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Indian Butter Chicken (Pressure Cooker, Whole30, Nightshade Free)

Do Comfort Food Renditions Have a Place on Whole30?

This is a question I wrestle with every round. If the purpose of Whole30 is to separate food from emotion, then are these kind of meals now considered SWYPO (sex with your pants on, the Whole30 term for paleo-fied treats)? My logic tells me No. It’s in our nature to gravitate to what we know, so many of the most popular paleo and Whole30 recipes are healthy, compliant renditions of dishes from your pre-paleo or Standard American Diet days. Yet, I can’t get over that little feeling that asks…”are you sure?” Maybe it’s just old food guilt. I find that I have a hard time letting go of that old friend. Even with my 18 month, unbroken streak of paleo-Whole30-AIP eating (read: lifestyle) I still find ways to feel crappy about food. Too much sweet potato, too many grapes, are you feeling xyz because of something you ate? It sucks. I know I have come a long way since my food addictions/emotional eating days, but it’s hard to let go of some of these habits.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back… it’s still progress!

Reading Melissa Hartwig’s Food Freedom Forever definitely helped plant the right ideas in my head. Like a little tool box that I go to when I know I’m starting to act all crazy. And yes, even I have these days. I try not to. I try to be a positive role model for my son, for all of you. But sometimes I fail, sometimes I get frustrated. When I don’t see results, when my autoimmune issues begin to flare, my first reaction is to scrutinize my food choices. Instead of searching for answers from outside factors (or non-food related factors like sleep or stress), my go to is to blame myself. Believe me, I don’t recommend it, and I’m really trying to stop. I actually just sent out a bunch of my lab results to a few integrative medicine doctors to see if one of them could help me solve the puzzle that is my health. While it’s greatly improved I have come to a realization… maybe I can’t do it all by myself. Maybe I do need outside help.

7 days left on my current Whole30! Whoot Whoot. I’m glad I decided to do  Whole30 during the holiday season, it kind of voided all those situation for possible food guilt this season. This past full moon, family stuff, work. Lot’s of stressful, emotional moments. But food was easy, because I was on a Whole30… so no question there. It’s been nice. Not going to lie, I’m totally ready for a hot chocolate… but it can wait.

The General Tso’s of Indian Food…

The inspiration from this dish came from a New York Times article with a traditional Butter Chicken recipes (yogurt, tomato paste etc) and what stood out to me was how they described this dish as comfort food, and a crowd pleaser, everyone’s go-to… the General Tso’s of Indian Food. Ha! Before I even got to the end of the article the inventory of ingredients I had in my kitchen at the moment ran through my head. Tin Star Foods Ghee, check. Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, check. Garam Masala, Turmeric, Lemon, Cinnamon Stick, check.

It was going down. For dinner. Tonight. Forgoing the marinating process would usually impact  that flavor… enter the pressure cooker. One of the benefits of the electric pressure cooker (besides speed) is that it locks in all of the flavor! Full disclosure, it was my first time making butter chicken… so how do I know if it was legit? I had a very qualified taste taster. My neighbor, Abir, grew up on this stuff. Yup. His dad’s family is from India. So I recruited him for my test kitchen. Final verdict: totally legit and flavorful.

Recipe Variations:

The Milk: If you don’t do coconut, you can use almond milk or cashew creamer. If you use cashew milk, the milk will thicken to a cream when stirred it. Add in a cup of bone broth or chicken stock before closing the pressure cooker.

The Almonds: You can omit them if you want. You can also use cashews.

Tamarind Paste: Add 2 tbsp of this goodness for a sweeter and tangy flavor, it’s a good alternative to tomato paste (found in the original recipe). I didn’t use it because I wanted to keep this simple and easy. If you have it on hand, add it!

Garnish: Other than cilantro I added halved red grapes over my bowl and I will tell you it was glorious! Alternately adding golden raisins to the recipe would work really well for a sweet contrast.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker: Make it stove top, in large pot with a tight fitting lid. Brown the onions etc same as the pressure cooker instructions, on medium high heat. Add in everything in the same order, but instead of closing to pressure cook, you will lower the heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Then open, stir and reduce the same.

