Indian Butter Chicken (Paleo)

Indian food is one of my all time favorite foods to enjoy. And perhaps because there’s so few Indian restaurants where I live, i’ve spent hours looking for homemade recipes and playing with spices in my own kitchen. One popular dish I see a lot is butter chicken, which I’ve had at restaurants and absolutely love. It’s rich, filling, and perfectly spiced. So I had to work on my own recipe for it, which i’ve designed for either the Instant Pot or stove stop. This recipe is Whole30 and Paleo approved too! I use ghee and full fat coconut milk to keep it dairy free, and while the name says “butter” many recipes don’t include butter i’ve found. And you can use grape seed or avocado oil in it’s place. But I love the richness of ghee, a staple of traditional Indian cuisine. If you don’t want to use coconut milk and tolerate dairy, you can totally use heavy cream in its place. Though there may not be a need for arrowroot powder if you use heavy cream, it tends to thicken a lot quicker than dairy free milks. Adjust the cayenne for your preferred spice level, some like it hot and some do not. I suggest starting small, just a dash, and working up from there after it’s cooked and you can taste it. I hope you enjoy this quick and delicious favorite of mine, right in the comfort of your own home!


2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cubed

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbs ghee or grass fed butter, alternatively grape seed oil may be used

1 can full fat coconut milk

1 can tomato paste

1/4 cup chicken stock (in the instant pot) and 1/2 cup on the stove top

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp curry or garam marsala powder

1 tbs turmeric

1/2 tsp ginger powder or freshly grated

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp or less, cayenne powder

2 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp arrow root powder, mixed with a splash of water (optional)

Cilantro (optional)

How To:

For the Instant Pot:

  1. If you haven’t already, prepare your ingredients by mixing all the dry spices together, finely dicing your onion, and dicing your chicken. Chicken thighs are preferable, but breasts will also work for this recipe.
  2. Set the Instant pot to the Saute setting and then add in your ghee, butter, or oil. It will get hot quickly, you’ll only need to wait about 2 minutes to add the ghee.
  3. Once the ghee has melted, add in all of your dry spices and toast for 1-2 min. They’ll get super fragrant and this helps really bring out the flavors in the dish.
  4. Next, add in your can of tomato paste and mix with the toasted spices, letting the paste warm up for about 1-2 min. Then add in your diced onion, letting those cook for 2-3 minutes, just to soften them up a little.
  5. Now, add in your chicken broth, coconut milk, lemon juice, and chicken. Mix everything together.
  6. Set the lid on the Instant Pot and set to seal. Pressure cook for 15 minutes and then quick release when the timer goes off.
  7. Put the Instant pot back to the saute mode and allow it to come to a boil for an additional 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add in the arrowroot powder mixture and stir. The longer it boils the more the sauce will reduce and thicken. Arrowroot powder speeds up this process, but if you don’t have it the sauce will need longer to thicken. Allow to cool before serving.

For the Stove Top.

  1. Preheat a large pan, preferably a high sided one to contain the liquid, on the stove top. Once heated, add in the ghee or butter.
  2. Toast the spices for about 1-2 min until they are fragrant and slightly browned (not burnt!).
  3. Add in your onions and cook for about 6-8 min, until translucent. Once they are cooked, add in the tomato paste and mix well.
  4. Then, add in the the chicken, broth, coconut milk, lemon juice and mix everything together until it’s well incorporated. Cover and cook for 25 min.
  5. After 25 min, remove the lid and cook an additional 10 min to let the sauce begin to thicken. Again, you have the option of adding in the arrowroot mixture, which I highly recommend or giving it an additional 5 min. Allow to cool before serving.

Chef’s Note: If you’re opting out of the arrowroot powder and aren’t sure what consistency the sauce should be thickened to, it should just be thick enough to stick onto the chicken when you spoon it out. You can also add another teaspoon of arrowroot + water mixture at a time if you’ve added more liquid than you thought.

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