We get asked a lot at the farmers markets if we offer a Butter Chicken spice blend. Since the main difference between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken is the amount of tomatoes (more in Tikka Masala) and the addition of butter as an ingredient rather than an oil, our Tikka Masala spice blend can be used to help you make a great Butter Chicken without the hassle of buying a bunch of individual spices.
The real key to a delicious Butter Chicken is marination. Our recipe also calls for bone-in chicken, which allows for a richer and deeper chicken flavor. Of course, you can use boneless thighs or breasts (or even tofu) if that’s your preference. When using boneless chicken, cut into 1” cubes before marinating. You won’t regret marinating overnight as it makes for the ultimate tender and tasty chicken.
A few notes about ingredients:
If you are using canned tomatoes and not making your own cashew cream as suggested in the recipe, your prep time will be less and you won’t need a blender.
Since the recipe only calls for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, we recommend finding it in a tube so you don’t have to figure out what to do with (or waste) the rest of the can.
While Butter Chicken with Basmati rice and naan can be a perfectly wonderful meal on its own, we like serving it with another vegetable side dish like Sookhi Gobi (a dry cauliflower curry).
**Soak cashews in 1 C of boiling water for 1 hour, or 4-5 hours at room temperature water. If you're in a pinch or don’t have cashews, heavy cream or coconut cream (DF) make a great substitute.
In a medium bowl, combine ⅓ C greek yogurt, 1 TBSP Masi Masa Spice Blend, juice from ½ lemon, and 1 tsp salt. Add chicken or tofu and toss until fully coated in marinade. (If using tofu, press out water, cut into 1” cubes, and marinate for the same amount of time.)
Cover bowl and set in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours or overnight.
Prepare the Butter Chicken
Add 3 roma tomatoes to blender. Blend until smooth. Strain in a mesh strainer to remove seeds and skins. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
Rinse the blender out, and add soaked cashews with ¼ C of water. Blend until creamy and smooth, about 45 seconds. Set aside (OK to leave in blender).
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 TBSP olive oil. Add chicken, skin down first, and sear until dark golden brown. Flip chicken over and sear on the other side, about 4-5 minutes per side. (If using boneless, brown for 2-3 minutes per side. If using tofu, sear for ~1 minute per side.)
While the chicken (or tofu) is cooking, rinse out the marinade bowl. When chicken is done browning, remove chicken and set aside in a bowl.
Scrape out the pan to remove any browned bits.
Reduce heat to medium, and add 3 TBSP ghee or butter, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and butter is foamy, about 2-3 minutes.
Add 2 TBSP Masi Masa Spice Blend and cook, stirring, to toast spices, about 1-2 minutes.
Being careful to avoid splattering, add tomato puree and 1 TBSP tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato sauce starts to thicken, about 3-4 minutes.
Add ⅓ C water, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add chicken back to the pan. Bring back to a simmer, then reduce to medium-low heat, cover with a lid and let cook for 25 minutes. (If using chicken pieces, cook for 15 minutes.)
Remove the lid and cook for 5 minutes more to allow the sauce to reduce/thicken. Add 1 TBSP honey (or other sweetener), and salt to taste.
Add ¼ C cashew cream (or heavy or coconut cream) slowly to the pan, to prevent curdling, and stir gently to incorporate.
Top with chopped cilantro, and serve with basmati rice and/or naan and a vegetable side dish (or two)!