Pulao, or pilaf, is a delicately flavored rice dish popular in Pakistani and Indian cooking. This Instant Pot Chicken Pulao recipe requires just 25 minutes of prep time and results in tender boneless chicken and perfectly cooked rice.
When I first started blogging, I wrote posts for myself. No one was reading them, after all. I would tell stories and be quirky and blog the way I suppose bloggers did ten years ago. Later down the road, I started posting with a little more awareness – I knew there were a few eyes reading, and for my post to be picked up by the Google crawl, I’d have to get to the point of the post at the very top (see paragraph above).
And now, I’m realizing my posts are exceedingly for the public. The public meaning the majority of the lovely people who land on my posts via Google and close out within seconds after scanning to see if this is what they’re looking for. I have no resentment toward this. I do this too. It’s 2019, after all. Who reads blog posts?
But I know this – the quickest way to become increasingly dry, or worse, dampen my own enjoyment, is to write only for others. The caveat is that we write on blogs because we want our work out there. And it won’t get out there unless we cater to SEO and keywords and algorithms.
As I navigate this push and pull between SEO-friendly vs. freestyle writing, this tug-of-war between creativity and entrepreneurship, I just hope for one thing – that I can continue to find ways to fuel the passion that started it all.
Anyway, back to why you’re here. You want a really good pulao recipe – which this is, so I’d love for you to stick around.
Pulao may not be as famous as biryani, but it holds significance just the same. I remember whenever my mom made it, I’d stand over the stove sneaking just one bite before dinner, and then another, and another. Meat, rice, and aromatic whole spices all woven together so beautifully to create a magnificent composition. It’s utterly satisfying.
This Instant Pot Chicken Pulao is a weeknight version of the more elaborate yakhni pulao, in which meat is slowly simmered to create a stock (yakhni) which is used to cook the rice. That’s not to say you’re missing out on the flavors of classic pulao. The techniques here are still the same – deeply brown onions, seared meat, and rice perfumed with whole spices.
Tips on how to make chicken pulao in the Instant Pot:
- This recipe moves quickly once the onions have browned. Before you begin cooking, have all ingredients (especially the spices) prepped and ready to go.
- For this recipe, I use chicken thighs or chicken tenders – the little strips of meat attached to the underside of the chicken breast. If you don’t have them, you can also use chicken breast. I have also heard back from several people that they successfully used bone-in chicken and the recipe worked.
- Before adding the chicken, be sure to pat it dry with a paper towel. All the ingredients are measured specifically so that there’s no soggy rice in sight.
- Each brand of rice varies, so I can’t be sure all rice will cook to perfection with this method (you may have to do a little trial and error), but most aged, long-grain basmati rice will work wonderfully in this recipe. I use this Royal Chef’s Secret brand.
- If you don’t want to bite into the whole spices, place them in a spice bag or cheesecloth bundle. I don’t recommend grinding them because they may become overpowering.
- Pair with raita or yogurt. And as always with pulao, be sure to pick out and discard the whole spices while you eat.
If you try this recipe, please let me know in the comments below and/or tag me on Instagram so I can see your creations. I love hearing from you!
More Instant Pot recipes you’ll love:
- Instant Pot Shami Kebab (with stovetop instructions)
- Instant Pot Maash ki Dal
- Instant Pot Kadhi
- Instant Pot Nihari
- Instant Pot Butter Chicken
- Instant Pot Chana Pulao (Chickpea Pilaf)
Instant Pot Chicken Pulao
- Instant Pot
- 1 ½ cups (285 grams) aged, long grain basmati rice
- 2 tbsp neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
- 2 small (or 1 large) bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1 small black cardamom optional
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds crushed
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 3/4 inch piece ginger crushed
- 1 small (50g) tomato finely chopped
- 1-2 green chili peppers whole or chopped (optional)
- 1 lb boneless chicken (I prefer thighs or tenders but you may use breast) cubed into 1” pieces
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 2 ¼ tsp kosher salt divided (or to taste)
- small handful chopped cilantro and/or mint
- Thoroughly wash the rice and soak it in water for 25 minutes. Then drain. I usually start pulao preparation while the rice is soaking.
- Select the high Sauté setting on the Instant Pot. Once hot, add the oil, ghee, and thinly sliced onion. Sauté, stirring often, until the onions are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a tablespoon of water. The color of the onions will determine the color of the rice so you want to get them even and golden brown.
- Add the whole spices, garlic, and ginger and sauté for another minute or until the raw smell disappears. Add the chicken and ¼ tsp of the salt and continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes until the color of the chicken changes. Add the tomato and green chili pepper and sauté until the tomato softens, about 2 minutes.
- Add the rice, remaining salt, and water and stir to combine. Scrape the sides of the pot and gently press down the rice to make everything is submerged in the water.
- Cancel the Sauté setting, secure the lid, and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Pressure-cook on high setting for 6 minutes. Let naturally release for 15 minutes. Then manually release any remaining pressure by moving the Pressure Release to Venting. Fluff with a fork. Sprinkle the cilantro/mint over the top and serve with raita or yogurt.