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Made with bold, delicious spices, these Indian-inspired butter chicken bowls are a flavorful, easy dinner option!
Indian-Inspired Butter Chicken Recipe
This recipe is pulled straight out of the poultry chapter Cassy’s 3rd book, Cook Once Dinner Fix. It’s the 2nd meal in its series (the first is a roasted chicken, potatoes, and fresh arugula salad meal). Here’s what Cassy has to say about it: “In this series, we’re showing off a classic roasted chicken in the most delicious way. The wings, legs, and thighs are transformed into my interpretation of butter chicken. The creamy red cause is served over fluffy white rice and topped with plenty of cilantro.”
This is a GOOD one, y’all. If you’re interested in making the entire 2-dinner series (Meal 1: Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Fresh Arugula Salad; Meal 2: Butter Chicken Bowls with White Rice), find instructions on how to do that HERE.
What is Butter Chicken?
Good question! Created by Kundan Lal Gujral, butter chicken actually originated in Northern India in the late 1950s. This dish is similar to Tikka Masala in that it includes a lot of the same spices and a rich tomato base, but a few rich, creamy additions (like butter and heavy cream) give it its namesake.
How long does it take to make a Butter Chicken Indian Rice Bowl?
That actually depends. This recipe was written as part of a 2-meal series that utilizes a whole roasted chicken. If you’re following the series this way (find instructions HERE), your chicken will already be cooked and ready to go by the time you get to this meal, cutting back the time in the kitchen significantly.
If you’re making this recipe as a standalone dinner, on the other hand, you’ll need to account for the time it takes to roast your chicken (about 1 hour and 10 minutes) too. This will make the total time about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can totally use ANY leftover chicken you have on hand for this recipe — both light and dark meat will work great.
Butter Chicken Rice Bowl Ingredients
Here’s everything you’ll need for this recipe:
For the Butter Chicken Bowls
- Chicken Thighs – to start, you’ll need 1 ½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
- Olive Oil – to sear the chicken thighs, you’ll need about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Butter – 6 tablespoons of salted butter or ghee heads into the pan first!
- Garlic – 1 ½ tablespoon of grated garlic (about 4 cloves worth) sautees in the pan with the butter.
- Ginger – 1 ½ tablespoon of grated ginger (from about a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger) goes into the butter with the garlic for a deliciously aromatic experience!
- Spices and Seasonings – 1 ½ tablespoons of paprika, 1 ½ tablespoons of garam masala, 1 ½ teaspoons of ground coriander, 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons of ground turmeric, and 1 ½ teaspoons of fine sea salt provide really delicious, bold, classic butter chicken flavors.
- Crushed Tomatoes – 3 3/4 cups of crushed tomatoes (from a can) provides the tomato base for the creamy butter chicken sauce.
- Greek Yogurt – 1 ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt (I prefer full-fat, always!) creates a delicious creaminess.
- Heavy Cream – along with the Greek yogurt, 3/4 of a cup of heavy cream makes the sauce nice and creamy too.
- Fresh Lemon Juice – 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (the juice from about 1 ½ lemons) adds a punch of acidity and brightness to the dish.
- White Rice – you’ll need 2 cups of uncooked white rice to serve the butter chicken over.
- Cilantro – garnish your ready-to-serve bowls with 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro!
Though this recipe is dynamite as written, Cassy has several ingredient modifications included in the book if needed:
- Make it dairy-free: to make this meal dairy-free, simply use olive oil in place of the butter, and replace the yogurt and heavy cream with 1 ½ cups of full-fat canned coconut milk.
- Make it low-carb: use cauliflower rice in place of the white rice.
- Swap the rice: if you want to keep the carb content about the same but you don’t love white rice, simply swap the white rice for brown rice, quinoa, or any other grain that you love.
Supplies Needed to Make this Recipe
How to make Butter Chicken
Here’s how you’ll throw this delicious meal together:
- Prep – add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large saute pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, pat the chicken thighs dry, and sprinkle them with sea salt.
- Pan sear the chicken – once the pan is hot, add the thighs to it, searing for 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown and cooked through.
- Remove the chicken – remove the chicken from the pan and chop it into 1-inch pieces.
- Saute the garlic and ginger – in the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant but not browned.
- Add the tomatoes, yogurt, heavy cream, spices, and lemon juice – in the same pan, whisk together the tomatoes, yogurt, cream, lemon juice, and spices until combined. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant and slightly reduced in volume.
