Recipe: Indian Butter Chicken (Without the Butter!)

All the flavor and heart-healthy too
Indian Butter Chicken with brown rice

Peanut butter and jelly without the peanut butter? No thanks. But butter chicken without the butter? A big, delicious yes, please! The popular Indian dish is often made with butter, cream, or both, but it’s the combination of spices and tomato that deliver its compelling signature flavor.

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Our heart-healthy version skips the heavy dairy and focuses on the dish’s essentials, including the Indian spice mix garam masala, a combination of cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander and cardamom that’s readily available at grocery stores. Garlic, onion and ginger add to the flavor-fest, and a touch of cayenne gives the dish a spicy kick.

Marinating the chicken in nonfat yogurt makes it extremely tender and adds creaminess (minus the saturated fat). Fire-roasted tomatoes, with their savory-sweet flavor, make up the base of the sauce — and a sprinkling of cilantro adds a little zing. Your family or guests will enjoy every satisfying bite!


12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup 0% Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomato
1½ cups cooked brown rice, for serving
¼ of a green cabbage, shredded, for serving
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

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  1. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and put into a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, garam masala, cumin, cayenne and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Stir well to coat. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the chicken into a baking dish or ovenproof skillet and spread into a single layer. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
  3. Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the chicken into a baking dish or ovenproof skillet and spread into a single layer. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir to coat. Cover tightly and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 5 to 7 minutes more, stirring often, until very tender.
  5. Remove the lid. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and ¾ cup of water. Cover tightly and simmer for 5 minutes. Using a handheld blender or a regular blender, puree the sauce until smooth and creamy. If it’s a little thick, add another ¼ cup of water. Return the sauce to the saucepan over low heat.
  6. Add the chicken and any juices in the dish to the sauce. Stir well to combine.
  7. Divide the chicken and sauce among bowls. Top with the brown rice, cabbage and cilantro.

Nutritional Information (per serving)

Makes 4 servings.

284 calories, 10 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 23 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 3 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar, 0 g added sugar, 43 mg cholesterol, 539 mg sodium

Source: Developed by Sara Quessenberry for Cleveland Clinic Wellness.

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