This easy and tasty Instant Pot Vegan Butter Chicken is ready in under 30 minutes, with tofu replacing the chicken. The recipe is a speedy spin on a classic Indian restaurant favorite, and you don't miss out on any of the delicious flavor. A gluten-free recipe. Can be nut-free and oil-free.
Butter chicken is so beloved in Punjab, the north Indian state where it originated, that it is often, jokingly, referred to as its state bird. But this dish is not just revered in the land of its birth: across the world, Indophiles will typically cite this as one of their most favorite of Indian foods, and it's not hard to see why.
The secret is that flaming orange gravy, so creamy and buttery that it coats your tongue with velvety deliciousness. It's a sensation impossible to describe, and one you won't fathom unless you actually taste it. That's why, for you, today, I have my vegan version of a butter chicken that tastes exactly as it should--minus the chicken, of course.
Instead, my vegan and dairy-free butter chicken is made with tofu that's doused with flavorful spices and then baked to create a delicious texture that'll remind you a lot of chicken. All of it is then dunked in the spicy, silky tomato onion gravy flavored with spices and herbs.
The version I have for you today is made in an Instant Pot and it comes together in no time at all. If you want a stovetop version, try this fantastic Vegan Butter Chicken recipe.
What we love about this Instant Pot vegan butter chicken recipe
- It's as good as the real thing--likely better.
- It's an Instant Pot recipe, so easy peasy.
- It's delicious.
- It's kid-friendly.
- It's SOOO good for you, and you won't feel like you're eating healthy food.
- It's adaptable. You can swap out the tofu for chickpeas or lentils and you'll have a delicious vegan dinner to serve.
The beauty of a makhani gravy -- and perhaps the secret to its popularity -- lies in the fact that it encompasses all of the six flavors: spicy, salty, sweet, sour, bitter and astringent. Balancing those flavors in your gravy gives you a food that's, in two words, perfectly delicious. Beyond imagination.
Ingredients that impart that unique flavor to butter chicken
- Spicy/pungent: Onions, paprika and cayenne
- Salty: Salt
- Sweet: Sugar or maple syrup
- Sour: Tomatoes, lemon or lime
- Bitter: Kasoori methi or dry fenugreek leaves
- Astringent: Turmeric, coriander, garam masala
Ingredient shopping list
- 1 medium onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1-inch piece ginger
- 2 tsp paprika (Kashmiri chili powder is a good substitute)
- 1 cup water or vegetable stock
- 16 oz superfirm tofu (or extra firm tofu, with water pressed out)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups (or a 14.5 oz can) pureed tomatoes (or puree two large tomatoes)
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp cayenne (use more or less based on your preference)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves -- you can leave this out, but try and use it for the best flavor)
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp maple syrup (or sugar)
- 2 tbsp raw cashews (If nut-free, use 2 tablespoon vegan butter instead of the cashew cream)
- 2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves
It takes barely 30 minutes to take this Vegan Butter Chicken from start to finish. Really. And if you cook Indian food with any regularity, you probably already have many of the spices in your pantry.
Tips and tricks
- I use superfirm tofu in this recipe, but you can use other substitutes for the meat. Chickpeas, lentils, and even veggies like cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, green peppers, eggplant, squash, or a mix, would work well.
- Use canned tomato puree instead of fresh, if you want to get from start to finish even faster.
- You can make this recipe free of any added oil (not fat-free) by sauteing your tofu in the first step in a couple of tablespoons of cashew cream. In that case, make a little more cashew cream -- you also need ¼ cup of it to stir into the gravy at the end,.
- Use vegetable stock instead of water to add more flavor.
- Whatever you do, do not substitute the cashew cream with coconut milk. There is sometimes a tendency among nut-free vegan cooks to use coconut milk as a substitute in recipes, including Indian recipes. While this is fine in many cases for South Indian recipes, because coconut is eaten liberally in the south, North Indian recipes (including butter chicken) rely on cream and butter for creaminess and very rarely incorporate coconut. Coconut adds a very specific taste that will change the flavor of your butter tofu. If you are nut-free, use a vegan butter instead of the cashew cream. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of it at the end.
- You can make this recipe on the stove top or in a pressure cooker. See recipe notes for how-tos.
What to serve with the Instant Pot vegan butter chicken
Serve the vegan butter chicken hot with a storebought or homemade vegan naan or aloo kulcha or jeera rice, and a few wedges of lemon and onion for a complete, healthful and memorable meal that you'll be asked to make again and again.
Now let's dive into this recipe for an Instant Pot Vegan Butter Chicken. You'll truly be amazed by how simple it is.
