Butter chicken is a savory and easy one-pot curry flavored with all my favorite spices. It’s naturally gluten-free and can be dairy-free with coconut cream and vegan butter.
This is a very easy version — prepare it in about the same amount of time as it will take you to make side dishes to go with it.
A simple curry
Butter chicken is about as basic as a curry can be without using purchased curry powder. I can buy all the seasonings for this recipe – cumin, garam masala, paprika and chili powder – at any market.
Butter chicken is similar to chicken tikka masala except that butter chicken is usually milder. Also, usually for tikka masala the chicken is marinated before cooking.
When I first made this curry, I was surprised at how little butter there actually is in the recipe – I figured from the name there must be lots! You need just enough, combined with oil, to saute the onions, garlic and ginger.
Steps in making butter chicken
This meal starts by sauteing onions, then garlic and ginger, in oil and butter. Ghee is the best substitute for butter if you cook lactose-free, and if you need it to be dairy-free, choose vegan butter. If you’d prefer to use all oil, I believe that olive oil would add a pleasant flavor.
Once the vegetables are tender, stir-fry the spices to flavor the oil (which flavors the whole dish). Then add the tomato paste or tomatoes, followed by the chicken.
Be careful to cook the chicken until it is nearly done, but not so quickly that it toughens. The last step is to stir in the coconut milk and simmer it so that the chicken finishes cooking and you get a wonderful, tasty sauce.
Serving ideas for butter chicken
If you have a chance to make this recipe, please share on social media, and leave me a comment so that I know how it went!
Other dishes you may enjoy
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Butter chicken is a savory and easy one-pot curry flavored with all my favorite spices. It’s naturally gluten-free and can be dairy-free with coconut cream and vegan butter. This is a very easy version — prepare it in about the same amount of time as it takes to make side dishes to go with it.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, ghee or vegan butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger finely minced or grated (see note)
- 2–3 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 3 ounces (one half of a small can) tomato paste OR 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
- 1 ½ pounds (about 2–3) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 cup coconut milk (or more, up to a whole 14-ounce can)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil, butter or ghee, and onions and cook onions down slowly until lightly golden, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic and let cook for 30 seconds, just until fragrant.
- Stir in the spices until they coat the onions and are well mixed with the oil or butter.
- Add the tomato paste or tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chicken chunks and cook gently until the chicken is mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. We usually add more coconut milk, up to the whole can, because we enjoy the sauce. You also may find you need to add more coconut milk if you used tomato paste than if you added chopped tomatoes.
- Serve the butter chicken garnished with cilantro and accompanied by rice, saag, and some fresh sliced vegetables.
This recipe is adapted from this one, with additions from other sources and our fertile imaginations.
Kitchen tip: We prepare a lot of ginger at once by finding a large piece with very few branches. We peel the ginger and pulse it in a food processor until it is like grated ginger. We then freeze it in tablespoonfuls in ice cube trays. We place the frozen ginger cubes, wrapped in freezer paper, inside large plastic seal bags, and remove what we need for a recipe.
Keywords: butter chicken, indian cuisine, curry, indian spices, one-pot curry, chicken curry, gluten-free, dairy optional, coconut milk curry
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