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Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

by Capri Lilly
Published: Last Updated on

Make flavorful dairy-free butter chicken easily with this recipe! It’s packed with robust flavors, completely gluten-free, and perfect for a delicious cozy meal!

Love tasty Indian dishes? You’ll have to try my Dairy-Free Tikka Masala next!

dairy free butter chicken plated in two small cast irons. shown with a side of basmati rice and naan. decorative cloth in background with cilantro leaves next to dish

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No longer do you have to miss out on your favorite dish due to dairy restrictions! Here I share one of my favorite Indian dishes to order at restaurants, but with a twist. I present, gluten and dairy-free butter chicken!

Indian food is one of my all-time favorite cuisines, but I often have to skip out on many of the dishes because they are loaded with dairy, mostly in the form of heavy cream. To solve that problem, I’ve done a lot of experimenting to learn how to create healthier, dairy-free renditions of my favorite Indian dishes at home.

dairy free butter chicken plated in two small cast irons with a side of naan

You’ll Love This Butter Chicken (aka Murgh Makhani)!

  • Instead of using heavy cream to make the luscious sauce, coconut cream is used!
  • The chicken is seasoned to perfection with Indian spices and homemade ginger-garlic paste, giving the dish a wonderful flavor!
  • It is a hearty meal that can feed the whole family or be used as meal prep!
  • A healthier take on your traditional butter chicken, but just as tasty!
close up of dairy free butter chicken garnished with coconut cream and fresh cilantro leaves and a side of naan. rice in top right corner in background

You may be wondering, “Does Butter Chicken Contain Dairy?”.

The sauce for typical Butter Chicken is a blend of spices, tomatoes, heavy cream, and butter. While the name “butter chicken” may imply that you need copious amounts of butter to create the dish, that is actually not the case! The true flavor comes from the spices and mixture of tomatoes and cream.

Some people may also marinate the chicken in yogurt and spices before cooking it. Keep in mind, you can either use dry seasoned chicken, like tandoori chicken, or yogurt marinated chicken.

To keep this butter chicken dish dairy-free, coconut cream is used to mimic the high-fat, creaminess of heavy cream, and vegan butter is used to replace regular butter. We’re cooking the chicken dry style and seasoning it first with a special blend to get the best flavor before cooking it.

Here’s What You’ll Need To Make This Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

GARLIC-GINGER PASTE: This is essential for any butter chicken dish and provides deep, delicious flavors. Make your own at home by blending the ingredients together or use a pre-made store-bought version. (I suggest homemade –it’s always better!)

  • Fresh Ginger
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Pinch Of Salt

DRY SEASONING MARINADE FOR CHICKEN: Season the chicken generously with this blend of Indian spices and let it marinate for at least 20 minutes before cooking it. This will give the chicken the best taste and enhance the overall flavor of the dish!

  • Ground turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon Juice
  • Chile powder (Kashmiri Chili Powder works best for this dish)
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste

CHICKEN BREAST OR CHICKEN THIGHS: Use boneless chicken breasts or chicken thighs for this dish. Both work great. The choice is yours! (I get my chicken from BUTCHER BOX!)

BUTTER CHICKEN SAUCE: The sauce is the most important part. Quite a few ingredients go into making the perfect sauce, but it is actually quite simple to make!

  • Olive Oil
  • Seasonings: Ground Turmeric, Cumin, Chile Powder, Ground Coriander, Garam Masala, Fenugreek Leaves (optional, but recommended), Bay Leaf, Salt, Pepper
  • Onion, Garlic, Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • Canned Crushed tomatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes (optional)
  • Green Chiles (optional)
  • Raw Cashews
  • Coconut Sugar or Cane Sugar (I use coconut sugar)
  • Coconut Cream (like this one)
  • Vegan Butter (Nutiva has a great option!)
  • White Vinegar
  • Fresh Cilantro For Garnish

How To Make Dairy-Free Butter Chicken (Gluten-Free)

