Sangeeta’s Butter Chicken

DSC03532This recipe is from my friend Sangeeta, who I met when she generously housed my husband and I in her Delhi apartment.  She made this excellent chicken and I begged her for the recipe.  I made it for my husband’s birthday in mid December, he requested it again for Christmas eve and it is so delicious and easy that I have been making it quite a bit over the last month despite my crazy schedule teaching and rehearsing my show (which is opening Feb 15th!  Come see it!).

Butter chicken is a popular dish, so I have since eaten it in several restaurants both in India and New York.  I have also tried some other recipes from famous Indian cookbook authors.  But of all the butter chicken I have eaten, I like Sangeeta’s version the best.  The recipe that Sangeeta sent me was not so specific about quantities.  It was more in the “Add as many tomatoes as you want, depending on how tangy you like it” style.  So here are the measurements that I ended up liking, but you should feel free to adjust to suit your own tastes.

Despite the name, butter chicken does not have a lot of butter in it.  The “secret ingredient” that provides the creamy, buttery texture comes is cashews.  The recipe also calls for Kasturi Methi (dried fenugreek leaves), which for us westerners is a pretty exotic flavour.  It is well worth a trip to an Indian market to procure this delicious herb.  DO NOT use fenugreek seeds instead of fenugreek leaves.  The seeds are easier to find in the USA but they DO NOT have the same flavour.  If you cannot find kasturi methi, I recommend using whole cumin seeds, which you dry roast and crush a bit.  In cookbooks for westerners this seems to be a common substitution and I am certain that it would be tasty.

I cannot remember if Sangeeta used raw chicken or leftover tandoori chicken.  All of the other recipes that I found called for pre-cooked tandoori chicken.  I happen to be really into making fake tandoori chicken at home these days so that is what I used for my butter chicken.  In fact, if you have roasted the chicken in advance, this dish is super fast to throw together.


  • 4 ounces raw cashew nuts (about 3/4 cup).  In a pinch you can use an equal amount of cashew butter.
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2-4 chopped chilli peppers (I like 3 jalapeno with seeds)
  • 32 ounces fresh tomatoes (if using fresh follow the directions here for peeling them) or 32 oz good quality canned stewed tomatoes
  • 1 handful kasturi methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds fake tandoori chicken (prepare in advance)
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt or more to taste
  • A bit of cream (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)
  1. Grind the cashew nuts to a powder in a spice grinder or blender.
  2. Heat 4 Tablespoons butter over medium high heat and add the ground cashew nuts.  Fry until the nuts begin to just sizzle.
  3. Add the sliced ginger and chopped chili and fry for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, and simmer stirring often until the sauce has blended.  Obviously, this will take longer if you are using fresh tomatoes.  You can process the sauce in a blender if you want the sauce very smooth or you can leave it more chunky as you wish.
  5. Add the kasturi methi, along with the  cooked chicken  If the chicken is cold, warm it over medium heat.  Add cream (if using) and salt to taste.  I like to serve it with basmati rice and cauliflower with aromatic spices or Rima’s Indian style green beans.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. sangangela says:

    So my famous chicken finally made it. How are you guys doing.

    1. There you are! I have been trying to get a hold of you Sangeeta! We are doing fine. How are you!

      1. sangangela says:

        Good good. My email address is on ur comment window. So is our blog address. I don’t have ur email so couldn’t email you. Could u send it to me.

  2. The Patterned Plate says:

    Definitely a favourite dish. I used to frustrate my father to no end ordering this time and time again at an Indian restaurant. But it’s so incredibly delicious, it’s hard to move on from that! I have my mother’s version which is quite similar to Sangeeta/your recipe. Looks delicious!

  3. I know creamy tomato dishes are hard to pass up! It’s popularity is well deserved. Does your recipe use fenugreek too?

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