Instant Pot Magic: Coconut Curry Chicken with Potatoes & Carrots

Can you cook oriental cuisine in an Instant Pot? I decided to find out by cooking “Coconut Curry Chicken with Potatoes & Carrots” in my new kitchen appliance. And I was pleased with the results of my “Americanized” dish. The flavors of coconut milk, yellow curry and chicken combine to make a nicely seasoned main dish. The recipe comes from a college roommate and is one of my favorite oriental-inspired dishes. Typically potatoes are included in this recipe. My roommate, Lucy, also added carrots and onions. Serve the chicken with rice — even though it contains potatoes. Had I known that cooking with an Instant Pot was so incredibly easy, I might have purchased this kitchen appliance several years ago.

This recipe dates back to graduate school days when I had a Chinese roommate. Lucy was born in mainland China and immigrated here for school. A great cook, Lucy would occasionally treat us to amazing Chinese meals. Although we went our separate ways after leaving VPI (Virginia Tech), this is one of her dishes which I have remembered all these years. I neglected to write down the recipe; but think I can remember the general idea and can make an “Americanized” version. It adapts well to the “one-pot meal” concept of Instant Pot cooking.

This particular dish is associated with the cuisine of Southeast Asia such as Thailand and is not necessarily considered to be a Chinese recipe. With the curry and coconut milk recipe elements, I am guessing that my roommate was from southern China. Although this dish is not “hot,” Lucy did love spicy, hot foods associated with the southern regions of China. Her recipes were typically “hotter” than anything I could easily eat. Even in Louisiana, with it’s spicy cuisine, Lucy’s dishes were truly “hot.” I always had a glass of water handy when eating one of Lucy’s dishes.

This dish adapts to the “one-pot meal” concept of Instant Pot cooking. All the ingredients (except rice, of course) can be added to the pot and cooked at the same time. (I do sauté the onions, garlic and brown the chicken pieces first in the Instant Pot.) Pressure cooking speeds up the cooking time and the ingredients finish cooking at the same time. The dish is finished cooking in six minutes! (Plus a few extra minutes for the Instant Pot to heat up.) Not all vegetables work well when cooked in an Instant Pot, but both potatoes and carrots keep their shape and finish cooking along with the chicken.

Keep it simple with Coconut Milk and Curry Powder

One of the ideas (at least for me) of using an Instant Pot is to keep things simple. So I am making the dish with a minimum of ingredients and am omitting most of the spices sometimes found in Coconut Curry Chicken recipes. I do remember that my roommate purchased a whole chicken and cut it up into small pieces for this dish with a large Chinese meat cleaver. To make things easier, I instead purchased boneless chicken tenderloin pieces. The “star ingredients” in this recipe are coconut milk and curry powder. Coconut milk is relatively easy to find and purchase, I am using dried yellow curry powder, rather than a paste, as I always have the dried curry powder spice in my kitchen cabinet. Yellow curry paste is sometimes difficult to find in my local grocery stores.

When cooking with an Instant Pot, get everything chopped up and ready to go before starting as the cooking process goes quickly. And this recipe is flexible — you can add more carrots or potatoes, for example. Or you can increase the amount of chicken in the recipe. One can of coconut milk, however, is really all you need. The cooking time doesn’t change — it stays at six minutes.

To make the recipe, sauté the onions and minced garlic in hot oil in the Instant Pot (without the lid) on “Sauté” setting. Remove the tendon from the chicken tenders, chop into chunks and season. Add to the Instant Pot with the onions and brown the chicken pieces. Then add the rest of the ingredients, including the curry powder and coconut milk and stir. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and turn to lock it. Change the Instant Pot to “Pressure Cook” and cook — with vent closed — for six minutes.

Manually release the pressure in the Instant Pot. Serve with rice — better have that cooked ahead too!

My family, especially my father, really likes this dish. The curry powder gives just the right amount of “zing” to the recipe; you really don’t need other spices. It’s “Instant Pot” magic with a very easy, scaled-down recipe.

Are you new to Instant Pots?

This kitchen appliance first came on the market in 2010 and has expanded in complexity and popularity since then. An Instant Pot is basically an electric, programable pressure cooker with lots of other settings and modes. Refer to your specific model for instructions on how to operate it. Just remember that pressure cookers operate on the premise that steam (yes, you much include some sort of liquid in the pot when pressure cooking) raises the pressure in the pot which raises the cooking temperature above 212 degrees F. The food cooks much quicker. However, steam is hot and can cause injury if the Instant Pot is not used properly. These Instant Pots don’t explode because they contain internal sensors and temperature controls, but in the pressure setting, the pot must be used properly. Plus, it is an electric appliance. So read and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions and follow them.

No Instant Pot?

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can still make this dish. Cook in a large, heavy Dutch oven or pot with a tight fitting lid. Follow along with the same instructions, but just reduce the heat to low and let the stew simmer on the stove until the chicken pieces are cooked and the potatoes and carrots are tender.

Instant Pot Magic: Coconut Curry Chicken with Potatoes and Carrots

  • Difficulty: easy hard
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  • 1-1/4 lb raw chicken tenders pieces (about 2-1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1-1/2 cup)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb very small Gold Yukon Potatoes (about 2 generous cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, pared and diagonal cut (about 1 cup cut carrots)
  • 1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • cooked long-grain rice

Method and Steps*:

  1. Prepare vegetables. Chop onion, mince garlic. Cut any larger Gold Yukon potatoes in half (do not peel) to make bite size pieces. Pare carrots and cut diagonally into chunks. Set aside.
  2. Using sharp knife, remove small ligament from each chicken tender. Cut each piece in half. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Turn setting of Instant Pot to “Sauté” and time to five minutes. Add oil to inner pot. Press “Start.”
  4. When oil is hot, add chopped onion and minced garlic. Stirring frequently, cook for 1 to 2 minutes until onions are translucent. Add more oil if needed so onions don’t stick. The Instant Pot is hot and these seasonings cook quickly.
  5. Add seasoned chicken tender pieces and sauté 2 more minutes, turning to sear all sides.
  6. When chicken is seared, cancel any remaining minutes of “Saute” setting on Instant Pot.
  7. Add prepared potatoes and carrots to Instant Pot. Stir to combine.
  8. Add coconut milk and curry powder. Stir.
  9. Place lid on Instant Pot and turn to lock. Set the Instant Pot to “Pressure Setting.” In the Custom Setting, turn to six minutes on “High” setting. Place on the Instant Pot lid with the vent to “Seal.” Press “Start.” Make sure the “Keep Warm” setting is also pressed. (When cooking is complete, the Instant Pot will keep the ingredients warm.)
  10. When the cooking is complete, use the “Quick Release” valve to release the pressure. Steam will escape from the vent. When the float valve shows that the pressure is totally released, remove lid.
  11. Transfer to serving bowl.
  12. Serve with cooked rice.

*NOTE: These instructions are given for a 6-quart Instant Pot — DuoEvoPlus model. Since features on programable instant pots vary, yours may operate slightly differently. Ingredients and cooking time should stay the same.