RECIPE | Naqiyah Mayat's butter chicken

Butter chicken
Butter chicken
Image: Supplied

A rich cashew nut sauce with smoky notes gives this butter chicken recipe an authentic flavour profile reminiscent of your favourite North Indian/Pakistani restaurant.

It takes a little effort to introduce the smoking coal to the pot to achieve this effect. However, the end result of a satisfying dish with layers of complex deliciousness is well worth the effort!

Butter Chicken

Serves 6

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes


½cup unsalted (raw) cashew nuts

2 tbsps ghee

1 small cinnamon stick

2-4 cloves

2-4 cardamom pods

½tsp whole cumin seeds

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp ground green chilli

½ cup reduced fat cream

1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk

½ cup water


For the chicken

1 chicken cut into smaller, bite-size pieces (I prefer using the meatier pieces and adding in 2 chicken fillets to make up a full kilogram. I omit the wings and drumsticks altogether).

3 tbsps lemon juice

1 tsp fine black pepper

1 tsp turmeric

½ tsp ground cumin powder

½ tsp ground coriander powder

3 tbsps butter

3 pieces of charcoal

Fresh coriander, to garnish


Toast cashew nuts in a pan to release a nutty aroma, then grind to a fine powder.

In a pot, add the ghee and heat on medium heat.

Add the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, cumin seeds and onion.

Sauté till golden and translucent.

Add the ground cashews and incorporate them into the ghee and onion mixture.

To this, add the ground green chilli (to taste) and mix well.

Add the cream, fat-free or low-fat milk, and water.

Add salt to taste and allow to thicken.

Using a stick blender, purée and blend the sauce.

For the chicken

Cut 1 chicken into smaller, bite-size pieces. I prefer using the meatier pieces and adding in 2 chicken fillets to make up a full kilogram. I omit the wings and drumsticks altogether.

Add the lemon juice, fine black pepper, turmeric, ground cumin powder and ground coriander powder.

In an oven-safe pan, add the butter. Seal the outside of the chicken.

Remove from the stove-top and char under the grill in the oven.

Pour the liquid from the grill pan into the sauce and mix well.

You should achieve a yellow-coloured sauce at this stage.

Once the chicken has browned, empty the chicken into the sauce and stir well.

Light 3 pieces of charcoal and empty into a foil-lined small dish.

Place in the middle of the pot containing the sauce and chicken. Add 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil to the charcoal and close the lid immediately.

Switch stove off and leave the coal in for 10 minutes.

Discard the coal and garnish with fresh coriander and crushed cashew nuts, if desired.

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