South Indian Butter Chicken
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"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, 5-6 pieces (roughly 4lbs)
  • Coconut oil, 4 tbsp (for frying chicken)


  • Yogurt, 1 cup
  • Ginger, 1” minced
  • Garlic, 6, minced
  • Turmeric, 2 tsp
  • Red Chili Powder, 1 tsp
  • Meat Masala*, 1 tbsp
  • Salt, 1 tbsp


  • Ghee, 3 tbsp
  • Black Mustard Seeds, 2 tsp
  • Cumin Seeds, 1 tsp
  • Green Cardamom, 5-6 pods
  • Black Cardamom Pod, 1
  • Cinnamon Stick, 1
  • Star Anise, 1
  • Curry Leaves, 2 sprigs
  • Onions, 1, thinly sliced
  • Ginger, 2”, minced
  • Garlic, 6, minced
  • Tomatoes, 3, quartered
  • Cherry Tomatoes, 5-6
  • Coconut Milk, 1 cup
  • Meat Masala*, 1 tbsp
  • 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 and lemon juice then pat it completely dry.
    Cut the chicken in bite-size chunks.
    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.
    Remove the chicken from the pan so we can make our sauce base next.

Make the sauce.

  • In the same deep skillet on medium-high heat, add the ghee.
    the ghee is hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, green and black cardamom, cinnamon stick, star anise, and curry leaves.
    Once the mustard seeds pop and curry leaves start to curl, 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, mix in all the remaining ingredients and reduce the heat the medium and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
    Once the tomatoes have softened, add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan and use an immersion blender to puree the tomatoes. (If you do not have an immersion blender, wait until the sauce completely cools and then use a blender to puree the sauce).

Combine it all.

  • Once the sauce is pureed, add the roasted chicken to the pan and pour over the sauce.
    Cook this for a few minutes to let the chicken cook in with the sauce.
    Check for salt and done! Optionally add cilantro on top for garnish.