Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
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. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Another thought for vegeterians, replace the chicken with uncooked sweet potato cubes it is fabulous.

    Jimmy wrote on July 17th, 2010
  7. Thanks for the thought. I think I will add sweet potato the next time around!

    Brian Kozmo wrote on February 7th, 2011

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