As the name suggests, traditional butter chicken is not dairy-free, as it contains butter and often also cream or yogurt in the sauce. However, you can make a dairy-free version of butter chicken by substituting the dairy ingredients with non-dairy alternatives. For example, you could use vegan butter or coconut oil instead of butter and coconut milk or a dairy-free yogurt instead of cream or yogurt. Remember that these substitutions may slightly alter the taste and texture of the dish, but it should still be enjoyable and suitable for those avoiding dairy.
Dairy-Free Alternatives for Butter Chicken
Use vegan butter or margarine, coconut, or olive oil to replace regular butter. Vegan butter or margarine is preferable, as it maintains the rich, buttery flavor of the original dish.
- Coconut milk or coconut cream: The thick, creamy texture of coconut milk or cream makes it a great substitute for heavy cream. It adds a slightly sweet, coconut flavor to the dish but works well with the spices in butter chicken.
- Cashew cream: Blend soaked cashews with water to create a rich, creamy sauce that can replace heavy cream. This option is neutral in flavor and adds a creamy consistency to the dish.
- Almond or soy milk: Thicken almond or soy milk with cornstarch or arrowroot powder to create a dairy-free cream substitute. This option may be slightly thinner than coconut milk or cashew cream but can still work well in the recipe.
- Oat cream: This is another plant-based option you can use as a dairy-free substitute. It has a neutral taste and creamy texture that works well in butter chicken.
You can create a delicious and satisfying butter chicken dish that caters to various dietary preferences and restrictions using these dairy-free alternatives.
Dairy-Free Butter Chicken Recipe
- 5 lbs (680 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cubed
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp dairy-free butter or coconut oil
- 1 can (14 oz / 400 ml) tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (14 oz / 400 ml) full-fat coconut milk or 1 cup of cashew cream
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, adjust to taste)
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- Fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Heat the dairy-free butter or coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet or pot. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garam masala, paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne pepper (if using) to the skillet. Stir well, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes to the skillet, stirring to combine. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the sauce simmers, cook the cubed chicken in a separate pan over medium heat until cooked. You can season it with some salt and pepper, if desired. Once cooked, set aside.
- Add the cooked chicken, coconut milk, or cashew cream to the tomato sauce mixture. Stir well to combine and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust the salt as needed.
- Serve the dairy-free butter chicken over rice, with naan, or your favorite grain. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Enjoy your delicious and simple dairy-free butter chicken!
Is Butter Chicken at Restaurant Dairy-Free? Tips for Eating Dairy-Free Butter Chicken
Butter chicken at most restaurants is not typically dairy-free, as it often contains butter and cream. However, following these tips, you can still enjoy dairy-free butter chicken while dining out.
- Call ahead: Before visiting a restaurant, call ahead to ask if they offer a dairy-free version of butter chicken or if they can accommodate your dietary preferences. This will save you time and disappointment.
- Speak with the server or chef: Once you arrive at the restaurant, speak with your server or, if possible, the chef about your dairy-free requirements. Be specific about your needs and ask them to ensure no butter or cream is used in your dish.
- Request a custom order: If the restaurant doesn’t have a dairy-free butter chicken option on the menu, ask if they can prepare a custom version for you using dairy-free alternatives like coconut milk or cashew cream. Most chefs are willing to accommodate dietary restrictions, especially if you give them a heads-up.
- Be cautious of cross-contamination: Ask the restaurant staff about their kitchen practices to minimize cross-contamination. Ensure they understand the importance of using separate utensils and cookware for your dairy-free dish.
- Check online reviews: Search for restaurant reviews to see if other dairy-free customers have had positive experiences at the restaurant you’re considering. This can help you find restaurants more likely to accommodate your dietary preferences.