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In Mumbai, we learn to ditch the dairy for a creamier chicken
Milk Street Bowtie Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

1 hour 25 minutes 45 minutes active, plus marinating

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Butter Chicken

Free

In our take on the butter chicken made for us in Mumbai by home cook Rumya Misquitta, boneless chicken thighs are briefly marinated in yogurt and spices, then broiled until lightly charred. We make a separate sauce into which the chicken then is stirred. In many recipes for butter chicken, copious amounts of butter and heavy cream supply richness, but we do as we were taught in India and use cashews pureed with a small amount of water until smooth. The nut puree adds creaminess without making the dish heavy. Serve this with steamed basmati rice for soaking up the sauce.

4-6

Servings

Tip

Don't scrape the marinade off the chicken before broiling. The yogurt and honey help the chicken brown and char under the broiler.

1 hour 25 minutes

45 minutes active, plus marinating

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons garam masala, divided
2 tablespoons ground cumin, divided
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut crosswise into 3 strips
1 cup roasted salted cashews
4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 2 pieces, divided
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
Ingredients
  • 1

    cup plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 2

    tablespoons honey

  • 1

    tablespoon sweet paprika

  • ½

    teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 4

    tablespoons garam masala, divided

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin, divided

  • 2

    tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut crosswise into 3 strips

  • 1

    cup roasted salted cashews

  • 4

    tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 2 pieces, divided

  • 1

    large yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 6

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • 28

    ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • ¼

    cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2

    tablespoons lime juice

Directions
  1. 01
    In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey, paprika, cayenne, 3 tablespoons garam masala, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon ginger and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken and stir until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 1 hour.
    See Demo
    butter-chicken-step-1
  2. 02
    Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the broiler element. Line a broiler-safe rimmed baking sheet with foil, set a wire rack in the baking sheet and mist it with cooking spray. In a blender, puree the cashews with ¾ cup water until smooth, about 1 minute; set aside.
    See Demo
    butter-chicken-step-2
  3. 03
    In a large Dutch oven over medium, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon ginger and the garlic, then cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon garam masala and the remaining 1 tablespoon cumin. Add the cashew puree and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and bring to a simmer, stirring to combine. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thick enough to heavily coat a spoon, 12 to14 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
    See Demo
    butter-chicken-step-3
  4. 04
    Arrange the chicken with its marinade still clinging to it in an even layer on the prepared rack. Broil until well browned and lightly charred on both sides, 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the pieces once about halfway through. Transfer to the sauce, bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in the cilantro and lime juice, then let stand for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
    See Demo
    butter-chicken-step-4
Tip: Don't scrape the marinade off the chicken before broiling. The yogurt and honey help the chicken brown and char under the broiler.
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Reviews
Daphne K.
July 24, 2022
Good Butterless Indian Chicken
I was craving indian food, a recipe that didn't take forever to make & lower(ish) in fat. Well, with all those cashews, maybe not. This hit the spot. I know that as the chicken sits in the sauce, it will become better. I'd make it again.
Kay G.
July 30, 2022
Terrific recipe! Delicious!
My family loves this butter chicken!
Megan Z.
July 21, 2022
A household favorite
This is a great recipe on regular rotation in our house. Comes together quickly, just delicious.
DANIEL K.

My oven has 3 setting for the broiler (high, medium and low). Your recommendation for the broiler setting? Thanks.

Josh I.

I don't know if you ever got a response to this--I used the high setting, and it worked great.

Jennifer B.

Didn't really taste like butter chicken I've had at Indian restaurants but not bad.

Josh I.

Hi Jennifer, I agree--it was good, but a bit too tomatoey so the spices didn't shine through like at my favorite Indian restaurant. I'm going to try it again with a smaller can of tomatoes, a bit less cashew puree and a touch of cream.

Myrna A.

I also think it’s too tomatoes- so I used only 14 oz of crushed tomatoes. I guess it’s preference….I will try without tomatoes next time…

Myrna A.

I also think it’s too tomatoes- so I used only 14 oz of crushed tomatoes. I guess it’s preference….I will try without tomatoes next time…

Kimberly H.

I loved this recipe. I had a lot of sauce leftover, so I put it in a few jars and froze it. I reused it tonight for a quick meal and it was as good as when I made it.

Kristen P.

We loved this recipe. Made it completely dairy free with cashew yogurt.

Collin R.

Hard time making cashew purée next time I now know to soak them in water for one hour

Bianca T.

Can also soak for less time using boiled water.

Frank M.

Came out excellent, I added some chilies to the cashew pureé to give dish a bit more heat. Broiling the meat adds a ton of flavor.

Josh I.

Enjoyed the twist of using cashew puree. It does indeed make it rich without heaviness. The marinade was excellent--I had Greek yogurt on hand, so I added a bit of oil and lime juice to thin it out. The recipe made A LOT of extra sauce, too, with a bit too much tomato flavor for my taste and prevented the spices from shining through. Next time, I'll use a can of 14.5- 15 oz. fire-roasted tomatoes, a bit less cashew puree, a touch of cream in the sauce and a bit more salt to taste.

Katherine R D.

Made this using your suggestions (a touch of cream, 3/4c of cashews in the cashew puree, and 15oz can of tomatoes) and it came out great! Also added about 2 tbsp of tomato paste since it wasn't looking quite red enough. Thanks for the tips!

Tricia S.

I halved the recipe but kept the marinade at full recipe, scraping the excess (there wasn’t much) into the sauce along with the juices that came off the chicken in the broiler. Everything took a bit longer than the recipe indicated, but it was worth the time. I followed the suggestions to soak the cashews. This is a recipe that calls out for you to taste as you go; if your spices have been open a while, you may need to up them. We ate it over basmati rice steamed with peas, spinach and lots of mint. Delicious!

