Instant Pot Chicken Curry ticks all of my weeknight dinner boxes: quick, easy, stupid flavorful, and totally kid-friendly. This recipe goes from fridge to table in 30 minutes using a pressure cooker. Gluten free and dairy free with a Whole30 option, this is comfort food meal you can feel really good about loving.
Winner winner, Instant Pot chicken dinner! Um, YES. I pinky promise, this Instant Pot Chicken Curry is a recipe that your whole family is going to love! It’s rich and creamy and mild in spice, so it’s great for little ones and anyone who’s sensitive to heat.
Made with real, whole food ingredients in just 30 minutes, it’s so easy to make chicken curry in your Instant Pot for a quick, delicious and hassle free dinner.
What is chicken curry?
So a (quick) history lesson: “curry” is a catch-all colonial term used to identify spices from any number of countries and cultures. Curry is both a seasoning blend, and a dish (typically sauce-based with protein). Curry seasoning blends and dishes are common to a variety of regions globally – there are plentiful recipes for Indian, Asian, and Caribbean curry recipes.
Most of the curry recipes Americans enjoy are British-ized Indian dishes, and this is one such recipe. It’s a decent approximation of “chicken curry” that’s offered at your local Indian restaurant (although that one will likely be rich with hand-ground spices, fresh chilis, and tons of spice). Our Instant Pot Chicken Curry is a milder, family friendly version you can easily make at home – there’s a place for both in my foodie heart!
Instant Pot Curry Spices
A great curry recipe is all about the flavors and aromatics, and this Instant Pot version is no different. This is a pretty standard Americanized chicken curry – which is to say it’s on the sweet side, and not incredibly spicy.
- Curry powder: Do pick a curry powder that suits your level of heat, and do make sure it’s fresh. Commercial blends are often labeled “sweet” or “hot”. If you’re not a curry or spice aficionado, go with Madras curry powder – it’s an all-around “basic” curry option that’s widely available, and is what we regularly use.
- Cumin: Ground cumin has an earthy and nutty taste with the perfect kick of spice (not heat).
- Turmeric: Turmeric has a bitter and earthy flavor and lends beautiful color to the finished dish.
- Fresh garlic and ginger: Use fresh ginger and garlic for the freshest flavors. Mince both as finely as you can to release the most aroma. Garlic can be minced with your favorite chef’s knife. I prefer to grate ginger finely with a microplane, or using the smallest holes on a box grater.
How to Make Instant Pot Chicken Curry
Instant Pot chicken curry is ready in just 30 minutes, and since the flavor walks on the milder side, it’s perfect for discerning palettes (both kids and adults!). Preparing a dish like curry in the Instant Pot is all about the layering, so you’ll start by toasting the spices, then infusing the base with alliums, and finally cooking the chicken. Coconut milk and lime juice bring balance to the final texture and marry the flavors perfectly.
- Here’s my secret for incredible flavor in this curry – toast the spices in coconut oil! Because curry made in the pressure cooker is super quick (aka, minimal simmering), this step helps enhance the flavors right from the start. P
- Press the “Saute” button on the Instant Pot and allow the inner pot to heat up. Add coconut oil and heat until shimmering. Add the curry powder, cumin, and turmeric and cook the spices in the hot oil, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula, until they’re bubbling and very fragrant; this only takes a minute or two.
- Add the onions, garlic and ginger. Toss them in the spices to coat and sauté for three minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, work it into the vegetables, and cook until it deepens in color.
- Pour in half a cup of chicken broth and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. This deglazing step is important for two reasons: those browned bits are packed with yumminess, and the Instant Pot will come to pressure more efficiently if the bottom is “clean”.
- Stir in the chicken, season with salt, then secure the lid.
- Ensure the pressure valve is set to sealing, then cook on High Pressure for 5 minutes. It takes 7-10 minutes to come to pressure.
- Perform a quick release as soon as the timer goes off.
- Remove the lid, then add one cup coconut milk and a cornstarch slurry. Give everything a good stir.
