Secret Ingredient Chicken Curry

I wrote about this butter chicken recipe  a few months ago and my email box was flooded. I got a ton of messages from readers who tried and loved the recipe. I was so pleased. But the messages that stuck with me were the ones from readers who did NOT try the recipe. They wrote and wondered if they could indeed make this dish. Was it hard? What was the real secret behind the success of this dish?

The real secret?

Hmm… I found the question intriguing. How many times have you (and I) looked at something and decided we could not do it/make it/ try it because it is too hard/not for us/has to have a secret technique?

Well, it is time to be honest. This recipe does have a secret ingredient.

If you want to know what it is, see Kung Fu Panda. If you don’t want to see the movie, find a kid who has and ask them what the secret ingredient is.  If you don’t want to do that, then Google to see if you can find the movie online.

Once you find the secret ingredient, come back. Read this recipe, make it for your family and then come back and tell me how hard it was and how much easier the secret ingredient made it.

(photo by the lovely Sala Kannan (

Butter Chicken

This is my adaptation of my father’s fabulous dish. Serve this with hot steamed rice, or rice and peas (recipe below), or Indian breads such as naan. A beet salad with yogurt would be a nice side dish, then a light granita for dessert.

I added this to the SPICECAPADES section because this is, hands down, our family favorite recipes. My kids love it, their friends love it and friends of their friends love it.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

For The Chicken

1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger

1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic

2 tablespoons Indian tandoori masala (I recommend Shan brand)

1/4 cup canned tomato puree

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons melted butter or ghee*

8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (make slits in the chicken to allow the marinade to penetrate)

Salt, to taste

For The Sauce

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger

1 tablespoon peeled, minced garlic

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

Salt, to taste

1 serrano chile, finely minced

1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves*

1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, ginger, garlic, Indian tandoori masala, tomato puree, salt, lemon juice and butter. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan. Pour all remaining marinade over the chicken. Roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.

Remove the chicken from the oven and place all the pieces on a platter. Reserve the cooked marinade in a bowl.

To make the sauce, in a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly. Use the back of a spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go. Continue until the tomatoes are completely mashed and soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the reserved marinade.

Add the salt, chili pepper, fenugreek leaves and chicken and mix well. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

Add the cream and simmer for another minute. Serve hot.

*Available at Indian markets.

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