Instant Pot Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Instant Pot Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken

206 reviews / 4.7 average

Coconut Tandoori Chicken made with rich spices and creamy coconut milk. Ridiculously easy (like, 5 minutes hands-on time) and so, so yummy! My new favorite make-ahead freezer meal.

And so begins the wonderful season of easy back-to-school make-ahead dinners!

But seriously, EASY. Easy like should be embarrassed but can't even be because it's so good. No cutting boards, no measuring cups or spoons (I'm the queen of eyeballing), and no fuss.

I mean, I'm not headed back to school anytime soon, but I AM headed into a maternity leave this fall and I'm stocking up on those make-ahead meals like my life depends on it. Which it may? Time will tell.

While I'm not always up for a full-blown grilling moment like traditional tandoori, I DO have a pretty decent stash of spices, a package of chicken in the freezer, and a can of coconut milk sitting in the pantry at any given time. Enter: Coconut Tandoori Chicken. It's creamy, fall-apart, juicy chicken thigh meat seasoned somewhat aggressively (especially if your roots are Scandinavian) with the warmth and depth of tandoori spices.

So let's talk about the make-ahead part of this recipe. Ready?

Here's what you do:

Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken in a freezer bag.

That's all. *evil laugh*

It's so easy. You just put everything in a bag and kinda mash it around. I told you I should be embarrassed. This is not fancy, people. Not fancy at all. Pop it in your fridge to make in the next day or two, OR freeze that bad boy for a future dinner.

When you're ready to cook it, you can either slow cook or pressure cook this magic, which becomes a shredded chicken situation that is brimming with flavor and coated in an almost gravy-like coconut curry-ish sauce.

Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken in an Instant Pot.

What are the best ways to eat Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken? Oh, FRIEND. Let me count the ways.

  • Tacos.
  • Wraps.
  • Salads.
  • Rice bowls.
  • Pizzas.
  • Cauli rice.
  • Roasted veggies.
  • Sandwiches.
  • Soups.

It is kind of my new favorite. In and on everything.

Expect to see this Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken making an appearance again soon in my MEGA DEEP DIVE post all about real food freezer recipes. Yes, that is happening. And yes, easy button lovers should be excited.

Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken in a bowl with rice.
Pst! Recipe inspiration for this recipe was from my friend Ali of the excellent Gimme Some Oven!

Source notes: Being that this version is made in the Instant Pot or slow cooker, this Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken is not real tandoori chicken. The “tandoori” in tandoori chicken refers to a special type of clay oven that the chicken gets roasted in. Normally tandoori chicken has a nice crusty golden brown exterior from all those spices + that high oven heat and it is DELICIOUS. Mine does not, because we are skipping the tandoori / oven / grill situation. Traditional Chicken Tandoori recipes can be found here and here.

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Tandoori chicken in bowl with rice.

Instant Pot Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings 1x

Description

Coconut Tandoori-Inspired Chicken made with rich spices and creamy coconut milk. EXTREMELY EASY and so, so yummy.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 cups rice, uncooked

Instructions

  1. Rice: Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Freezer Version: Mix everything together in a freezer-friendly bag or container. Place in the freezer and store up to three months. When you're ready to cook, follow the directions below!
  3. Instant Pot: Add everything to the Instant Pot. If it's thawed, cook for 5 minutes manual high pressure + 10 minutes for natural release. If it's frozen, cook for 15 minutes manual high pressure + 10 minutes natural release. Shred and serve over rice!
  4. Slow Cooker: Add everything to the slow cooker. If it's thawed, cook for 4 hours on high, or 6 hours on low. If it's frozen, cook for 6 hours on high. Shred and serve over rice!
  5. Stovetop: Combine the garam masala, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, turmeric, ginger, and cayenne pepper in a small dish. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the chicken thighs. Season the chicken with the spice mixture. Cook for a minute or two on each side. Add in the honey and coconut milk. Cover the skillet and simmer on low for 45 minutes until the chicken is fork tender and can be easily shredded.

Notes

If you let the sauce stand for about 15 minutes before serving, it should thicken up slightly and take on the texture of a light gravy or curry sauce. I find chicken thighs are pretty small and usually cook quickly, but make sure you check to make sure they're fully cooked if you are working with larger chicken thighs. I like to add a side of greens with this recipe to round out the meal - something like steamed broccoli, sautéed spinach, or a green salad.

Freezer Meal Version

  1. Freeze Together:
    2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
    2 tablespoons garam masala
    2 tablespoons honey
    1 tablespoons chili powder
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  2. Instant Pot Instructions: High pressure 15 mins + 20 mins natural release
  3. Slow Cooker Instructions: High setting 4 hours (thaw first)
  4. Final Step: Serve in rice bowls, with roasted vegetables, with cauliflower rice, or in fusion-style tacos or burritos.
  5. Check out our full freezer meal posts with all recipes and instructions here!
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes (varies by method)
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: Indian-inspired

Keywords: coconut tandoori chicken, instant pot coconut tandoori chicken, instant pot tandoori chicken

Want the freezer meal version of this recipe? Check out our full freezer meals post!

