Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

Diabetic friendly butter chicken

I haven't felt much like writing these past three weeks.  As you can see by the tone of my picture above, I've had a bad case of the blues.  First, I caught some weird abdominal virus.  Then I caught a week-long cold.   I need comfort food really bad!

One of the recipes that comforts me the most is the Tiffin Box's Butter Chicken.  Last winter, this recipe was a staple in our house, but since going dairy-free, it's been tucked away safely in a drawer
Adapting beloved recipes to make them dairy-free can be somewhat tricky (and in this case feels like treason).   I used coconut milk and coconut oil instead of the yogurt, cream and butter.  My first attempt turned out rather soupy.  My second attempt went much better.  The key was using solidified coconut cream in the sauce.....and if you can tolerate butter, it does make a difference.   Here are some tips.

  How to get solid coconut cream

how to get the solid cream out of the coconut milk can
Not all brands will work.  I find Thai Kitchen Premium Coconut milk (Organic or regular) works best.

For best results refrigerate a can overnight.  
Dairy-free butter chicken
When ready to use, poke a hole in the cream with the handle of your spoon. 
how to get the solid cream out of the coconut milk can
Wriggle your spoon around until the liquid starts to easily pour out. (Save the liquid for smoothies or discard.)
Dairy-free butter chicken
When all the liquid is out, remove the solid cream.  This trick works great for coconut whipped cream recipes too.

Easy Ginger grating tip:

easy way to peel and grate ginger
I also wanted to share my ginger tip.  I used to hate peeling ginger.  I wasted so much of it.  Grating has led to a few band-aid "incidents".

One day I threw some extra ginger in the freezer.   The result was life-changing!  I wish I had known years ago what a breeze it is to peel and grate frozen ginger.

Where to find Fenugreek leaves

Where to buy fenugreek leaves
This recipe calls for Fenugreek Leaves also known as kasuri methi.  It can be a bit hard to find.   I buy mine at my local Indian grocery store.  It only costs a couple bucks.  Don't get confused with the more commonly found seeds, which do not taste the same.
Fenugreek contains galactomannan, a natural soluble fibre that slows down the rate of sugar absorption into blood.

Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

Dairy-free adaption of The Tiffin Box Butter Chicken



1 can of coconut milk
2 tablespoons MSG-free tandoori masala
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp of salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 kilos of boneless skinless chicken thighs cut up in 3-4 pieces each.

Butter Chicken Day:

2 tbsp of coconut oil (or butter if you can tolerate it)
Whole Spice: 4 whole cloves + 4 cardamom pods + 1 star anise + 1 inch piece of cassia bark/cinnamon stick.
3 medium onions, diced finely
2 inch piece of grated ginger.
5 large fresh minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons MSG-free tandoori masala
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of Kasuri Methi (fenugreek leaves) + 1 another extra tbsp
2 cups of tomato passata (strained tomatoes usually found in glass tall glass jars)
2 cups of chicken stock (strained from the pan juices or supplement with stock)
1 can of coconut milk....preferable Thai Kitchen due to its thickness.
1/4 cup of ground up cashews
Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
1/2 tbsp sugar
optional: 1/2 tsp of cayenne or to taste
optional:  fresh chopped coriander


The night before:

1. In a bowl, combine one whole can (liquid and cream) of coconut milk with all the marinade ingredients. Add raw chicken, mix, cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Don't forget to refrigerate your other can of coconut milk.  (I refrigerate two in case I get a dud can).

The Day Of:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Lay the chicken down in a single layer on a baking tray.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until just cooked.

diabetic-friendly butter chicken2.  While the chicken cooks, prepare the following:
-  A bowl with the finely diced onions.
-  A tea bag with the whole spice mix :  1 star anise, 4 cardamom pods, 4 cloves, 1 piece of cassia or cinnamon bark.  (If you don't have a tea bag you can fish them out later.)
-  A bowl with the garlic cloves and grated ginger.
-  The spice mix:  2 tablespoons tandoori masala, 1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of Kasuri Methi..
-  Use a food processor to finely ground the cashews.

    dairy-free butter chicken3.  When the chicken is done, strain the drippings and set the stock aside for later.

    4.  Heat the coconut oil (or butter) in a deep stockpot.

    5.  Add the spice tea bag and infuse for a couple of minutes.  If loose remove the whole spices before proceeding.

    6.  Add the finely diced onions and saute for about 10-15 minutes until soft.

    7.  Add the grated ginger and garlic and stir for an additional 30 seconds.

    8.  Add the spice mix and stir for 10 seconds.

    9.  Add the tomato passata. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.

    10.  Add stock and stir well.  Add salt to taste.

    11.  If you used a teabag for the whole spice, fish it out now.  Add the chicken pieces to the sauce, and simmer for about 5 minutes.

    12.  Add a bit of the sauce to your bowl of coconut cream and stir well.  Return to the pot, stirring until fully incorporated.

    Dairy-free butter chicken13.  Add the remaining tablespoon of Kasuri Methi, ground cashew and sugar.

    14.  Simmer on a very low heat for about 5 minutes.

    15.  Add cayenne to taste.   (I omit this and let my husband add it to his own individual bowl.)

    16.  Garnish with fresh coriander.

    Diabetic-friendly tip:  Increase non-starchy carbs buy adding 2 cups of finely chopped celery along with the onions.  Serve over cauliflower rice.


    1. I made this yesterday. I can't have milk products. It was a lot of work but so worth it!

    2. I couldn't find the cassia bark so I used a half cinnamon stick. It turned out really good. Thanks!


    I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.