Butter chicken totally spells comfort food for me. From the fragrant garam masala smell, to the warming melange of flavors you get with each bite; I love it [and want to inhale it] all. After taking a second to stop and think about it; when “butter” is part of the naming convention, well, it (kind of) has to be a damn good dish. More like, it better be!
But this entrée can be quite heavy when prepared traditionally and is definitely not friendly for those with a dairy intolerance. The original recipe has hoards of thick cream and butter. So we’re going to replace the thick cream with full fat coconut milk and a bit of cashew cream. Don’t have cashew cream within reach and don’t want to venture and make your own? You can sub with full-fat, plain Greek Yogurt. And voilà, it will be creamy, dense and thick and seasoned with the same warming spices. After trying this much healthier version of a beloved classic, I promise you’ll want it all, too.
And by warming spices, I don’t mean “spicy”. This dish is not meant to be spicy. It’s mild, but so rich in flavor! It has cumin, chilli powder, garam masala, tomatoes, onions, a bit of curry powder and ground ginger. Garam masala is widely available at most local grocery stores, it’s so affordable and a small bag goes a long way.
As for me, I had never tried Indian food until I came to Canada for school 13 years ago… There was an Indian food restaurant on campus, within the university mall, where I would often eat with my friends and try new dishes. Butter chicken, basmati rice, tamarind sauce and a mango lassi became a staple! However, I would always end up with a mild stomach ache and bloating; but never seemed to care much… At the time, I wasn’t even mildly aware that gluten and dairy were behind my bloating, swelling and soon to onset autoimmune disease.
I now make dairy free mango lassis, cauliflower rice and dairy free “Butter Chicken”. But it tastes so good and so much like the old one, that I refuse to alter the naming convention; despite the fact it doesn’t have a slick of butter in it. Also, because how weird does “No-Butter, Butter Chicken” sound? Give this yummy recipe a try! It will become a part of your weekly rotation. I promise.
Healthy Butter Chicken
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
- 3 garlic cloves, very finely minced
- 2 tbsp of garam masala
- 1 tsp of chilli powder
- 2 tsp mild curry powder
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground ginger or grated fresh ginger
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless organic chicken (I like to use thighs for this recipe)
- 14 once can of full fat organic coconut milk
- 1 small, 6 ounce can of organic tomato paste
- 2 tbsp of cashew cream (I like the “Enjoy Yoso” or Kite Hill varieties) OR You could also sub with 2 tbsp of full fat plain Greek Yogurt
- sea salt & ground black pepper to taste
- fresh cilantro for garnish
Optional: To make this rich in veggies, I threw in carrots and chickpeas for added plant-based protein.
- 2 cups of sliced carrots, I slice mine in circles.
- 1 small can of organic chickpeas, drained
- You could also add green or red bell peppers for a more traditional take.
- The day before you make this, flip the can of coconut milk upside down in your fridge and leave it inside overnight- this will allow for the water and milk to separate; we want to discard the water. The water will be on top & can be drained easily.
- Use a cutting board to cut the chicken into cubes & set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the coconut milk, tomato paste, cashew cream or Greek yogurt, the garlic, the ginger, and ALL the dry spices: garam masala, turmeric, curry, sea salt, pepper and chilli powder. Use a whisk for better results.
- In a non-stick pan, add two tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil and bring to high/medium heat. When the oil is hot, throw in the finely diced onions & the chicken. If you’re doing chickpeas and carrots, too- throw them in as well. The goal is to sear/seal the chicken and start cooking the veggies, too.
- After 5 minutes, pour ALL the bowl sauce onto the pan. Cover with a lid and allow it to cook for about 30 mins. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over basmati or cauliflower rice.
- How to make cauliflower rice? Wash a cauliflower head, chop off the stem, and divide into florets. Throw the cauliflower in your food processor and pulse for about 6-8 seconds. It’s THAT easy. Enjoy!