This gluten-free & dairy-free butter chicken is another travel-inspired recipe for the books - with flavors, spices, and tastes of Asia!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure page for more information. Thanks!
During our six months of backpacking abroad in 2019, we spent 3+ weeks in Nepal, which is just north of India. While Nepal and India are different countries with different people, societies, beliefs, and traditions, their cuisines have similar components. While visiting Pokhara and Kathmandu, many restaurants offered dishes from Nepal, India, and China, and one of them was chicken tikka - very similar to this dairy-free butter chicken.
The only issue was - the amount of dairy gave me a stomachache. (Thanks, IBS!)
But dishes like this, along with the cuisines, spices, and dishes of Asia opened my eyes to new ways of cooking, and chicken tikka/butter chicken was something I was determined to recreate when we came back home - without the dairy! And that's what you'll find in this gluten-free dairy-free butter chicken recipe. Not authentic, but my version or "travel-inspired" version of this dish.
What You'll Need To Make Gluten & Dairy Free Butter Chicken
Chicken Breasts: I buy boneless and skinless tenders because they are thinner and easier to cut.
Plain Dairy-Free Yogurt: SoDelicious is a great option for dairy-free yogurt.
Minced Garlic: You can mince it fresh, or use the jarred kind to save time.
Spices: We'll use a blend of spices in the yogurt marinade, as well as spices again when cooking, including garam masala blend, turmeric, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt.
Onion: Onions will be the primary flavor of the sauce along with the spices.
Crushed Tomatoes: This will create the sauce for the chicken. We will puree it in the food processor to make it nice and smooth.
Coconut Milk: To make the sauce creamy, we'll use coconut milk instead of heavy cream, so no stomachaches, but all the rich, creamy flavor. (And don't worry, it won't taste like coconuts at all).
Olive Oil: For cooking the chicken and onions, we'll use olive oil. I prefer extra virgin.
Sugar: To even out the flavors, we'll use a little bit of sugar at the end of cooking.
How To Make This Dairy-Free Recipe
Remember this recipe takes time because you have to let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking! Be sure you have at least 2 hours to devote to dinner when making this dish!
To make the dairy-free butter chicken, you'll make the yogurt marinade and add the cut-up chicken, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. After that, you'll cook the chicken on the stove, followed by the onions, garlic, and crushed tomatoes.
Last, using a food processor or a blender, you'll blend the sauce together to get it nice and smooth, then add the coconut milk and sugar for optimal creaminess. Finally, all the chicken gets added back in to simmer, and it's done!
Gluten-free and dairy-free butter chicken goes perfectly with my gluten-free naan. I love to rip the naan in half and dunk it in the butter chicken sauce - talk about decadence! We serve butter chicken with a side of white rice, just like in Nepal, but we make ours in a rice cooker. It's still the best kitchen gadget we've bought to date.
Here's how to make this tasty gluten and dairy-free butter chicken!
If you love this recipe, please leave a review! Thank you so much!
Gluten and Dairy Free Butter Chicken Recipe
- 2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
- ½ cup plain dairy-free yogurt
- 1 ½ tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoon garam masala spice blend (double-check it's GF)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3 TSBP olive oil, divided
- ½ large yellow onion, sliced thin
- 1 ½ tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of canned coconut milk (unsweetened, evaporated also works)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- hot white rice and freshly chopped cilantro, for serving
In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, garlic, and spices (the first set in the list - garam masala, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt) together until smooth. This will be your marinade for the chicken. Dice the chicken breasts into bite-sized even pieces and add to the marinade mixture, stirring to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap or bees wrap and place the chicken in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to absorb into the meat for at least 1 hour.
Once the chicken has marinated for 1 hour, remove from the refrigerator. Heat 2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and sizzling, add the chicken and fry in batches until they are browned on each side - about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
Into the same pan, add the another 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the sliced onions and fry them about five minutes until they soften and take on a little color. Use the onions to scrape any browned bits that are stuck on the bottom of the pan.
Being careful to not let it burn, add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. When you can smell the garlic, add the ground coriander, cumin, and garam masala, followed by the crushed tomatoes, chili powder, and salt. Continue stirring, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will darken in color to a reddish-brown and become thick.
Using a food processor (my preference) or a blender if you don't have one, remove the sauce from the heat and blend until smooth. If the sauce does not blend easily, add 1-2 tablespoon of water as needed. When the sauce is puréed and smooth, add it back to the same pan over medium heat.
Into the sauce, stir the coconut milk and the sugar until incorporated and smooth. Add the chicken and all juices back to the pan and simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes, until the chicken is cooked and tender and the sauce is bubbly.
Serve the butter chicken over white rice and top with freshly chopped cilantro. And on the side, add hot gluten-free naan!
Garam Masala is actually a spice mixture or a spice blend, commonly used in Indian cooking. You can find it in the spice aisle of your grocery store.
For the yogurt, you can use a lactose-free plain yogurt or coconut yogurt to marinate the chicken. To thicken and make the sauce creamy, use canned coconut milk. It had the perfect creaminess you'd expect from using heavy cream - without the dairy!
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 494Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 131mgSodium 872mgCarbohydrates 23gFiber 3gSugar 8gProtein 52g
The nutrition information on each recipe card is provided as a courtesy and for your convenience. The data is calculated by Nutritionix. You are encouraged to make your own calculations based on your ingredients and preferred nutritional facts calculator. While I try to make sure they are accurate, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of these calculations.
Do you like butter chicken?
Are you dairy-free or lactose-free?
Let me know in the comments!