This is a super simple version of this family favourite meal. This dairy-free butter chicken will become a staple in your weeknight recipe repertoire as you’ll love just how easy it is to make from scratch – no jar sauce here!
Take a peek inside many Australian homes and you’ll find that butter chicken is a favourite gracing the tables of families around the country. It’s a mild, rich and creamy Indian style curry and it’s all things cosy, comforting and delicious.
More often than not though, and I’ll admit I am also quite guilty of this, butter chicken is made with the help of a jar sauce picked up at the grocery store. And while this is a great option if you’re short on time, I cannot stress how much better it tastes when you make it from scratch.
Plus those supermarket jar sauces often contain a lot of extra stuff that we just don’t need, including the majority of them containing dairy making them off limits for me. This recipe therefore uses coconut milk instead of regular cream and the result is silky smooth and delicious and of course dairy-free.
Ingredients for dairy-free butter chicken
This recipe uses minimal ingredients, all which should be staples. The ingredient count goes up a little thanks to the combination of spices, however a well stocked spice rack is something that I think is so important in any kitchen to make sure you can always cook up a delicious dinner.
- Chicken – I like using the thigh here as the extra fat ensures more flavour and tender, juicy pieces but you could also use breast if you wanted to.
- Spices – using a combination here of garam masala, curry powder, ground coriander and chilli powder for maximum flavour. Adjust the chilli as needed based on how spicy you like it but as written it is mild.
- Onion, garlic and ginger – these three powerhouse flavours give us the base of the dish and a starting point to build flavour from. They are absolutely essential!
- Tomato paste – needed for that rich, punchy tomato flavour.
- Coconut milk – use a really good quality full fat coconut milk here for the best result. Anything less and the sauce won’t be as rich and creamy. I literally only ever use the TCC brand for the best results.
How to make butter chicken
One of the best things I can recommend to make this recipe super easy to make is to prep and measure out all of your ingredients before starting.
Get a little bowl and measure the spices and set aside. Prepare and chop your chicken, onion, garlic and ginger. This will make actually cooking the recipe so much easier as you won’t be running around, digging through the cupboard looking for the chilli powder while the onion starts to burn.
Start by browning the chicken in a frying pan with a little oil over high heat. You don’t need the chicken cooked all the way through but you want it sealed and starting to get some colour on the outside. Once done, remove the chicken from the plan and set aside on a plate.
Now with a little additional oil in the same pan, add your diced onion and saute until soft and translucent. Don’t rush this step as crunchy onion isn’t a nice texture in butter chicken.
Add in the garlic and ginger and mix through until fragrant, then add in your spices. Toast for a minute or two then finally add in your tomato paste.
Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it starts to darken in colour as this will ensure maximum flavour. Complete the sauce by adding in the can of coconut milk and mixing through the paste until the paste has dissolved into the coconut milk.
Let simmer for about 5 minutes until it starts to thicken then add back in the chicken. Continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is silky smooth.
This butter chicken is best served with my favourite rice cooker turmeric rice (which you can easily have cooking away while making this recipe) and my easy vegan naans. This is what is included in the photos of this post as a serving suggestion.
Parts of Australia are still currently in lockdown (including here in Brisbane) and so I think it’s really important to look after ourselves and make sure we are taking quality time away from our screens to enjoy the simple things. And cooking a delicious meal from scratch for your family is one of the absolute best ways to be really present and grounded while at home.
Plus this recipe is really easy and low fuss not to mention it’s super delicious – I think I am going to have to make it again this week!
More easy chicken recipes:
Thai Red Curry with Baked Chicken Meatballs
Pressure Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Satay Noodles
Easy Chicken Fried Rice
Lemon and Garlic Chicken Tray Bake
Crispy Chicken Burger
Dairy-Free Butter Chicken
- 500 grams chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegan butter
- 1 brown onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 400ml can coconut milk
- Start by chopping the chicken thighs into cubes. Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the chicken. Cook the chicken until the outside is starting to brown and then remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. It’s ok if the chicken isn’t cooked all the way through at this stage.
- Add a little more oil to the pan and add in the onion. Using a wooden spoon, saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.
- Add in all the spices and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato paste and mixing through. Add the coconut milk and gently stir with a wooden spoon until the onion, spices and tomato paste are all mixed through the sauce.
- Let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes before adding back in the chicken and continuing to simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until the sauce is smooth and thick and the chicken is cooked all the way through. If the chicken has a lot of liquid on the plate you can drain this off before adding the chicken to the sauce.
- Serve with steamed rice, turmeric rice and homemade naan for the most delicious dinner.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.
yes i agree – chicken thighs are the best! what a great idea to use coconut milk. i must give this a go. i can at least say i only ever make this sort of dish from scratch as i don’t like sauces in a jar. always so oily and full of nasty amounts of turmeric! i mean i like turmeric but they seem to use it as a cheap basis for curry pastes and powders. anyway – enough ranting from me …