Better Butter Chicken…..

We are big fans of Indian cuisine, but I will admit, I have always been a bit frightened of trying to make any of our favorite dishes.  The flavors of India are pretty complex, and a lot can go into making a dish just right and I simply don’t have that kind of time.  Well, I decided to throw caution to the wind and after looking at some pretty complicated recipes for Butter Chicken or “Murgh Makhani” I went to my local health food store and purchased a few of the spices that seemed essential in hopes of making my own paleo version. I added coconut milk, not traditionally found in this dish, and stuck to a smaller list of ingredients then what is normally used.  The end result?  My family was freakishly impressed and my 6 year old even proclaimed that this was the BEST Butter Chicken he ever had.  Maybe he was bribed by his dad, or maybe he was being sincere but either way, if you are feeling adventurous and are tired of the same ol’ chicken, this recipe is for you!!

Better Butter Chicken

2 1/2 lbs boneless chicken thighs

1 red onion diced

3 tbsp coconut oil

6 oz can tomato paste

7 oz of full fat canned coconut milk (1/2 of a 14oz can)

½ tbsp crushed garlic

½ tsp cardamom powder

½ tsp coriander powder

1 tsp fenugreek powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sea salt

4 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

Cut the chicken thighs into bite size pieces and set aside. In a large skillet or soup pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and add the diced onion and saute until translucent.  Turn your heat down to low and to the onion and oil mixture, add the crushed garlic, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, and chili powder and stir well to make a paste.  Add the tomato paste to the onions and spices and stir, this mixture will be very thick.  Turn your heat back up to medium and add the coconut milk and salt.  Use a whisk to blend the tomato paste spice mixture and coconut milk together into a thick sauce.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the chicken.  Return the sauce and chicken to a simmer, turn down to medium low, cover and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the chicken is done all the way through – make sure you stir occasionally during the cooking process. After the chicken is cooked, add the ghee and mix into the sauce until melted.  Serve the chicken over steamed red chard or any other green of your choice.


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  1. says

    YUMMMMMMM!!! So good to make a curry that tastes amazing but with fewer spices as can get so complicated and take forever! Butter chicken rocks and tastes awesome with coconut milk :)

  2. Rebecca says

    Thanks for the recommendation! I love Indian food too. You should try this one – a Madhur Jaffrey favorite. My now husband cooked it for me 15 years ago when he made me dinner for the first time (aww). We still love it. We’re not from the States tho, and have found the chicken here may give off a lot of water. Feel free to let the sauce boil longer to a paste consistency if your chicken makes it watery (we just use boneless skinless chicken breasts in the recipe). Also the original recipe just calls for regular red peppers, not pickled. You should also cut WAY back on the oil – only a couple of tablespoons is really necessary…

    :) Rebecca

  3. April says

    Thanks for this recipe!! I am going to make this tomorrow and will be attempting to make cauliflower rice to go with it. :)

  4. says

    The Indian spice shop by me only had the fenugreek seeds. Do you think I can use them as is or should I try grinding them in a coffee grinder?

  5. says

    Oooh, this looks good. Indian food is the one thing I really miss on my Paleo diet – I grew up eating it and even know, sometimes just have to have some. I am totally going to try this!

  6. Sasank says

    Hi i am from India.I am astonished to see you people cook this dishes.Here is a good advice,you can add vegetable oil instead of coconut oil.Coconut oil is a bit heavy for stomach so it can leave you will upset stomach where as vegetable oil is good.Yes don’t forget to add Coriander Leaves when you are about to serve.

    I am adding a mint chutney recipe with my post try it with butter chicken,you will love it-

    For : Many

    Prepration time: 5 mins

    coriander leaves 1 bunches
    fresh mint, leaves only 1/2 bunch
    green chillies 4
    Garlic 4
    Sugar 1/2 Tablespoon
    tamarind paste 1/2 tablespoon
    lemon juice 1 tablespoon


    How to cook:

    * Grind the mint leaves, green coriander, green chillies, garlic in grinder.
    * Now add salt, and sugar to the paste
    * After that add the tamarind paste or lemon juice into it
    * Mix it well.

