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South Indian Butter Chicken

“Mallu” Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken is a known North Indian dish. As a South Indian/Malayalee cook, though, I had to wonder what would happen if I put a spin on it using flavors I grew up using. With ingredients like coconut, cardamom, and, my favorite spice blend, meat masala, this dish might be a new favorite. It’s like a cross between Butter Chicken and Ghee Roast Chicken. My childhood didn’t consist of dishes like homestyle Butter Chicken, but I’ve had it at restaurants. Yes, this lone experience doesn’t give this or any recipe justice. After all, nothing beats the taste of a homestyle meal. In any case, I hope you find familiarity in the taste of this “Mallu Butter Chicken” recipe as you cook it.

One note about my meat masala spice blend. The flavor that comes with roasting and grinding spices fresh is worth it. My blend for meat masala varies, but refer to the recipe notes under my beef ularthiyathu recipe for how to make it. You can also buy my meat masala here.

As I made the sauce and layered on its flavor, I was reminded by something my mom always said. “If you’re going to cook, cook with love because people taste when you’re in an off mood.” I keep this in mind especially when I cook recipes that require a little extra time.

As always, if you have any questions about my recipes, cooking tips, or anything reach out to me on Instagram @thefamiliarkitchen. Tag me to show me how this Mallu Butter Chicken recipe turned out for you! P.S. you should totally try this with a side of my Kerala Fried Rice!

"Mallu" Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken is a classic North Indian dish, but, as a South Indian/Malayalee, I contemplated what would happen if I took a Kerala spin on the dish. With notes of coconut and cardamom, it's a creamy delight!
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: butter chicken, South Indian Food
Author: Ann Ittoop


  • Chicken Thighs, 5lbs
  • Coconut oil, 4 tbsp (for frying chicken)



  • Ghee, 4 tbsp
  • Black Mustard Seeds, 2 tsp
  • Cumin Seeds, 1 tsp
  • Curry Leaves, 2 sprigs
  • Onions, 2, thinly sliced
  • Ginger, 2”, minced
  • Garlic, 20, minced
  • Meat Masala*, 2 tbsp
  • Peeled Tomatoes, 28oz can
  • Cherry Tomatoes, 14 oz can
  • Coconut Milk, 2 cups
  • Red Chili Powder, 1 tbsp
  • Crushed Methi/Fenugreek Leaves, 1 tbsp
  • Amchur (dry mango powder), 1 tbsp
  • Salt, 2-3 tsp


Marinate the chicken

  • I love to use chicken thighs as its a more tender piece of meat, but you can use boneless chicken breast, too. I trim the excess fat of the chicken and then clean with water an lemon juice and pat it completely dry. Then I add all of the marinade ingredients to a bowl and mix thoroughly. Wrap the bowl in plastic or aluminium and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Roast the chicken

  • After the chicken has marinated it's time to roast/pan-fry the meat. In a deep skillet on medium-high heat, add the coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, pan-fry the chicken in batches (do not overcrowd the pan). Cook each side of the chicken for 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is browned and just about cooked in the center (it will cook further in the sauce). Transfer the chicken to a lined bowl or baking sheet and set aside.

Make the sauce

  • In the same deep skillet on medium-high heat, add the ghee. Once the ghee is hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds pop, add in the onions. Saute the onions/constantly mix in the pan until they become lightly golden in color. *TIP: Add a 1/2 tsp of salt and sugar to help sweat out the onions. Once the onions are lightly golden, saute the garlic and ginger until the rawness of each goes away.
    As soon as the ginger and garlic are done cooking, quickly mix in the meat masala and then follow with the tomatoes/cherry tomatoes. Reduce the heat the medium and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Once the tomatoes have softened, use an immersion blender to puree the tomatoes. (If you do not have an immersion blender, wait until the tomatoes cool and then use a blender to puree the sauce).

Combine it all

  • Once the tomato sauce is pureed, add the remaining ingredients along with the roasted chicken. Cook this for about 5-6 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked and the coconut milk incorporates into the sauce. Check for salt and done!

South Indian Butter Chicken

Hey! My name is Ann Ittoop and I am a South Indian/American South food blogger. Growing up as a second-generation Indian-American, I got the chance to experience the best of both food worlds, oftentimes on one plate! On one hand I had Kerala staples like appam and chicken curry. On the other I had chicken and waffles. If there’s one thing that has helped me understand my identity and express both ends of my cultural upbringing, it’s most definitely food. I have a firm belief there is literally magic in the cooking process. That’s why most nights you’ll find me in the kitchen. I’m there always testing and creating new recipes that stem from my wild imagination. And I’m there searching for the familiar memories of my childhood. I started The Familiar Kitchen to not only help myself find this magic, but for those seeking a way to find their own magic. Join me on my adventures through cooking classic Kerala-inspired dishes, some of my Southern favorites, and all the recipes in between.

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