This Paleo Butter Chicken is rich, creamy and so saucy and delicious. It’s incredibly easy to make and comes together in under 40 minutes (no marinating required!) making it the perfect comforting dish for weeknight dinner. This Whole30 Butter Chicken is also Dairy Free, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Paleo and Specific Carbohydrate Diet Legal.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS BUTTER CHICKEN
- There has been a lot of trial and error that has gone in to creating this recipe and I am so so happy with how it has turned out. I wanted to get all of the rich authentic flavour of traditional butter chicken, but in a shorter cook time and with less ingredients.
- The sauce is silky smooth in texture with a rich flavour that will make you want to drink it with a spoon! The chicken is also incredibly tender and melts in your mouth.
- To make this recipe weeknight dinner friendly, there is no marinating required (a step found in most traditional butter chicken recipes) and instead the chicken is cooked in the sauce.
- Unlike most butter chicken recipes that are made with heavy cream, this is a butter chicken without cream. This paleo butter chicken still has a rich and creamy sauce thanks to the use of coconut milk in place of heavy cream.
- This butter chicken recipe is paleo, dairy free, grain free, gluten free, whole30 and specific carbohydrate diet legal, but you would have no idea! It truly does taste like traditional butter chicken.
WHAT IS BUTTER CHICKEN
Butter chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is a popular Indian dish that originated in the 1950s in Delhi. It is made with marinated chicken pieces that are cooked in a rich and creamy tomato-based sauce, spiced with a blend of aromatic Indian spices. The dish gets its name from the buttery and creamy texture of the sauce, which is achieved by adding cream and butter towards the end of the cooking process.
SHOULD I USE CHICKEN BREASTS OR THIGHS?
Both chicken breasts and thighs can be used in this butter chicken recipe, but they bring different qualities to the dish.
Chicken breasts are lean and have a mild, neutral flavor. They tend to be tender and cook relatively quickly. When using chicken breasts in this butter chicken recipe, the result is a leaner and lighter dish. The texture is tender, and the chicken absorbs the flavors of the sauce well, providing a cleaner and healthier option.
I prefer to use chicken thighs because they are juicier, more flavorful, and tend to stay moist even when cooked for extended periods. The dark meat of the thighs has a richer taste due to a slightly higher fat content compared to chicken breasts. When used in this butter chicken recipe, chicken thighs contribute to a more succulent and robust flavor profile, providing a depth of taste that’s characteristic of traditional butter chicken.
WHAT SPICES ARE USED IN THIS BUTTER CHICKEN RECIPE?
- Garam Masala: Garam masala is a popular spice blend used in Indian and South Asian cuisine. The term “garam” translates to “warm” or “hot” in Hindi, which refers to the warming effect the spices have on the body according to Ayurvedic tradition. “Masala” means a mixture of spices. Garam Masala is usually a combination of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and peppercorns.
- Cinnamon: adds depth to curry. Its sweet and earthy notes complement other spices, enhancing the overall flavor profile. Used in moderation, cinnamon imparts a unique richness, balancing the savory and spicy elements, making it a key ingredient in this butter chicken recipe.
- Chili Powder: derived from ground dried chili peppers, is a key ingredient in curry, imparting heat and vibrant color. It adds a spicy kick and intensifies the flavor of the dish.
- Cumin: is found in a lot of curry recipes and is used to bring warmth and earthy tones to the dish.
IS THIS BUTTER CHICKEN RECIPE SPICY?
Compared to other Indian curries (such as vindaloo) I find that butter chicken is quite mild with very little spiciness. The lack of heat makes butter chicken (especially this butter chicken recipe) very family friendly. If you wanted to give this curry recipe more spice I would recommend increasing the amount of chili powder to 1 teaspoon.
HOW TO MAKE BUTTER CHICKEN IN THE SLOW COOKER
Unfortunately unless your slow cooker has a saute/sear function, I recommend starting this recipe on a pot on the stove and then transferring the mixture to the slow cooker. Start by sauteing the onions until golden in colour in a pot on the stove on medium heat. Transfer the sauted onions to the slow cooker along with the garlic, ginger, spices, tomato paste and coconut milk. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce into a smooth consistency before stirring in the chicken. Turn the slow cooker on to high heat for 3 hours or low heat for 5 hours. Once the chicken is tender and cooked through, stir in the butter or ghee and serve.