    Do reply back,madam.

    • Sarah says

      Hi Sasank!
      Thank you so much for your input and for the chutney recipe, it sounds delicious! I hope I can find tamarind paste here locally and I’ll probably sub the sugar with a bit of orange juice – but I can’t wait to try it. When I do I’ll let you know! Thanks again!

  7. Evelyn says

    I just made this dish and it rocks!! I actually could loose the ghee and add a habanero! For me spice is everything. Very easy and filling, I just started the paleo thing a week ago and I am sick of eating broccoli and chicken! Thanks, the pizza is next. E

  8. Yvie says

    OMG … I made this tonight and I wasn’t so sure how “good” it would come out. 1, I had to make it with chicken breasts because that’s what I had on hand. 2, I didn’t have cardamom and used substituted that with an equal ratio of nutmeg & cinnamon. I also made my own ghee for this. Holy Cow!!! This is so freaking delicious!!! I just had some with cauliflower rice and wow … so good. Thanks for sharing this!!!

  9. Ollie says

    Stupid question- am I cooking this with the meat still on the bones? Thanks!

    BTW, I just found this website, and I absolutely love it! It is one of the best paleo websites I’ve found.

    • Sarah says

      Hey Ollie! Not a stupid question at all! I used boneless chicken thighs but you can for sure use meat still on the bone, it would probably be more flavorful, you just might have to cook it a few minutes longer is all. Let me know how it turns out!

    • Sarah says

      Hi Chris! Not a stupid question at all. So, for cauliflower “rice”, steam a head of cauliflower and then using a potato masher or in a food processor mash until the cauliflower is the consistency of rice. I add organic butter, a little salt and pepper, and it’s great with just about everything!!

  10. Pixel says

    You can use 1 tsp of butter instead of ghee. Fenugreek used in this recipe is not made from the dried seeds but it is dehydrated fenugreek leaves (mustard leaves). If you use the seeds it will get very bitter. The dried fenugreek powder is available in packets where other asian spices are sold. They come in dried leaf form (crush with your fingers – use 1 tb) or buy the powder and use less. Either or is ok depending on what you find.

  11. Javier says

    Regarding the cauliflower rice, you can also steam a couple of garlic cloves with the head of cauliflower and transfer it all to the food processor. Delish.

    • Sarah says

      Awesome idea Javier, I also love seasoning the cauliflower with curry and turmeric and just about any other spices that compliment what we are making… Yummy!

  12. says

    I’m not gonna harp on the nightshades, but the fenugreek might be an issue for people with an autoimmune deal because it’s a legume. What tastes like fenugreek and could be substituted?

    • Sarah says

      Hi Matt,
      Maybe you could try substituting with a little fresh fennel but if you leave it out entirely, the dish will still be great!

  13. TJ says

    I Sarah! I’m making this tonight and I’ve never steamed chard before. Do you steam it like any other veggie? How long do steam it for? Thanks!

    • Sarah says

      Hi Tj,
      I steam it just like any other veggie, only takes a few minutes though. I’m sure I’m too late getting back to you – did it turn out ok?? You can also saute it in a bit of coconut oil.

  14. t&b says

    this butter chicken is DELICIOUS! i like it better than when we go out to eat for indian and my husband requests it all the time! love love love it.

  15. Lainey says

    My husband made this for me last night out of the cookbook. He NEVER cooks and was able to pull it off. It was delicious and we have a ton of leftovers. Yeah!

  16. Nane says

    Wow! This was utterly fantastic! I made this for lunch today and had to work at not moaning with every bite because I was enjoying it so much. I didn’t have fenugreek so I subbed in turmeric and I cut the chili powder in half because I don’t like much heat. Thank you so much!