- Cook the rice – while the above mixture is simmering, cook your rice according to package instructions.
- Return the chicken to the pan – return the chicken to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes more, then remove from the heat.
- Garnish and serve – serve the chicken over the rice, garnish with the chopped cilantro, and serve!
Just for You
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Butter Chicken Bowl Frequently Asked Questions
I think the biggest key here is to not add too many super liquid-y ingredients in the first place! Cassy kept the liquids to a minimum here, so the sauce is actually nice and thick all on its own. If you feel like your sauce is still too thin for your liking, simply let it simmer and reduce on the stove for a bit longer.
You’ll know that your butter chicken is ready to go when the sauce has slightly reduced in volume and everything is nice and fragrant.
Because of the spices included in this dish, it’s super flavorful and delicious. I wouldn’t actually call it sweet or spicy, though. The tomatoes may slightly sweeten it, but it really isn’t a *sweet* dish, and though it’s super flavorful, I’d say that as far as spice goes, most anyone can handle it!
This butter chicken recipe includes a lot of healthful ingredients, but ultimately, “healthy” is entirely up to you and your body. If you read through the ingredient list and feel as though your body can tolerate each ingredient listed, it’s a great option for you! I will say, the macronutrient profile (especially if you’re serving this dish with white rice) is very balanced!
Serve your butter chicken over white rice (or another grain of choice) and garnished with cilantro — simple and really delicious!
I personally prefer to store my rice separately from the butter chicken itself, but storing them together won’t hurt anything either. Store both the butter chicken and the rice (separate or together) in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to reheat, either pop everything into the microwave or into a pot on the stove and heat until warmed through.
You can! Freeze your leftover butter chicken in an airtight container, and when you’re ready to reheat, simply let it thaw enough to get it out of the container, and heat it in a pot on the stovetop until completely thawed and warmed through.
Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, your leftover butter chicken will last for about 5 days!
- 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 tablespoons salted butter or ghee
- 1 ½ tablespoon garlic grated
- 1 ½ tablespoon ginger from about a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
- 1 ½ tablespoons paprika
- 1 ½ tablespoons garam masala
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 3 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice the juice from about 1 ½ lemons
- 2 cups white rice uncooked
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped, for garnish
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large saute pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, pat the chicken thighs dry, and sprinkle them with sea salt.
- Once the pan is hot, add the thighs to it, searing for 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown, and cooked through.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and chop it into 1-inch pieces.
- In the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant but not browned.
- In the same pan, whisk together the tomatoes, yogurt, cream, lemon juice, and spices until combined. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant and slightly reduced in volume.
- While the above mixture is simmering, cook your rice according to package instructions.
- Return the chicken to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes more, then remove from the heat.
- Serve the chicken over the rice garnished with the chopped cilantro.
Stephanie Baumann says
Is there anyway to make this recipe dairy free? (Substitute Greek yogurt and heavy cream) or does that mess with the taste/consistency?
Brandi Schilhab says
Hi Stephanie — to make it dairy-free, simply use olive oil in place of the butter, and replace the yogurt and heavy cream with 1 ½ cups of full-fat canned coconut milk.
Is the section on how long to cook it in the oven missing (since recipe says it requires oven and stovetop and the time frame also doesn’t line up)? Making this tonight so I guess I’ll see how things look after I’ve placed the chicken back into the sauce.
Brandi Schilhab says
Nope, that’s totally my fault, Marie! It only cooks on the stovetop, and the times have been adjusted to reflect that. So sorry for the confusion!
Hi! Is there a third option for the cream? We’re dairy free and my husband is getting real tired of coconut
Brandi Schilhab says
Coconut milk is definitely our go-to cream substitute, Katie. The other flavors in this dish may cover up the “coconut” flavor so that it’s hard to distinguish from the others. I hope that helps!
Rachel J says
What should I add if I wanted to make it spicy? My husband and I love spicy.
Melissa Guevara says
Hi Rachel! You could try adding some chili powder and cayenne pepper to the spices to add some heat. I would start with a teaspoon of each and adjust the spice level from there depending on your preference. ~Melissa
Hi! Can you recommend a veggie side dish to serve with this?
Melissa Guevara says
Hi Karen! Of course! We love a simple steamed or sautéed green bean or broccoli to go with the richness of the sauce. Enjoy! -Team F&F