Love Butter Chicken, but don’t want to use cream? No worries, THIS is the recipe you need! This is Butter Chicken WITHOUT cream, yet with all the creaminess and all the authentic flavours of Murgh Makhani! You can easily adapt this recipe to be dairy-free too! 🙂
Have you had butter chicken before? If not, you have done yourself a massive disservice! Today I’m going to give you a recipe for an amazing butter chicken dish that you have got to try at least once in your life! Butter Chicken is an Indian curry that’s popular all around the world. I know that in Australia and New Zealand this dish is featured in every Indian restaurant menu without fail.
Once upon a time though, I remember refusing to eat butter chicken. I had the misfortune of eating “faux butter chicken” that was no doubt made with a bucket load of cream, during my first few tries. I quite naturally hated it. I tasted the cream more than anything else. For a while this was what I thought butter chicken was until my family and I went to this great Indian restaurant in New Zealand and one of the servers there convinced us to try the “authentic” Butter Chicken. Oh my goodness! I was converted! It was beyond amazing. It was still creamy, but not heavy at all and the complex spices were just shining through. I had FINALLY tasted proper butter chicken… & I was happy!
Since then, I have found more amazing Butter Chicken dishes that I loved to eat – so remembering all that I love about these dishes, I tried to recreate one for us to eat at home.
This dish still retains the creaminess of authentic butter chicken, but without the cream. Instead I used yoghurt and cashew nut paste. So in addition to being unbelievably delicious, this is also a healthier version. Isn’t that a great combo?
Garam Masala is the star spice of this dish. You can easily find Garam Masala in your local supermarket or Asian grocery store. If you don’t have it, then you can make your own Garam Masala but you will need coriander, cumin, pepper, cloves, aniseed, cinnamon and cardamom.
It’s best to marinate the chicken overnight – but at least 3 hours should be fine too. When it was time to make the curry, I just seared the chicken pieces in a very hot pan to mimic a tandoor oven. It doesn’t need to be cooked through, and this step can be skipped completely to save time if you choose to.
Use raw cashew nuts to make the nut paste, because this will give the best creamy consistency. If you can only find roasted cashews, you have to make sure to soak the cashews in the fridge for at least 24 hours to soften them up. Make the nut paste in the food processor with the onions, ginger and garlic and process until it becomes smooth.
Cook the tomato and spices on medium-high heat to cook out the raw tomato flavour. Butter Chicken is a tomato based curry, but you don’t want that tomato flavour to be overpowering. Keep cooking the tomato paste and cashew nut paste together before adding the chicken and leftover marinade.
The gravy is really thick, and I prefer to thin it out with some water, but you can adjust it to your preference.
You can eat this with rice or naan, with a side of Raita (which is a yoghurt, cucumber, onion salad) and pappadams!
Butter Chicken without Cream (Murgh Makhani)
- 1 lb bone-in or boneless chicken boneless chicken cut into 1 inch cubes
- 3.5 oz of plain yoghurt
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder this is how you get a red colour that turns orange, but if you cannot find this, sub it with 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 inch ginger sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic sliced or minced
- 3/4 cup of cashews soaked overnight
- 1/2 a large onion sliced
- 1 tbsp of garam masala
- 300 g of canned diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder more if you like it spicy
- 2 tbsp lemon/lime juice
- 1/2 stick of butter OR 4 tbsp vegetable oil
Cheat's Garam Masala (if you cannot find authentic garam masala powder)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp of ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 star of anise or 1/4 tsp ground anise seeds
- Mix the chicken with the marinade ingredients and keep it covered in the fridge overnight. Return it to room temperature before cooking.
- On very high heat, heat 2 tbsp of butter and add the chicken when the butter is hot (leaving out as much of the marinade as possible - but don't discard the marinade). Let the chicken brown on one side, and only cook partially and leave it aside. (You can also do this on a broiler tray in the oven to mimic a Tandoor oven) - You can opt out of this step of browning the chicken, if you like.
- Grind the cashews (without the water), onion, ginger and garlic together to form a paste. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of butter and add all the spices, and then mix for about 10 secs till you can smell them.
- Add the diced tomatoes with sugar and salt and cook on medium-high while stirring to reduce the liquid content. You want to cook out the raw tomato flavour as much as possible.
- When the tomato has reduced and looks thick, add the ground cashew mix and the lemon/lime juice and colouring (if using). Stir until the gravy/sauce becomes thick and smooth.
- Add the browned chicken (or the uncooked chicken if you skipped step 2) with the remaining marinade and stir through. Let it simmer (covered) for about 20-30 minutes (for big bone-in pieces) or 10-15 minutes (for 1 inch pieces). Add more water if it's too thick.
- Optional - add another heaping tablespoon of yoghurt and mix it in.
- Serve while hot, with some whisked yoghurt drizzled on top, and some chopped cilantro.
- Serve with steamed rice or naan.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”
This will become a family favourite, I’m certain of it! It is so delicious it is guaranteed to make repeat visits to your dinner table. And it is in fact a healthier version of the butter chicken dishes that you will come across in many Indian restaurants.
The creaminess WITHOUT the greasiness and packed with flavour, you have to try it for dinner this week and see for yourself! My husband isn’t the biggest fan of Indian food but loves this dish – and I have made this
a few countless times already!
What’s your favourite Indian dish? What do you think about this recipe? Do let me know. I always love to hear from you guys 🙂
If you like curries, then you definitely need to check out one of my MOST POPULAR CURRY recipes on my blog – Sri Lankan Spicy Black Pork Curry! It honestly is the BEST pork curry ever!
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