    Btw, I made your Brussels and bacon recipe from your cookbook two nights ago, and it was also simply fabulous! So double thanks!

  17. Nicki says

    This recipe was to DIE for!!! It was so good. I was surprised how good the sauce was. I made broccoli and cauliflower with it. One of my favorites!!

  18. says

    Hi Sarah

    I just wanted to say I tried this receipe last night and I was nervous about whether I would enjoy it or not. But I LOVED it! It was one of my favourite meals since I started Paleo a month ago.
    I couldnt stop myself eating leftovers all evening after this and I cannot wait to have leftovers for lunch!!
    You have inspired me to start my own blog targeted at fellow Paleos in Ireland as I think this lifestyle is generally unheard of on this side of the pond!
    Thank you for being an inspiration and for being real!

  19. says

    This is cooking in my Le Crueset as I type. Only 1 problem–could not find fenugreek :( Hope it still comes out ok!

    p.s. Just started Paleo this week after losing 25 lbs on the hCG diet and so far I’m loving it! Your book was the first thing I bought and everything looks great! Made the stuffed portabellos last night and couldn’t stop talking about how great they are. I even had one this morning for breakfast with over-medium eggs on top :)

    • Sarah says

      It will be fine without the fenugreek but if you have some fennel, that works well as a sub! So glad to hear you are enjoying the book, thank you so much!! : )

  20. Sara Lale-Demoz says

    Hi, Sarah, I love your cookbook and this recipe is one of the favourites, it is so delicious!!!! I just wanted to say thanks XXXX

  21. Rachel says

    Made this last night for dinner and it is one of my new favorite meals! I can’t believe how easy this was to make and how delicious. I used 4 tbsp of curry powder instead of all the spices since I had a hard time finding them. I added a little too much coconut oil, but all in all it was amazing. It’s amazing that this is paleo, love it! Can’t wait to make this again!

  22. Jenna says

    We this last night for dinner and we all loved it! My 2 and 3 year old girls devoured it, even the red chard! We love your cookbook!! I had fenugreek pills from when I was breastfeeding. I have no idea if it is exactly the same, but I just opened the pills and poured that in. You can get those at Whole Foods or wherever in the supplement section for those having trouble finding it.

  23. Rachel says

    This was great but I wish that I had just used the ghee in the beginning rather than the coconut oil. After everything was cooked, I felt guilty adding the extra fat at the end thought it would have been better as a base for the chicken. Either way, it was a hit in the house!

  24. Leanne Wheeler says

    This is one of my all time paleo favorites. I cannot find fenugeek either so I sub 1/2 anise and 1/2 fennel it really makes the dish stand out. Also the last time I made it I just chopped up my leftover “spice rubbed slow cooked chicken” leftovers. Super fast super easy super good!
    One word of caution when I made it with boneless skinless ck breast the chicken was a little dry.
    Thank you for this one!

  25. Teresa says

    I had something similar, but with spinach pureed and mixed in and spicy! Spicy, creamed spinach with chicken…Yum!

  26. Andrea Samarkos says

    Wow…made this tonight and it is fantastic! Added a bit more coconut milk and a little chicken broth to have a lot of sauce and i cant wait to make this again! And i used cut up chicken breast…truly fantastic!

    Thank you!!!!!

  27. says

    I made this over the weekend, and it was fantastic even though I had to substitute of mustard seed in place of fennel (this was the substitution I found recommended at the first Google link last night; now I wish I’d read through the comments to discover the fennel idea) and the accidental omission of the ghee. (See the Ede&Anna trackback link below, if you’d like to read my recipe writeup.)

    I am excited to try this with the correct ingredients. Fenugreek powder is a bit hard to find; I am now wishing I hadn’t tossed my old fenugreek capsules after I was finished breastfeeding!

