Chicken Pulao Instant Pot Recipe

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This quick and easy one-pot chicken and rice meal is a great gateway dish to Indian cuisine. It’s aromatic and mildly flavored with Indian spices. Thanks to the instant pot, making chicken pulao is nearly effortless.

instant pot chicken pulao

Chicken Pulao

Everyone knows of chicken biryani, right? Chicken Biryani is famous. Like a hall of fame, superstardom level famous. Well, let me introduce you to chicken pulao, the quiet and shy relative of biryani who isn’t as interested in the limelight. Don’t get me wrong, pulao is still very special – pulao just isn’t an A-list celebrity if you know what I mean. Chicken pulao is the Solange to biryani’s Beyonce, the Gayle to Oprah, the Roby to Ashley (jkjk Roby). Still, there are times when you might prefer pulao to biryani.

What is the difference between Pulao and Biryani?

Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure if I should share a recipe for chicken pulao on the blog. Why? Because with an Instant Pot, you can make Chicken Biryani and chicken pulao in the same amount of time. That’s right. Both take the same amount of effort to make. So why would anyone choose to make humble pulao over showy biryani? I’m going to tell you why of course!

For one thing – sometimes you just want a dish that’s a bit lighter, with a bit less spice. A dish that’s wholesome and delicious and isn’t going to steal the show/overpower other dishes. Chicken pulao is a dish that’s comfortable saying “hey, I don’t need to be the star today. Let’s all shine equally.”

Chicken pulao is also a great gateway dish if you’re introducing someone to Indian food for the first time or if you’re making this for kiddos who aren’t accustomed to spices. It’s familiar because it tastes like a regular pilaf… with chicken and aromatic whole spices. 

In the past – as in pre-Instant Pot – chicken pulao was the easier dish to make compared to biryani which took far more time and effort. Pulao was a dish that Indian families served more regularly: on weeknights, for gatherings, whenever a nice – but quick – dish was required. Pre-IP, chicken pulao was made in Indian homes more often than biryani. And because of that reason, sometimes when I’m feeling nostalgic for pulao or am in the mood for something a bit lighter, I’ll opt for pulao over biryani.

The great thing about chicken pulao is that it’s easy to adapt – you can use whatever whole spices you prefer – just don’t forget the caramelized onions, those are key. And if you prefer a spicier pulao, just add cayenne or chili peppers or well, more spices.

Instant Pot Pulao Chicken Ingredients:

  • Chicken: boneless and skinless thighs cut into quarters or chunks
  • Basmati Rice: I love this brand of basmati rice for pulao and biryani.
  • Oil or Ghee
  • Onions
  • Garlic: you can also use Garlic Paste
  • Ginger: you can also use Ginger Paste
  • Whole Spices: cumin seeds, green cardamom pods, whole cloves, bay leaf, black cardamom, cinnamon stick, whole black peppercorns
  • Ground Spices: salt, coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric
  • Water
  • Cilantro: for garnish
instant pot chicken pulao

Best Rice for Pulao and Biryani

If you’ve made my biryani before then you might notice that this chicken pulao is a teeny bit saucier than my chicken biryani – I think the reason for that is because there aren’t quite as many ground spices to soak up the extra moisture. For that reason, I suggest using basmati rice that will hold up under pressure.

I have said it many times – but this brand of rice – is my favorite when it comes to making basmati rice in an Instant Pot. The grains maintain their texture and remain separate. That can’t be said about all brands, so if you’re using a different brand you may need to reduce the cook time or the soak time. Play around with the cook time until you get the rice the way you prefer. I wish I could test all brands but the truth is, after buying aahu barah rice I really don’t want to use any other (this is not sponsored – I’ve bought every grain of rice myself, lol).

How to Make this Instant Pot Chicken Pulao Recipe

The process is very simple and I have a step-by-step breakdown in the recipe card below. We’re sauteing whole spices and then caramelizing sliced onions before adding garlic, ginger, and chicken. Stir-fry for a few minutes, then add water and rice to the pot. Close the lid and cook! Told you, it’s so easy!

instant pot chicken pulao

Storing and Reheating Pulao

You can store chicken pulao in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days or in the freezer for a couple of months. You can reheat it on the stovetop or using a microwave.

