Kosher “Butter” Chicken

I recently attended a Metro Minyan shabbat dinner, at which an Indian buffet dinner was served.  As I was waiting in line, the person behind me commented, “This food looks fantastic, but it’s too bad they can’t serve butter chicken.  That’s my favorite.”  Challenge accepted.

Replacing butter as the key ingredient of a dish like this was, in fact, a bit of a challenge.  I wanted to preserve the richness and the creaminess and not just end up with an oily mess.  I settled on coconut oil as a butter substitute for its luxurious flavor.  Since butter contains natural emulsifiers, I added a bit of cornstarch.  Instead of marinating the chicken in yogurt, I used lemon juice to make it tender.  Finally, I used coconut creamer instead of heavy cream to round out the dish.  It’s not quite the same as the original, but it’s pretty close!

Total time: 50 min.

Yield: 2 servings

Level: Easy


© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.


  • 3 medium skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ginger, mashed
  • 1 tsp garlic, mashed
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into 2 pieces
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods, partially crushed
  • 1 ½ cups tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 tsps dry fenugreek leaves, finely crushed*
  • 2 tsps coconut creamer
  • Salt to taste


Cut chicken into 2” pieces.  Mix ginger, garlic, and lemon juice and pour over chicken, making sure all pieces have some of the marinade.  Set aside for ½ an hour.

When the chicken is ready, heat the coconut oil in a 3-quart pot over medium heat.  When it begins to warm, add the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.  Saute for about 1 minute.

Add the chicken pieces, along with the marinade, to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every minute.

Pre-mix the cornstarch with the water.  Add that and the tomato puree to the pot.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once.

Stir in the creamer, fenugreek, and salt.  Cook covered for another 5 minutes.  This dish works well served over basmati rice.


*Fenugreek is the most important ingredient of this dish.  If you can’t find it in a regular supermarket or Whole Foods, try an Indian specialty store or online.

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