- Press the “Saute” button and simmer a few minutes – just long enough for the sauce to thicken. You can also stir in 1 cup frozen peas at this point.
- Add a bit of lime juice (trust!) as well as fresh cilantro, then serve over your choice of rice.
How do I thicken the sauce?
Add a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry at the end. It will quickly thicken and leave you with a thick and flavorful sauce.
Can I add more vegetables?
Sure can! If you’d like a more robust recipe, add one cup frozen peas along with the coconut milk and cornstarch slurry. You can also add diced carrots with the onions, and/or one cup diced yukon gold potatoes with the chicken.
Is this curry spicy?
As written this recipe is fairly mild. For a spicier dish, add 1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne pepper along with the other spices. Alternatively, add a chopped red chili with the onions.
Tips for Making This Recipe Perfectly
- Be sure to start this recipe by toasting the spices in coconut oil. You won’t believe how much this improves the flavor!
- Fresh ginger yields best flavor, but dried can be substituted if you are in a pinch. Start with 1/2 teaspoon.
- Boneless skinless chicken thighs are traditional for most curries. They have more flavor and cook to a super tender, almost shreddable bite. Chicken breast can be too firm and tends to be a little drier.
- Use full-fat coconut milk best flavor and texture.
- Coconut milk can sometimes come out grainy, so always shake well before measuring.
Make it your way
- To make it Whole30 and paleo, substitute cornstarch with arrowroot powder and serve over cauliflower rice.
- Add one cup frozen peas with the coconut milk and cornstarch slurry for a more nutritionally complete meal.
More Quick and Easy Dinner Recipes
- Keema Beef Curry with Peas and Potatoes
- 20-Minute Honey Garlic Chicken
- Weeknight Taco Soup
- Veggie Packed Hamburger Soup
Did you make this Instant Pot Chicken Curry? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below
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- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 2 tsp fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 2 lb boneless skinless chicken thigh, diced into 1” pieces
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cornstarch, or arrowroot powder for Whole30 and paleo
- 1 c coconut milk
- cilantro, to taste
- lime juice, to taste
- Press the “Saute” function on the Instant Pot and set the timer to 10 minutes. Add the coconut oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the curry powder, cumin and turmeric. Stir continuously with a rubber spatula to toast the spices until they are very fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Toss to coat in the spices and saute for 2 minutes. If you notice the pot getting too dry, add a tablespoon of chicken broth to prevent the onions from scalding.
- Add the tomato paste and work into onions; cook until the tomato paste deepens in color, 1-2 minutes.
- Add ½ cup chicken broth to the pot. Stir and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the diced chicken thigh and salt and give everything a good stir.
- Press the “Cancel” button to turn off the “Saute” setting. Secure the lid, ensure the pressure valve is set to “Sealing” then program to High Pressure for 5 minutes. It will take 8-10 minutes for the pot to come to pressure. Perform a quick release once the timer goes off.
- Combine the cornstarch or arrowroot powder with one tablespoon of water in a small jar. Whisk until smooth. Pour the slurry and coconut milk into the pot, then stir; simmer 2-3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
- Add lime juice and cilantro. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve immediately over steamed jasmine rice.
- Fresh ginger yields best flavor, but dried can be substituted in a pinch. Start with 1/2 teaspoon.
- Use full-fat coconut milk. Coconut milk can sometimes come out grainy, so always shake well before measuring.
- Refrigerator: Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave in 30 second intervals, or in a pot on stove over a medium flame, stirring occasionally.
- Freezer: Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, then reheat as noted above.
- Make it Whole30: substitute arrowroot for the cornstarch.
- Add frozen peas: add 1 cup frozen peas along with the coconut milk and slurry.
- Add carrots: peel and dice 1 medium carrot and add with the onions.
- Add potatoes: add 1 cup diced yukon gold potatoes with the chicken. Dice the potatoes on the small side (less than 1") so they cook through.