Perfect chicken tikka masala made in the InstantPot

Perfect chicken tikka masala made in the InstantPot

Ever since I got an InstantPot a few years ago, I've been trying to find the best butter chicken/tikka masala type recipe I could find. There are no Indian restaurants within 30 miles of me and I miss the cuisine. I've tried half a dozen out until I decided to start averaging ingredients between them and tweaking parts from the ones I liked.

This recipe post is an amalgamation of the 2-3 favorite versions I found online. In the end, you'll get perfectly cooked delicious chicken in a thick curry sauce, perfect for serving on rice, using the minimum of ingredients.


Put your instant pot on saute, and wait until it gets to full temp (the display says HOT), then toss in two tablespoons (quarter stick) of unsalted butter and let it go until it's all melted.

Dice up one white onion, then add it to the sauce pot, along with 3 crushed cloves of garlic and some fresh ginger (I use a tube of ginger paste, adding a tablespoon in). Mix and let the whole thing cook for 4 minutes.

Next toss in your spices into the onions and mix. It's a tablespoon of garam masala, then teaspoons each of kosher salt, turmeric, smoked paprika, and any other curry spices if you got it. If want it hotter than mild shake a bit of cayenne pepper into it. Let the spices cook up and blossom for a full minute.

Add a 28oz can of peeled tomatoes, and crush up the tomatoes with your hands as you toss them into the pot to help liquify them. Throw in 1.5 to 2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs. Mix everything together, then make sure the tomato paste/liquids cover all the chicken before securing the lid.

Set your InstantPot to a manual high pressure cook for 10min. It will likely take 10-15min to get up to pressure/temp before the 10min of cook time begins

After 10 minutes of cooking, let it sit for 10min of natural release, then release any remaining pressure.

Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs and cut into 1" cubes on a cutting board, then leave your chicken on cutting board for now.

Throw in 2 more tablespoons of butter (quarter stick) along with 1/2 cup (4oz) of heavy cream, then mix. Optionally, toss a few shakes of fresh garam masala powder to spark up the flavor vs. the spent garam masala that was cooked.

Use a stick blender/immersion blender to blend the sauce until smooth, just about 30-60sec, until all the tomato and onion chunks are gone.

Slide your chopped chicken back into the pot, set it to warm to let it cook down the curry, and serve up your chicken curry over white rice.


• some recipes call for coconut milk or yogurt in place of cream, but this one recipe comes out most like the chicken curry I find in Indian buffets

• a lot of recipes call for boneless chicken breast but it can overcook easily and get tough in a pressure cooker if you go just a minute or two too long, while thighs have more moisture and are harder to ruin

• start rice in a rice cooker before you fire up the InstantPot so it's ready well before the chicken is done

• almost every online recipe calls for cutting up the raw chicken before cooking, but being able to pull the big pieces out and blend the sauce yields a way tastier and smoother curry sauce in the end

• total cook time with prep is close to an hour
Photo of chicken tikka masala over rice in a blue bowl