Butterless Butter Chicken

I don’t like to play favourites with my recipes, but THIS ONE IS THE. BEST.

I have never had a recipe be so delicious on the first try, but this butterless butter chicken was IT. I had no edits to make, no spices to adjust. It was good enough for all of you, dear Food Lifers, the first time around. This recipe contains no cream, and no butter. The secret ingredient? Ground raw cashews.

Aren’t ground raw cashews the best? What did I do before I discovered them (thanks Jillian Harris!)? They can be made into cheese. You can use them to add richness to sauces and stews. And they contain healthy fats and, of course, plant-based protein. It’s a win-win.

I'm keeping this blog post short because - MAKE THIS butterless butter chicken. Just do it.

P.S. This was the perfect fuel for setting up my new online store. Check it out!

Butterless Butter Chicken

Serves 4 hungry people


¾ cup raw cashews

1 tbsp oil with high smoke point, such as canola, coconut, or grapeseed

6 chicken thighs or 4 chicken breasts

1 large yellow onion, diced fine

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garam masala (I love Vij’s brand)

1 tsp turmeric

1 398 mL (14 oz) can of crushed tomatoes

½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I used nonfat but any will do)

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cilantro, for garnish

Rice and/or naan bread, for serving


Place cashews in a medium bowl and pour in boiling water until the cashews are just covered. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large pot until shimmery. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook until browned on both sides, about 4 min per side. Remove chicken to a plate.

Turn heat down to medium-low and add onion, adding more oil if necessary.

Now here comes the part that will take your curry from good to OHMYGOD – Cook the onion without stirring until it is beginning to brown. Then, add ¼ cup of water and stir well, getting any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan up. Then repeat the process – allow the onion to cook until all of the water has evaporated and it is beginning to stick to the pain a bit. Add another ¼ cup water to deglaze.

After the second deglazing, add garlic, ginger, and spices, and stir well. Allow to cook until all of the water is evaporated and the mixture is beginning to stick down one more time.

Immediately add the crushed tomatoes and stir well, scraping up all of the brown bits from the pan. You may add a bit of water at this point if necessary to get all the yummy brown stuff up off the bottom. Add the chicken back to the pan, cover the pot with a lid left partially ajar, turn the heat down to low, and allow to summer for about 20-30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking (and your kitchen is starting to smell amazing), strain the cashews, reserving about ¼ cup of the water, and add them to a blender or food processor.  Blend well until completely pureed, adding more water if required. The cashews should be soft and puree easily.

Once the chicken is cooked through and tender, remove the chicken to a plate, and shred with two forks. Return the shredded chicken to the pan, and turn off the heat. Add the lemon, Greek yogurt, and blended cashews, and stir well. Taste and season as necessary. Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges, and serve.