Dairy Free Indian Butter Chicken. Indian butter chicken is a very flavorful Indian dish made with chicken thighs and a garlicky tomato sauce. It is traditionally served with sticky rice and garlic naan bread.
This is the best dairy free Indian butter chicken recipe you will every make! My dairy free chicken recipe can be made in the instant pot, slow cooker, or stove top the choice is up to you. Butter chicken recipe is so easy to make and filled with flavor the whole family will love!
My Dairy Free Indian Butter Chicken Recipe is:
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- Vegan optional (if you make it with chickpeas instead of chicken)
I used to not like Indian food, thought it was so strong and smelled funny. I tried it a handful of times here in upstate NY, and downstate in the city. But, then I tried butter chicken in LA and was instantly IN LOVE. I realized that it really depended on who was making it and the spices they used. So, I just HAD to make my own version of butter chicken at home!
IS INDIAN BUTTER CHICKEN HEALTHY?
Classic Indian butter chicken isn't the most nutritious meals you can find out there.. that is because it is typically made with over a stick of butter, and a lot of heavy cream. However, the rest of the ingredients are great for you: chicken, onions, garlic, fresh ginger, tomatoes, and anti-inflammatory spices.
So I decided that I had to find substitutes for these 2 ingredients that turned an amazing dish into a not so healthy dish.
I made a healthier twist on Indian butter chicken by substituting the butter for avocado oil, and the heavy cream for coconut milk. The flavor was amazing, and I don't know if I'm biased but I think the coconut milk adds a bit more delicious flavor!
DAIRY FREE INDIAN BUTTER CHICKEN INGREDIENTS
- Chicken thighs. Or, if you don't like thighs, you can easily substitute chicken breasts in this recipe. If you are vegetarian or vegan, substitute the chicken for chickpeas!
- Garam masala is a traditional Indian spice. Make sure you buy high quality garam masala because it makes a huge difference in the final flavor of your butter chicken sauce.
- Avocado oil I substituted for butter or refined vegetable oil that is usually used.
- Yellow onion and garlic from my local farmer!
- Fresh ginger is a must in this recipe! It adds amazing flavor.
- Full fat coconut milk instead of heavy cream
- Canned diced tomatoes. You could easily substitute fresh diced tomatoes. But if you are using canned tomatoes, make sure to buy organic and BPA free cans.
- Other spices: smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, sea salt.
- Fresh cilantro for serving is the best compliment. The cool flavor of cilantro balances out the warm butter chicken sauce flavor. Make sure you choose organic cilantro! Conventional cilantro and other fresh herbs can hold onto heavy metals.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST DAIRY FREE BUTTER CHICKEN
Indian butter chicken is easy to make! If you have time, it is ideal to wash and marinate the chicken the night before. But, if you are short on time or thought to make it the day of, you can marinate the chicken while you prepare your sauce.
HOW TO MARINATE CHICKEN OVERNIGHT FOR INDIAN BUTTER CHICKEN:
Start by washing your chicken very well. I found that sprinkling a bit of flour on the chickens and then washing them under water works really well! The flour acts as kind of an abrasive to get any off the bacteria and stuff off the chicken. Rinse the flour off till the water runs clear.
Next, place your washed chicken in a large bowl. To the bowl, add the juice of 1 lemon (and toss the lemon skins in too after you juiced them), 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tablespoon garam masala, and 1 tablespoon pink sea salt. Toss the chicken to coat them evenly with the marinade.
Cover the bowl, and place in the fridge to marinate overnight.
NOTE: you could also marinate your chicken in the morning so they are ready by dinner time!
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST DAIRY FREE BUTTER CHICKEN SAUCE:
Heat 2 tablespoons avocado oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat.
Once the oil is heated, add 1 diced yellow onion. Cook your onion until it is very soft and almost translucent.
Next, add in the 4 cloves minced garlic and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger. Cook these until it is fragrant. Don't overcook them because if you brown the garlic, it can bring out a bitter flavor.
Once your garlic and ginger are fragrant add 2 tablespoons garam masala, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste), 2 cups diced canned tomatoes, and a handful of fresh chopped cilantro. Stir to combine well. Bring the mixture to a simmer. When your mixture begins to bubble, use your immersion blender to puree the sauce.
PRO TIP: I like to give my chopped cilantro a good "squeeze" in my hands. This really helps bring out that flavor.
Next, add the marinated chicken to your sauce (don't forget to remove and discard the lemons!). Cover your pan with a tight fitting lid and cook on low for about 1 hour.
In the mean time, cook your rice in a pan or rice cooker.
After 1 hour you can check and see if the chicken is done by cutting it in half. If it is pink at all in the center it is not done. You can also use a cooking thermometer. It should be 165 degrees F when inserted into the center of the chicken thigh or breast.
Finally, stir in the 13 oz can of full fat coconut milk and serve!
