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Butter(less) Chicken: dairy-free

I absolutely love East Indian food!  In fact, I am still in search of a gluten-free samosa recipe, but until then I will settle for things such as curry chicken and butter chicken (or butter-less as the case was tonight).

A few years ago there was a lady at my mom’s workplace who would make butter chicken for everyone during their Wednesday night dinners.  My mom use to work the late shift and I think that some of them started getting together and making dinners on certain Wednesday nights.  Well, my mom brought her leftover butter chicken home one night and I finished it off – it was the best thing I had ever eaten!  At some point I started going depending on what they were having and joined in.  Of course, this was all before my gluten-free days. 

My mom’s friend was kind enough to share the recipe with us, but I never did get around to making it until last spring when my fiance couldn’t stop talking about how much he looooooves butter chicken.  We finally got around to making the recipe and really enjoyed it, but I found it to be a little bit hard on my tummy because of the dairy.  While we were eating it I came up with the plan to substitute coconut milk for the whipping cream – it was fabulous!  There was only enough leftover for each of us to have a little bit in our lunches the next day.  However, tonight I made this up with no oil or butter what-so-ever in my Saladmaster 5 Qt. pot.

That is one of the things I love about my Saladmaster.  I love the way my food tastes and that I can cook it with little-to-no oil or water.  I can ACTUALLY taste the vegetables, although I digress as the only vegetables in tonight’s dish were onions, garlic & ginger!  My fiance was quite shocked when I told him that there was no butter and very little salt in this dish, but loved it anyway.  I believe his exact words were, “this is exactly how I like it.”  I guess I can’t argue with that.  I must admit that I did not use the full amount of chicken because I am not really feeling that into meat right now.

I think that the key ingredient to this dish is fresh cilantro.  I love cilantro.  I love how it smells and I love the taste.  Any recipe that calls for fresh cilantro is usually a hit with me, but I alway double, triple and sometimes quadruple the amount.  I personally don’t think that you can go wrong with this fresh herb and I am so grateful that we have a farmer’s market in our area that sells this all year round.  The second key to this recipe is when you add the cilantro.  You want to time it so that it doesn’t actually cook in the sauce and become wilted, but you also want to put it in early enough that there is time for it’s flavour to blend in with the mustard seeds and tandoori that are also in this –  a wonderful combination that plays with your tastebuds!

I am adding this post to this week’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday over at Simply Sugar & Gluten-free.

BUTTER(LESS) CHICKEN -adapted from my mom’s friend’s recipe

 1 Tbsp. butter*

1-2 Tbsp. olive oil*

2 large onions (cone #2)

2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

 1 bulb of garlic (cone #1), finely chopped or crushed

1 Tbsp. fresh ginger (cone #1), finely chopped or grated

2 tsp. red chili powder

2 Tbsp. tandoori masala

4 chicken breasts, cubed or sliced (I prefer cubes/chunks)


2 Tbsp. tomato paste

¾ cup plain tomato sauce

 4 cups (1 can and a bit) of coconut milk

1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped


1.  Chop onions and toss into a pot that is approximately 5 qt. and has a lid.  Add the mustard seeds and gently saute until the onions are tender (lid off).

2.  Add garlic, ginger, chili powder, tandoori masala and chicken.  Mix it together.  Add the salt and then cover (medium-click-low**).

3.  Stir every now and again to blend the flavours.  There will be some excess water when the salt is added, extracted from the meat.  Cook until the water has evaporated.  You may need to remove the lid in order to help it evaporate.

 4.  Add tomato paste and tomato sauce (medium-click-low**).  Reduce the heat and let cook.

5.  Once the paste and sauce has blended in with the other ingredients, add the coconut milk and simmer on low heat.  Should be done in a matter of minutes.

6.  As the sauce starts to thicken, stir in the cilantro.

Serve over rice (and garnish with whole cilantro leaves if you want to get fancy!).

*If not using Saladmaster, you will need to melt the butter and heat the oil before putting the onions and mustard seeds in, thus making it Butter Chicken (if you know a secret to lessen or exclude this completely, please let me know).


  • This can easily be made vegan/vegetarian by excluding the chicken completely and using tofu instead or just make the sauce!
  • Exclude the butter completely and only use vegetable oil to saute the vegetables


  • Decrease the amount of butter used and increase the amount of olive oil (Ex. 1 tsp. butter and 2 Tbsp. olive oil)
  1. February 7, 2011 at 9:26 am

    that looks REALLY good. I’ll have to try it this week or next.

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