This Instant Pot Chicken Curry recipe is a one-pot Indian chicken curry recipe that tastes so good. I've used my family's favorite chicken curry recipe, to make it pressure cooker-friendly.
(This recipe was first published in April 2018 and has been updated)
Indian households are incomplete without a stove-top pressure cooker. The traditional kind that lets off steam with a shrill whistle. Growing up in India, that whistle meant one thing - my mom's chicken curry was getting done!
Growing up with a pressure cooker as a staple household device, I was conditioned to check for done-ness of meat or lentils or rice not by the amount of cooking time, but by the number of whistles let off by the pressure cooker.
Modern pressure cooking has come a long way from the traditional stove-top pressure cooker. I'm equal parts nostalgic about the sound of the whistle, and at the same time, glad that my cooker doesn't whistle and shatter the peace in my Swiss neighborhood.
About this recipe
Over the years, I've eaten my way through and cooked up countless chicken curries. And there are so many versions, that a lifetime most definitely isn't enough to attempt every single one.
But, this post isn't about those curries, it is about my family's favorite chicken curry.
This chicken curry is inspired by my grandmother's Kerala chicken curry recipe, and I have added a few tweaks to it over time.
My family loves our chicken curries - from Butter Chicken, Kadhai Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala to Chicken Chettinad, however, whenever I crave a homestyle chicken curry that reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen, this is the recipe I come back to every single time.
I use a combination of yogurt, ground cashews, tomatoes, onions, and my homemade garam masala to make this recipe. This Instant Pot chicken curry is ideally made in the Instant Pot but can also be made on the stovetop, although the stove-top version will require more monitoring.
Why it works
There's a reason why this curry is our family's favorite recipe. With so many chicken curry recipes out there, why pick this one? Here's why!
- So much flavor - There's cashew paste, spice blends, a hearty marinade for the chicken - all of which gives this curry loads of flavor!
- Easy to make - This is such an easy recipe to follow, it does take a little time for prep, but I guarantee you the results are so worth it.
- Make it quick in the Instant Pot - Use the Instant Pot to make this recipe quicker than it takes to make on the stovetop. The Instant Pot also seals in the flavor while pressure cooking - you'll never want to go back to stovetop chicken curry.
(For exact ingredient measures, head to the recipe card at the bottom of this page)
- Chicken Legs and Thighs – Typically, kerala chicken curry is made with bone-in chicken, which gives it a lot more flavor than boneless meat. Use bone-in chicken legs and thighs preferably. However, if you want to replace bone-in chicken with boneless chicken, you can use boneless thigh meat.
- Ghee - I recommend using ghee rather than oil for this recipe
- Onions - Red or yellow onions, finely chopped
- Tomatoes – canned or fresh
- Yogurt - Use full-fat yogurt to marinate the chicken pieces
- Ginger and garlic - Use either ginger garlic paste, or freshly minced garlic and ginger
- Garam masala - I make my own garam masala spice blend (see recipe card below). You can also use a store-bought garam masala spice blend.
- Cashewnuts - Soak the cashews in warm water and blend them with a little water to form a cashew paste. This paste will form the base of the curry.
Step by Step Recipe
Instant Pot Chicken Curry can be made in a few simple steps:
Start by mixing the salt and yogurt with the cleaned chicken pieces and keep them aside. Add ghee or vegetable oil to the Instant Pot and set to Saute mode.
Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion, and saute for 4-5 minutes until onions are light brown - this slight caramelization of the onions gives the curry more flavor.
Hit 'Cancel' to stop cooking, add 1/2 cup of water, and deglaze the pot, making sure there is no residue sticking to the base of the pot. Then add the minced ginger and garlic (or use ginger garlic paste), followed by the chopped tomatoes.
Add the spice powders listed in the ingredient list, followed by the pre-marinated chicken.
Mix well, and ensure that there is nothing sticking at the base of the pot - residue sticking to the bottom of the pot will trigger a 'Food Burn' error.
Check to see that the level of liquid inside the IP is enough to just cover the chicken (see in the image below).
Cook on Pressure Cook mode for 5 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, the IP will default to Keep Warm mode. Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, and then manually release pressure (quick pressure release).
Once the pressure has released and the pressure valve comes down, open the lid and add the cashew paste. Cashew paste is made by soaking cashews in warm water and blending together to form a paste. Then add in fresh chopped cilantro (coriander).
Give it all a stir, switch to 'Saute' mode. Simmer for another 6 minutes until the chicken is done and the liquid in the curry has reduced. Your Instant Pot Chicken Curry is ready to be served.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use fresh or frozen, boneless or bone-in chicken for this recipe. The pressure-cooking time will vary for bone-in and boneless chicken pieces. It will also differ by the size of the chicken pieces you are using. In this recipe, the chicken is cooked first in Pressure Cook mode, and then in Sauté.