Rachael N.

Took everyone’s suggestions except for adding additional cream....used hot water to soak cashews, 14 oz of crushed tomatoes, used more chicken thighs than called for so I would have plenty of leftovers with that delicious sauce. Outstanding!

Rachel K.

Has anyone tried using cashew butter instead of making the puree (e.g. https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07CGMMHSX/ref=sns_myd_detail_page)?
If so, how much did you use + how much water? Or a better question, what is the ending volume of the 3/4 c H2O + 1 c cashew puree (then I can back-calculate how much cashew butter)
Would the lack of roasting for the cashews (when using the butter) make a huge difference in the final flavor of the dish?
I think it could be a good shortcut option.

Rachel K.

Update: I’ve tried making it with 2 different cashew butters, Justin’s & Vör. Both times the recipe came out delicious, but had serious trouble with Justin’s butter integrating into the sauce — the butter essentially coagulated into tiny entities in the sauce & I had to use the immersion blender & warm it in the microwave a little to get near-full incorporation. The Vör worked much better and incorporates easily. I attribute the difference to Justin’s having palm oil in the butter — I’m guessing for stabilization. The Vör butter is pure cashew, with no additives. As for quantity used in the recipe, I weighed whole salted cashews to find the mass of 1c ~ 5oz, so I use 5oz of the butter with 3/4c H2O. It all came up lovely, tasty, & just like the best Indian restaurants in Silicon Valley (my teen boys even prefer it since it has less heat & less oil).

Nicole G.

Oh, this is a wonderful variation of butter chicken! The cashew butter/puree is so rich and flavorful and does not, I think, dull the flavors the way dairy does. I did use about half the tomatoes called for and increased garlic, ginger, cayenne and added some chopped hot peppers (jalapenos) to our tastes (and b/c here in CO fresh hot peppers are often our nicest produce this time of year). Also, I have made this twice: once with the called-for whole cashews and once with homemade cashew butter. I detected no difference except that I had to add some water to my cashew butter version.

Courtney G.

This recipe looks amazing! I am a vegetarian, do you think it would be possible to substitute extra firm tofu for the chicken?

Lynn C.

Hi Courtney -

We haven’t tested this with tofu, but I think it could work. I would make sure to press the tofu and dry with paper towels before marinating, just to remove as much excess moisture from the tofu as possible. Good luck!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Carolyn D.

I've tried several recipes for butter chicken and so far this is my favorite. I had chicken tenders and covered them in the marinade (with 0% greek yogurt), and broiled for just a few minutes on both sides. It didn't char, which was fine with me-it was an easy way to cook and flavor the chicken. I threw everything back into the dutch oven and finished cooking for no more than a couple of minutes. I recommend following the advice to soak the cashews longer. I threw them into the Vitamix thinking it would take any chunkiness out, but it didn't, so will process longer next time. I also cut back on the tomatoes and substituted 1/4 cup of cream for the butter. Even my meat and potatoes husband liked it....And I pretend it's healthier than regular butter chicken!

Ruth W.

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Michael M C.

Made this tonight. Thought it was pretty good. We didn’t miss the heavy cream and didn’t think it was too tomato-y. Put the cashews and water in the blender an hour before I mixed them and didn’t notice any issues. Will make again.


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Butter Chicken

Get Ready to Cook

4-6

Servings

1 hour 25 minutes

45 minutes active, plus marinating

Tip

Don't scrape the marinade off the chicken before broiling. The yogurt and honey help the chicken brown and char under the broiler.

Ingredients
  • 1

    cup plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 2

    tablespoons honey

  • 1

    tablespoon sweet paprika

  • ½

    teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 4

    tablespoons garam masala, divided

  • 2

    tablespoons ground cumin, divided

  • 2

    tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut crosswise into 3 strips

  • 1

    cup roasted salted cashews

  • 4

    tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 2 pieces, divided

  • 1

    large yellow onion, finely chopped

  • 6

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • 28

    ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • ¼

    cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2

    tablespoons lime juice

Step 1 of 4

Marinate Chicken

1
cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2
tablespoons honey
1
tablespoon sweet paprika
½
teaspoon cayenne pepper
3
tablespoons garam masala
1
tablespoon ground cumin
1
tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2
teaspoons kosher salt
pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut crosswise into 3 strips

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey, paprika, cayenne, 3 tablespoons garam masala, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon ginger and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken and stir until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 1 hour.

Step 2 of 4

Puree Cashews

1
cup roasted salted cashews

Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the broiler element. Line a broiler-safe rimmed baking sheet with foil, set a wire rack in the baking sheet and mist it with cooking spray. In a blender, puree the cashews with ¾ cup water until smooth, about 1 minute; set aside.

Step 3 of 4

Combine Ingredients In Dutch Oven

4
tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 2 pieces
1
large yellow onion, finely chopped
1
tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
6
medium garlic cloves, finely grated
1
tablespoon garam masala
1
tablespoon ground cumin
28
ounce can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

In a large Dutch oven over medium, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon ginger and the garlic, then cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon garam masala and the remaining 1 tablespoon cumin. Add the cashew puree and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to brown, about 3 minutes.


Stir in the tomatoes and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and bring to a simmer, stirring to combine.


Reduce to medium and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thick enough to heavily coat a spoon, 12 to14 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Step 4 of 4

Add Chicken

¼
cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2
tablespoons lime juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Arrange the chicken with its marinade still clinging to it in an even layer on the prepared rack. Broil until well browned and lightly charred on both sides, 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the pieces once about halfway through.


Transfer to the sauce, bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in the cilantro and lime juice, then let stand for 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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