Butter Chicken




1-2 lbs boneless chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili powder

1 inch ginger, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbs olive oil


1 tbs olive oil

1 onion, diced 

1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

3 tbs butter

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 inch ginger, minced

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

3/4 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp of Kashmiri chili powder or paprika (not the same thing but paprika will mimic the color Kashmiri chili powder offers)

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

1 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp maple syrup 

Lemon, to taste 



  1. Marinate the chicken in the yogurt, kosher salt, Kashmiri chili powder, ground turmeric, garlic, and ginger for at least 15 minutes or up to a few hours.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a high-sided skillet on medium-high heat. Cook the chicken pieces until nicely browned on all sides and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet followed by the onions, and stir. The onions will pick up all the flavor left behind by the chicken.
  4. Once the onions are beginning to soften, add the kosher salt, butter, garlic, ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, and Kashmiri chili powder and stir. Let the spices toast for a minute or so before stirring in the tomato paste.
  5. Cook the tomato paste for about 15 minutes or until it becomes a deep shade of red. Then add 1 cup of water and stir to loosen the tomato paste. Lower the heat to medium, add the heavy cream, stir, and bring to a simmer.
  6. Return the chicken to the sauce, add the maple syrup, squeeze over a bit of lemon juice, and stir.
  7. Drizzle over some heavy cream and sprinkle over some chopped cilantro to garnish. Serve with basmati rice or naan.



Why maple syrup, and what can I use instead?

Traditional restaurant style butter chicken features fenugreek leaves, which are super aromatic but hard to come by in a pinch. Maple syrup has a similar earthy sweetness to fenugreek and helps balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. That being said, feel free to use about 1/2 tsp of fenugreek leaves if you have them, they’ll really enhance the flavor. If you don’t have maple syrup, a little bit of sugar or honey will work well to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

What is Kashmiri Chili Powder, and what can I use instead? 

Kashmiri chili powder is a gorgeous bright red chili powder used frequently in Indian cooking. It’s floral, bright, mildly spicy, and I highly recommend adding to to your spice cabinet – you won’t regret it. If you can’t get your hands on it, substitute 1 tsp of Kashmiri Chili Powder for 1 tsp paprika  + 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper. Cayenne is much spicier than Kashmiri chili powder so a direct substitution will make things way too spicy for most.

What is garam masala and where can I find it? 

Garam Masala is a really fragrant spice blend used in Indian cooking and it’s pretty easy to get your hands on. Most major spice brands carry their own version and you can find it at any major grocery store or online. I love this one by Spicewalla.


February 24, 2021

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  1. Ayesha Rajput says:

    Hey I cant find kosher salt or tomato paste anywhere in the shops.. please can you help? And btw can I use elm double cream for the heavy cream?

    • Zaynab Issa says:

      Hi! You can use table salt, just use half the amount. In the UK, tomato puree is the equivalent of tomato paste. You can use double cream as well.