Traditional butter chicken recipes include dairy products like butter and cream, making it not dairy-free. However, it is possible to modify the recipe to be dairy-free by substituting dairy-free alternatives. For instance, you can replace butter with dairy-free margarine or oil and use coconut milk or a dairy-free cream substitute instead of cream. These modifications allow individuals who are lactose intolerant or following a dairy-free diet to enjoy a dairy-free version of butter chicken.
What Is Butter Chicken?
Butter chicken is a popular Indian dish known for its rich and flavorful taste. It consists of tender chicken pieces cooked in a creamy tomato-based sauce. The sauce combines spices, butter, cream, and tomatoes, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture. The dish is typically enjoyed with naan bread or rice and is loved for its balance of tangy and mildly spicy flavors.
Common Ingredients Of Dairy-Free Butter Chicken
Chicken: Mostly boneless chicken pieces are used as the main protein in dairy-free butter chicken.
Dairy-free butter or oil: Instead of traditional butter, a dairy-free butter substitute or oil adds richness and flavor to the dish.
Dairy-free cream substitute: A non-dairy cream substitute, such as coconut milk or a plant-based cream alternative, creates a creamy texture in the sauce.
Tomatoes: Fresh tomatoes or tomato puree continue to provide the tangy and slightly sweet base for the dairy-free butter chicken sauce.
Spices: The same spices like garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder are used to season the dish and infuse it with the characteristic Indian flavors.
Ginger and Garlic: These ingredients are still used to add depth and savory notes to the dairy-free butter chicken sauce.
Yogurt alternatives: Instead of traditional yogurt, dairy-free yogurt alternatives like coconut yogurt or soy yogurt can be used in the marinade to tenderize the chicken and enhance its flavor.
Fenugreek Leaves: Fenugreek leaves are still used to add their unique aroma and slightly bitter-sweet taste to the dairy-free butter chicken.
Onion: Onions are sautéed or caramelized as before, providing a savory and sweet undertone to the dish.
Dairy-Free Alternatives For Butter Chicken
Dairy-Free Butter: Replace traditional butter with dairy-free butter substitutes like plant-based margarine or oils like coconut or olive oil. These alternatives will add richness to the dish without the use of dairy.
Coconut Milk: Substitute dairy cream with canned coconut milk. It provides a creamy texture and adds coconut flavor to the sauce. Make sure to use the full-fat variety for a richer consistency.
Cashew Cream: Soak cashews in water for a few hours, then blend them with water to create a smooth cream-like consistency. Cashew cream can be used as a dairy-free substitute for cream in butter chicken, adding a creamy texture and mild nutty flavor.
Almond Milk or Oat Milk: If you prefer a lighter alternative, use unsweetened almond or oat milk instead of dairy cream. While these options may not provide the same richness as coconut milk or cashew cream, they can still add a creamy element to the dish.
Dairy-Free Yogurt: Opt for dairy-free yogurt alternatives like coconut yogurt, soy yogurt, or almond yogurt. These can be used in the marinade to tenderize the chicken and add flavor without traditional dairy yogurt.
Dairy-Free Butter Chicken Recipe
- 500 grams of boneless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons dairy-free butter or oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
- 2 tomatoes, pureed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dairy-free cream substitute (such as coconut milk or cashew cream)
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek leaves
- Salt to taste
- Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
- Heat the dairy-free butter or oil over medium heat in a large skillet or pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it becomes translucent.
- Add the minced garlic and grated ginger to the pan and sauté for another minute until fragrant.
- Add the tomato puree and tomato paste to the pan, stirring well. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Add the garam masala, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, chili powder, and salt. Stir to combine the spices with the tomato mixture.
- Add the chicken pieces to the pan and coat them with the sauce. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked.
- Stir in the dairy-free cream substitute and fenugreek leaves. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for another 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water or more dairy-free cream substitute to achieve the desired consistency.
- Once the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened to your liking, remove it from the heat.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
- Serve the dairy-free butter chicken with rice or naan bread, and enjoy!
Note: Feel free to adjust the spices and seasonings according to your preferences.
Is Restaurant-Bought Butter Chicken Dairy-Free?
Restaurant-bought butter chicken is typically not dairy-free as it traditionally contains dairy ingredients like butter and cream. However, you can request customization to make it dairy-free by following these steps:
Inquire with the restaurant: Contact the restaurant in advance or speak with the staff to inquire if they can accommodate your dairy-free request. Some restaurants may be able to modify the dish to meet your dietary needs.
Substitute dairy ingredients: Ask the restaurant if they can replace the butter with a dairy-free alternative, such as plant-based margarine or oil. Additionally, request them to substitute dairy cream with dairy-free alternatives like coconut milk or a cashew cream substitute.
Confirm the marinade: Butter chicken often includes yogurt in the marinade. Request the restaurant to use dairy-free yogurt alternatives, such as coconut yogurt or soy yogurt, to tenderize the chicken while keeping it dairy-free.
Communicate dietary restrictions: Communicate your dairy-free dietary restrictions to the restaurant staff, ensuring they know the importance of avoiding dairy-containing ingredients or cross-contamination while preparing your dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Butter Chicken Spice-Mix Dairy-Free?
The spice mix used in butter chicken is typically dairy-free. It consists of a blend of spices like garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder, which are all plant-based ingredients. However, checking the specific spice mix or reading the ingredient list to ensure no added dairy products or potential cross-contamination with dairy is always a good idea.
Is Butter Chicken Vegan?
Traditional butter chicken is not vegan as it typically contains chicken as the main protein and dairy products like butter and cream in the sauce.
Is Butter Chicken Vegetarian?
Traditional butter chicken is not vegetarian as it contains chicken as the main protein.
Is Butter Chicken Lactose-Free?
Butter chicken is not inherently lactose-free as it traditionally includes dairy products like butter and cream. However, lactose-free versions can be made using lactose-free butter substitutes and dairy-free cream alternatives such as coconut milk or cashew cream. It is important to check the labels of individual ingredients to ensure they are lactose-free.