Butter Chicken

butter chicken

This is a true story. I was in a grocery store looking at yogurt and a woman came over and started talking to me about what kind of yogurt I should buy. Yes she was a complete stranger. I told her I wanted full fat Greek yogurt because I was making Butter Chicken. She said oh no, you make butter chicken with coconut milk. “Hmmmm,” I said, “well I haven’t ever made it that way. I’m using a recipe shared by a former co-worker who is actually from India.” Now, I know there are many ways to make butter chicken and I’ve learned the ingredients change by the region. I think the coconut milk would make it Thai ish. She insisted her recipe was authentic so I smiled and said “Sure, I’ll try it with coconut milk.” Then she actually told me which KIND of coconut milk I needed to buy! Sigh. I thanked her warmly and continued my shopping. Just as I was about to make a clean getaway, she brought me the can of coconut milk.

So instead of making a run for it, I made butter chicken with SOME coconut milk. I used the rest to make coconut rice.

And guess what? It was good. Really good.

I made it again without the coconut milk a week later, just to be sure. We invited friends to taste test. The same ones who tried the previous version. Unanimous voting decided the coconut milk version is BETTER.

Who knew?

If you never experiment you won’t learn anything. I once made this in the slow cooker. I just put all the ingredients together and let it bubble away for 5 hours. It tasted ok but the sauce was watery and the chicken broke up into small bits. I won’t do that again.

I like boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. I prefer dark meat but you can use breast meat if you prefer. Cut your chicken into chunks and add them to a bowl or freezer bag. Finely mince ginger and garlic and add, along with yogurt and garam masala. Garam Masala is a blend of spices with a bit of heat used in Indian and South Asian cooking. Season with salt and pepper. Combine well, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. A few hours is better. Overnight is fine too.

butter chicken

To prepare, dice some onion and sauté in butter. Add the garam masala, chili powder, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Cook for a few minutes to release the flavours, then add the chicken along with the marinating ingredients. The amount of cayenne in this recipe is probably an entry level of heat so you can adjust accordingly.

butter chicken

Sauté until the chicken is no longer pink. Add tomato sauce, yogurt and coconut milk. I use the tomato sauce that comes in a carton but you can also use canned crushed tomatoes.

Simmer for about half an hour to ensure all the flavours have combined and the chicken is cooked through. Add freshly chopped cilantro at the end.

butter chicken

Beautiful colour!

Serve over basmati rice or coconut rice (use the rest of the can of coconut milk mixed with water and cook rice in that liquid). Garnish with fresh cilantro and warm naan bread.

butter chicken


Here’s the recipe:

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken


6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 large clove garlic
1 piece ginger, size of a thumb
salt and pepper

1/2 medium onion
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
handful fresh cilantro


Chop chicken into bite sized chunks. Finely mince garlic and ginger. Combine chicken with garlic, ginger, yogurt, garam masala and salt and pepper. Mix well and marinate at least an hour, can be left over night.

Mince onion and sauté in butter. Add garam masala, chili powder, cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Cook for a few minutes to release the flavours. Stir in yogurt, coconut milk and tomato sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add freshly chopped cilantro before serving.

Serve over rice with naan bread.
Garnish with more cilantro if desired.

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