Butter Chicken

I love butter chicken. In fact, I don’t know of many people who don’t. It’s the sort of lunch or dinner or midnight snack that’s happiness-inducing. There are few foods I really crave anymore, but butter chicken is one of them. Sometimes give in and go fulfill my desires an east Indian lunch buffet where I almost always shame myself on the stuff, with fresh naan.

Contrary to its name, butter chicken doesn’t generally contain actual butter. Heavy cream, yes. It’s rich and wonderful and velvety, but not typically buttery. I made a batch recently, in response to a Facebook request to lighten a recipe that had – gasp – 1 cup of butter and 3 cups of whipping cream! This time, rather than overthink things or turn to my (still totally disorganized) bookshelf or laptop in search of what (some may claim as) the ultimate recipe, I just did it.

Onions and chicken and tomatoes and spices – I might have been making cacciatore if it weren’t for the curry paste and splash of cream at the end. It was easy. And fast. And used up ingredients I usually have in the freezer and pantry. And made just enough to feed everyone, which is a far better idea than the bottomless steam insert of the buffet.

And when I said we were having butter chicken for dinner, there was a lot of grinning and maybe even some jumping up and down. I may do this again sometime.

And next time, make a batch of fresh naan to go with. Think of the glee!

Butter Chicken

canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
6-8 skinless chicken thighs (with or without bone)
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 28 oz. (796 mL) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. curry paste or powder
1-2 tsp. garam masala (optional)
pinch cinnamon
1/2-1 cup half & half or whipping cream
salt and pepper

steamed rice, for serving

In a large, heavy skillet, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the chicken thighs, pushing the onions out of the way, and brown them a bit on all sides – don’t worry about cooking them through. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two.

Add the can of tomatoes, the tomato paste, chili powder, curry paste, garam masala and cinnamon and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the lid and cook until the mixture thickens and looks more saucy and uniform.

Stir in the cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot over rice. Serves 4-6.

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January 19 2012 10:48 pm | chicken & turkey

25 Responses to “Butter Chicken”

  1. Samantha on 20 Jan 2012 at 6:52 am #

    I made your crock pot butter chicken recipe just yesterday – amazing! It was the best (and easiest) butter chicken recipe I’ve ever made at home.

  2. Jan @ Family Bites on 20 Jan 2012 at 6:53 am #

    This is my favourite Indian dish, by far. Sadly, we don’t have butter chicken buffets around here, which may not actually be a bad thing. This looks great!

  3. Fiona on 20 Jan 2012 at 7:49 am #

    You know, I’ve been making your Better Butter Chicken recipe for a few years now, only not in the slow cooker (and with shrimp instead of chicken because we don’t eat chicken) and it’s a huge hit around here.

    I always embarrass myself over those dumplings in curry sauce. Cannot eat enough.

  4. JulieVR on 20 Jan 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Jan – oh yes you do! There are two places down on King Street just a few doors from each other – I can’t recall the names, but I go for lunch every time I’m in Toronto!

  5. Anonymous on 20 Jan 2012 at 9:45 am #

    LOVE Indian food! By far my favorite! Ive never even attempted to cook indian before. (made naan once from a bannok recipe which turned out amazingly!) it tends to be a little too involved for me. Thank you for posting this Ju! Easy and comfy and delicious! It’s what’s for dinner tonight for sure!

  6. Amy on 20 Jan 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Thanks for this – can’t wait to try it this weekend. Love that it is full of healthy ingredients and only 1/2 cup of cream. I also love Indian food. Have never tired naan but would like to – do you have a WW recipe?

  7. Laurie from Burnaby on 20 Jan 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    I love butter chicken and the spinach with little cubes of cheese in it – what’s that called? With garlic naan it’s a meal I adore. I’ve made your slow cooker batter chicken on top of the stove (because I don’t have a slow cooker) and it turned out well. Now I’ll make this one to try it. Thanks for your recipes. I’d love a recipe for garlic naan and for the spinach dish, too :)

  8. lovetocook on 20 Jan 2012 at 11:54 pm #

    Easy to make and Sunterra makes my favourite to bring home and reheat while the rice cooks.

  9. Melissa on 21 Jan 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Ooooh, bad thing to read when I’m at work for two more hours and it’s lunchtime and I have nothing to eat! That looks delicious. The recipe sounds similar to Chicken Tikka Masala… is there a fundamental difference between the two?

    By the way, @Laurie from Burnaby, the spinach dish is Saag Paneer or Palak Paneer. It is one of my favorite foods on earth.

  10. Bonnie White on 22 Jan 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Made this for dinner tonight with some wild and brown rice. It was a big hit with everyone though they all wanted to salt it a little more. And the aroma of this while it cooks simply brings them salivating to your kitchen.

    Thanks for this great recipe.

  11. Stephanie on 24 Jan 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    I adore butter chicken! I’ve never made it at home though, this recipe looks pretty straight forward and tasty

  12. Dan Huang on 26 Jan 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Hi Julie, love your website. One question, I am lactose intolerant, what can I use to substitute cream/whipping cream? Would plain yogourt work?

  13. JulieVR on 26 Jan 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Full fat plain yogurt would work, if you can tolerate it! Just keep the heat low so that it doesn’t separate.

  14. KellyH on 27 Jan 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Hi Julie

    Can you substitute coconut milk for the cream?

    It is on my list of things to make on our stormy day here!

  15. JulieVR on 27 Jan 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Kelly – absolutely! and PS: great idea!!

  16. Kristine on 27 Jan 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    I misread “Think of the glee!” as “Think of the ghee!” Either way, I’m super excited to make this. Your recipes have become at least a weekly tradition at my house!

  17. Kenneth on 30 Jan 2012 at 11:48 am #

    I made this recipe yesterday, and although it was good, it tasted to me more like a basic tomatoe curry dish, rather than butter chicken. I understand the premise here is a lighter version of the standard restaurant fare, but I was disappointed. I used 1/2 and 1/2, so maybe using whipping cream would have provided more creamy taste and texture, but I doubt it. I guess to make an amazing dish of butter chicken (a la Tandoori Hut), you need to go full throttle on the fat.

  18. JeCaThRe on 31 Jan 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Just made this for my usual Tuesday night dinner guests. It was delicious. Thank you for sharing.

  19. June on 09 Mar 2012 at 6:57 am #

    Made this last night for dinner and it was wonderful! Thanks Julie!

  20. chicken housing and runs on 23 Nov 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Marvelous, what a website it is! This blog provides useful information to us,
    keep it up.

  21. Sue Hyslop on 04 Feb 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Hi Julie,

    Just want to tell you how much I love your site! I check it regularly and happily remember all the “treats” you used to bring over to Rachael and Scottie’s house. I still love to cook! ( maple roasted parsnips with cranberries and lemon/herb baked pork chops for dinner last night — yum!!! )
    Keep it up! Love, Sue

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