Marks Daily Apple
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3 Jul

Butter Chicken in a Silky Sauce

Alison Mollenhauer was right on when she named the recipe she submitted for the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook Contest “Butter Chicken” instead of simply “Chicken Curry”. Yes, the recipe has spices like garam marsala, cumin and cardamom. Yes, the air in your kitchen will be heavy with the enticing aroma of curry. But it’s the silky, rich, lick-the-back-of-your-spoon texture that really stands out in this dish. The credit goes to a generous amount of butter and the addition of cream or coconut milk, mellowing the spices and turning this fairly simple dish into something luxurious. The moist, tender meat of chicken thighs can take some credit too, as the chicken practically melts in your mouth with each bite.

For this recipe, Alison uses a marinating technique that makes the chicken as tender and flavorful as possible and you can too if you “do” dairy. Marinating meat in Greek-style yogurt (or other acidic dairy products like buttermilk) breaks down the enzymes in meat and tenderizes the protein. A yogurt marinade is especially great with meat that leans towards dry or tough, like chicken breast or lamb. In the case of chicken thighs the marinade adds additional flavor and tenderness, but since dark meat tends to be tender anyway those of you who don’t love dairy can skip the yogurt and still end up with a really tasty meal.

As the sauce bubbles on your stove, lean in and inhale. Even with all the spices milling around you might be able to detect the distinct aroma of the cardamom pods. Although cardamom is part of the ginger family, it will probably remind you of cinnamon or nutmeg, as they share the same sweet-spicy aroma. Inside each pod are dozens of little seeds that will flavor the dish; the pods will pretty much dissolve as they cook so there is no need to remove them at the end. (If you buy ground cardamom seeds instead of the pods, use it sparingly in this recipe. A little goes a long way.)

Alison’s recipe feeds her family of five with leftovers remaining, and we can’t think of a good reason to cut the recipe in half even if you’re not feeding that many. Butter Chicken is the perfect dish to make in large quantities and eat over the course of several days. The flavors will just keep getting richer and that buttery, creamy texture even more irresistible.


  • 4 pounds chicken thighs, chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 cup Greek-style (thick) yogurt
  • 7 tablespoons butter, chopped1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cardamom pods (crush pods slightly to release seeds and more flavor)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 cup cream or coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped


Combine chicken, garlic, spices and yogurt in a covered container. Refrigerate for an hour or two.

Melt butter in a deep pan. Add vinegar, tomato paste, tomatoes, cardamom and cinnamon. Boil rapidly, stirring until sauce is thick (approximately 20 minutes).

Reduce heat to a simmer and add chicken. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through. Add cream or coconut milk, simmer a few minutes more, and garnish with chopped cilantro.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. attempting to make this right now and can’t figure out if I am supposed to put the chicken and yogurt mixture into the sauce or rinse the chicken first.

    luv2bmykidsmom wrote on January 17th, 2012
  2. Can I freeze the uneaten portions for future lunch or dinners?
    If yes, how can I do that? 😀

    Rachael wrote on January 20th, 2012
  3. this was not as good as my own recipe for indian butter chicken that i use cashew butter to thicken… also – there is no salt in it – so no matter how many spices there are in it – it’s just bland… i guess i just need my salt!

    melissa daams wrote on April 4th, 2012
    • I wish you’d post your version of the recipe. I’d like to try it. I think I’ll make this one and add more spice and cashew butter to thicken it a bit.

      Alycia wrote on January 28th, 2013
  4. How will you eat it because we in India and Pakistan eat with whole wheat flat bread or rice? Now as we are not allowed both of them, how can we eat curry then?

    Najam wrote on May 5th, 2012
  5. Najam: Just with a spoon; no need for rice or bread with it. If you feel like you need something to sop it up with, you can try making cauliflower “rice.” The recipe may not be authentic, but it’s delicious!

    superdeluxe wrote on May 5th, 2012
  6. I am new to all of this and indian has never been a favorite of mine, athough I am willing to try the receipes. I do however love thai.are there any thai recipes that I could try paleo style??

    Lori Ludlam wrote on May 6th, 2012
  7. Shan packets still contain MSG. Do not buy! You can find other butter chicken packs at the Indian grocers. Glad I checked, I just about used this today ended up in the trash. My usual are the Parampara – so fresh and recipe on the back.

    Rani wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  8. Thumbs down on this recipe — it’s too bland and soupy. I’ll have to jazz it up per the suggestions from this community (which I should have read first).

    jake3_14 wrote on May 28th, 2012
  9. I tried this dish tonight and it was very soupy and lacked a bit of kick in the sauce. I used the whole amount of coconut milk though so maybe that was it. Can anyway also tell me exactly how they thickened the sauce up? It was quit water based even before adding the coconut milk. Maybe cook the chicken before hand and then put it in?

