No-Butter Chicken

Do you ever have those days where you just want something with tons of flavor?  You’re not even entirely sure what that flavor is; you’re not so concerned with that.  You just want something that packs a big punch.  I know I do.  When I get that way I’m usually craving something spicy, smoky, and hearty.  Those are the days I go to chili, pulled pork, or chipotle anything.  But on this particular day, the old standbys just weren’t going to do.  I wanted something different.

I immediately went to my Williams-Sonoma World Kitchen cookbook.  I’ve made many recipes from it and, like nearly every recipe from Williams-Sonoma, they’ve all been delicious.  The Indian section was calling my name, so I thumbed through it.  Nothing.  Well, at least nothing that jumped at me.  Then I remembered Bal Arneson, who I really enjoy watching on Cooking Channel, and I knew exactly what recipe I wanted to make.

I’d watched her put a healthier spin on an Indian classic, butter chicken, and thought it looked delicious.  It was light on the turmeric, which I’ve discovered is the spice I don’t care for in Indian cooking.  I was a bit hesitant to use it at all because I didn’t want to be disappointed, but I’m so glad I threw it in as called for.  This dish was fantastic.  Don’t let the long ingredient list fool you.  This recipe was quick and easy, filling, but not heavy, and popping with big flavors–everything I’d wanted.

Thankfully times change and I’m now fully on team turmeric.  Not only does it have some awesome antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s completely delicious.  I love it in this spiced golden soup, Indian-spiced macaroni and cheese, and chicken korma.

Butter chicken is a staple at Indian restaurants.  My no-butter chicken lightens up the classic for an easy, healthy weeknight meal that will quickly become one of your favorites.


No-Butter Chicken

from Bal Arneson



2 TBSP grapeseed or olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

2 TBSP chopped garlic

1 TBSP chopped ginger

2 TBSP tomato paste

1 TBSP brown sugar (I used dark)

1 TBSP cumin seeds

1 TBSP garam masala

1 tsp. red chile flakes

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. salt

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

1/4 c. low-fat plain yogurt

1/2 c. water

rice or roti, for serving

cilantro, for garnish (my addition)



1.  Put a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. When the oil heats, add the onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook for 4 minutes, or until the onion is golden. Add the tomato paste, brown sugar,cumin seeds, garam masala, red chile flakes, turmeric, and salt and cook 2 minutes more.

2.  Add the chicken cubes and stir well to coat. Add yogurt and water and cook, stirring until the chicken is done, about 8 minutes.  Serve, garnished with cilantro, over rice or scoop up with roti.


yield: 4 servings

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  1. branny
    February 15, 2012 / 10:24 am

    My husband sticks to ordered butter chicken when out for indian food so I'd love to try this healthier version at home.

  2. That Girl
    February 15, 2012 / 12:13 pm

    Indian food is one of my weaknesses. A lighter version sounds fantastic.

  3. michael
    February 15, 2012 / 8:21 pm

    "quick and easy, filling, but not heavy, and popping with big flavors" sounds perfection!

    February 15, 2012 / 11:52 pm

    This sounds awesome. I love butter chicken! I think this just got added to our menu next week! 🙂

  5. Brittany Cooks
    February 16, 2012 / 12:27 am

    I have been dying for some Indian food lately! My favorite dish is Chicken Tikka Masala, but this looks so delicious, I'll have to give it a try!

  6. Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray (Soon to be Rachel Cooks)
    February 17, 2012 / 12:05 am

    New to your blog, love it!

  7. Unknown
    February 18, 2012 / 10:37 am

    I really like tumeric. Probably because I grew up eating it. It actually has a lot of health benefits and is an ingredient in many medicines out there for its healing effects. That's probably why Indians use it so much. Any how, I make my mothers version of this all the time. She also uses home-made yogurt for this. If you leave out the water in this and add tandoori masala and marinate your chickin in that for awhile and bake it-I swear, there's bound to be a party in your mouth.

  8. krimicrat
    February 19, 2012 / 9:49 pm

    I am making this tonight. I do not have cumin seeds, but rather I have cumin powder. Do you think this will be OK? Should I use the same amount of powder as seeds?

  9. Kelsey
    February 20, 2012 / 5:28 pm

    krimicrat–Ground cumin should be fine. I might knock the amount down to 3/4 tsp. Enjoy!

  10. Carole
    February 20, 2012 / 10:05 pm

    I absolutely love indian food and I just orded butter chicken the last time we went to our favorite indian place. Will definitely have to try this recipe! Love your blog, by the way!

  11. Kelsey
    February 21, 2012 / 12:52 am

    Thanks, Carole!

  12. Tiffany
    February 21, 2012 / 9:16 pm

    This sounds really tasty! I will be making this very soon.

  13. Tressa
    February 23, 2012 / 3:44 pm

    This looks super yummy! I was just looking for something with flavor like this, so thanks!

  14. Jessica
    February 26, 2012 / 2:42 am

    I never thought I was a fan of Indian, which is a little ridiculous since I've never actually tried it. Now that I'm working on expanding my palate I must give this a try. PS. This photo is gorgeous!

  15. Janice
    January 18, 2013 / 2:40 pm

    Dear Apple a Day,I write the recipe blog for Calorie Count and am going to provide a link to this recipe via our nutrition analysis for the Friday, February 1st recipe blog – Very excellent take on a lower calorie butter chicken!I hope you get a bunch of extra hits on the blog that day!Janice – aka Jannid at Calorie Count

  16. Kelsey
    January 18, 2013 / 9:42 pm

    Thanks, Janice!

  17. Anonymous
    February 4, 2013 / 9:54 am

    Tried this tonight – delicious! I am vegetarian so made half with firm tofu and the other half with chicken for my partner. We'll definitely make this again – thank you.

  18. Dawn Scott
    March 24, 2013 / 4:27 pm

    Hello, this looks fantastic! Do you know the calorie count on this dish? I searched the Calorie Count website and didn't find it listed. Thank you!

  19. Kelsey
    March 25, 2013 / 12:34 am

    Dawn, I don't have a calorie count on it. I'm definitely not a calorie counter 🙂 I know there are websites out there that allow you to type in the ingredients and serving count to get the calories.

  20. Danielle
    March 25, 2014 / 3:04 pm

    Tried this last night and it was delicious!!! Practically licked our plates clean 🙂

  21. Paddy
    June 18, 2014 / 12:17 pm

    I love this recipe! I recently featured it in a blog post of mine :)

  22. Prasad Kumar
    August 13, 2014 / 5:12 am

    I so love this dish! I've been collecting and checking out Indian recipes that I can prepare during the weekends and this one is the next. Thank you!

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