HOW TO MAKE DAIRY FREE BUTTER CHICKEN IN THE INSTANT POT
STEP 1- set instant pot to sauté setting. Add the oil then sauté the onions till soft. Add the garlic and ginger. Sauté till fragrant.
STEP 2- add all of the rest of the ingredients. Cover and set valve to sealing. Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes.
STEP 3- remove chicken and puree the sauce. Remove the cooked chicken with a slotted spoon. Use an immersion blender to puree your dairy free butter chicken sauce. Add the chicken back in and toss in the pureed sauce.
Serve with rice and naan!
HOW TO MAKE BUTTER CHICKEN IN THE SLOW COOKER
STEP 1- add all ingredients to your slow cooker.
STEP 2- slow cook. Cover your slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low setting.
STEP 3- remove chicken and puree the sauce. Add chicken back in and stir to coat the chicken again.
HOW TO SERVE DAIRY FREE INDIAN BUTTER CHICKEN
Indian butter chicken is amazing with fresh homemade naan. So if you have time, make some of this to go on the side!
Indian butter chick is also served with rice. You will usually see it served with white rice, but if you want a healthier upgrade, use brown or wild rice.
And another healthy upgrade you can do is to make whole wheat naan bread instead of white naan bread!
More frequently asked questions about my easy dairy free Indian butter chicken recipe
DOES INDIAN BUTTER CHICKEN HAVE DAIRY?
If you are wondering if butter chicken is dairy free, the answer is no it is not a traditionally dairy free recipe. Traditional Indian butter chicken is made with heavy cream to give it the creamy texture.
WHAT CAN BE USED INSTEAD OF CREAM IN BUTTER CHICKEN?
Instead of heavy cream, you can use either full fat coconut milk like in my recipe, or soaked and blended raw cashews.
WHAT CAN BE USED INSTEAD OF YOGURT IN BUTTER CHICKEN?
You can choose any plain dairy free yogurt, or use full fat coconut milk.
IS INDIAN BUTTER CHICKEN FATTENING?
Made with whole heavy cream, Indian butter chicken can be quite a filling meal, eat it as a treat once in awhile. If you want healthy Indian butter chicken that you can eat more often, make my dairy free butter chicken recipe made with coconut milk and lots of vegetables.
I hope you enjoy this easy dairy free butter chicken recipe much as we did! And if you want me to create any other easy and delicious dishes, please leave me a comment below!
Other Healthy Indian recipes you might enjoy:
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Best Dairy Free Indian Butter Chicken!
- Large frying pan or wok
- slow cooker
- Immersion blender
For the marinated chicken:
For the dairy free butter chicken sauce:
- 2 tablespoon avocado oil sub other cooking oil or butter
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 2 tablespoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon salt to taste
- 2 cups diced canned tomatoes
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped plus extra for garnish
- 1 13oz can full fat coconut milk
- 2 cups dry medium grain rice
- 4 cups water
How to marinate the chicken:
- This chicken is best marinated overnight. But, in a time pinch, you can marinate the chicken while the sauce cooks. Add 6 chicken thighs to a large bowl along with the juice of 1 lemon, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon garam masala, and 1 tablespoon salt.Use tongs to completely coat all the chicken thighs with the mixture.Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge overnight.
How to make the butter chicken sauce:
- Heat 2 tablespoons avocado oil over medium heat in a large frying pan or wok.Add the 1 diced yellow onion and cook it until it is softened and translucent. Add the 4 cloves minced garlic and 1 tablespoon minced ginger and cook until it is just fragrant.
- Next, add 2 tablespoons garam masala, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons sea salt, 2 cups diced tomatoes, and a handful of fresh cilantro. Bring the mixture to a low simmer. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce right in the pan.
- Add the marinated chicken. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on low for ~1 hour. You can test and make sure the chicken is done before serving by cutting a piece of chicken in half if it is still pink it is not done. Or, use a kitchen thermometer, it should be 165 degrees internally.
- While the chicken cooks, prepare your rice. I usually use about 2 cups of dry rice with 4 cups of water. But, you can make more rice than this.
- Stir in the can of coconut milk just before serving.Serve warm with the cooked rice and naan bread.
DAIRY FREE BUTTER CHICKEN INSTANT POT DIRECTIONS
- STEP 1- set instant pot to sauté setting. Add the oil then sauté the onions till soft. Add the garlic and ginger. Sauté till fragrant. STEP 2- add all of the rest of the ingredients. Cover and set valve to sealing. Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes. STEP 3- remove chicken and puree the sauce. Remove the cooked chicken with a slotted spoon. Use an immersion blender to puree your dairy free butter chicken sauce. Add the chicken back in and toss in the pureed sauce.
DAIRY FREE BUTTER CHICKEN SLOW COOKER DIRECTIONS
- STEP 1- add all ingredients to your slow cooker. STEP 2- slow cook. Cover your slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low setting. STEP 3- remove chicken and puree the sauce. Add chicken back in and stir to coat the chicken again.