Butter Chicken

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Butter Chicken

Ah, butter chicken—the go-to Indian dish for anyone who thinks Dijon mustard is too spicy. Butter chicken is sweet, mild, and creamy, and is as mellow a dish as you’ll ever find within the Indian culinary repertoire. Still, it’s complex and earthy, and the sweetness isn’t cloying if you make it yourself. Play with the spices until you achieve a mix your family can call their own. Pay particular attention to how much garam masala and cumin you add as they will alter the flavour profile considerably. This dish calls for chicken thighs; we find them richer in flavour, but breasts will do just as well.

Serves 6



  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) roughly chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 cups (500 mL) plain yogurt (not low-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) red chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground turmeric
  • About 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh lime juice

For the chicken

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 kg) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) ghee
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chilled butter (1 stick), divided
  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) puréed canned tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), crushed, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) heavy cream, plus more for drizzling
  • Fresh sprigs of cilantro, for garnish


  1. For the marinade, first pound the garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle until you have a paste. Transfer the paste to a shallow dish, and then add the rest of the marinade ingredients—yogurt, chili powder, garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and lime juice.
  2. Rinse and pat the chicken dry using paper towels. Season with salt, then toss with the marinade. Cover and keep refrigerated for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Melt the ghee in a large heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chicken with just a little of the marinade to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked, golden brown, and slightly crispy on the edges. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Do not wash the pan.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the butter in the same pan over medium heat. Add the puréed tomatoes, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any of the brown bits left in the pan from the chicken. Cook for 5 minutes or so, or until most of the moisture from the tomatoes has evaporated.
  5. Melt the remaining 7 tablespoons (110 mL) butter in the tomatoes, then add the chili powder and sugar. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the fenugreek leaves and garam masala, and season with salt if necessary.
  6. Just before serving, stir in the cream, and add the reserved chicken to the pan to heat it through, tossing to coat. Serve with a sprinkle of crumbled fenugreek leaves, a drizzle of cream, a garnish of cilantro sprigs, and a side of rice.
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