easy instant pot butter chicken - from frozen chicken breast

Juicy, tender and succulent chicken breast bathed in a thick flavorful sauce that’s easy to make in the pressure cooker?!?!  Believe it!

It’s not easy to get good results frozen (or even fresh) chicken breasts in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot.  Usually, because the chicken breast meat is so tender and lean, the meat cooks very quickly, too quickly -infamously turning chicken breast into stingy meat tassels.

But there’s another way.

In the meat episode of the Pressure Cooking School, I share two ways to save chicken breasts from their tasteless demise. And, today, I’ll show you a third: stewing.

Stewing is basically boiling meat and veggies in a flavorful sauce.  This keeps the meat from drying out and the sauce has a chance to add more flavor. It’s paradoxically faster, too, because when the meat is covered with cooking liquid – you get to use the Natural Pressure Release Exception!

See Also: Pressure Cooking School – free video series!

No liquid? No way!

Several popular versions of Instant Pot Butter Chicken do not require any cooking liquid.  It’s a fun idea, and it might work sometimes for some people – but these recipes do not work consistently.  I say this from experience and after getting many e-mails from desperate readers with half-charred half-raw dinner asking me what they did wrong.

While the thinking behind those recipes assumes that the chicken or tomatoes will release enough liquid for the cooker to reach pressure – the reality is that this will only work for chicken breasts that have been pre-processed in a particular way by the manufacturer. Frozen chicken meat and most natural chicken breast preparations do not release liquid quickly enough to prevent the other ingredients from burning before the cooker reaches pressure (if it reaches pressure at all).  Plus the tomato sauce, apparently the other source of cooking liquid, is actually too thick and viscous to boil and generate steam on its own.

See Also: Pressure Cook Tomato-based Recipes Like a Pro!

Besides the high probability of a failed dinner, consider the additional wear-and-tear on the silicone parts and electronics that are not designed to withstand the high temperatures of a lengthy “dry saute” with the lid closed.

Say “Yes” to liquid!

Adding liquid to a recipe does not necessarily mean that it will water down down the flavor.  It’s an opportunity to introduce more flavor if used wisely.  For example, the liquid in this recipe dissolves the tomato paste – which is really just a concentrate  – turning it back into a sauce (without the burn).

Also, the water can be replaced with the double-concentrate chicken stock (more on this on pg. 49 in the sidebar “Know Your Strength” in my cookbook Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast, Fresh, and Flavorful ; ) turning up the chicken flavor even more.


Just be aware that since the meat is frozen, and it will instantly cool down the water, or stock, in the recipe the pressure cooker will take a few extra minutes to reach pressure. And, just to be safe, don’t forget to take the meat’s internal temperature (in the thickest part of the thickest chop) before serving – details included in the recipe instructions, below.

See Also: How To Pressure Cook Frozen Meat

Ready? OK, let’s stew it!


Pressure Cooker Accessories Pr. Cook Time Pr. Level Open
3 L or larger none 5-7 min. High(2) Normal

4.5 from 2 reviews
Easy Butter Chicken - From Frozen Chicken Breast!
Nutritional Information
(per serving)
  • Serves: Serves 4
  • Serving size: ¼th
  • Calories: 300.9
  • TOTAL Fat: 17.1g
  • TOTAL Carbs: 5.1g
  • Sugar Carbs: 3.4g
  • Sodium: 657.2mg
  • Fiber Carbs: 1.2g
  • Protein: 30.3g
  • Cholesterol: 122.4mg
Recipe type: Main, Pressure Cooker
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This recipe can be easily doubled in a 6qt pressure cooker or larger, just double all of the ingredients, except for the water/stock: keep that at 1 cup/250ml (which in addition to the chopped tomato juice works with every pressure cooker type and size). Replace the fresh garlic at the end of the recipe with 1 teaspoon of powdered garlic added with the onion at the beginning. If using un-frozen chicken breast decrease the pressure cooking time to 3 minutes.
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or your favorite oil), divided
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala spice mix, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (250ml) chicken stock (or water)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste / concentrate
  • 2 pounds (500g) frozen chicken breasts (about 4)
  • 1½ cups (14.5 oz / 400ml) canned crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced (or see recipe note for powdered)
  • ⅓ cup (85ml) heavy cream
  • 3 sprigs coriander, finely chopped (for garnish)
  1. Pre-heat the pressure cooker by pressing the "Brown" or "Saute'" program.
  2. In the pre-heated pressure cooker on medium heat add one tablespoon of the butter and when it begins to sizzle mix-in the onion - saute' until softened stirring infrequently (about 4 minutes).
  3. Sprinkle in the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the masala mix, salt and stir well.
  4. Pour in the stock and arrange the chicken breasts in the base in a single layer - even putting them up vertically, if needed for smaller cookers.
  5. Plop the tomato paste on top of the chicken, and then pour the crushed tomatoes on top of the chicken breasts- do not stir.
  6. Sprinkle in the remaining Masala mix - continue to NOT stir.
  7. Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
  8. Electric pressure cookers and stove top pressure cookers: Cook for 5-7 minutes at high pressure.
  9. When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Slow Normal release - release the pressure very slowly using the valve on the lid. If the release speed cannot be regulated by your cooker's valve, simply release pressure in short bursts. If anything other than steam comes out of the valve, stop and wait 10 seconds before continuing to release pressure slowly (or in small bursts), again.
  10. Delicately mix-in the fresh garlic and then the cream and remaining tablespoon of butter. If there is limited room (such as when using a 3qt pressure cooker or smaller) mix the contents by delicately lifting and wiggling the meat (as shown in the video).
  11. Check that the internal temperature of the chicken has reached at least 165°F or 75°C before serving.
  12. Optionally, puree the liquid for a smoother sauce.
  13. Serve over steamed Basmati rice or Hip Quinoa Freckled rice (recipe on this website).

pressure cooker easy butter chicken recipe - frozen chicken breastpressure cooker / instant pot easy butter chicken recipe - frozen chicken breast

Similar Posts


  1. What if I wish to make this with thawed chicken thighs instead? How do the instructions and liquids change?

    1. The recipe says to decrease the cooking time to 3 minutes. It is right underneath the photo within the recipe.

      1. Ah geez. . .if I’d read it slowly instead of skimming . . . LOL.
        Thanks Shannon.

        1. Sure. :)

  2. FYI: Your US readers might be confused by the reference to sprigs of coriander. We call the seeds coriander and the stems and leafy parts cilantro.

  3. Tried this tonight. All of us enjoyed. Used store-bought individually frozen breasts from the bag—These are the kind with added broth/salt, which I usually avoid, but that seems to work in this stewing recipe.

  4. Hello Laura! I LOVE your website and information you share. I have 3 Fagor stovetop pc 4qt, 8qt, and 10qt (all are same diameter) due to you and America’s Test Kitchen’s pc reviews. I’m trying many of of your recipes to become a pc expert–haha. Your Confetti Rice is one of my husband’s favorite; so easy and so good! PS We are also Italian family and my daughter’s name is Laura :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 notify me of new comments

Rate this recipe:  

Comments containing links, photos or from new members are moderated may take a few hours to display.

Please note that by commenting you will be automatically subscribed to the newsletter.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.