Not only is it possible to make outstanding kosher Indian "butter" chicken, it's easy using coconut oil and coconut milk. This dairy-free, Instant Pot method is inspired by the authority on butter chicken herself, Dr. Urvashi Pitre, a.k.a. Dr. Butter Chicken Lady.Yum
I've loved Indian food from the first time I tasted it, and I've been lucky to try home cooking at friends' tables, as well as restaurant dishes. Once I started keeping kosher, high on my agenda was mastering some favorite Indian dishes and learning new ones. But somehow, I'd never heard of butter chicken, popular restaurant fare hailing from northern India's tradition of Mughlai cuisine. Well, fortunately for me, there are many wonderful, detailed Indian food blogs in English, as well as cookbooks, and I am so grateful to be able to learn from them.
This dish is based on the recipe from Urvashti Pitre's cookbook, Indian Instant Pot® Cookbook: Traditional Indian Dishes Made Easy and Fast, which caught my attention when I first got my Instant Pot and was trying to learn how to use it. I hadn't realized that Indian home cooks have long appreciated pressure cooking, especially for speeding up the many delicious lentils and beans that star in Indian cuisine. But this cookbook is not just pressure-cooker related; it's a whole course in Indian cooking and includes many master recipes for things like garam masala, goda masala, and making your own ghee and paneer. And it's very kosher-friendly.
About butter chicken
Butter chicken is so called because, like many Mughlai dishes, it traditionally uses butter (and cream, in the marinade). However, coconut oil and coconut milk make particularly good substitutes here, being rich and creamy (and parve!) and adding to the flavor. The coconut milk goes into the marinade for the chicken, and the coconut oil is the base of the sauce.
To make butter chicken, you'll also need garam masala, the famous Indian spice blend. There are lots of kosher certified brands of garam masala available; they're not hard to find.
There are some differences between this Instant Pot version of butter chicken and the traditional preparation (see here for my traditional-method kosher "butter" chicken). Butter chicken was developed, probably at the Moti Mahal Hotel restaurant in New Delhi, as a use for leftover tandoori chicken—that is, chicken grilled in a clay tandoor oven. Here, though, we're going to be pressure cooking the chicken in the "butter" sauce, so it comes out braised rather than grilled.
Instant pot method for making butter chicken
A common technique I've learned about in Indian cooking is that spices are layered into a dish in several different places. For butter chicken, similar, but distinct, sets of spices go into the marinade and then into the sauce. For the marinade, along with coconut milk and lemon juice, you'll need ginger and garlic paste (or finely minced), plus hot paprika (or Kashmiri red chili powder, if you can find it), garam masala, and salt. Cubes of chicken get tossed in the marinade and left to steep for an hour or more in the fridge.
To make the "butter" sauce, you'll start off using the sauté setting of your Instant Pot. The coconut oil (and plenty of it; that's a signature part of the dish) gets heated, then ginger and garlic go in with the spices: again, garam masala, plus paprika (or more Kashmiri chili powder), turmeric, and cumin. Once everything is nicely toasted, just a minute or two, add in the chicken with the marinade and pressure cook for 10 minutes, plus natural pressure release. (Don't forget to make some nice basmati rice to go with your butter chicken while it's cooking.)
Kosher Indian "Butter" Chicken - Instant Pot (meat)
- Instant Pot
Chicken and marinade:
Marinate the chicken:
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized cubes. Place in a zip-top bag. Add all the marinade ingredients to the bag, seal, and toss to coat the chicken well. Marinate for 1 hour or more.
Cook the chicken in the sauce:
- Heat the coconut oil on the sauté setting. When hot, add the ginger-garlic paste and the spices. Cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce and stir.
- Turn off the sauté. Add the chicken with all the marinade to the sauce and turn to coat. Seal the pot and cook on manual high pressure for 10 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
- Stir in the cilantro before serving with basmati rice.