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Instant Pot Indian Chicken Pulao

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Instant Pot Chicken Pulao comes together in just 30 minutes, with basmati rice, chicken breasts, and a few aromatics and spices. The perfect introduction to Indian cuisine!

A plate of Indian pulao

Instant Pot Chicken Pulao Recipe

If you’ve never tried chicken pulao, you are in for a treat! Like chicken tikka masala, it’s a great introduction to those who are new to Indian food. If you’re a fan of chicken and rice, you will love this less popular one-pot Indian dish. And bonus, thanks to the pressure cooker it takes about 30 minutes from start to finish! You can see more Instant Pot recipes here.

Guys, I love Indian food! I eat it every chance I can. So when I got my hands on the Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook (affil link) I was all in! This cookbook has so many great Indian recipes for the Instant Pot, including chicken biryani. But I wanted to try something different, something with ingredients that were easy to find and was so happy to try this chicken pulao recipe.

I did slightly adapt it for my taste, I used less liquid, less ghee and fewer chile peppers but I’ll be honest, I’ve made this quite a few times because it’s really quite delicious. Although they recommend this for 4 servings, I made it for 5 because the portions were really large.

The great thing about chicken pulao is that it’s easy to adapt – you can make it as spicy or mild as you wish, and use whatever spices you prefer.  The cilantro and squeeze of lemon at the end is a must, it really brightens the whole dish.

Overhead view of two plates of chicken pulao

Why You’ll Love This Indian Pulao

Here are a few reasons I love this Instant Pot recipe.

  • Great introduction to Indian cooking. If you’ve never cooked Indian food before, this simple recipe is a great place to start!
  • Quick and easy. The Instant Pot makes chicken pulao perfect for a weeknight dinner, with just 30 minutes needed from start to finish.
  • Easy to find ingredients. Some Indian recipes call for spices that may be difficult to find in certain areas but chicken pulao is made with common spices like cardamom and cinnamon.

What Is Chicken Pulao?

Instant Pot Indian Chicken Pulao is a lighter cousin of chicken biryani, a great gateway dish for someone new to Indian food. It’s similar to a rice pilaf, only with chicken and aromatic spices like cardamom and cinnamon. It can be spicy, thanks to the addition of green chiles, but that can easily be customized.

So what’s the difference between chicken pulao and chicken biryani? Chicken biryani typically contains a lot more spices than chicken pulao. The cooking method is also different, with biryani made by layering cooked rice with meat and veggies, while when making this pulao recipe, everything is cooked together.

A plate of chicken pulao topped with sliced chiles and lemon wedges

What You’ll Need

This Indian recipe is made with basmati rice, a few aromatics, and whole spices. See the recipe card below for measurements.

  • Rice – You’ll want basmati rice for this Indian dish.
  • Ginger & garlic – These aromatics add more flavor to the rice.
  • Lemon juice – A squeeze of lemon juice brightens the flavor profile.
  • Salt
  • Chicken – I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Ghee – Butter works too – or oil if you’d like to make it dairy free.
  • Spices – Cumin seeds, cardamom pods (or ground cardamom), a cinnamon stick, and bay leaves give this Indian pulao a warm, savory flavor.
  • Red onion
  • Hot green chiles – These are optional but give the dish a nice amount of heat.
  • Water
  • Fresh cilantro – Cilantro is added at the end for additional flavor.

How to Make Instant Pot Chicken Pulao

Making pulao in the Instant Pot makes this an easy, accessible recipe for any cook!

  • Rinse the rice. Rinse the rice under running water in a wire-mesh strainer, swishing around. Repeat, then drain and set aside.
  • Prepare the chicken. Combine the ginger, garlic, lemon juice, and a teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
  • Saute the spices and aromatics. Heat the ghee in the high saute setting. Add the cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaves until aromatic. Add the onion and cook until soft and brown. You can cover the pot with a non-locking lid to speed up the process.
  • Add the chicken. Add the chicken, marinade, chiles, and remaining salt to the Instant Pot. Stir until the chicken is coated. Press cancel to turn the Instant Pot off.
  • Add the rice. Add the rice and water to the Instant Pot. Stir with a wooden spoon, nudging any browned bits from the pan. Submerge most of the rice in the water.
  • Cook. Secure the lid, set the press release to sealing, and select pressure cook. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then switch to venting for any remaining steam.
  • Enjoy. Turn off the Instant Pot, sprinkle in the cilantro, and gently fluff the rice. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
A plate of Indian pulao with lemon wedges

Can I Make This On The Stovetop?