More Indian vegan recipes
Instant Pot Vegan Butter Chicken
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1-inch piece ginger (chopped)
- 2 teaspoon paprika (Kashmiri chili powder is a good substitute)
- 1 cup water or vegetable stock
- 1 16 oz block superfirm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes (extra firm tofu is fine. Press out all of the water before use)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 2 cups (or a 14.5 oz can) pureed tomatoes (or puree two large tomatoes)
- 2 teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (use more or less based on your preference)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves -- you can leave this out, but try and use it for the best flavor)
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or sugar)
- 2 tablespoon raw cashews (If nut-free, use 2 tablespoon vegan butter instead of the cashew cream)
- 2 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- 2 tablespoon coriander leaves (for garnish)
- Blend the cashews with ¼ cup water or vegetable stock into a smooth paste and set aside.
- Blend the onions, garlic, ginger and the paprika with ¾ cup water or vegetable stock. Place the tofu cubes in a bowl and add half a cup of the onion-ginger-garlic-paprika puree to the bowl. Toss the tofu cubes in the puree.
- Set the Instant Pot to the saute function. Add the oil and when it's hot, add the tofu cubes. Saute, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the remaining onion-ginger-garlic-paprika puree, the tomato puree, coriander powder, cayenne and kasoori methi. Add salt to taste, give it a stir, and put the lid on. Set the Instant Pot to cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.
- After cooking is complete, release pressure manually after 10 minutes. Open the lid.
- If the butter tofu is too thick, you can thin it out with more vegetable stock or water. Stir in the garam masala, cashew cream or vegan butter, maple syrup or sugar and lemon or lime juice. Add more salt if needed. Heat the butter chicken tofu, especially if you added more stock or water, by turning the saute function back on. Once it's warmed through, remove to a bowl, garnish with coriander leaves, and serve hot with naan or roti or rice.
- Make this quick and easy butter tofu in a saucepan. Saute the tofu and the onion-ginger-garlic mixture in oil for about five minutes over medium-high heat, then add the tomatoes, saute until they turn a couple of shades darker and moisture has evaporated, then add spices and proceed. Let the curry cook about 10 minutes, then proceed with step 5.
We loved it, thank you so much for sharing this recipe! After recently finding out that I have acquired my family genetics for high cholesterol, I’ve been searching for Portfolio Diet friendly recipes and this recipe checks the box! My kids loved it, too. Easy to make, healthy, wholesome and very filling. I doubled the recipe, chose the vegetable broth option in place of water, was out of cayenne so I used smoked paprika instead, used cashew cream and lemon juice, and had frozen fenugreek leaves instead of dried. Also roped up the tofu amount with some tempeh because I didn’t quite have enough. Served it with brown basmati rice. It was incredible! And I love that it doesn’t call for any coconut oil or coconut milk, as I need to avoid coconut. We will be adding this to our rotation of recipes!
Do you not get a BURN message using tomato in the instant pot?
No, there's enough liquid here. I never get the burn message with this recipe.
I didn’t get a burn message either. Did you add the oil to the instant pot first? I used avocado oil instead of the vegetable oil. Was it being stirred frequently?
Delicious recipe! Prepared this for dinner tonight and I loved it. Thanks for sharing the recipe!
Have tried around 6 recipes for veg butter chicken. This is the best by far. Thank you.
Hi Jen, so happy you loved it. Thanks for letting me know. ❤️
This is the best butter "chicken" I've had since going vegan.. Thank you so much. Love this recipe so much that it will be going into our regular weekly rotation (as per orders from my hubbie...lol)
Hi, so happy to hear! 🙂 This is one of my son Jay's favorite dishes.
Thanks so much for an easy-to-follow recipe. I just got my IP for Christmas and have made a couple soups but this was my first authentic Indian dish. It was delicious, esp served over Jasmine Rice and with Naan. Question: I followed your recipe to the letter, omitting only the Fenugreek because I couldn't find it, but it came out more red than orange-ish yellow like in your pics. Did you/should I have added Turmeric or Saffron to achieve the same color as yours?
Again, thank you and keep up the great posts!
How would you feel about subbing methi seeds for the leaves?
I love your recipes, you are a great help in trying times.
Hi Elizabeth, the methi seeds have a different flavor and are extremely bitter. They can add some complexity to the curry, so if you use, I'd suggest using no more than 1/8th of a teaspoon and grinding them fine (you can do this with a mortar and pestle) before adding them to the curry. Thanks for your kind words. 🙂
Thank you for this recipe, Vaishali! My kiddos loved it! We added a tiny bit of vegan butter even though we used the cashew cream and it was fantastic!
So happy to hear! ❤️
This was delicious! Being vegan, I've never tried Butter Chicken before so I had nothing to compare it too, so I felt OK to make a few substitutions. Also, during the pandemic, sometimes we don't have all the right ingredients on hand. I used coconut cream instead of cashew cream and tomato soup instead of pureed tomatoes. I also added some veggies (sweet potato and cauliflower). I look forward to trying more of your recipes! Thank you!
If eating lentils do you cook them beforehand and had to the simmering curry?
