Recipe: Butter Chicken

January 6, 2010

I have no idea how many weeks Butter Chicken has appeared on my weekly menu. Nearly every week since I came back from Toronto? But for a variety of reasons, it never worked out for me to make it and I’ve been dying to have it again. Yes, I could have visited one of my local Indian cuisine restaurants but that would take the adventure out of making it myself.

One thing I will say, is that this is a multi-step process and it’s not an easy-fix meal, but it’s not the most complicated or lengthy dish I’ve ever prepared (I think it took less time than, say, my seafood lasagna). Sorry, I didn’t take pictures of each step because I just didn’t have the time! But I did note everything I did to the recipe, so there is that! I adapted this recipe from six different recipes I had bookmarked, so I really can’t give any one recipe credit. It’s a true mish-mash.

I want to start by saying that there are three spices in this recipe (fenugreek, turmeric and garam masala) that most people don’t keep in their house. Don’t leave them out because I can’t vouch for this recipe without them. If you’re not sure you can find them at your local store, I highly recommend Penzeys for online ordering. You could potentially make your own garam masala, as it’s actually a spice mix, but if you’re ordering, you may as well just get that too!

Butter Chicken

Spice Mix:

4 tsp garam masala

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp ground fenugreek

2 tsp chili powder

Mix the spice mix together in a small separate container and set it aside.


1/2 cup plain yogurt

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp garlic paste OR 3 gloves of garlic, grated

5 tsp Spice Mix

Mix together the marinade, put 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast, cubed, into a gallon size bag along with marinade and squish it around to coat all the chicken. Marinade the chicken for several hours (I did two hours) or overnight.

Tomato Sauce:


1/2 cup melted butter

1 medium to large onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely ground cashews (salted is fine)

29 oz can tomato puree

2 1/2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger

2 1/2 Tbsp crushed garlic

2 tsp chili powder

3 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp chopped fresh green or red chili (optional, I omited)

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup unsalted butter (really, you can use salted if that’s all you have)

4 teaspoons honey (I used agave syrup because that’s what I keep)

2 Tbsp ground fenugreek

Spice Mix (amount will vary depending on taste)

1. In a medium fry pan on medium heat, dump contents of your chicken/marinade. Don’t worry about getting all the marinade out, just squeeze what you can. Fry the chicken (you don’t need to add any oil or butter to this step, just cook it in the marinade) until the chicken is done. Alternately, you can grill or bake the chicken. On the stove was easiest for me.

2. Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup butter in a large pan and melt. Add finely chopped onions and saute until tender.

3. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for several minutes. Add chili powder, tumeric and fresh pepper if you’re using it. Cook for one minute.

4. Pour in tomato puree, finely ground cashews and heat ingredients to simmering.

3. Add cream and 1/4 cup butter to pan, cook until butter melts. Stir in chicken, honey, fenugreek and simmer for five minutes.

4. Taste. Now take your reserved Spice Mix and add one teaspoon. Mix and taste. I added two teaspoons at this step, you may want to add more or less. Let the sauce simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to combine ingredients.

Serve your Butter Chicken with basmati rice (yum!) and naan. You can buy naan at your local Indian grocer, often from the freezer section, though it’s not as good as fresh naan. Don’t send your brother to buy naan because he’ll bring back pita bread, because it says nan on the bag, and you’ll end up adding pita pizzas to your menu next week. Not that I’d know anything about that.

Some notes on this: the countertop chopper was my friend, I used it for everything from the cashews, to the onions, garlic and ginger. Why don’t you have one yet?

You can make your own tomato puree. That was way more time than I wanted to invest, so I didn’t research it and I don’t have a link for you. But make sure you buy tomato puree, it’s different than sauce, etc. I picked mine up in the Hispanic section of the grocery store, only because I happened to be standing there and saw it. They may very well have it in the canned aisle.

The reason for the cashews: some recipes called for cornstarch, but comments I saw said that Indian cuisine avoids cornstarch but uses ground cashews for thickening. Plus, cornstarch versus cashews is wildly different taste. We’re a cashew family, so we always have them in the house. I just ground them in my chopper. Grind them to dust, really, grind the hell out of them. They do add amazing flavor!

Last, I have to tell you about my picture. The original pictures didn’t have the beer in them but my husband was watching and said “you’re doing it wrong” and moved my beer into the picture. I do have to say, the darker, slightly toffee finish of the Full Moon was the perfect complement for this meal!


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