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Butter-Free Butter Chicken

This recipe is dairy-free & gluten-free
with options to make it nightshade-free as well.


As the name implies, there is “butter” in butter chicken. In fact, there is quite a lot of dairy in butter chicken: dairy yogurt, butter or ghee, and heavy cream.

I have developed a recipe for Butter-Free Butter Chicken that is very good, if I do say so myself. It’s 100% dairy and gluten free. It is flavorful and mild so that the whole family can enjoy it, even kids.

Plus, there are options in the recipe to make it nightshade-free as well. So why not give it a try.

Begin with:

  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces.


Ingredients for Marinade:

  • ½ cup plain coconut milk yogurt

  • 2 tsp garam masala Indian spice blend

  • 1 tsp each garlic powder, ground ginger and salt

  • 1 tsp each ground cumin, turmeric and chili powder (to eliminate nightshades, substitute white or black pepper for the chili powder)


Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil, divided

  • 1 med-large onion, chopped

  • 1 Tbsp minced or finely shredded fresh ginger (alternatively, use 1 tsp ground ginger)

  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (alternatively, use 1 tsp garlic powder)

  • 1 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala and salt

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • ½ - 1 tsp chili powder (to eliminate nightshades, substitute white or black pepper for the chili powder)

  • 1 small can of tomato paste (to eliminate nightshades, substitute ¾ cup pureed roasted butternut squash for the tomato paste)

  • 1 cup of coconut milk


Place chicken pieces in a wide, shallow glass or ceramic bowl or dish. In another bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients together. Stir the marinade into the chicken, being sure to cover all the pieces in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes (can also leave to marinade for several hours, even overnight).


Heat 1 Tbsp of the coconut oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. When the oil is starting to sizzle add half the chicken pieces. Make sure that there is plenty of room around all the chicken pieces so that they don’t crowd each other. Fry one side for a minute, and then flip the pieces over to fry the other side for another minute.


Remove chicken pieces from the skillet and keep warm (using a covered pan in a 200-degree Fahrenheit oven works well for this).


Repeat the process with another 1 Tbsp of coconut oil and the remaining chicken pieces. Place the 2nd batch of chicken pieces with the first batch and keep all of them warm. (Again, the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit works great.)


Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of coconut oil in a clean frying pan. Fry the onions on med-high for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another minute.

Turn down the heat to med-low. Add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, and salt. Cook for about 20-30 seconds, stirring constantly.


Add the chicken broth and the chili powder (or pepper, if nightshade-free). Stir in the tomato paste (or pureed roasted butternut squash, if nightshade-free). Simmer for 5 minutes, or until it begins to thicken a little bit.


Remove from the heat. Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Pour sauce back into the pan. Stir the coconut milk into the sauce. Add the cooked chicken pieces (with their juices) into the pan with the sauce.


Get the sauce up to a simmer again (bubbling, but not threatening to over-boil). Cook for another 15 minutes to let the chicken cook all the way through.


Take out a piece of chicken. Cut it in half and check that it’s cooked through. If not, place back in pan and continue to cook for another 5 minutes before testing again.

When the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat.


Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve with rice (basmati rice is a classic pairing).



This recipe serves 2-4 people. You can easily stretch the recipe by adding a can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed) during the last few minutes of cooking.


Butter-Free Butter Chicken with Tomatoes & Chili Powder

Butter-Free Butter Chicken without Nightshades

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