Instant Pot Pulao Serving Suggestions

You can serve this chicken pulao with some Raita and achar/pickle for a perfect and simple meal. It would also go really well with my Curried Tomato Soup, which is also a great way to use up fresh ripe tomatoes. Here are some other ideas:

I can’t wait to hear what you think of this chicken pulao. If you’ve tried both my Chicken Biryani and my chicken pulao you really have to let me know what you think!

instant pot chicken pulao

Instant Pot Chicken Pulao Recipe

instant pot chicken pulao

Instant Pot Chicken Pulao Recipe

4.74 from 34 reviews
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Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup basmati rice soaked 15 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons oil or ghee

Whole Spices

  • 2 medium onions thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic or garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger or ginger paste
  • 1 pound boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into quarters

Spices

  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt adjust to taste
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric

  • 1 cup water
  • Cilantro garnish

Instructions
 

  • Soak the basmati rice in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  • Press the sauté button. Add the oil/ghee to the pot. When it melts, add the whole spices and stir. Once they begin to sizzle add the onions. Stir-fry for 7-8 minutes or until the onions turn golden brown.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, chicken and spices. Stir-fry for 5 minutes or until most of the outside of the chicken is no longer pink.
  • Add the rice and water to the pot and mix well.
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 6 minutes at high pressure.
  • Naturally release pressure for 10 minutes. Open the valve to release any remaining pressure.
  • Discard the whole spices if desired, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Notes

  • I love this brand of basmati rice – the rice grains are always perfectly cooked! If you are using another brand you may need to reduce the cook time – play around with the times depending on how you prefer your rice.
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About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.

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Comments

  1. Vish says

    This recipe came out so well! I didn’t have basmati so I used arbario and it tasted like a very delicious Indian flavored risotto!

  2. Sadaf says

    5 stars
    Tried this dish tonight and increased the rice and water by 1/2 cup and it turned out amazing! Absolutely delicious. I also did half ghee and half veg oil and the rice was perfectly moist. Paired it with a raita and it completed the dish

  3. Malaika Baptist says

    5 stars
    I just purchased an instant pot and this was the first recipe I made..My 9 month old relished the pulao..it’s such an easy and tasty recipe..simple and yet so flavourful..Thank you

  4. Shweta says

    Hi..
    I don’t hAve an instant pot..can I still make this recipe in a normal pan? How will cooking instructions be different ?
    Thankyou

  5. Marjan says

    I loved your biryani dish so I’m eager to try this recipe out! If I want to make more rice (3 cups), how much water should I add? Also, should I double on the spices, I’m not sure exactly how much chicken I have (3 ziploc bags full of boneless chicken thighs).

    Thanks so much!
    Marjan

    • My Heart Beets says

      Marjan, I hope you love this recipe as much as the biryani! If you’re looking to double the recipe, I would suggest doubling all of the ingredients but keeping the cook time the same. The pot will take longer to reach pressure which will make up for the extra volume.

  6. Ellen says

    5 stars
    I’m so glad that I found you, Ashley. I made already many recipes from you and the all very good. Even my almost 17 year old daughter liked them. One more reason to stay with you .

  7. Nandini says

    5 stars
    this was absolutely amazing – thank u so much .. looking fwd to trying more stuff from your page

    first time i’ve tried making a pilau – loved it 🙂

  8. Kate says

    I have 1.5 pounds of chicken. Could I use it all in this dish or would it release too much extra moisture resulting in soggy rice?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Kate, extra chicken will release more liquid but if it were me, I’d use it all – seems like a pain to put away half a pound of chicken. If your rice tends to get soggy easily, then you can always try reducing the water to 3/4 cup – I think that’d be okay too. I use a few different brands of basmati – the one I normally use for biryani/pulao (aahu barah basmati) doesn’t get soggy easily. Just something to think about.

  9. TJ says

    1 star
    Like some other comments here, I got the BURN message….I opened the pot and the rice and spices were stuck to the bottom. This happened twice, I added water and loosened the stuck bits………TOTAL WASTE OF TIME AND EFFORT, and especially infuriating when you and others are hungry and waiting for a decent meal! GRRRRRRRRRR…….