Frozen meals stored in bags.

One More Thing!

Looking for more easy recipes with 6 ingredients or less? Check out our go-to list here!

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550 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Oh yum! I look forward to trying this recipe soon! I find that the Instant Pot is fabulous for Indian flavors. Such a great way to get a hearty, healthy, flavorful dinner on the table… after school! Many thanks!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Can this be cooked in a conventional oven and for how long? I don’t own an instant pot or a slow cooker.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I don’t know why not. Just think of it as braised chicken thighs. I’m sure you could find a recipe online to estimate cooking times if you think of the recipe as a braise.

      2. Skillful Cook Logo

        I used my normal oven and cooked for 3 hours on 150 Celsius fan forced and it was perfect!

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          Has anyone done this with chicken breasts? That’s what I’ve got and I really want to make this tonight! Thanks!

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            Hey! You probably already went ahead and used breasts instead of thighs but IF you haven’t yet, then yes! I’ve made this many times and always use breast instead. Still just as good.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    OMG i just am in love with this recipe. don’t even care that it’s not technically tandoori! the flavors are amazing (garam masala is one of my fav seasonings) and so easy. so eays. just perfect!!

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m not sure how you do it.. Most blogs, I’ll go days scrolling through their recipes with nothing really grabbing my attention or feeling worth the work, and yet everything you post is something I want to eat and need to make asap. I think it has to do with how delicious your food is combined with how simple the recipes usually are! I almost always have the majority of ingredients on hand. Thank you!!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Yes, I agree! Skillful Cook recipes are my crack! I could spend hours reading your content.

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          I had the same question. I wanted to add sweet potatoes. How would I adjust the directions for the instant pot if I added a large sweet potato cubes?

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I make coconut chicken all the time and thought I was good. not. till I found this recipe: Apparently this recipe has made me queen of my castle

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    These flavors look amazing! Do you think it would work using tofu in the instant pot instead of chicken?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Made this, substituting 2 packages of cubed tofu for the chicken, and it turned out delicious!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        With the tofu, did you brown it first or just cube it and throw it in? My hubs wont eat tofu unless it’s still a little crispy…

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          I just cubed it and tossed it in. It turned out well, but that’s a great suggestion. I think it would probably taste even better pan fried to add a little more texture.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    If you want an Instant Pot shaped chunk o’ frozen dinner, folks have had good luck freezing in an old icecream bucket that slides into your pot (sizes vary). Takes up a bit more room in your freezer than flat packing, but then you can literally pop it in when you need it, since cooking from frozen is a thing with IP cooking.

    Looking forward to trying this out!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    This sounds like a perfect meal for when you want something that tastes like you were in the kitchen for hours but you really want to be in there for like 10 minutes tops. I’m excited to make this!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Oh My! All of these spices in one dish is heavenly. Also, I love how easy the recipe is. Thanks so much for posting!

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Ah! Love this (and your *evil laugh* lol). I got an instant pot recently and I 100% blame you! But I am very happy about it. Cant wait to see more of these recipes. Going back to school to become a nurse- these will come in SUPER handy!! Thanks as always Linsday.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Okay FINE I will finally buy an Instant Pot! I’m sure you’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but what size do you use? This recipe looks unreal by the way 😍🍽

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hello! I just tried to cook this from frozen in my instant pot and did 15 minutes on high pressure followed by a natural release. The chicken was still very raw. Any idea what could have gone wrong? Is that the right timing for from frozen? I’m thinking it needs to be longer.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Sorry to hear the chicken was still raw, Amanda. 😕 We’re wondering if the chicken thighs you had just needed to be cut into slightly smaller pieces. We’d suggest that for next time or just adding a few extra minutes to the cook time. Enjoy!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Currently making this (was so incredibly easy)!! Will let you know how it turns out!

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    Maternity leave in the Fall? — Congratulations and Best Wishes are in order. Many will be thinking of you, I’m sure.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Absolutely delicious and amazingly easy. I love that everything except the chicken is shelf stable in my pantry. When having the leftovers on day 2, I was able to skim a lot of the fat off that rose to the top and became solid. I can trust that your recipes will always be a hit. Your recipe videos running at the bottom grab my eye, but I seem to miss the title of the recipe at the beginning. Could you start adding the title of the recipe to the shot of the final food?

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Thanks for the feedback, Amanda! I’ll pass it along to the team!

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      Tried this in the instant pot and it did not work at all. Burned the bottom after just a few minutes. Chicken (which started out fresh, not frozen) was still very raw. Assembling it in the pot I wondered how it was going to pressure cook with so little liquid without burning. And then it burned very bad.