    Homzy wrote on June 8th, 2012
  10. Can I just ask, what do you do with the cinnamon stick? Do you just stick it in there or grate/grind it?

    Donnie wrote on August 20th, 2012
  11. Made this last week. absolutely delicious. Gonna try the Chick Tikka Masala tonight

    Lisa wrote on December 21st, 2012
  12. This is a fantastic recipe!! I am eating it as we speak and I mixed my own spices, as well as made an extra batch of sauce for a quick dinner in the future! Thank you Mark!!!!

    Cora wrote on February 15th, 2013
  13. This was the best chicken marsala I ever had and I have had many!
    I would added Cheyenne though;)
    DON’T BE FRIGHTENED TO TRY THIS RECIPE it’s killer good! Even without the coconut milk.
    This is very concentrated so If you eat it with veggies(like I did) or with rice, just put a bit on your plate and rub it into the food. It will go far with flavor.

    Abigail wrote on April 25th, 2013
  14. Made this last night, and turned out great! I’ve been looking for a good butter chicken recipe for years, and was happy to finally find one.

    I made a few small modifications. I used about 3lbs of chicken for the same amount of spices, plus some Himalayan salt. Mixed it up with some 2% greek yogurt (was appalled that the two grocery stores I went to did not carry a higher fat option) in a glass baking dish, covered, and left to marinade in the fridge for 1-2 hours (probably closer to two). As another reader recommended, I grilled the chicken in the oven (stirring occasionally) before adding it to the sauce. It worked out really well, the chicken cooked (uncovered at about 350F) while I prepared the sauce. I used three large tomatoes instead of 4, and boiled them for several minutes prior to removing the skin (makes the process much easier). Once the sauce reduced (20 min, as in the recipe), I added the chicken (but not the liquid), simmered for a bit, added 1 cup of coconut milk (was plenty) and some salt (this may or may not be necessary depending on your tastes). Simmered it some more, then stirred in two tablespoons of cashew butter to thicken (one may be enough depending on how thick/runny you like your sauce). I also removed the cinnamon stick shortly after adding the chicken, and as I don’t like an overpowering cardamom flavour, I also fished out the pods towards the very end. Not a huge fan of fresh coriander, so omitted that all together.

    In any case, turned out absolutely delicious! Looking forward to the leftovers :)

    Thank you, Mark, for the wonderful recipe!

    Sonya wrote on April 29th, 2013
  15. I’m trying to cut out most dairy – would the marinade come out okay if I used more coconut milk instead? Sounds amazing!

    Jerica wrote on July 20th, 2013
  16. Butter chicken is my favorite curry. I can’t tell you how stoked I am to find this primal version. I’m making this as soon as I can. Thanks!

    Mikey Mileos wrote on October 17th, 2013
  17. Awesome, loved it!

    My method and adjustments to make thicker.

    1.Only use three tomato’s, I also added some more chilli and extra butter (2 more table spoons)
    2. Cook off the chicken in a large separate pan. for 10 minutes on high before adding to the sauce.
    3. Once you add the chicken to the sauce, let it simmer for another 20 minutes until think and you can see a red oil.
    4. add the cream and simmer for 5.
    5. Enjoy.

    Harry wrote on March 7th, 2014
  18. Hey mate, just wanted to let you know that I’m pretty sure you mislisted the Cilantro in the ingredients portion as Coriander. You make reference to a fresh chopped cilantro in the description but it isnt in the ingredients. Excellent recipe though, seriously one of the best meals I’ve ever made

    Nelson wrote on August 17th, 2014
    • Recently found out that there is a regional divide as to whether the plant is called Cilantro or Coriander. The more you know!

      Nelson wrote on September 4th, 2014
  19. OMG this was amazing!
    Even my daughter -who is sooooo fussy asked for seconds
    Totally yummy
    Did an onion in the butter first before realising there was no onion in the recipe. I had minced ginger in the cupboard so I added that in with the yoghurt & spices.
    Totally awesome meal.
    I know it will be a family favourite forever now :)

    Caroline wrote on January 4th, 2015
  20. Delicious. I ended up simmering after adding cream for around 20 minutes, to get the oils to mix in well and to reduce the liquid a bit. Bit too soupy for me before doing that.

    Daniel wrote on March 19th, 2015
  21. Made this, tasted very good but added some extra garam masala, onion powder, ground coriander and salt while the chicken was cooking. My only complaint is that my cardamom pods did not break up and I accidentally chewed into a piece with the chicken…ugh! That was terrible. I think I will just add the cardamom seeds next time.
    I also do think it can be made with less butter (I used ghee FYI). I have made butter chicken several different ways and I think it will still come out great with less butter.

    Lisa wrote on February 9th, 2016

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