Instant Pot Curry Chicken: Northern Indian Curry

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This Instant Pot curry chicken recipe is inspired by Northern India and traditionally uses dairy instead of coconut milk.

I spent the last month in Mexico but I’ve returned to cold Canada and am warming up in the kitchen.

Christmas is a special time for our family. We’re secular so Christmas is about coming together as it’s the only time everyone comes home.

I once missed the holiday by spending Christmas in Ecuador and was so lonely that I knew coming home in the future was non-negotiable.

Growing up on the East Coast, Canadian milk was always a big part of our traditions.

It’s so versatile that we used it for Nova Scotian fish chowder, drank it with Nanny’s Christmas Cherry Balls and baked with it.


Although we’re now adults, we still watch the Christmas cartoons. And Canadian milk is still part of our lives, although now more often in our homemade eggnog, lattes or Christmas breakfast french toast.

Cue in the Instant Pot.

Yes, I’m all over the Instant Pot bandwagon. I even bought my sister this Instant Pot and my mother the Instant Pot 8qt so I could cook our Christmas turkey in it.

>>Get the latest Instant Pot on Sale<<

The Instant Pot allows me to create meals quickly, so I don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen and can enjoy Christmas with my family.

As we’ve grown into adults, my role has also changed over the years. When my grandmother passed  I took on the task of cooking.

My Christmas holidays are usually in the kitchen, but that’s exactly where I want to be. 

As I love to travel I choose recipes from around the world. I often introduce new flavours and try to create recipes that my mother and sister could make on their own.

Remember we have lots of Christmas cartoons to watch.

This Instant Pot chicken curry recipe takes less than 20 minutes to make and your family will love it. #spicy #glutenfree #curry

We may not be eating milk and cookies anymore, but we drink it and I often cook with it.

I love that this recipe is warm, comforting, healthy and pairs perfectly with a glass of quality Canadian milk.

Using Milk is Traditional in India

Curry isn’t just one dish, it’s an Anglo word that covers a variety of dishes from South East Asia that involve a variety of spices.

India is a gigantic and diverse country.


But you won’t find any dish in India called “curry” and dishes in northern India are very different from southern India.

Unlike a chicken masala, in the North it’s common to have a yogurt or milk based curry along with many hot spices.

Here you’ll find naan bread, samosas, roti and one of my favourite dishes palak paneer (spinach and cheese).

In the South, dishes include coconut milk and tamarind and while they use fewer spices they tend to be hotter.

But even this is a generalization as within the North and South there are regional differences and of course everything changes over generations.

This Instant Pot curry chicken recipe isn’t 100% traditional.

Instead I experimented with the flavours from dishes in Northern India because I crave naan bread, love garam masala, cumin and other spices used in the region.

Canadian milk is always in our fridge so it’s easy to make this recipe with what’s already in our pantry.

Instant pot chicken curry on a white plate with a fork on it and milk in the corner.

Milk Helps With Spicy Food

Cooking with dried spices isn’t an exact science. Fresh spices are key for this recipe, but you can never really be sure how hot it will be.

My mother loves spicy food so I always err on extra spice. This can backfire sometimes and I find a dish far too spicy.

This is where milk comes in.

If you’ve ever felt like your mouth is on fire it’s because chiles contain capsaicin, which attack your taste buds and spread panic to your brain.


Whatever you do…do not drink water. It’s like throwing water on an oil fire, it will just spread.

Instead be prepared with a glass of milk. Milk has casein, which latches onto the capsaicin and washes it all away. It helps everything, even the infamous Delhi belly.

Milk isn’t just special at Christmastime it’s the superhero battling spicy food.

This Instant Pot chicken curry recipe is so easy to make and you're family will love the spiciness of it.

This Instant Pot curry chicken recipe is extremely versatile.

I used boneless chicken but if you prefer bone-in chicken just add 10 minutes to the cooking time.

Instant Pot Curry Chicken

Instant Pot Curry Chicken

Instant Pot Curry Chicken

Yield: 4 people
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

This Instant Pot curry chicken recipe is inspired by Northern India and traditionally uses dairy instead of coconut milk.


  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 serrano peppers, diced
  • .5 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups crushed tomatoes, canned
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric, ground
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • .5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • .5 cup full fat milk (3.25% or more)
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped


  1. Mix all ground spices together and set aside.
  2.  Lightly season the chicken with kosher salt
  3. Heat the instant pot in Sauté mode (normal) and add oil to it. Once oil begins to shimmer and add chicken and saute on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  4. Turn off Saute and turn back on and adjust to Saute "Less" function. add 2 tablespoons canola oil. Once oil begins to shimmer add onion and saute 4 minutes. Add ginger, chili and spices and saute 2 minutes. add garlic and saute another 30 seconds or until you smell garlic, stirring constantly.
  5. Deglaze pot by adding .5 cup of water and scraping brown bits off the bottom of pot.
  6. Add crushed tomatoes. Stir in chicken. Saute for another minute.
  7. Set timer to manual for 2 minutes and cook on high pressure. NPR for 10 minutes and then carefully release the remaining pressure.
  8. Temper milk so the sauce won't split by removing some of the sauce and gradually adding it to milk, mixing thoroughly. Add it to Instant Pot and stir.
  9. Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro

Did you make this recipe?

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When tomatoes are in season you can use fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Simply run them through your blender and add 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.

