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.
Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
Classic Beef Stroganoff
Maple Pork Loin
Instant Pot Coq au Vin
Instant Pot Whole Turkey
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.
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.
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.
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 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
- 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
- Mix all ground spices together and set aside.
- Lightly season the chicken with kosher salt
- 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.
- 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.
- Deglaze pot by adding .5 cup of water and scraping brown bits off the bottom of pot.
- Add crushed tomatoes. Stir in chicken. Saute for another minute.
- Set timer to manual for 2 minutes and cook on high pressure. NPR for 10 minutes and then carefully release the remaining pressure.
- 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.
- Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro
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.