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  • Writer's pictureSasha

Creamy Butter Chicken with Coconut Milk

Creamy, fragrant, spicy and SO indulgent, this butter chicken will leave you wanting more after every bite. It uses simple and clean ingredients to make a healthier, lactose-free version without taste being compromised! What's best? It can be made vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free!

This is one of those recipes that you will find yourself making time and time again, not only because it is SO tasty, but also because there's something about a good curry that is extremely warm and inviting. I can't take all the credit for it though - this dish was taught to me by my lovely dad, who is known by many for his superlative curries. The only change I've made is using coconut milk instead of cream to keep it lactose-free!

Key ingredients and substitutes

Chicken thighs

Whereas most traditional butter chicken recipes require cooking the chicken before adding it to the sauce,

this recipe requires you to cook it directly in the sauce. For this reason, I recommend you use chicken thighs as opposed to chicken breasts, as thighs are harder to overcook and you can let them marinate in the sauce for longer without worrying about them becoming dry or chewy. Using thighs will also give you a richer tasting curry. That being said, if you prefer to use breasts, just wait for the sauce to thicken up slightly before adding the chicken.

Vegan/vegetarian substitute: tofu

Coconut milk

I used canned coconut milk to keep the dish lactose-free (and because I always have a few cans sitting in my kitchen cupboard)! However, you can substitute it according to your dietary requirements.

Substitutes: single cream or lactose-free cream


Ghee is a form of clarified butter that is traditionally used in South Asian cooking. If you have some at hand, I would definitely recommend using it in place of butter, as it gives the butter chicken its authentic taste and aroma. Ghee is also casein and lactose-free, as all the milk solids are completely removed during production.

Substitutes: butter or a plant-based butter alternative

Before you get started...

To speed up the process, I suggest grouping ingredients together in separate bowls that are needed at different stages of the recipe. This can be done in the following way:

  1. Cinnamon stick, whole cloves, cardamom pods

  2. Cumin seeds

  3. Sliced white onions

  4. Green chilli, garlic, ginger

  5. Chopped tomatoes

  6. Fresh coriander

  7. Turmeric, garam masala, cumin and coriander powder, fenugreek, salt


Creamy Butter Chicken with Coconut Milk

Serves: 2

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes


4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, roughly chopped

1 1/2 tbsp ghee or butter

1 inch cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

3 cardamom pods

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

2 medium-sized white onions, sliced

1 green chilli, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped

2 tomatoes, roughly chopped

Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1/4 cup cold water

Chilli powder, to taste

1 tsp tomato purée

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp garam masala

1 tsp cumin and coriander powder (or 1/2 tsp of cumin powder and 1/2 tsp of coriander powder)

1 tsp fenugreek

Salt, to taste

100ml coconut milk


1. Heat 1 tbsp of the ghee in a heavy-bottommed a pan over a medium heat. Once melted, add the cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom pods. Once you start to hear popping sounds, add the cumin seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes. Make sure you are always stirring to promote even cooking and prevent burning.

2. Add in the sliced onions with a pinch of salt (this helps them to brown more quickly) and once brown, follow with the chilli, garlic and ginger and stir.

3. Once the raw smell dissipates, add the tomatoes. Once they have completely softened, stir in the coriander and let cook for 1-2 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and add cold water to the pan to cool it down slightly, then transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth or until you've reached your desired consistency.

5. In the same pan, add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of ghee and chilli powder and let sizzle. Add in the blended sauce, followed by the tomato purée, turmeric, garam masala, cumin and coriander powder, fenugreek and salt. Stir until well combined.

6. Reduce the heat to low-medium and add in the chicken. Allow it to cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut milk and let simmer for a further 10 minutes.

7. Once the sauce has thickened and the chicken has completely cooked through, remove from the heat. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve alongside warm naan, soft roomali rotis or basmati rice.



The sauce for the butter chicken can be frozen and consumed within 6 months.

The curry should keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.


I hope you love this recipe!





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