    • My Heart Beets says

      TJ, aw man I’m sorry to hear that! I wonder why this happened especially since you deglazed before you started… someone recently suggested adding oil after the instant pot has already heated up a bit – they said it helps avoid sticking. Maybe that’ll help you? Let me know if you try this again – though I totally understand why you might not want to…

  10. Tina says

    I tried this recipe and turned out great! Can I replace the basmati rice with quinoa instead? I would like to make a quinoa chicken pulao, any suggestions on cooking time? Thank you so much

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Tina, I haven’t tried this myself but I’ve heard from some people in my facebook group who have said they’ve been able to use quinoa successfully in my biryani recipe. Since this is so similar I’m sure it would work with this pulao recipe too. I would keep the cook time the same. Let me know how it goes!

  11. Sarah Kurien-essam says

    I love your recipes as they are easy to make. My girls 7and 5 love rice and this was a hit. It’s in the running with the tikka masala rice😁

  12. Nikita says

    5 stars
    I tried this for the first time and it turned out great!! The only extra thing I did was, marinate the chicken with the spices and one tablespoon Plain yogurt before putting it in. Thank you!

  13. Amit says

    4 stars
    Quick and easy to follow recipe. Tastes good! My chicken came out a bit chewy…but could be user error. Next time I might try marinating the chicken for a short time, any thoughts on that?

    • My Heart Beets says

      hey Amit! Hmmm odd that the chicken was chewy – you used chicken thighs and not breast right? I think they only reason it’d be chewy is if the chicken was overcooked… You can def marinate it if you want. let me know if you try it again and how that goes!

  14. Mariam says

    5 stars
    My 18 month old son LOVES Pakistani food and it is always a struggle for me to make it for him. This recipe makes it so easy and it is absolutely delicious! He eats it all in one sitting every time. Thank you!

  15. Tabu says

    4 stars
    Hi Ash, I am a new instant potter and found your blog while looking up some easy recipes. Your recipe and the description is perfect. I made it and am super surprised how easy it was to make it in the pot and am now looking forward to trying many of your other recipes. The only issue I got the message “Burn” and when i opened it, it was truly burnt at the bottom. i salvaged it and took it out immediately so my rest of the food didnt taste or smell of it. But i wonder what happened. I think its with some setting on my pot coz this happened when i tried making something else as well. Mine is a non stick instant pot. Any suggestion?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Tabu! I use a stainless steel insert and haven’t had an issue with burning – it’s odd that yours is nonstick and burned! I’m not sure why that would happen…

  16. Kiran says

    5 stars
    I didn’t have black and green cardamom pods and just used 1/4 tsp of cardamom powder. Do you think that makes a different in the taste?

  17. Amy says

    5 stars
    I wanted to know how many people this recipe would feed as it uses 1 cup of rice and 1 pound chicken? I need to feed 4 people.

  18. Nikhil says

    5 stars
    Made this today and it felt so easy!

    I did not have all the whole spices and it still had a good taste. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  19. Rimi says

    5 stars
    This biriyani is so amazing! We want to make it for 40 guests for our house warming party but we only have a 6qt instant pot so we’ll do multiple batches. What’s the max serving we can cook in a 6qt instant pot each time for this recipe and what should the amount of rice and chicken be?

  20. Michael says

    Excited to try your recipes and I am new to using an IP.
    I have a lot of chicken breasts in my freezer, can I use them instead of thighs? How much would this change the cooking time?
    I read you other posts about different types of rice in the IP, if I wanted to use brown basmati rice do I raise the cooking time to 22 mins like I have seen?
    It seems like the cooking time in the IP when you cook rice with meat seems to be based on the type of rice you are using, is this correct?
    Sorry for so many questions, hope you don’t mind trying to answer them.
    Thanks

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Michael, yes brown basmati rice takes 22 mins but you can also use “quick cooking brown rice” which cooks in the same amount of time as regular basmati – I’d suggest the latter if using chicken breasts because otherwise 22 mins will result in overcooked chicken. I’d suggest regular brown basmati when using red meat. Hope that helps!

  21. Karishma says

    5 stars
    I made this last week and my husband and I loved it! I plan to make it again tomorrow for some guests – I will use 3 cups of rice, so will triple all the ingredients. Should cooking time remain the same?
    Thanks for the recipe Ashley!

