Who hasn’t heard of butter chicken? That creamy curry with tandoor-roasted chicken pieces in it. Mmmm… Did you know that this dish is supposed to have originated in an eatery in Delhi, India? Maybe just a few decades ago. Since then, this is a signature dish of any self-respecting Indian restaurant and many times, the restaurant can be evaluated on how popular their butter chicken dish is. And also biryani…but that deserves a whole new post.
I have attempted many times to perfect butter chicken and it is an evolving process. The trick is in marinating the chicken properly for roasting or grilling or even just pan frying, if there is no oven. And then, allowing the chicken to slowly simmer in a tomato and spice based gravy and finishing off with a liberal dose of cream, and of course, butter.
I have tried butter chicken recipes from countless sources, but the one that stood out the most so far is this one from ecurry blog. I have tweaked it to suit my taste, of course. The secret seems to be in the double marinade for the chicken.
You will need:
Marinade for grilling chicken
- Chicken – 2 lbs
- Red chili powder – 1 tsp
- Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
- Red color – 1/4 tsp (optional)
- Yogurt – 1/4 cup
- Ginger and garlic paste – 4 tsp
- Turmeric powder – 1 scant tsp
- Garam masala – 1 tsp
- Butter – 2 tbsp, melted
For the curry/sauce
- Butter – 1/4 cup
- Whole spices (Cinnamon stick – 1-in piece, Cardamom pods – 3, Cloves – 3)
- Ginger and garlic paste – 2 tbsp
- Onion paste – 1 tbsp (optional)
- Tomato puree – 3 cups
- Red chili powder – 2 tsp
- Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
- Dried fenugreek leaves – 1 tsp (This adds a nice flavor to many North Indian dishes. I did not use it, and the curry was still yummy! Don’t fret if you can’t find it!)
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Heavy cream – 1/2 cup (Can substitute with half and half or even milk for low calorie version. But I’d rather not!)
- Fresh cilantro leaves – a few leaves
- Water or milk – if curry needs to be loosened (optional)
Optional: Cashew nut or almond paste – 1/4 cup (soak the nuts in warm water and grind to a paste)
- Clean the chicken and cut into medium-sized chunks. Use either boneless or bone-in pieces. (Bone-in pieces are more flavorful.)
- Marinate chicken with 1 tsp red chili powder, 1 tbsp lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate for half an hour. This is the first marinade.
- Combine this chicken with the rest of the marinade ingredients (except butter) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible.
- Grill the chicken in a 375 deg.F oven till done, turning the chicken pieces over once and basting with the melted butter.
- Cook the chicken till just done. If over cooked, the chicken will be dry and tough. Keep the chicken warm, covered in foil till the sauce is ready.
- Meanwhile, heat the butter for the sauce in a large pan.
- Add the whole spices and let them sputter.
- Add the ginger and garlic paste and onion paste (if using). Fry till they turn golden brown and the raw smell is gone.
- Add the tomato puree, red chili powder and salt to taste. Cook till nice and thick.
- Add a little water and the cashew nut paste (if using) and bring to a boil.
- Add the dried fenugreek leaves (if using) and sugar and simmer for a while.
- Add the chicken pieces and mix well to coat the chicken in the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the cream, garam masala and a few cilantro leaves. Combine well and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Take care not to curdle the cream.
- Check the seasoning and add more water or milk if the curry seems too thick. Bring to a boil.
- Serve hot with any rice dish like vegetable pulao, coconut rice or any Indian flat bread like chapathi or naan.
Do you like butter chicken? Have you tried to make it?
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