Butter Chicken is a family favourite around here. It’s been requested for more birthdays than I can count, and is one of those meals that everyone loves equally.
My husband first starting making this meal with spice packets from ‘Asian Gourmet.’ Although they were really tasty, I wasn’t crazy about spending the dollars on them and so I set out to replicate the flavour at home with what I have in my spice drawer. There are lots of recipe variations out there, and… yes, I know this isn’t really ‘authentic’ Indian. BUT it’s made with things I always have on hand and gives me the correct overall taste so that’s good enough for me. Okay, yes… if you want me to be honest about it, I’m faking it. If you want to try faking it with me, here’s how:
Easy Butter Chicken
Melt a big glob of butter in a large heavy bottomed pan. (I don’t know how much is in my glob, maybe 2 Tbsp?)
Dice and saute 1 medium onion until translucent. (I also add garlic here if I think of it.)
Add chunks of uncooked chicken breast (I use 3 or 4 breasts) and cook through. It’s not usually necessary, but if you find it getting dry/ sticking, add 1-2 tablespoons of water and help the chicken cook with steam. It’s best if the chicken browns a bit, so don’t add too much.
Once cooked through, reduce heat and add a large can of crushed tomatoes. We love tomatoes and we love the sauce here at our place (over rice and to dip pita or naan bread), so I usually use a full can. You could get away with as little as half a can if you choose. I like to buy brands that contain just tomatoes and season accordingly. I rarely buy anything that is not on sale, so when I see tomatoes (crushed or diced) in my area for under $1, I stock up! I just don’t buy it if it’s not on sale.
Alternatively, you could do a small can of tomato paste if you aren’t into tomato quite like we are. I’ve also done it with tomato paste AND diced tomatoes to give it a bit more texture. Half the fun is mixing it up!
To the chicken/ tomato mixture, add your spices. I usually start with a base and add accordingly. My base goes something like this:
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 t cumin
sprinkle of cinnamon, chili powder, coriander seed, ginger (according to how much you like it)
(sometimes I have fresh or pastes of these spices, but dried is fine too)
Add as much milk or cream (or a bit of both) as you see fit. I usually just do 1% milk to keep it healthier, anywhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup, depending on how it’s looking as I add.
If you want to thicken without cream, you could use a bit of cornstarch or flour though I’ve never had to do this.
This is when I taste it and add spice and extra kick as needed. I almost always add more spice. This batch is good for 2 meals for our family. I like the ‘planned extras’ a day or two later, or for the freezer.
Serve over basmati rice (or beside it so the mixers can mix, and the ‘separators’ can keep it separate). Tip: I add cinnamon, curry, cumin and corriander to my rice for extra flavour while it cooks. Easy, cheap, tasty and healthier than soy sauce! My kids love it with peas (I guess they mix well with the sauce), so that’s our usual choice. I want to try this recipe with shrimp instead of chicken, but have yet to give that a go.