Mild and delicate, chicken korma in the Instant Pot is fragrant with cinnamon, cardamon, and nutmeg. This is a perfect introduction to Indian food and a recipe that will become a family favorite. If you would like to try a stovetop korma try my Shahi Chicken Korma!
Creamy & Delicate
Don’t be put off by the steps to follow as they are quick and easy. Making a simple cashew paste and a yogurt base is a flavorful and healthy way to create a rich, thick sauce without heavy cream. More good news? There is no sautéeing, no tempering, and no long marination period. The chicken soaks in a flavorful yogurt mixture for as long as it takes to gather the rest of the ingredients.
Mild or Fiery
There are many ways to cook korma, and this deceptively pale sauce belies how vibrant and tempting this curry is. The word korma means to braise in the Urdu language and is typical of rich Mughal cooking. Also, another characteristic of korma is a sauce of spiced yogurt or cream with meat or vegetables. Typically it is cooked over a very low flame. While korma is often thought of as a mild dish, it can also be quite fiery. If you prefer a stovetop recipe with a bit more heat, please take a look at my Indian chicken korma (shahi korma). Or use the spicing in this version and make it on the stovetop using those directions.
Chef Vikram Sunderam, the opening chef of the popular restaurant Rasika (one of President Obama’s favorite places to celebrate) in Washington D.C., claims that the korma sauce is the Indian béchamel. But healthier because it is made with yogurt and thickened with cashew paste. For chili heads, throw in a chopped green chili or two for some added heat. By the way, if you are looking for an Indian cookbook that straddles Indian cooking with Western ingredients and dishes, I am finding a lot of great ideas in Chef Sunderam’s cookbook “Rasika: Flavors of India.”
With a Twist
After making chicken korma in the Instant Pot or slow cooker, fine-tune the sauce to your taste for acid, salt, and heat. If you love the results, make a big batch of sauce and freeze it. Perfect if you want to make a special vegetarian dish with mushrooms or artichokes, or—for meat-lovers—use lamb or beef instead of chicken. If you need another twist, Chef Vivek Singh, of London’s Cinnamon Club, uses 6 to 8 green chilies and a half bunch of mint to enliven his lamb korma. Chef Singh’s recipe is in his cookbook “Cinnamon Kitchen: The Cookbook.”
See the Notes below before you cook.
Chicken Korma ~ Instant Pot
Soak the Cashews
- 1/2 cup cashews ~ Chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, skinless & boneless ~ Or breasts
- 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Substitutions
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste ~ Buy or make; 1 T each pureed, grated, or very finely minced garlic and ginger
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or substitutions
- 2 tablespoond ghee ~ Or oil of your choice
- 1 cup onion ~ Finely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon sea or table salt
- 3/4 teaspon ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika ~ Optional
- 1/4 cups golden raisins (sultanas) ~ Optional
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons half and half ~ Or milk
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads ~ Optional, see Notes below
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- 2 tablespoons cashews ~ Or flaked almonds, toasted in ghee or oil, if possible
- 1 tablespoon golden raisins (sultanas) ~ Toasted in ghee or oil, if possible
- 1 tablespoon cilantro ~ Chopped
- Gather your marinade ingredients and soak the chopped cashews in water.
- In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken mix together all the marinade ingredients except the chicken. Cut the chicken thighs into quarters or chicken breast into thirds. Add the chicken to the marinade and set aside until ready to cook.
- Gather the masala ingredients and mix together in a medium bowl.
- Blend the cashews and water together into a smooth paste in a personal blender, or blender with a small jar. If you don’t have the equipment to blend a small amount, using a spice grinder, grind the cashews into a fine powder, and then mix with 1/2 cup of water. Add the ground cashews and water to the masala mixture.
Cook in the Instant Pot
- Top the masala with the marinated chicken and press the meat into the sauce.
- Cover the pressure cooker, turn the pressure valve to closed, and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes.
Cook in the Slow Cooker
- Using 1/4 of water instead of 1/2 a cup, mix all the masala ingredients and the marinaded chicken together and add to the slow cooker. Cook the chicken on high for 3 to 5 hours, or on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until the meat is cooked through. How long it will take depends on the size of the chicken pieces and your slow cooker, but start checking at the 3-hour mark (high setting) or 6 hours (low setting). You are looking for an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C).
