Method: StovetopJump to Recipe
Northern Indian Butter Chicken
A lesson learned
My road to butter chicken was a rocky one. I have never really understood how Indian food has not caught on more in the United States. It was not until college, when I was living abroad in England, that I was first exposed to Indian food. Similar to Mexican food restaurants in the United States, every town in Britain was sure to have several good curry houses.
I still remember my first experience like it was yesterday. A group of us went to eat at a local Indian restaurant in town. Having never experienced Indian food before, I had no idea what to order. A friend from Texas and I, both of whom had a love for spicy food, decided to do what any ignorant American college student would do and asked for their spiciest dish at their authentic spice level. We were excited as we each received our big bowls filled with creamy Chicken Vindaloo (it even sounded cool). Both of us, being completely in love with spicy Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes back home, had no fear as we started to dig in. What followed must have been especially hilarious to the rest of our friends and to the staff at the restaurant as the overwhelming heat of the dish struck. This was not the "my mouth is on fire, hand me a glass of milk" heat. It was an "I am burning alive from the inside out" type of heat. In seconds we were both flushed and sweating and could barely speak.
I love Indian food - it's my favourite cuisine. I love the mixture of spices and the subtle flavours. It's really erotic; the spices are so sensuous. -Joe Perry
Butter chicken to the rescue
Thankfully, the owners of the restaurant saw our plight and took pity on us, bringing over a couple new dishes that were apparently "more our speed." One of those dishes was chicken Korma, which is still one of my favorite Indian dishes to this day. The other is butter chicken, which is a dish that, when compared to the vindaloo, helped show me the range of Indian cooking. It was mild, creamy, and delicious.
Now that we dine at Indian restaurants frequently, we try to show our children and friends that have not experienced Indian food before, how wonderful it is. We always recommend butter chicken as a great gateway dish to the other curries. We also always order some vindaloo, but now know better than to order it "authentic hot." In our household, butter chicken, along with chicken tikka skewers, and glasses of mango lassi, have become one of our children's favorite meals. It is fun to watch the 4 year old sopping up every last bit of sauce with his piece of naan bread.
Thankfully, butter chicken is also one of those dishes that is fairly easy to make, and almost all of the ingredients can be found easily at your local market.
Preparing the Butter Chicken
Prepare the marinade
Combine the yogurt, garam masala and turmeric in a medium sized bowl.
Cube the chicken breasts, and combine with the marinade. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Prepare the spice mix
Gather your spices, and prepare your spice mix by combining in a small bowl.
Fenugreek leaves really add that authentic flavor to the dish, but if you can't find them you can omit them or they are available on Amazon. The rest of the spices should be readily available.
Prepare the butter chicken sauce
Gather the remaining ingredients for the butter chicken sauce.
Finely dice the ginger, and chop the garlic and onion. We typically use about 5 garlic cloves, which is typically about 2 tablespoons. If you have extra, use it. Never skimp on the garlic!
Ghee: The original organic butter
Next melt the 2 tablespoons of ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Ghee is a clarified butter you will frequently find in Indian cuisine. Clarified butter is butter in which all of the milk solids and water have been removed, resulting in a sweet, nutty flavor. In addition, Ghee has a much higher smoke point than regular butter, making it much less likely to burn when using it to fry or saute with. Icing on the cake, because the milk solids are removed, ghee can be used for people with dairy sensitivities, and is shelf stable.
Once the butter is melted, add in the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, then add in the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for about 2 more minutes, until the onion is soft.
Next, add in the spice mix and stir to combine well. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
Finishing the butter chicken
Remove the chicken from the marinade, and add to the skillet. Stir fry the chicken for about 5-7 minutes, or until the outside of the chicken is fully cooked.
Next stir in the tomatoes and the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
Finally, stir in the coconut milk or heavy cream. Cream is more traditional, but our family really loves the extra sweetness of the coconut milk. You can't go wrong with either.
Reduce the temperature to simmer and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, and the chicken is cooked through. This typically takes about 5-10 minutes, but don't over cook and don't let the sauce on the bottom burn. If the sauce becomes to thick, thin with a little more cream.
Plating and serving
Serve the butter chicken alongside some jasmine rice, and plenty of warm naan bread. For the best naan bread ever, brush it with a little olive oil and warm it in a hot oven for a few minutes, or for the quick version, toast very briefly in a toaster, then brush with fine olive oil just prior to serving. No Indian dish is complete without a smooth, cool, glass of mango lassi.
We really hope you enjoyed this dish as much as our family does. Please encourage others to branch out to this fabulous world of diverse cuisine. Thank you for taking the time to visit our blog. If you tried and enjoyed our recipe please share with others and please leave us a comment and review. We also love to see your pics so don’t forget to tag us @Carne_Diem_Culinary or #CarneDiemBlog. To be notified of future recipes please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, or sign up for our e-mail notifications. Until next time, Carne Diem!
Northern Indian Butter Chicken
- 2 Chicken Breasts cubed
- 1 Yellow Onion diced
- 2 Tab Ghee or clarified butter
- 8 oz Can Tomato Sauce
- ½ cup Tomatoes diced
- 2 Tab Garlic fine dice
- 1 tea Fresh Ginger fine dice
- ½ cup Coconut Milk or heavy cream
- ½ cup Plain Yogurt Preferably Greek
- 1 tea Garam Masala
- ½ tea Turmeric
- 1 tea Paprika
- 1 tea Ground Coriander
- 1 tea Garam Masala
- 1 tea Fine Sea Salt
- 1 tea Turmeric
- ¼ tea Cayenne
- ¼ tea Black Pepper
- ¼ tea Cumin
- ¼ tea Fenugreek Leaves Optional
- Combine all of the spice mix in a small bowl and set aside.
- Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Cube the chicken breast and add to the marinade. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, but better overnight.
- When ready to cook, melt the ghee over medium heat.
- Add in the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the ginger and garlic and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in the spice mix with the onions and cook for another 1-2 minutes until well combined.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to the onion-spice mixture. Cook the chicken for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the outside is evenly cooked.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and tomatoes, and stir to combine.
- Stir in the coconut milk or heavy cream and stir well.
- Reduce heat to simmer and cook about another 5-10 minutes. The sauce should be slightly thickened and the chicken should be tender but cooked through.
- Serve along Jasmine rice and naan bread. Top with some fresh cilantro.