Dairy-Free Butter Chicken

Basically indian flavors are just my favorite! I love the subtle heat mixed with warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, turmeric, and cumin for example. India definitely has it figured out with spice blends that are both delicious and nourishing to the body as well. When I lived in Austin, Texas, I made friends with someone who was born and raised in India. He taught me all about the Indian culture and food. One of the recipes he shared was butter chicken. At the time I was plant-based so I had to modify the recipe of course to omit the butter, chicken, and cream.

Now I have made many different versions. One with sprouted chickpeas and a cashew cream sauce to finish. One with just cauliflower and chickpeas and full-fat coconut milk to finish. And one with chicken and chickpeas and coconut milk over spaghetti squash and spinach. How ever you choose to make this, the tomato gravy is what counts!

I will pre-warn you that I just go by taste so use the measurements provided for spices as a guide and adjust to meet your own taste buds.

Let’s talk about substituting the butter and cream part of traditional butter chicken. Like I mentioned, I have substituted a cashew cream made from soaked and blended cashews and also full-fat coconut milk. Both are delicious! The spices are so prominent that you aren’t really going to taste coconut. The fat from the coconut milk really rounds out the spices so you A. don’t burn your taste buds and B. aren’t getting sharp notes of the spices. As far a substituting butter, I just add plenty of coconut oil at the end. It works great for the mouthfeel and again you aren’t going to notice a big coconut taste because of the spices.

Honey- honey is added at the end. The sweetness counter-balances the spiciness.

Lemon- lemon is also added at the end to amplify all the wonderful flavors. And I don’t know about you but I love adding fresh lemon juice to all my tomato sauces.

Okay here’s the recipe! Enjoy!


For the sauce:

  • 24 oz strained tomatoes (or tomato puree)
  • 1 white or red onion, sliced thin
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 inch of ginger, minced or grated
  • 3/4-1 c full-fat coconut milk OR cashew cream (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 c coconut oil (split for sauteeing and finishing)
  • marinated and grilled chicken (recipe below)
  • cooked or sprouted chickpeas
  • cauliflower (optional), diced
  • juice of 1/2 to one lemon
  • 2-3 T raw, local, honey
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • rice or spaghetti squash to serve

Spice blend:

  • 1 1/2 T garam masala (the one I get has black pepper, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red chili powder (I just ground up red chili flakes)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground coriander


Cook your chicken first (if using) then start the butter chicken sauce.

Make your spice blend and have it ready in a little bowl next to the stove.

Slice your onions and get the garlic and ginger root minced up. In a cast iron saucepan or heavy bottomed skillet melt 1-2T of coconut oil. Add the onion and begin to caramelize (about 15-20 minutes). Once the onions are beginning to get some color, add the garlic and ginger as well as you spice blend. Cook about 2 minutes more until fragrant and then add the tomato product plus a about 1/2-1 cup of filtered water. If you are using cauliflower, put it in at this stage to cook the cauliflower. Stir well and place a lid on top. Let it simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes or if using cauliflower until it is al dente. Then add the cooked chicken and chickpeas. Allow to cook over very low heat for about another 5-10 minutes for the flavors to meld and the chicken to heat through.
Remove the bay leaves. Add the coconut milk or cashew cream, another 2T of coconut oil, the honey, salt to your taste, and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Serve over rice, quinoa, or spaghetti squash with a good helping of fresh, chopped cilantro.


  • 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast, organic, cubed or whole
  • 1 tsp red chili powder (I used ground red chile flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2T cashew yogurt (or any thick yogurt)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp himalayan sea salt

Mix the chili powder, garam masala, coriander, yogurt, cumin, and lemon juice in a bowl. Add chicken and rub the marinade in with your fingers. Marinade ideally at least four hours or overnight. You can cube the chicken and get away with marinating for less time or you can leave the chicken whole and cube it up after it is cooked.

To cook: Allow the chicken to sit out at room temperature for about a half hour so it is not so cold. Preheat a grill or the oven to 350.

To grill: cook the chicken over low heat flipping halfway through until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees fahrenheit.

To roast: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 1/2 T of avocado or coconut oil and when it shimmers and runs easy across the pan add the chicken breasts. Tip to prevent sticking- Take the chicken and without laying it down sweep it across the pan moving away from you to coat the whole breast in oil. Proceed to lay it down in the pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken. Once the chicken is browned on one side and comes away easy from the pan flip over and place the skillet in the oven. Roast until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees farenheit.

Allow the chicken to rest on a plate for 10 minutes. Cut into cubes. Now your chicken is ready to add to the butter chicken gravy!

Cashew Cream Recipe:

  • 1c raw cashews
  • filtered water

In a mason jar soak the cashews with plenty of water for at least 10 hours. Drain the cashews. Add the cashews to a high powered blender along with 1/2 cup of filtered water. Blend scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed and adding water as needed as well.

I hope you make this wonderful recipe and enjoy! I really enjoy this recipe this time of year when the weather is cold and our bodies can use all the nourishing things for immunity. The warm spices in this recipe are great for circulation, antimicrobial action, and digestion.

Healthy wishes friends,



Published by Abigail E. Holistic

Holistic Health Coach and Private Chef

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