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Indian butter chicken

Indian food is easy to make at home, including this decadent recipe for Indian butter chicken that takes only 30 minutes to prepare.

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    Indian butter chicken originated from using leftover dry tandoori chicken and giving it moisture with a creamy spiced tomato sauce.
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I am not joking one tiny bit – not even exaggerating – when I say this recipe is a total game-changer. Literally, it has changed my life! I know I sound dramatic. I never thought making Indian food at home was possible? Well … it is. And it is awesome.

I’m gushing through and through because when I made this dish, Derek and I pretty much ate the entire pan in one sitting because we were so wrapped up in the sauce! And then we were waaaay too full because this is definitely not a 2-person recipe.

According to the tiny bit of research I did, butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are not the same thing. And, in all honestly, this recipe may be more in line with chicken tikka masala for the simple reason that this chicken does not have bones. Butter chicken originated from using leftover dry tandoori chicken and giving it moisture with a creamy spiced tomato sauce – plus some butter, and we have butter chicken. According to Epicurious, chicken tikka masala was born when restaurants saw butter chicken’s popularity, and started cooking boneless chicken specifically for the tikka masala.

Recommended: 30 Asian recipes to try at home

Have I confused you yet? One thing I have found, is that information everywhere is a bit different. Some say there are deeper differences than that (starting with, and not limited to, the inclusion of butter/ghee in butter chicken), but others call them virtually the same thing. Either way: I love it.

Let me just put out this huge disclaimer and say: I am aware that this recipe is probably not anything like your Indian grandmother’s authentic butter chicken recipe. Hers probably takes way longer, has some ingredients I’ve never dreamed of, and tastes like absolute magic. Mine, doesn’t take quite as long, doesn’t have any crazy ingredients, and pretty much tastes like absolute magic. We’re all about accessible recipes here, right? Get to making this. It’s honesty really easy, and you probably have most of the ingredients already.

First off: make your naan! Oooh yes make some naan. You shouldn’t even consider eating this recipe without naan. Next: brown your chicken. Seeing as I have only one skillet over here, I browned my chicken before starting the recipe. I’ve written the recipe as if you’ll do the same, but in reality you could start the sauce and brown the chicken at the same time – if you want to dirty two pans and speed up cooking time. Once the chicken is browned, you’ll throw together the sauce, let it simmer away for a while, add the chicken and then try not to drool in the pan too much. Also, don’t burn your tongue trying the sauce very three seconds (I may or may not be speaking from experience).

Indian Butter Chicken
Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins 

6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/12 cups tomato sauce (or one 14-ounce can would work)
2 cups cream*
Salt & pepper
Sime & cilantro, for garnish
Naan & rice for serving

1. Using 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the pieces of the chicken so each side is browned. They do not need to be fully cooked all the way through. Work in batches, and set aside when you're done.

2. Melt another 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until beginning to soften – about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, garam masala, ginger, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Stir to combine, and cook for about 45 seconds before adding the tomato sauce.

3. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook for five minutes before adding the cream. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, add the browned chicken, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Keep the heat low here – not a rolling boil – and feel free to cook longer (you may need to add more liquid) for more tender chicken.

4. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

5. Serve garnished with lime and cilantro, alongside rice and naan.

Notes: I used 1 cup heavy cream, and 1 cup water. You could use table cream, or sub 1 cup for milk (but be careful for curdling if you lessen the fat content!).

Related post on The Kitchen Paper: Healthy Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of food bloggers. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by The Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own and they are responsible for the content of their blogs and their recipes. All readers are free to make ingredient substitutions to satisfy their dietary preferences, including not using wine (or substituting cooking wine) when a recipe calls for it. To contact us about a blogger, click here.

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