There is a very good reason why butter chicken is one of the most loved Indian dishes: it’s pretty darn delicious. Succulent marinated chicken steeped in a rich and creamy tomato sauce, fragrant with warm spices. There’s actually not much actual butter in it, but there is a ton of cream which is what makes it so indulgent. I had wanted to make this dish for a long time but never did because for some reason, I felt like it was gonna be a complicated dish! It turned out not to be true at all. Sure, the ingredient list is pretty long, but if you’ve got a well stocked spice cabinet, you’ll probably only need to buy a handful of things. The best thing is that butter chicken is a very forgiving dish with lots of room to adjust according to your taste, and there is no special technique required.

Here’s how I suggest going about this to make it even more effortless: split it into 2 days. You can either marinade the chicken and make the sauce the day before serving (the sauce keeps very well in the fridge or freezer), or marinade and cook the chicken off on day 1, and make the sauce and assemble the next day. I find that with a little planning, it makes this so much easier than trying to do it in one go.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

Marinated Chicken

  • 800g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut each thigh into 3 pieces (you can also use breasts)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch pc ginger
  • ⅓ cup full-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder or paprika (I prefer smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp garam masala (store bought, or see recipe below)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ¾ tsp salt

Butter Chicken Gravy

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2-inch piece ginger, sliced
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 can (355 ml) diced or crushed tomato, unsalted if possible
  • ¼ cup raw cashew nuts (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp kashmiri chili powder or paprika
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • ½ – 1 tsp salt (if your tomato is salted you will need less)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed 
  • Lemon juice, as needed
  • ½ tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • Green chilies, to taste, sliced (optional)

Garam Masala

  • 10-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 5-6 green cardamom pods
  • 2 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 ½ tsp whole cloves
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds

Note: Ground versions of any of the above can also be used if you don’t have whole ones.
Place all whole spices in a dry saute pan and toast over medium-high heat, moving the pan or stirring constantly, until cumin seeds darken slightly. Let cool and grind into a powder and add any powdered spices you’re using.

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