As a kid, murgh makhani (butter chicken) was the only Indian food that my parents could easily get me to eat. It has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember and so, I’m very excited to share this paleo butter chicken recipe with all of you. It’s the perfect blend of tomato flavor, creaminess and masala.
Often, when you make something “paleo” it doesn’t quite taste like the “real” thing. For example, I absolutely love my 3-ingredient paleo naan (and it goes PERFECTLY with this dish), but for those of us who remember what naan actually tastes like… well, let’s just say my paleo naan is “good enough.” This paleo butter chicken on the other hand… well, I’d put it up against any restaurant quality butter chicken. It’s truly THAT good.
This paleo butter chicken is delicious and authentic. I have eaten at hundreds of different Indian restaurants during my lifetime and chances are that nearly every time we’ve ordered butter chicken. This paleo butter chicken isn’t lacking in any way. The masala is right on and the full-fat coconut milk adds rich creamy flavor without any hint of coconut taste.
The sauce… oh the sauce… it’s absolutely perfect. It’s great with basmati rice (if you can eat rice) but it’s sooo much better with my paleo naan. The naan sops up the creamy sauce; use it to scoop the tasty chicken and sauce right into your mouth.
This dish is simple to make. You just need canned full-fat coconut milk (again, you won’t taste the coconut), organic tomato sauce and the right spices. You’ll likely need to go to an Indian store to find some of these spices or you can always order them on amazon. If you love Indian food or butter chicken, then you’ll definitely use them again.
There’s one spice that you may not have used before: dried fenugreek leaves. We call these leaves “kasoori methi.” Most Indian restaurants will include these leaves in their butter chicken or tikka masala recipe. It’s what gives butter chicken it’s distinct taste; it helps enhance flavor. You only need a pinch, but it makes a difference so try to get this if you can.
Butter chicken is typically marinated in yogurt which helps to tenderize the chicken. In order to achieve this, I put a can of full-fat coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight and the next morning, I skimmed the cream from the top (it came out to about ½ cup). I used this coconut cream in the chicken marinade along with some spices and let it sit out while I stir-fried my onions. Make sure you really brown those onions – it’s what creates the base flavor for nearly every Indian recipe.
Butter chicken is usually cooked in a special tandoor oven. Since most of us don’t have a giant tandoor in our kitchens, I decided to briefly pan-fry my chicken and then let it finish cooking by simmering it in the masala tomato sauce. It turned out wonderfully. Sometimes chicken can get a little dry in a tandoor – this chicken was tender, moist and perfectly biteable.
Once you make this dish, you’ll see how easy it is to put together. It’s perfect for a weeknight or for a dinner party. Serve it with some warm naan. You’ll need that naan to wipe every bit of the butter chicken sauce from your bowl. You are going to love this.
And if you do love this (which you will) then be sure to check out my Paleo Indian eCookbook: South Asian Persuasion! It has 100+ Paleo Indian Recipes (gulab jamun, anyone?)
- 2 pounds chicken thighs (boneless and skinless), cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup coconut cream (refrigerate can of coconut milk overnight and use the cream on top of the can or use ½ cup of this coconut cream)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala
- ¼ teaspoon Coriander Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Paprika
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons Grassfed Organic Ghee (add more if needed)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1-inch knob ginger, minced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped in large pieces
- 1 (15 ounce) can organic tomato sauce
- 1 can organic coconut milk, full fat
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder (if using cayenne, use a little less)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch of fenugreek leaves
- Cilantro, garnish
- Place chicken in a bowl and marinate with coconut cream and spices, set aside.
- Add ghee to a pan on medium heat. Once ghee melts, add onions and cook until completely dark golden-brown but be careful not to burn them (this will take at least 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s dark, that’s how Indian people cook their onions ;))
- Add ginger and garlic and saute for a few more minutes.
- Add spices and let them bloom for a minute. Then add your chicken mixture and briefly stir-fry to coat chicken with the masala you’ve made.
- Add green pepper and tomato sauce and cover your pan. Let everything simmer for 12-15 minutes.
- Add 1 can of coconut milk and a pinch of kasoori methi - let it simmer for another few minutes.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve with paleo naan.