Yes, this pulao recipe can also be made on the stovetop. The only change to the recipe ingredients is that you’ll need to double the amount of liquid.

Follow the directions above, using a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover and cook for 22 to 25 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed.

Remove the pot from heat and keep covered for an additional 22 to 24 minutes, before fluffing and serving.

Tips for Success

Here are a few important tips for making this chicken pulao recipe.

  • Always rinse the rice. Be sure to rinse the rice at least twice or until the water is clear to get the starch off. This is key in getting fluffy rice.
  • Marinate the chicken. If desired, you can marinate the chicken for up to 12 hours. I don’t recommend marinating it for longer, as the acidity in the lemon juice can cause it to break down.
  • Adjust the heat level. If you prefer a dish with no spice, you can omit the hot chiles completely, or add more if you like things really spicy.
A plate of chicken pulao with lemon wedges

Serving Suggestions

You can enjoy chicken pulao on its own, as a complete meal, or add a side dish. We like to serve it with a simple beet raita, which is a mix of cooked beets and yogurt.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

  • Fridge. Store leftover chicken pulao in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Reheat. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or on the stovetop.

More Instant Pot Recipes

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Instant Pot Indian Chicken and Rice Pulao

4.58 from 52 votes
Instant Pot Chicken Pulao comes together in just 30 minutes, with basmati rice, chicken breasts, and a few aromatics and spices. The perfect introduction to Indian cuisine!
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
A plate of Indian pulao
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Yield: 5 servings
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups


  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces and patted dry
  • 1 tablespoon ghee , or butter or even oil to make dairy free
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 green cardamom pods, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2- inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 hot green chiles, sliced (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lemon wedges for serving


  • Measure the rice into a wire-mesh strainer, then rinse under running water for 10 seconds, swishing it around. Repeat once more, then drain and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the ginger, garlic, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of the salt.
  • Add the chicken and turn to coat. Set aside, or cover the bowl and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
  • Select the high Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and heat the ghee.
  • Add the cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves and sauté until the spices are aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and browns, about 5 minutes.
  • Cover the pot with a glass lid (or other non-locking lid) that fits to speed up the process.
  • Add the chicken and its marinade, the chiles, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and stir until the chicken is coated with the spices.
  • Press the Cancel button to turn off the Instant Pot.
  • Add the rice and water and stir well with a wooden spoon, nudging loose any browned bits from the pot bottom. Scrape down the sides of the pot to make sure that most of the rice is submerged in the water.
  • Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Pressure Cook or Manual setting and set the cooking time for 6 minutes on high pressure.
  • Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes, then move the Pressure Release to Venting to release any remaining steam.
  • Press the cancel button to turn off the Instant Pot. Open the pot, sprinkle in the cilantro, and gently fluff the rice with a fork.
  • Use a rice paddle to scoop the rice out of the pot into individual plates, then serve with the lemon wedges on the side.

Stove Top Method

  • To make this on the stove, use a heavy pot or Dutch oven and increase the liquid by double 2 1/2 cups. Bring to a boil and let it simmer until it starts to evaporate, then cover and cook 22 to 25 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and keep covered, 22 to 24 minutes.

Last Step:

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Serving: 1 1/2 cups, Calories: 396 kcal, Carbohydrates: 47.5 g, Protein: 35.5 g, Fat: 6.5 g, Saturated Fat: 2.5 g, Cholesterol: 106 mg, Sodium: 513 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1.5 g


Indian Chicken Recipe

Photo credit: Jess Larson