  28. Michelle says

    Just made this tonight. Super yummy! It was easier for me to just grill some chicken and make the sauce separately (so my kids could try the sauce on the side). So, I ended up using the whole can of coconut milk. I made it along with your Baked Curry Cauliflower – good combination!

  29. mlh says

    question about the coconut milk. Should I keep it separated and just add the solid part (which is about a half a can) or mix it and add half the can???? any help is appreciated, going to make this tonight!

  30. JoreyTK says

    I made this last night and it was excellent. I found it was a little light on the sauce so I added 3/4 a cup of coconut milk instead of the 1/2cup. In the future I will add some Garam Masala to give it a bit more punch though.

    Thanks for all the hard work Sarah, i’m really enjoying your recipes!

  31. YV says

    Hi Sarah. Great recipe! I finally found a curry recipe my four-year-old likes and is extremely easy to throw together. Are there any other recipes you have that use fenugreek powder though? It is hard to find recipes on the internet using this spice. Thanks again!

  32. James says

    My God was this tasty! Luckily I am living in India now so theres ghee and spices everywhere. Was afraid I’d have to give up on Indian food after going paleo but I’m glad I was wrong, thank god for coconut milk.
    Anyway heres an extremy simple dish, yet one of my favourites, to accompany things like curries.

    – sautee some onions (get em glassy) in butter or ghee
    -Throw in some sliced cabbage, mix it up well
    -Add some salt, pepper, a tiny bit of water (half a cup at most)
    Cover with a lid if possible and cook until the cabbage is soft. Don’t go easy on the fat cause trust me, greasy cabbage is awesome.

  33. Phoenix Gilbert says

    Made this and it was Ok. I felt it would have been better without the tomato paste (or less of it). Seemed to overpower and also made it red instead of yellow. Anyone else have that experience? Did use butter instead of ghee, could that be why it was so red (as opposed to yellow in the picture?

  34. Karen says

    We really love this here! I have made it several times now and it is always a big hit and a quick dinner to get on the table. I do a few things differently–I use a curry blend and ‘beef’ it up with garam masala, cumin, a bit of ginger along with the garlic and chili powder. I also use a full can of coconut milk because I like to put steamed broccoli into the dish at the end. My 2 year old LOVES IT we grind it up for him in a mini chopper and he just goes right thru it.

  35. Jen says

    Hey just made this recipe and it is very oily… Any suggestions? Has anyone else found this to be the case? Thanks!

  36. GB says

    How many oz is “1/2 can coconut milk”? Coconut milk comes in different sizes of cans, so “1/2 can” is vague, we have. 5.6 oz can and a 14 oz can…

  37. Sarah says

    I made this last night and it was delicious. I looked up fenugreek substitutes to achieve a similar flavor and after reading about it, I added a dash of both cumin and ground mustard. Both spices have certain qualities that fenugreek has, so together they helped add that “je ne sais quoi” needed to the dish. The mustard gives a bit of spicy flavor, and the cumin adds an earthy tang that is similar to fenugreek.

    Maple syrup is also considered a good substitute to fenugreek to help convey the “sweetness” found in the spice, and kale or spinach are also recommended for the bitterness flavor. But since this recipe already calls for sweet red onion and a bed of chard, both of which have those “sweet” and “bitter” qualities, I figured that sticking with the first two spices was the way to go.

    And it worked! It turned out tasting just like butter chicken. Fabulous!

  38. Shelda says

    I’m curious about freezing leftovers (I made the full recipe, and there’s only me to eat it). As much as I love it (!), I’m having trouble eating it all in a timely way. Today after reading all the comments and not finding anyone mentioning freezing, I decided to just go ahead and try it.

    Thanks for such a wonderful recipe! I’d been having a deep craving for Indian tastes, and this was very satisfying (and easy as well). Win, win!

    • says

      I think this should freeze just fine given the ingredients. Let me know the end result please so we can share with everyone else. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe!

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