Bone-in fresh chicken: Pressure cook 6 minutes, Natural Pressure release for 5 minutes, followed by a quick release. Sauté for 6 minutes after pressure cooking.
Boneless fresh chicken: Pressure Cook for 5 minutes, followed by a quick release. Sauté for 5 minutes after pressure cooking.
Boneless frozen chicken: Pressure Cook 6 minutes, Natural Pressure release for 5 minutes, followed by a quick release. Sauté for 5 minutes after pressure cooking.
Yes! you can simply follow the directions above for pressure cooking boneless chicken (either fresh or frozen) in the Instant Pot.
Follow these tips to make sure your Instant Pot Chicken Curry comes out perfectly every single time:
Sauté the onions: Sautéing the onions at the beginning of the recipe will make them caramelize a little and give them more flavor.
Adding cream at the end: You can add some cream towards the end to give the curry extra richness. This is totally optional!
Make your own ginger-garlic paste: Blend1/3 cup of garlic and 1/2 cup of ginger along with 1 teaspoon oil in a spice grinder or blender. Keep a jar of the paste in the fridge and use as needed.
Make your own garam masala: Try to use fresh, whole spices and grind them to make your preferred spice mix. This is my go-to recipe for garam masala: In a pan on the stove-top, heat the following spices: 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, 5-6 cardamoms, 6-7 cloves, 2-inch piece cinnamon, 2-3 pieces of mace. Once the spices are heated and begin releasing their aromas, grind them in a coffee grinder. Store the ground spice mix in an air-tight jar and use it as needed.
Avoid the 'Burn Error': The 'Burn' error is an all-too-common problem with Instant Pot users. The device will throw up a Burn error if the liquid in the pot is too thick, or if there is residue stuck to the bottom of the pot. Avoid this by ensuring you have enough liquid to cover the chicken (see step-by-step recipe images above) and by deglazing the pot to remove residue.
Try these Indian Curries too
Instant Pot Chicken Curry
- 6 chicken legs and thighs skinless, bone-in
- 2 teaspoons ghee or use vegetable oil
- 2 onions chopped
- 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste you can use minced ginger and garlic or blend them to a paste
- ¾ cup yogurt
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 1.5 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder use Kashmiri chili powder or paprika powder
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust this as per your taste
- 1/2 cup cashew nuts soaked in warm water for 10-15 mins
- ½ cup Water add extra if needed
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1/4 cup Coriander leaves to garnish
- Clean the chicken thighs and legs, using a knife, score the meat lightly (make smalll slits in the chicken) and mix together with yogurt and salt. Keep aside.
- Blend the cashews that have been soaking in warm water to a paste (use just a little water to blend). Keep aside for later.
- Turn the IP to 'Saute' mode and add the ghee or vegetable oil.
- Once hot, add the chopped onions and saute for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned.
- Hit 'Cancel' and add 1/2 cup of water and deglaze the pot, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste (or minced ginger and garlic). Then add the spice powders (garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder).
- Add the chicken that has been marinating in the yogurt.
- Mix well and ensure that the level of liquid in the pot is such that the chicken is covered in the liquid (less liquid and thick liquids such as tomato purees can cause the 'Food Burn' notice to be triggered)
- Put on the lid of the IP, pressure cook in 'Pressure Cook' (some models of IP will have the Manual mode) for 5 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, the IP defaults to 'Keep Warm' mode. Let this stay in Keep Warm mode for 5 minutes more (the pressure releases naturally) and then manually release pressure.
- Once all steam has released (the safety valve should have dropped) open the lid of the IP, and switch to 'Saute' mode.
- Add the blended cashew paste and chopped cilantro.
- Stir well, and let the curry simmer for 5-6 minutes until the liquid in the curry has reduced and thickened slightly.
- Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice or naan.
- Sautéing the onions at the beginning of the recipe will make them caramelize a little and give it depth and flavor
- You can add some cream towards the end to give the curry extra richness
- Make your own ginger-garlic paste: Blend 1/3 cup of garlic and 1/2 cup of ginger along with 1 teaspoon oil in a spice grinder or blender. Keep a jar of the paste in the fridge and use as needed.
- Make your own garam masala: In a pan on the stove-top, heat: 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, 5-6 cardamoms, 6-7 cloves, 2-inch piece cinnamon, 2-3 pieces of mace. Once the spices are heated and begin releasing their aromas, grind them in a coffee grinder. Store the ground spice mix in an air-tight jar and use as needed.