This butter chicken recipe is Indian and as close to authentic as possible. It does require quite a bit of ingredients but is a pleasure to make and eat. The final result is extremely flavorful and tender chicken in a smooth and complex sauce.
You will need to marinate the chicken for this recipe so please make sure to allot the time. Although this can be done within three hours I prefer to marinate it overnight. I use chicken thighs for this but you can definitely use chicken breast if you prefer.
The most important ingredient for this recipe is the garam masala. If you do not want to purchase — or cannot find — cardamom pods or fenugreek leaves don’t worry about it. You can make this without those ingredients. It will taste slightly different but will still be delicious. Please keep in mind that when I say chili I mean ground red chili and not the chili powder that is used in beef and beans in the US.
My biggest recommendation is that you be very careful when cooking your spices. Work at medium heat and stir constantly. Other than that you should be fine. If you want to keep this truly authentic you will need to use ghee or clarified butter instead of butter and oil.
You will notice that the chicken in this recipe is cooked ahead of time. This is to prevent it from being undercooked as the sauce will be ready before the chicken.
This is what you are going to need for this wonderful Indian butter chicken recipe:
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs – cut into about 2×3 inch chunks
2 TBS of fresh lemon juice (1 medium lemon)
FOR THE MARINADE:
1-cup plain yogurt
2 tsp. garam masala
½ tsp. red chili powder
2 minced garlic cloves
1 heaping tsp. of chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
Place the chicken in a glass or ceramic bowl and add the lemon juice and salt. Mix well and allow sitting at room temperature for a few minutes.
In another bowl mix the yogurt with the garam masala, chili powder, garlic cloves, ginger, cumin and turmeric. Mix well and pour over the chicken. Toss to coat all the pieces, cover bowl with plastic and marinate for a minimum of two hours or up to overnight.
FOR THE SAUCE:
2 cardamom pods
2 TBS unsalted butter + 1 tsp. oil (or 2 TBS ghee)
2 large garlic cloves – minced
1 tsp. of minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. red chili powder
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cumin
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 14.5 oz. (400 grams) can of stewed tomatoes
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp. dry fenugreek leaves
¾ cup (200 ml) of heavy cream
1 tsp. garam masala
Salt to taste
When the chicken has marinated and is ready:
Heat your oven to 350° F (180 C). Spread the chicken on a baking dish (use two if necessary – do not pile it) and bake it for about 20 minutes. You want to keep the chicken coated with the yogurt marinade. The chicken will finish cooking in the sauce.
Soak the almonds in boiling water for about 5 minutes and remove the skins. Blend the almonds with a little bit of water. Don’t worry if they are a little chunky, as we will blend the whole sauce in a little bit.
Smash the cardamom pods and release the seeds. Coarsely chop the seeds and do not get rid of the husk.
Melt the butter and oil in a deep skillet. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for a minute. Work on medium heat. Add the chili powder, turmeric, cumin, cardamom seeds, cinnamon and cloves. Mix well and cook for four to five minutes – stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. At about three minutes add the blended almonds. Cook for another minute or two.
Add the tomatoes and cook for about five more minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook for another five minutes. Add the fenugreek leaves by rubbing it between the palms of your hands and crushing it. Mix it well.
Remove the cinnamon stick and allow the sauce to cool down a bit. Blend it until it is smooth and return the sauce to the pan. Add a little bit of water to the blender and wash out any sauce that might have stuck to the sides.
Add the cream and mix it in until fully incorporated. Add the garam masala and salt and mix well. Return the chicken to the sauce, heat for about five minutes and serve. This goes beautifully with steamed rice.