This post is in partnership with Dairy Farmers of Canada. I love that they asked me to share our quirky family traditions as adults. We may have grown but we still drink Canadian quality milk.

Pin it For Later: Easy Chicken Curry

Chicken curry and rice on a white plate with a fork.

Join the Conversation

  1. This dish looks so good. So full of great flavor. It could, quite possibly make me buy an instant pot. Fingers crossed I get one for Christmas!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s a great addition to a kitchen. I still love to cook with an oven but the Instant Pot is great for mid-week meals.

  2. Kristen Chidsey says:

    I just spend some time with American Dairy Farmers. Milk is essential in my diet and in so many of my holiday dishes too. And LOVE this curry!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      When you start to think about it, so much of our holidays include milk, even when we’re older.

  3. I love curry but I don’t make it nearly enough. This looks really fabulous — I may have to break down and get an Insta Pot.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It doesn’t replace regular cooking, I love a long braise. But it is really great when you’re short on time or want to spend more time with family than in the kitchen.

      1. This was my first meal in the Instand Pot, I followed it pretty much other using heaped portions of the dry ingredients and coconut milk instead of the dairy. FANTASTIC results! My friend and I got the same pot to learn and share recipes, she get’s another of yours in return!

  4. This looks wonderful and your rice is cooked perfectly too!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I can’t take credit for that one, I use a rice cooker so it’s no-fail.

  5. I am going to have to get an instant pot. I keep seeing amazing recipes like this one that I’m drying to try!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s the perfect time of the year to ask for one!

  6. Denise from Urb'n'Spice says:

    You may well have convinced me to 1) try curry again and 2) buy an Instant Pot. Your recipe looks and sounds delicious.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Instant Pots are fantastic when you are short on time. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to use a pressure cooker.

  7. I can’t wait to get my Instant Pot on boxing day so I can make this kind of deliciousness!

  8. Lily {Gastro Senses} says:

    Yum! This looks so cozy and inviting!

  9. Gabrielle @ eyecandypopper says:

    I simply cannot resist Indian food, and this recipe is no exception! It looks so good! Sounds like you’re enjoying your instant pot. I’ve yet to get one but it’s starting to be intriguing…

  10. Your recipe looks and sounds delicious.

  11. You’re right! There are SO many christmas cartoons to watch! My family usually uses milk for Santa’s cookies 😉

  12. Sean@Diversivore says:

    I too am alllll over the InstantPot bandwagon. I love cooking with that thing. I also love cooking with milk! I think as far as dairy ingredients go, milk is underappreciated as a cooking medium. I haven’t really started to do much Indian food in the InstantPot yet, but you’ve got me thinking that it’s time to start. Cheers, and Happy Holidays!

  13. Agness of Run Agness Run says:

    I’m always up for a good chicken recipe and this one seems pitch-perfect, Dave and Ayngelina. Can I substitute canola oil with olive oil?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes absolutely as long as it’s not extra virgin olive oil.

  14. Kelly @ trial and eater says:

    I’ve definitely been there – eating spicy food when you don’t have milk handy! Water just adds fuel to the fire.

  15. That is such a wonderful looking dish! I love curry chicken and definitely need to try this version in the instant pot!

  16. Drooling! Looks so flavorful and amazingly delicious.

  17. THID definitely looks like a winner for me. I love spicy. Thanks for the tip on milk helping with heat from spicy food..Never knew that

  18. This looks absolutely phenomenal — the sauce looks so rich and thick, too!

  19. Still have not jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon… when I get one this will be one of the first recipes I make… looks amazing.
    Growing up Italian meant lots of red chillies… my glass of milk was always at my side 🙂 Great post,thanks for sharing.

  20. Dawn - Girl Heart Food says:

    I absolutely love curry and this one looks fabulous! So delicious, especially on a cold winter day 🙂

  21. What a great tip to tame the heat with milk instead of water! I will definitley share with my hisband who is quite sensitive to spiciness!

  22. Evelyne CulturEatz says:

    Delicious recipe, looks amazing and love the flavors. I want an instant pot so bad. Santa did not bring one lol.

  23. Amanda Orlando says:

    That looks so delicious! I love a nice hearty slow-cooker meal in this weater.

  24. Love my instant pot! Can’t wait to try this recipe out!

  25. This curry sounds delicious, and I can’t wait to make it, since I got an instant pot for Christmas! It sounds so yummy, and what a perfect weeknight meal!

  26. I love curry with either milk or coconut milk- they’re both delicious! I love how colorful and warming this is- it’s been really cold here all week and I want a huge plate of this curry!

  27. Very tasty dish. I substituted the milk with coconut milk. It doesn’t separate and adds a nice texture to the dish Added handful of frozen peas to this 10 mins prior to plating.

  28. I don’t yet have an Instant Pot, but I’ve been seeing so many incredible looking recipes that I think I’m going to have to make the purchase. Love the aromatic spices in this dish, and the vibrant color when plated. I didn’t know about drinking milk to calm the fire of something that’s too spicy. Great tip!

  29. Paulomi Dutta says:


    It’s great to see an Indian dish. Being an Indian, I made Chicken Curry quite often. Although my version of chicken curry is more traditional, we don’t add milk and we cook in mustard oil.

    You can try that too.

    Thanks for sharing. It feels great.

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