HOW TO MAKE BUTTER CHICKEN IN THE INSTANT POT
This butter chicken recipe is incredibly easy to adapt for the instant pot and cuts the cook time down to less than 30 minutes. Turn the instant pot on to saute, add in the oil and onion and sprinkle with salt and leave them to cook for approximately 6 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure that they don’t burn. Once the onion is golden in colour add in the garlic and ginger, plus the spices, tomato paste and coconut milk and use an immersion blender to blend it into a smooth consistency. Add in the chicken pieces and turn the instant pot to high pressure and cook for 8 minutes before doing a quick release. Stir in the butter/ghee and serve.
I DON’T HAVE AN IMMERSION BLENDER
I like using an immersion blender to blend the dairy free butter chicken sauce into a smooth and creamy consistency. If you do not have an immersion blender you can alternatively transfer the sauce into a stand blender and quickly blend until smooth. I recommend only filling the blender 2/3 full with sauce, and working in batches if necessary to prevent the sauce from overflowing.
IS THIS BUTTER CHICKEN DAIRY FREE?
Traditional butter chicken is made with heavy cream to give the sauce a smooth and velvety texture. In this recipe I replaced the heavy cream with coconut milk which creates the same delicious consistency. I like adding ghee to the sauce at the end in place of butter to make this recipe Paleo and Whole30. Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is commonly used in Indian cuisine and is made by simmering butter to remove the water content and milk solids. Although the milk solids are removed during the process, ghee is still derived from dairy and contains trace amounts of milk proteins and lactose therefore, it is not suitable for individuals with dairy allergies. To make this recipe completely dairy free I recommend replacing the butter or ghee with a dairy free or vegan butter or omitting it altogether, the sauce will still be absolutely delicious.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BUTTER CHICKEN
I like to serve this Butter Chicken over a big bowl of cauliflower rice or basmati rice to soak up all of the ridiculously delicious sauce. If you eat grain you can also serve this butter chicken with warmed naan or flatbread to scoop up pieces of chicken and sauce. There are a few delicious grain free naan recipes on the internet that you could make to serve alongside this butter chicken.
CAN I MAKE THIS BUTTER CHICKEN IN ADVANCE
Absolutely! I find that the flavours in the sauce only improve after this curry is left for a day in the fridge and the meat becomes even more tender. To reheat the butter chicken, it can be warmed in the microwave, or in a pot on medium heat on the stove. You may find that the sauce is thicker after resting overnight in the fridge, in which case I recommend adding a splash of water or chicken stock to thin it out.
WHAT ABOUT LEFTOVERS?
Any leftover butter chicken will last for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge. I like to double the recipe and freeze half for a quick and easy future meal. I recommend leaving the paleo butter chicken to cool before spooning it into a ziploc bag to store in the freezer where it can be frozen for up to 5 months.
Here are a few more Indian inspired recipes that you might enjoy…
- Slow Cooker Chicken Curry
- Butternut Squash & Kale Curry
- Turkey Mulligatawny Soup
- Tandoori Chicken Burgers
- Tandoori Chicken & Grilled Peach Salad
- Chicken Tikka Masala
If you make this paleo butter chicken recipe let me know in the comment section below, I would love to hear what you think or take a photo and tag me (@everylastbite_) on Instagram, I love seeing your photos!
- 2 lbs chicken thighs cut into small pieces
- 2 cups diced onion
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp chopped ginger
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¾ cup tomato paste (1 small can)
- 1 (14oz) can coconut milk
- 2 tbsp butter or ghee (omit for Dairy Free)
- 1 tbsp cilantro (for garnish)
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pot, add in the onion, season with salt and leave to cook on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until the onions have softened and begun to turn a golden colour.
- Add in the minced garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute before stirring in all of the spices. Cook for another minute before adding in the tomato paste and coconut milk, bring to a simmer and then remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to blend into a smooth consistency.
- Return the pot to the heat, add in the pieces of chicken and leave to simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and tender.
- Stir in butter and serve garnished with cilantro