Hello! I’m excited to try this! I have tried finding garam masala before and I can never find it. Where do you buy yours? Also, the fenugreek, if you don’t mind me asking. Thanks! I’m a NOVA resident, so hello from across the river!
Hi Jenny, there are tons of Indian groceries in Northern Virginia--in fact, the Indian store I've been most recently going to is India Bazar in Sterling and it has everything you'd need for Indian cooking, including the fenugreek and garam masala. You can also just search on Yelp for an Indian grocery in your neighborhood--there are many Indians in that area and I'll bet you will find one quite easily. 🙂 Amazon is also a good source, and I usually add affiliate links to the recipe box, for anyone who can't get to an Indian store. Hope that helps!
Am I supposed to puree the onion, ginger, garlic mixture? You call it a puree but you don't ever say to puree it.
Step 2-- where it says to blend them. That produces a puree. 🙂
I have never made so much as a simple curry, and while I cook many varieties of healthy (and unhealthy) foods, switching to vegan made it pretty hard to find savory and delicious meals. This was my third vegan recipe, and my first involving any of these flavors, and I couldn't be happier or more surprised at how AMAZING! Thank you for your explanations, descriptions, and step by step. This was really easy, and truly tasty. Thank you!
Hi! How many calories is one serving of this?
183 cals in a serving -- it's in the recipe box. Keep in mind these are calculated with an online calculator and are approximate.
What a great recipe! I'm still experimenting with cashew cream and love this use of it. I also added a 12 oz bag of frozen peas at the end - I love having veggies of some sort. It was fantastic!
Thanks for the recipe. You have left out turmeric from the ingredients list. Am I right in assuming that you have added 1/2 tsp?
You don't need turmeric here but if you want to add it 1/2 tsp is fine. Add with the garam masala.
Can I add coconut milk to it? It’s actually delicious and fats to make. I live in the DMV so I’m happy I found you.
Sure. It'll taste good,no doubt, but the reason I advise against it is because it doesn't taste authentic. Call me a stickler. 🙂
I made this last night and it was delicious! I doubled the recipe and used 1 T. of Fenugreek seeds, because I do not have the leaves. I added more liquid, because the IP said Burn, in the first few minutes of pressure. I will have to look for Kasoori Methi. I know of 1 Indian store here in Guadalajara & they may have it. Thank you for the recipes!
christian simon kaloga
just made this on Friday for a couple of friends and it was absolutely delicious. I have cooked and enjoyed many of your recipes and I really must thank you for sharing all those wonderful recipes with us. It has given me a lot of ideas and helped me enjoying being vegan. Thanks again!
So happy to hear. Thanks for letting me know!
The recipe starts with ‘blend the cashews...’ but I cannot find the quantity of cashews needed. Only that 2 tbsp of cashew cream is needed.
Hope you can help me!
2 tbsp! It's under the ingredients.
OMG! I don't have an instant pot thingy but easy enough in a saucepan. Have made the Tofu Makhani before (amazing), and tried this recipe today using sliced Quorn 'chicken' fillets.
I now have a party going on in my mouth 😀
Eye-rolling foody ecstatic thanks...
Awesome, thanks for letting me know!
I made this recipe with and without Kasoori Methi. Without is good but using Kasoori Methi enhances the flavor to another level. This recipe is a definite keeper! Thank you for your blog and great recipes.
That's great feedback! Thanks, Leanne.
Truly the most perfect food I've tasted. Thank you.
🙂 Thanks Manny! Happy you tried.
As with all your recipes this one was another big hit. Can’t wait to try the Tofu Makhani.
Happy you liked it, Mary! Thank for letting me know.
I made this last night and it was wonderful. Thank you so much for the tasty recipe!
Everyone loved it, disappeared fast. Butter Chicken was always a favourite dish and I've missed it until now. Followed your recipe, thank you for non-instant pot instructions too.
I did not have fenugreek Greek, I reduced cayenne to 1/4 tsp and I made 3/4 cup cashew cream and used some of it and cashew milk to cook my tofu blocks-- Avoiding Oil. The result was a nice non-oily butter chicken flavour.
Thank you so much,
Elisa, that sound awesome. So happy you enjoyed it!
I purchased dry fenugreek and made this again -- wonderful!
>everyone loved it again!
Thank you so much!
Just got my InstaPot! So happy to try you IP recipes! Partway through this the IP said food burn. I had to stop it and add more water. I added 3/4 c. bc I figured that was the balance in the 1/4 cup for cashew paste of the 1 c in the recipe. It finished our fine, but then was soupy. Perhaps my puree wasn't the same consistency. But the FLAVOR is over the top! I want to inhale it! So thank you!
Hi Denise, I should have specified you need to add the 3/4 cup water or stock while pureeing the onions and garlic. I've clarified now-- thanks for pointing it out.
Just made this for dinner! I had all the ingredients. I can't believe how easy it was to make. My house smells divine and I can't wait for the family to chow down.
Hi Sona, so happy you tried it-- thanks for letting me know!