Depending on the region of India, the restaurant, and the cook, the ingredients used in “butter chicken” curry vary significantly. This is my recipe for what I believe to be traditional butter chicken (a mild, tomato-based curry). I researched countless recipes and tested several before creating this one. Personally, I love it and when I made this for Krystal and Ed, they repeatedly told me how delicious it is. So I think you’ll like it too, even if it’s not how your local restaurant makes it. I highly recommend using the dried fenugreek leaves, because they make a huge difference in this simple dish.
Butter Chicken Recipe
for the marinade:
5 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, cut into large bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup + 1/8 cup plain yogurt drained through a cheesecloth (I used Balkan style yogurt)
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I use a Microplane coarse grater)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground red chili powder
for the sauce:
1 small onion, shredded in a food processor
14 ounces (1/2 of a 28 ounce) can of pureed tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp salted butter, melted just prior to using
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
2 tbsp ghee (recipe here) or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/2 tbsp honey
optional: 1 tbsp ground cashew nuts (Note: Traditionally, ground cashews are used to thicken the sauce. I have made butter chicken sauce with and without ground nuts and I prefer to leave this out because it gives the sauce a slightly gritty texture.)
optional: chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
In a medium sized bowl, mix together the marinade spices and coat the chicken pieces. Then add the garlic, ginger, and yogurt and marinate for up to 4 hours.
When you are ready to make this dish, start by making the sauce. Heat the ghee or vegetable oil over medium high heat in a medium sized ceramic dutch oven (or heavy bottomed pot or skillet). Cook the onion until softened and translucent. Add the garam masala and paprika and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add the pureed tomatoes and ground cashews (if using). Add the fenugreek leaves and simmer until thickened. Note that this will take longer if you are not using ground nuts. Add salt to taste.
While the sauce is thickening, in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat, cook the chicken (including the marinade) until the outside of the pieces have turned white in colour but the chicken pieces are not fully cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then add the chicken pieces to the sauce and simmer for three to five minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. Stir in the cream, followed by the honey if using and return the sauce to a simmer until the desired thickness is achieved. Meanwhile, melt the butter and mix it into the sauce. Plate immediately, garnish with cilantro if using and serve with rice and/or naan.