  1. Prepare the garlic-ginger paste
  2. Marinate the chicken
  3. Cook the chicken and set aside.
images to show first steps in making butter chicken. making the ginger garlic paste, marinating the chicken, then cooking the chicken
  1. In the same pan, prepare the sauce & let it simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. When the sauce is ready, blend in a heat-proof high-speed blender until smooth.
images to show Next step in making butter chicken (dairy Free) is to make the sauce. saute onions, then add tomatoes cashews, seasonings. simmer. when ready, blend until smooth
  1. Add the cooked chicken, coconut cream, vinegar, butter, and more seasonings. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in fenugreek leaves, optional. Garnish with fresh cilantro and more coconut cream.
  3. Enjoy! (*For more detailed steps, see recipe card below)
images to show Final step. add all the remaining ingredients, butter, coconut cream, seasonings, and chicken to the sauce. let it simmer. garnish and enjoy

close up of dairy free butter chicken garnished with coconut cream and fresh cilantro leaves

Tips To Making The Best Homemade Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

  • Marinate the chicken in the seasonings and ginger paste for at least 20 minutes. It gives the chicken an incredible flavor that adds to the dish.
  • Make sure to add the cashews in early while the tomatoes are simmering. The cashews help make the sauce extra luscious and creamy when blended. However, you want to make sure the cashews have had time to soften before blending.
  • Use Canned Coconut Cream and be sure to use the thick part at the top only. You can always make coconut cream by placing a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. The top will solidify and be ready to use. (discard the clear liquid at the bottom)
  • The Fenugreek leaves help to give this dish the distinctive butter chicken flavor that we love. Adding the Fenugreek leaves is optional but highly recommended.
  • Want to make it spicy? Add red crushed peppers to the sauce to give your dish extra heat!
  • Want To Add Vegetables? Add veggies like chopped zucchini, peppers, spinach, or shredded carrots when you add in the chicken. Let it simmer with the remaining ingredients to cook and absorb the flavors.
dairy free butter chicken plated in two small cast irons. shown with a side of basmati rice and naan. decorative cloth in background with cilantro leaves next to dish

I hope you enjoy this Dairy-Free Butter Chicken Recipe 

If you try the recipe, don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know what you think in the comments below! Take pictures, tag #goodfoodbaddie, and share them with me on Instagram! I love seeing my recipes come to life in your kitchen.

More Delicious Chicken Dishes To Try!

bowl of dairy free butter chicken served with naan

Dairy-Free Butter Chicken Recipe

Make flavorful dairy-free butter chicken easily with this recipe! It's packed with robust flavors, completely gluten-free, and perfect for a delicious cozy meal!
4.96 from 44 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Healthy Options, Indian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 460kcal
Author: Capri Lilly

Ingredients

Garlic Ginger Paste (make using a blender or mortar)

  • 3" Fresh Ginger, peeled
  • 8 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Sea Salt

Marinade For The Chicken

  • 1 tsp Ground Turmeric
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Chile Powder (Kashmiri Chili Powder)
  • 2 lbs Chicken Breast or Chicken Thighs, cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp Garlic-Ginger Paste
  • 1/2 Small Lemon, juiced

For The Sauce

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion, Chopped
  • 1 (28oz) Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Raw Cashews
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 4 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp Green Chiles, chopped (optional)
  • 3/4 cup Canned Coconut Cream
  • 3 tbsp Vegan Butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp White Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Garlic-Ginger Paste
  • 1 tsp Ground Turmeric
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Chile Powder (Kashmiri Chile Powder works best)
  • 3 tsp Ground Coriander, divided
  • 3 tsp Garam Masala, divided
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Sugar (or cane sugar)
  • 1 tbsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves (optional)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Garnish

  • Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • A Dollop of Coconut Cream or Dairy-Free Yogurt

Instructions

MAKE THE GARLIC-GINGER PASTE

  • Start by making the garlic-ginger paste. Combine the ingredients for the paste in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

MARINATE THE CHICKEN

  • Cut the chicken into cubes and place them in a bowl.
  • Add the marinade ingredients. Mix well and let marinade for at least 20 minutes.
  • In a large skillet or cast iron over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of cooking oil. Cook the chicken for about 5-6 minutes, or until all pieces are golden brown. Place the chicken in a clean bowl and set it aside.

