Butter Chicken–Dairy Free!

First of all, my family goes nuts for anything with coconut. Since we really try to find ways that skip dairy and butter, most of the meals we plan are dairy-free. But we LOVE butter chicken! Bummer that most recipes call for butter and heavy cream. So I brought in coconut oil and cream to sub for dairy, and the results have been a hit!

We’ve put this dish in the weekly rotation, serving it with sauteed spinach with garlic and lemon.

It’s a very straightforward dish, with just a few ingredients. I use chicken thighs, which melt into tender bites that don’t require cutting, but if you are a fan of chicken breasts, just dice them up and cook for 10 minutes less.

Butter Chicken–Dairy Free!


For the marinade:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the butter chicken

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, stem, membranes and seeds removed, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 each teaspoon cumin and turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can whole tomatoes with juices (I used San Marzano)
  • 1 can of coconut cream
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steamed Rice & Sauteed Spinach for Serving

Method for the marinated chicken:

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and add the chicken. Toss to combine the chicken and marinade, then refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Method for the butter chicken:

Heat the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven (that has a lid for later) over medium high heat. When oil is hot, sear the chicken in the pan until golden brown, working in batches to not overcrowd the pan, adding additional coconut oil if needed. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on a plate or sheet pan.

When all of the chicken is browned and removed from the pan, add the onions and jalapenos, stirring frequently to prevent burning. After 2 minutes, add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin and turmeric, and continue to stir for another minute, or until the onions soften and the mixture is fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and can of tomatoes, stirring to lift the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, season with a pinch of salt, and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until the tomatoes reduce slightly. Add the coconut cream, stirring thoroughly to combine, and then stir in the chicken stock. Add the chicken thighs back into the pot, stir everything together, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid, cracking slightly to vent.

Simmer the butter chicken for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken thighs are fall apart tender. Stir in the lemon juice and half of the cilantro. Serve, topping with additional cilantro, with steamed rice and sautéed spinach.  

Did you make this recipe? Tag your photo #familyfarmbox

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