>>> For More Instant Pot/ Pressure Cooker Recipes <<<

Yields 5-6

Indian Butter Chicken (Pressure Cooker, Whole30, Nightshade Free)

10 minPrep Time

30 minCook Time

40 minTotal Time

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Recipe Image


  • 2lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Redmon Real Salt
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp Tin Star Foods Ghee
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp beef gelatin (optional, if using cashew milk/broth don't use it)
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro


  • Peel and slice your onion. Mince the garlic. Peel and slice the ginger.
  • Open your pressure cooker and heat on saute mode. Add in the ghee.
  • Add in the onion, garlic, ginger and bay leaves.
  • Saute until tender and aromatic (5-6 minutes).
  • Add in the chicken, all the spices and salt. Stir well.
  • Add in the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon stick.
  • Stir well. Cook, moving occasionally until the chicken is lightly browned.
  • Add in the coconut milk, stir and bring to a simmer.
  • Cancel the saute function. Stir in the gelatin.
  • Close the lid and set to pressure cook: poultry mode. Mine takes about 20 minutes.
  • When it's done, release the pressure manually.
  • Open the lid and cancel the pressure cooker mode, set to reduce or saute mode.
  • Stir in the chopped almonds and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Serve with chopped cilantro on top.
  • This goes great with cauliflower rice, mashed sweet potatoes and crispy plantains!

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17 Thoughts to “Indian Butter Chicken (Pressure Cooker, Whole30, Nightshade Free)”

  1. What a labor of love! I would love to try this - I have not played around with these spice blends as much as I would like!
    1. It's actually a SUPER EASY recipe!!! And the garam masala is sooo delish. I like Simply Organic's blend :)
  2. Indian butter chicken is one of my favorite dishes and I'm intrigued by your nightshade-free version! Since I wind up making it a few times a month, I'm gonna slip this version in next time. And congrats on actually doing your Whole30 during the holidays. You are incredibly brave and strong-willed! I couldn't do it.
    1. Thanks Michele! It works, SURPRISINGLY. I thought the tomato would be sorely missed, but it got the seal of approval ;)
  3. I love butter chicken! Can't wait to try this in my trusty Instant Pot.
  4. Taesha
    Can you believe I have never had butter chicken! Now I have a recipe to start with! Love it!
  5. I love butter chicken and can't wait to try this indian version !
  6. Oh girl, I'm a huge lover of butter chicken & I have never made it before! This is great & you made it so healthy too :)
  7. I love butter chicken! This looks AMAZING and I love that you can make it in the pressure cooker!
  8. Congratulations on your food journey! I love it when I can take a classic comfort food and Paleoify it to make it equally delicious. And it makes it extra awesome when friends can join in the fun.
  9. I think Whole30 comfort food is totally fine - in fact, for me Whole30 food has actually become comfort food if that makes sense!
  10. Wow, a Whole 30 during the holidays! I'll have to try that one year and see how I like it... so far I've been a die-hard January Whole 30 gal but time could be a-changin'.
  11. Heather B
    Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. My husband ate to the point of discomfort and my four year old said, "this is yummy chicken, mommy!". Yes it is. Served over cauliflower rice and a side of sautéed spinach.
  12. Anna
    Hi Christina! I tried this the other day and it was delicious!! I have decided to go back on a strict AIP diet which does not allow cumin :( (so the garam masala is out) - I was thinking about trying to adapt it with this aip approved "curry" blend - Wondering your thoughts on if I should just sub this in for the garam masala or adjust any of the other ingredients since it already gas a lot of garlic and ginger?? I'm not good with tweaking recipes at all! lol Thanks so much!
    1. Hi! So glad you liked it! I think the curry will be just fine! Good for you an AIP reset is always a good idea!

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