PREPARE THE SAUCE

  • In the same pan, add cooking oil and chopped onions. Cook the onions for 2-3 minutes, or until translucent.
  • Add the tomatoes, raw cashews, minced garlic, green chilies, and diced tomatoes. Mix well
  • Then, add the water, vinegar, ginger-garlic paste, chili powder, turmeric, cumin, sugar, bay leaf, and half of the garam masala and ground coriander. Mix well and let the mixture simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  • After at least 20 minutes, the cashews and tomatoes should have softened. Remove the bay leaf. Carefully add the mixture to a heat-safe high-powdered blender and blend until smooth (or use an immersion blender).
  • Pour the sauce back into the skillet. Add the cooked chicken, butter, coconut cream, remaining garam masala, and ground coriander to the skillet. Mix well and simmer over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Mix in fenugreek leaves, optional.
  • Stir and taste, adjust the flavor as needed. Add more garam masala and ground coriander, as desired.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and coconut cream (or dairy free yogurt). Enjoy!

Notes

Tips To Making The Best Homemade Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

  • Marinate the chicken in the seasonings and ginger paste for at least 20 minutes. It gives the chicken incredible flavor that adds to the dish.
  • Make sure to add the cashews in early while the tomatoes are simmering. The cashews help make the sauce extra luscious and creamy when blended. However, you want to make sure the cashews have had time to soften before blending.
  • Use Canned Coconut Cream and be sure to use the thick part at the top only. You can always make coconut cream by placing a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. The top will solidify and be ready to use. (discard the clear liquid at the bottom)
  • The Fenugreek leaves help to give this dish the distinctive butter chicken flavor that we love. Adding the Fenugreek leaves is optional but highly recommended.
  • Want to make it spicy? Add red crushed peppers to the sauce to give your dish extra heat!

Nutrition

Calories: 460kcal

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13 comments

amanda January 21, 2022 - 7:09 pm

5 stars
I LOVE butter chicken, but i’m lactose intolerant, so this is perfect. Thank you so much for this recipe!

Reply
Capri Lilly January 21, 2022 - 10:05 pm

You’re so welcome! I am glad you can happily enjoy a dish you love!

Reply
Michelle January 21, 2022 - 9:54 pm

5 stars
Delicious! Thank you for sharing!

Reply
Colleen January 22, 2022 - 3:46 pm

5 stars
We love this butter chicken. Great recipe!

Reply
Capri Lilly January 23, 2022 - 7:20 pm

Thank you!

Reply
Brianna January 22, 2022 - 4:26 pm

5 stars
Love all the spices, so comforting!

Reply
Jamie January 23, 2022 - 4:09 am

5 stars
I love all the spices in this! It made a delicious dinner!

Reply
Capri Lilly January 23, 2022 - 7:19 pm

I am so glad you liked!

Reply
Tatiana January 24, 2022 - 2:57 am

5 stars
Butter chicken is my favorite and I am glad I found I dairy free recipe!

Reply
Catherine September 13, 2022 - 9:57 pm

5 stars
I tried this recipe tonight and love it! I used just half the ground chili and it was definitely hot enough. I didn’t have Kashmiri so I used cayenne. My blender was not able to handle mashing up the ginger and garlic so I used a mortar and pestle for the garlic-ginger paste. It took me a minute to realize that the ginger paste in the recipe is different from the garlic-ginger paste, and that ground masala (in the ingredient list) means garam masala. And it was helpful to read through the recipe and put the ingredients into the order that they are used when doing the cooking. Once I got that sorted out, the cooking went smoothly. And I added just a little more sugar (maybe a teaspoon more) for my taste. And the food tastes amazing!! Thanks so much for the recipe GFB!

Reply
Capri Lilly September 14, 2022 - 7:25 am

Hi Catherine! Thank you for leaving a review! I am happy you enjoyed the recipe. I’ve updated the recipe card ingredient list with the points that you mentioned. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I am glad you found the post helpful in making the recipe! 🙂

Reply
Gail October 1, 2022 - 5:39 am

5 stars
Amazing recipe, I loved making it and friends devoured it! I liked that it was much lighter than the recipes with heavy cream. Thank you so much for sharing!

Reply
Capri Lilly October 1, 2022 - 8:05 am

Hi Gail! That brings me so much joy! 🙂 I am happy you and your friends enjoyed the recipe. TYSM for leaving a review.

Reply

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