Better Butter Chicken (an Everyday Paleo recipe)

Recipe taken from

One of the things I love most about eating Paleo is that there are so many amazing, tasty recipes waiting on the other side of a Google search.  Over the 7 weeks of our new Paleo approach to foods, I have followed more recipes and used more spices than — well, actually, more than over my whole lifetime.   You see, I have a handful of meals that I know how to make, half of which were common fare in my childhood, and that’s pretty much all I make.  Every few years I decide that I will cook more often, and make a concerted effort to expand my repertoire.  This usually results in trying a half dozen items, of which one or two might make it into rotation.  In the past 6 weeks, I have tried at least 30 recipes.  At least half of those were for main dishes.  And I have at least a half dozen items that will now see heavy rotation in my meal plans.  This amazes me.

It is a particular source of pride and excitement to be making foods that have always seemed too hard to replicate well.  During the Whole 30, I found that my primary goal was not to replicate exactly the yummy Gaeng Garee Gai from my favorite Thai restaurant; instead, it was to make the best, most exciting food I could conceive of (and find recipes for).   I have now made Thai curries (oh, so many Thai curries — hooray for Mae Ploy yellow curry powder!) and Middle Eastern-inspired stews and meat rubs, and have even improvised stir fries using these new flavor combinations.

But Thai-curry stirfries begin to pale by Day 4.  A rut is a rut, even if it’s filled with lovely aromas and flavors.  Furthermore, most of the recipes I’ve tried so far result in rather spicy food.  This is rarely a big hit with my toddler, and is very hit-or-miss with my teenager.

This brings us to Sarah Fragoso’s Better Butter Chicken.  When we order Indian food, this is always our family’s favorite sauce-based dish.  It is generally smooth rather than spicy-hot, so I hoped it might be a hit all around.  For some reason, though, I have avoided Indian fare.  This might be because my favorite dishes use cheese, yogurt, or deep-fried crusts.   Or maybe I’ve still been hung up on being able to recreate a dish perfectly.   In any event, the instructions seemed simple enough, so I decided to give it a try.

The Recipe


2 1/2 lbs boneless chicken thighs
1 red onion diced (I used 1/2 of a large red onion)
3 tbsp coconut oil
6 oz can tomato paste
½ can coconut milk (+ another 1/4-1/2 cup)
½ tbsp crushed garlic
½ tsp cardamom powder
½ tsp coriander powder
1 tsp fenugreek powder (in a pinch, can substitute 1tsp mustard seed)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)


“Cut the chicken thighs into bite size pieces and set aside. In a large skillet or soup pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and add the diced onion and saute until translucent.  

Turn your heat down to low and to the onion and oil mixture, add the crushed garlic, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, and chili powder and stir well to make a paste.  Add the tomato paste to the onions and spices and stir, this mixture will be very thick.  

Turn your heat back up to medium and add the coconut milk and salt.  Use a whisk to blend the tomato paste spice mixture and coconut milk together into a thick sauce.  

Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the chicken.  Return the sauce and chicken to a simmer, turn down to medium low, cover and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the chicken is done all the way through – make sure you stir occasionally during the cooking process.

After the chicken is cooked, add the ghee and mix into the sauce until melted.  

Serve the chicken over steamed red chard or any other green of your choice.”

Anna’s Report

Verdict:   My whole family loved this.  I should note, however, that I made a number of substitutions or omissions — some of them unintentional!  I served this on a bed of cauliflower which had been steamed and then browned in a saute pan.  (Update: We had this on steamed & sauteed kale the second night.  It was still tasty, but I think the cauliflower adds something to the dish.)

Adjustments to the Recipe:

  • Since I appear to be sensitive to garlic, I cut the garlic in half.  To offset this, I added the tiniest bit of freshly grated ginger.
  • I couldn’t find fenugreek at my grocery store, so I looked up standard substitutions, and ended up using 1 tsp mustard seed.
  • Half a can of coconut milk left me with a pretty thick red paste.  I added a bit more, then finished off with 1/3 cup of Russian yogurt (I have been working on dairy reintroduction, and this seemed like the perfect place to try out the yogurt I’d bought just a few hours earlier).
  • I…um…well, I forgot the ghee.  But it was still good!

For Next Time:   I plan to order fenugreek online, and will make this again in the coming weeks with all the right ingredients.  I will post an update if any of the above opinions change.


2 thoughts on “Better Butter Chicken (an Everyday Paleo recipe)

  1. This is one of my favorite go-to recipes! I often just leave the fenugreek out. I’ve made it with and without, and honestly, didn’t really notice a difference. I always eat this on a bed of steamed kale, which I love, but I’m sure it’s good on cauliflower too. You’ll have to make it again with the ghee … it really brings everything together!

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