure release methods and how and when to use them. ]
- Press Cancel and open the Instant Pot.
If you’re short on time, it’s perfectly okay to do a 10 or 15-minute natural release i.e. wait for 10 or 15 minutes and release pressure.
– DUO: Move the pressure release handle to the venting position
– ULTRA: Press the steam release button.
– Once all the steam has been released, the float valve will come down.
Thicken the Curry
- Stir in the cashew butter, chickpea flour, and garam masala.
- Select ‘Saute’ mode, and cook for a minute or two until thickened and heated through, stirring frequently.
- Press ‘Cancel’ and stir in chopped cilantro.
Healthy Instant Pot Butter Chicken with Cashew Butter
- 2 Tbsp ghee
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cardamom pods
- 5 ground cloves
- 2 cups onion chopped
- 2 Tbsp ginger minced
- 2 Tbsp garlic minced
- 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper (optional), slit lengthwise
- 2 Tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/2 tsp salt or to taste!
- 2 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (dried methi)
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 3/4 cup yogurt
- 1 cup tomato sauce *
- 2 Tbsp cashew butter
- 1 Tbsp gram flour or chickpea flour
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Select Saute and allow the Instant Pot to heat up. Once the inner pot has heated up, add ghee.
- Once the ghee has melted, add cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
- Stir in onion, ginger, garlic, green chilis and saute the onion mixture until onions are rich golden brown. This may take 10 to 15 minutes. Be patient and don't let the onions burn. **
- Press Cancel. The spices will cook in the residual heat.
- Stir in coriander, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, salt, fenugreek and honey. Deglaze with a small amount of broth if you find that the spices are burning.
- Stir the spices with the onion mixture for about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the chicken and broth. Scrape the bottom of the inner pot to make sure there are not brown bits stuck to the bottom.
- Add yogurt and stir till combined.
- Close the lid and pressure cook on High Pressure for 4 minutes.
- Allow the pressure to release naturally (NPR). This usually takes 15 minutes. Press Cancel and open the Instant Pot. *** [Read More: The Different Pressure Release Methods]
- Select Saute mode and stir in the cashew butter, gram flour, and garam masala.
- Heat through until thickened, stirring frequently, about 1 or 2 minutes.
- Press Cancel and stir in chopped cilantro.
- Serve with toasted naan or basmati rice.
- Prep time does not include steps that are already accounted for in the ingredient list, e.g. cut up chicken, chopped onion, etc.
- * American tomato sauce (called tomato passata in the UK), not tomato ketchup. Use 3/4 cup if you prefer to have a less bold tomato flavor. The flavors do mellow if you wait a day.
- ** If the onion starts to stick to the bottom or burn, add a tablespoon of broth to deglaze and continue sauteing. Do this as often as needed until the onions are cooked properly.
- *** If you’re short on time, it’s perfectly okay to do a 10 or 15-minute natural release i.e. wait for 10 or 15 minutes and release pressure.
- See the blog post for more detailed recipe tips. You don’t want to miss any!
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I am not a certified nutritionist. I provide my best estimate of nutritional information merely as a courtesy to my readers. If you depend on nutritional information for dietary or health reasons, I suggest using your favorite online nutrition calculator to confirm the nutritional value of this recipe based on the actual ingredients that you use.
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