- While the chicken is cooking, if using saffron, warm 2 tablespoons of half and half or milk, and add the saffron and rose water. Set aside.
- When the korma is finished the 10 minutes of natural pressure release, if the sauce is not thick enough, allow the curry to rest on warm for 10 minutes. Or turn on the sauté function and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. I have found that cooking korma in the slow cooker results in a perfect rich and creamy sauce.
- Stir in the half and half, rose water, and saffron or turmeric (if using). Even if you are not using either the saffron or turmeric, be sure and add the 2 tablespoons of half and half and the rose water. Allow the masala to rest on warm for another 5 minutes to allow all the flavors to come together.
- Taste for salt, lemon juice, and enough heat. Add more Kashmiri red chili powder or black pepper to your taste if needed. Garnish as you wish with cashews, almonds, sultanas, and/or cilantro and served with fluffy basmati rice.
- Optional saffron substitute: If you are not using saffron, mix 1/8 teaspoon turmeric with the half and half, and rosewater. The turmeric is not a great substitute for saffron but will add some nice color. Or leave out the turmeric as well, but add the half and half, and rose water as a final step.
- Swap out the chicken for cubed lamb or beef and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes, then allow 10 minutes to naturally release the pressure. If using the slow cooker, cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or on high for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is tender.
- Go vegetarian: Skip the marination step but add all the marinade ingredients to the masala mixture (except the chicken, of course) but reduce the yogurt amount to 1/2 cup. Follow the rest of the recipe but use 4 cups of your favorite vegetables (green beans, carrots, potato, cauliflower, peas). Stir the vegetables into the masala in the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes, then quickly release the pressure. Frozen vegetables work well. If the sauce is not thick enough, allow it to rest for 10 minutes, or cook on the sauté function for 3 to 5 minutes.
- To make this recipe dairy-free use plain coconut yogurt instead of the yogurt and coconut milk (or milk of your choice) instead of half and half..
- If you would like a stovetop recipe, see my Indian chicken korma (shahi).
Hello! I am a newbie to the Instant Pot and tried this tonight. It was a delight on the palate! Followed the recipe exactly (sans the raisins, husband not a fan of those wrinkled treats). Had some technical difficulties which caused time to get interrupted and lengthened, but chicken thigh is forgiving, so even though a little overcooked, it was still excellent. Great recipe.
Loved that it came out *that* good when aromatics/masala don't even have to be sauteed first and everything is ultimately added at once. And that the chicken only marinates as long as it takes to get the rest of the recipe together (i.e. didn't have to marinate the chicken in advance).
I'm wondering if you might have a suggestion for the issue I encountered though -- I kept getting the Food Burning message and had to open and stir several times, with a lot stuck to the bottom by the end. I am wondering if it's because the yogurt I used was 11% Greek? Perhaps this was just too dense? If yes could it be fixed with extra water (or thinned down with whole milk before adding)? Or could the sticking to the bottom be from something else? I don't know the ins and outs of IP cooking yet.
Would appreciate your insight, I'd like to continue making this and play with the spice blend until I get it to taste just like the chicken korma from my favourite roti shop!
Thanks for the great recipe.
Hi Tina, I am so glad you liked the recipe. Regarding chicken thighs I’ve learned that they are cooked through at 160F (70°C), but are actually more tender between 175°F (80°C) and 195°F (95°C), so you probably hit that mark.
Now to your question about the burn message. It is puzzling because the rule of thumb is that have between 1/2 to 1 full cup of liquid in total. So between the yogurt, lemon juice and water the recipe covers that requirement and then some. This message means the bottom of the pot is too hot.
Trouble shooting: Make sure you’ve closed the pressure valve, the lid is closed properly, make sure the sealing ring is in place, and the floating valve is clean and moving freely. Also, when you get a burn message, give the food a good stir and be sure to scrape any food that is stuck on the bottom.
Aside from that, if you are sure all the Instant Pot parts are working properly, I would say to add another 1/2 cup of liquid the next time around. If your korma is too saucy (thin) at the end, you can always remove the chicken and reduce the sauce on the sauté mode until it is thick enough. Let me know how that works for you and happy cooking!
Thanks for responding!