Rich and flavorful Indian-inspired Butter Chicken made paleo-friendly with Keto and Whole30 options. This amazingly tender chicken in an aromatic sauce will keep you coming back for more!
Have you ever pondered the difference between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala?
These are the torrid inner musings of the Indian food enthusiast.
The two dishes share quite a few similarities when it comes to the ingredients lists. Traditionally, both use tomatoes, tomato paste (or puree), Greek yogurt, heavy cream, the same spices (cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, etc.), and even a similar cooking technique.
After comparing the ingredients and cooking technique for both dishes, and taking into account slight differences in everyone’s approach to both recipes, I performed a basic google search because my mind was baffled.
You ready to know the difference?
Here’s what I discovered.
Difference Between Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken:
Butter Chicken (murgh makani) contains more cream and is therefore creamier, and Chicken Tikka Masala has a higher quantity of tomatoes/tomato paste, and therefore has more tomato flavor than Butter Chicken.
I also read Butter Chicken is a classic Northern Indian dish, whereas Chicken Tikka Masala comes from (wait for it, wait for it) the U.K. (specifically England). Whether or not this is certifiably true requires more research.
As it turns out, there are slight differences in the spices used as well, but after looking through recipe after recipe of both, I couldn’t tell you what these slight differences do to the taste.
Let’s discuss this thing of beauty.
It’s not authentic at all, lol smiley face <- don’t kill me with fire.
How to Make Butter Chicken Without Lactose:
The reason this is not a completely authentic Butter Chicken recipe is due to the fact that I paleo-ified it.
I removed both the Greek yogurt and the heavy cream, replacing both with a creamy, dreamy, thick non-dairy alternative: coconut milk.
Per the paleo diet, grass-fed butter and/or ghee is permissible, so we leave that ingredient unscathed.
Ghee is clarified butter, which is a fancy way of saying it is butter with the lactose removed. Many folks who are sensitive to dairy or lactose intolerance can tolerate ghee just fine (myself included).
You bored yet? Don’t answer that.
What you need to know about this paleo butter chicken is while it isn’t a traditional authentic Indian (or as it turns out, English) approach, it is still quite flavorful, creamy, tasty, and healthful.
I kept the cooking technique traditional (first marinating the chicken and then baking it prior to combining it with the luxurious buttery sauce) to ensure the result turned out as silky-smooth and delightful as possible.
Steps to Prepare This Recipe:
There are three basic steps to making Butter Chicken. It’s easy!
1.) Marinate the Chicken: We marinate the chicken in coconut milk and spices to make it nice and tender and flavorful.
In the traditional version, you would be marinating the chicken in Greek Yogurt and spices. If you’d like to do so, simply replace the coconut milk with Greek Yogurt in a 1:1 replacement. You can also use coconut milk yogurt!
As is the case with most meats, the longer you marinate the better (up to a certain point, obviously). If you have the time, marinate the chicken overnight, or up to 24 hours. If you’re under a time crunch, you still want at least 4 hours for THE BEST results!
2.) Make the Butter Chicken Sauce: A delicious, buttery, silky-smooth sauce is made using all sorts of aromatic spices, onion, garlic, ghee, and coconut milk. Allowing the sauce to stew for a long period of time will make this dish absolutely delectable.
If you’re pressed for time, you can get away with 30 minutes of simmer time, but I would recommend an hour or longer if you can.
3.) Stew the Chicken in the Sauce: Once your chicken has been sufficiently marinated and your sauce is nice and flavorful, you get to bring the two forces together by cooking the chicken in the sauce! Once this step is complete, BOOM, you have butter chicken!
4.) Serve! Enjoy the Butter Chicken with your choice of steamed rice or cauliflower rice. I kept it low-carb / keto friendly by serving the butter chicken with cauliflower rice.
- To make Whole30 or Keto Butter Chicken, omit the pure maple syrup.
- Use boneless skinless chicken thighs or bone-in skin-on chicken pieces instead of chicken breasts.
- Make it entirely dairy-free (and Whole30 approved) by using coconut oil instead of ghee.
- If you do dairy, replace the coconut milk in the marinade with Greek yogurt, and replace the coconut milk in the sauce with heavy cream.
- A note to my Low-FODMAP friends: I’ve made this recipe without onions and garlic and it still turns out tasty! There is a little less depth of flavor, so I recommend adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and cooking the sauce for 40 to 60 minutes to help in the flavor department.
More Indian-Inspired Recipes:
- Instant Pot Indian Lamb Curry
- Indian Shrimp Biryani
- Indian Eggplant Curry (Bhaingan Bharta)
- Instant Pot Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala
Paleo Butter Chicken
For the Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons ghee or grassfed butter
- 1/2 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger peeled and grated
- 1 15- ounce can tomato sauce
- 1-1/4 cups full-fat canned coconut milk see note*
- 1.5 tablespoons pure maple syrup see note**
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional, see note***
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground corriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1.5 teaspoons sea salt to taste
Marinate the Chicken:
- Place the chicken in a zip lock bag or sealable container with ½ cup coconut milk, ground cinnamon, paprika, and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Seal the bag and shake around until everything is well combined and the chicken is submerged in the marinade mixture. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to 12 hours.
Prepare the Butter Chicken Sauce:
- Heat the ghee in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until garlic is very fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients for the sauce and bring to a full but gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally for at least 20 minutes (the longer you cook this sauce, the more flavorful it will become).
Cook and Stew the Chicken:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly spray or oil a large casserole dish.
- Transfer the chicken to the casserole dish and bake on the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Allow the chicken to cool 15 minutes to allow the juices to distribute throughout the meat. This will help make the meat very tender.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and chop into bite-sized cubes.
- Add the chicken to the saucepan with the butter chicken sauce and return to a gentle boil. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in fresh chopped cilantro.
- Serve Butter Chicken with quinoa, cauliflower rice or rice of choice.