Butter Chicken is my go-to recipe when I want to impress my guests. This is one of those meals that is easy to prepare but delivers powerful, complex flavors. The combination of cardamom, cumin and coriander in this India-inspired dish is inexplicable. Each of these spices by themselves is unique but when you put them in this recipe, the result is perfection. Now this description may have you thinking that Butter Chicken is going to be heavily spiced, but you’re also going to simmer all these spices with a good amount of tomatoes and sauce which mellows the spices and melds them together just right. Plus, adding the cream at the end helps tone down any acidic properties the tomatoes may bring and this step truly brings the flavors together. (My mom doesn’t like spicy food of any kind and she says it’s the best dish I make.)
A few notes when making this dish, do NOT leave out the cayenne pepper even if your family doesn’t like heat. I usually add 1/4 teaspoon and it isn’t hot at all but it’s a nice compliment to the other seasonings. Of course, increase it if you like spice. In traditional Butter Chicken, the spices, lime juice and chicken are marinated overnight. After forgetting this step too many times, I adjusted the cooking method as well as the spice quantities so the marinade step is not necessary. I recommend continuing to simmer the ingredients uncovered for quite awhile, which makes the chicken fall-apart tender. As the sauce thickens, the flavors are enhanced even more. Plus, as the sauce cooks down, you will be free to get everything else ready for your meal or just relax! Do NOT leave out the cream. If you want, add half and half (do not ruin this dish with low-fat or fat-free ingredients). I’ve forgotten this step before and everyone was wondering what was missing in the dish. And finally, use white rice to serve Butter Chicken. I substitute brown rice in my recipes whenever I can, but this is one recipe where brown rice doesn’t cut it. Basmati is my preferred rice here as the texture and flavor are divine. But any white rice will do.
And one last note: Be ready with extra copies of this recipe because everyone is going to want it.
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 cup butter
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- Juice from 2 limes
- 2 14.5 oz. cans tomato sauce
- 2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, to taste (parsley may be substituted)
- 4 cups cooked Basmati rice
- In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, sauté onion in the butter until soft. Add garlic, chicken, salt, pepper, cayenne, coriander, cumin, cardamon and lime juice. Cook about 10 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Heat to boiling, then lower heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid, increase heat just to maintain a good simmer and cook for additional 60 minutes or more to allow sauce to cook down further. You don't want it soupy. Add the whipping cream (I have successfully used light cream or half-and-half also) and cilantro just before serving over Basmati rice.
- For even deeper flavor, the original recipe recommends adding all the spices with the cut up chicken and placing in a ziplock bag, then refrigerating for two hours before cooking. It does deepen the spices in the dish, but I've made it many many times without this step with excellent results.
- Adjust the cayenne pepper to your taste. I usually add 1/4 teaspoon and it is perfect for all tastes, kids and grown ups.
- Don't leave out the cream, it's an important part of blending all the flavors together.
- Continue to cook down the sauce until it's nice and thick like in my pictures. I promise the chicken will not dry out, but just become more tender with time.
- Serve over white rice, basmati is our favorite. I use brown rice in many recipes but this one is not the dish for that. The combination of the floral basmati (or other long grain white rice) is perfect with the Butter Chicken. Save your brown rice for another time.