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Are those tablespoon measurements for the spices correct? Seems like a lot of chili power, in particular, to me?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I found this to be too salty. I love all things skillfulcook but this one had too much salt and a very coarse texture when eating it. Thanks for all the great recipes!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I would try this again, maybe you mis calculated. a measurement?
        I like to toast my spices in a little oil on IP sauté, then add the onion, chicken, coconut milk.

        I have had great luck with this recipe! I have made it weekly for a couple of months!

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          I think the degree of saltiness depends on what type of salt you use: table salt , sea salt, or kosher salt.

          We used Morton’s kosher salt and it was just right. Table salt would make it way too salty for my taste but I don’t even buy the stuff anymore, frankly.

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            I was thinking the same thing and wondered if there is a POY go-to salt… I love so many of the recipes, especially for the IP, and it would be great to know when kosher vs. table salt is recommended.

        2. Skillful Cook Logo

          Can this be done with chicken breast? It’s cheaper and easier to get where I’m from ❤️

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      This recipe is awesome and tastes so good! But the last two times I made it I got a burn notice on my instant pot. This time I tried to really mix the spices beforehand to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Do you have any recommendations on how to prevent this?

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hey LIndsay, this sounds so excellent, but do I set my electric pressure cooker on high or low pressure for this recipe? I have a different brand than the Instant Pot.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I LOVE this but my kids thought it was a bit on the spicy side :/ how would you recommend tweaking the spices to take it down to a mild level of spicy?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I started this on high pressure using chicken breasts, but the IP alarmed BURN, so I turned it to low pressure for 6 minutes. The chicken breasts were starting to get pretty dark when I opened the pot. I also added 1/2 cup of water.

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I got a burn message as well, restarted on low and it happened again. I had to move it to the stovetop to finish. The spices all settled and burned at the bottom of the IP. It’s delicious and probably even more so with all the spices actually incorporated in. I’ll try it on low next time.

        1. Skillful Cook Logo

          My instant pot also says “burn” every time I try this recipe! I have to finish it on the stove every time. Any suggestions???

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            Sorry to hear this. 😕 We’re wondering if it’d help to put the liquid-y ingredients on the bottom and pile the chicken on top. Let us know how this goes for you!

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    It’s on the menu for next week! I’ve planned it with some cauliflower rice and I’ll probably throw in some frozen peas while it rests along with a handful of spinach because, you know, green stuff.

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    This looks amazing, and I can’t wait to read more in your freezer recipes MEGA DEEP DIVE!

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi Lindsay,

    Happy Friday my friend. Stopping by to check out your amazing food blogs again. Last night, I had chicken and broccoli with rice and an egg roll for dinner. It’s ironic you mentioned chicken because the thought hasn’t crossed my mind lately to stock up on coconut oil so I can start using it on my food again. I never heard of chicken Tandoori before but it sounds like something good. 🙂

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    Just came upon this today as I was looking for instant pot chicken recipe. We love Indian and it was perfect!! I may make it with less cayenne so the kids will tolerate the kick, but I loved it just as it is! It made enough for leftovers so I’m excited for lunch tomorrow. I look forward to searching your other recipes!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Do you think this would be good on quinoa instead of rice? Or is that a little bit too out there? It’s absolutely delicious by the way and going into my rotation!

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Hi! This is going to be my first InstaPot recipe. Would you please explain more in a step by step process using the pot?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I just made this and all I did was throw everything in my Instant Pot. Ran it on manual for 7 minutes, then let it cool for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure. It was delicious!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        Thank you! It sounds so easy. I will make it as soon as I get the garam masala spice in the next few days 🙂

      2. Skillful Cook Logo

        plan on buying some chicken thighs, have everything else. The recipe says cook for 5 minutes, why did you do 7?

      3. Skillful Cook Logo

        this will be my first Instant Pot recipe. I have read that you usually always need to put at least 1 cup of water (or any real liquid like broth) in the Instant Pot for the pressure to work properly. Will the coconut milk be okay here? Can I just dump everything in it? 2 people commented that they got the BURN message and with my luck I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened to me! Is there any way I can avoid this? Thank you!

          1. Skillful Cook Logo

            Hello again, I just read the recipe before I stop by the grocery store tomorrow night and I see the author says she put everything in a Ziploc bag one or 2 days prior to the cooking part. I’m ashamed to say I had only jumped to the ingredients list before and didn’t read the text since I was looking for a first easy recipe.

            Will all the ingredients fit in this Ziploc bag, let’s say if I use a big freezer bag? I’ve never “marinated” anything, that’s the type of recipe my mom does, haha! As you can probably tell, I’m not only new at instant pot cooking but pretty much at cooking in general. I’m guessing if I skip the Ziploc bag step, the whole recipe will be less tasty?

          2. Skillful Cook Logo

            Actually if you’re making this fresh and your chicken isn’t frozen, you can just put all of the ingredients in the Instant Pot without marinating anything. You’d only need to put all of the ingredients in a large plastic bag if you’re going to freeze the meal to prepare at a later time. 😉