Butterless Butter Chicken

Make butter chicken like a pro with this yummy recipe—the aromas alone make it worth cooking!
  • Prep time 25 mins
  • Cook time 20 mins
  • Yields 4
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  • Recipe Submitted By Erin Brown, RD


  • ¾ cup raw cashews
  • 1 Tbsp oil with high smoke point, such as canola, coconut, or grapeseed
  • 6 chicken thighs or 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garam masala (I love Vij’s brand)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 398 mL (14 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I used nonfat but any will do)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cilantro, for garnish
  • rice and/or naan bread, for serving


  • cutting board and knife
  • medium-sized bowl
  • kettle
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot
  • wooden or plastic spoon
  • food processor or blender


  1. Place cashews in a medium bowl and pour in boiling water until the cashews are just covered. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large pot until shimmery. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate.
  3. Turn heat down to medium-low and add onion, adding more oil if necessary. 
  4. Now here comes the part that will take your curry from good to OHMYGOD: Cook the onion without stirring until it is beginning to brown. Then, add ¼ cup of water and stir well, getting any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan up. Then repeat the process—allow the onion to cook until all of the water has evaporated and it is beginning to stick to the pain a bit. Add another ¼ cup water to deglaze.
  5. After the second deglazing, add garlic, ginger, and spices, and stir well. Allow to cook until all of the water is evaporated and the mixture is beginning to stick down one more time.
  6. Immediately add the crushed tomatoes and stir well, scraping up all of the brown bits from the pan. You may add a bit of water at this point if necessary to get all the yummy brown stuff up off the bottom. Add the chicken back to the pan, cover the pot with a lid left partially ajar, turn the heat down to low, and allow to summer for about 20-30 minutes.
  7. While the chicken is cooking (and your kitchen is starting to smell amazing), strain the cashews, reserving about ¼ cup of the water, and add them to a blender or food processor.  Blend well until completely pureed, adding more water if required. The cashews should be soft and purée easily.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked through and tender, remove the chicken to a plate, and shred with two forks. Return the shredded chicken to the pan, and turn off the heat. Add the lemon, Greek yogurt, and blended cashews, and stir well. Taste and season as necessary. Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges, and serve.

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