  22. Shriya says

    5 stars
    I have made this thrice already and will be making it again tomorrow. Biryani gets too spicy for us, this is a perfect blend of every thing! I followed the recipe to the T , my almost two year old and a very picky husband loves it.

    • My Heart Beets says

      Shriya, I’m so happy to hear that you’ve already made this three times! I’m so glad your kiddo and husband like it too!! No better compliment than hearing that a toddler likes one of my recipes 🙂

  23. Sarah says

    5 stars
    Since I discovered your recipe, I’ve made it every week. It’s my favorite thing to make in the instant pot. I’ve made it for guests, I’ve shared leftovers with coworkers…everyone loves it! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  24. Glenda Victor Livingston says

    5 stars
    I tried with 4 cups of rice. It came out really delicious. The only problem is while adding 4 cups of water I got burn sign in instant pot, and I stopped and left it with natural release for 20 min . Thank you for this recipe. Worth trying!

  25. Wajiha says

    5 stars
    Hi Ashley,

    I made this last night for my husband and I and it turned out so good! I recently bought an instant pot after a friend shared your blog with me (bought the exact same one) and I’m beyond excited to try all of your recipes. Thank you so much for sharing these delicious and easy recipes and making my life a little easier 😊

  26. Pari says

    5 stars
    Made this for dinner tonight and we all loved it including my kids (8 & 13). Thanks a lot Ashley for such an easy yet flavorful recipe. I really like that it uses so little basic spices and still turns out so yum!!

  27. Bhargavi says

    4 stars
    It was perfect except for salt .. recipe has a little excess salt.. and I was not sure how to make it less salty later.. next time I might try 1.25 tsp salt instead of 1.75

      • Gaby says

        4 stars
        I doubled all the ingredients, including the water (2 cups). Instead of 10 minutes, I let the NPR go on for 15 minutes. But when I opened the lid, the rice was still mushy & there was still a little bit of water in the pot. So I tried to cook on high pressure again for 2 minutes but about a minute in, I got a burn sign. When I opened the lid, the rice was not dry & still mushy when I tried to fluff it. So now I’ve put it on the sauté setting & am resting the lid on top for about ten minutes to steam it & allow the moisture to evaporate. Let’s see how it turns out

  28. Ash says

    5 stars
    Made this without peppercorns, and black cardamom. Still came out great! What do you think about using onion paste instead of sliced onions? I tried doing that with my south indian chicken fry, and it came out great!

  29. Amna says

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I made it last week and it was delicious!!! For the future, I’m wondering is it possible to use beef chunks with brown rice?

    Thanks again!!

  30. Wendy says

    I have a question about using whole spices. When I’ve done this before, they’re still whole in the finished product. That is unpleasant, and it takes away from the enjoyment trying to pick them out while eating. Am I doing something wrong?

  31. Nina says

    Mine gave a “burn” display and I opened the lid to find everything done and tasting great. The rice was just not very fluffy … but it wasn’t soggy either. I wish I knew what went wrong I followed it all precisely.

    • Mahj says

      5 stars
      This was a great recipe but I notice when I make rice in the instant pot it leaves water and the added water makes my rice mushy. Any suggestions how to dry the chicken before or just add less water?

      Thanks!

  32. Erin says

    5 stars
    Made this ahead of time for a camping trip coming up this weekend. I didn’t have any black cardamom so left that out. My family hasn’t tried it yet but I did and it was AWESOME! I’m almost positive my young boys will gobble this up. I may add peas to it next time just for a little bit of veggies.

  33. Jonathan says

    We’ve got all of the spices on hand, except they’re all ground. How much of each should we use if we want to substitute?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Jonathan, I suggest using whole spices for this pulao that way they aren’t overpowering. Whole spices add a great aroma to the rice whereas ground will be overpowering in my opinion – especially for pulao. If you must use ground, I’d try just a pinch. Let me know how it goes!

  34. Nyla says

    Thanks for posting this! I love chicken pulao, and there are many times I prefer it over biryani for it’s lighter flavor, like you said. Excited to try this. How would I modify cook time if I use bone-in chicken pieces?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Nyla, awesome I can’t wait to hear what you think of it! If they are small bone-in chicken pieces then they should cook in the same amount of time – if they are larger just sauté the pieces a bit longer before adding the rice and water. Also, make sure they are skinless! Let me know how it goes 🙂

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