Butter Chicken Recipe - Cooking from Coconut Lagoon's Cookbook

Coconut Lagoon Butter Chicken Recipe
butter chicken in a handmade pottery bowl on rice, with pappadams to the right and basmati rice to the left
Butter Chicken Recipe from Coconut Lagoon's Cookbook

We loved the Shrimp Mango Curry that we cooked from Coconut Lagoon's cookbook that we actually made the dish two more times over the month of September! Another recipe that everyone will surely want to try from Chef Joe Thottungal's cookbook is the Butter Chicken. As mentioned in my last post, the Coconut Lagoon cookbook celebrates Chef Joe's cooking journey that led him to open a restaurant in Ottawa, which celebrates the food from his homeland, Kerala located in Southern India. Kerala food focuses more on seafood, agriculture and spices. Rice, fish, and coconut typically dominate the cuisine. Kerala spices are typically peppercorns with mustard seeds, curry leaves with cinnamon, chilies, cardamom and cloves, kudampuli, and tumeric.

Writer (Beyond Umami) Lillian with her husband Dan and chef Joe Thottungal in between at the book launch of Coconut Lagoon
Dan and I with Chef Joe at Coconut Lagoon's cookbook launch
In his book, Chef Joe talks about how butter chicken is really a north Indian dish and that Coconut Lagoon is a south Indian restaurant. However, after many years he finally put Butter Chicken on the menu as his son Matthew claims that butter chicken is his favourite. This recipe for Butter Chicken is dedicated to his son.
Butter chicken in a bowl with pappadums to the right

In terms of preparation, gathering the ingredients for this recipe was fairly easy. If you are uncertain about buying a huge quantity of spices, bulk stores would be a good place to shop (e.g. Bulk Barn). Though, we found some pretty inexpensive prices at Superstore/Loblaws for coriander and chili powder. The one tricky part was actually finding a good price for cashew nuts!

You do need to pre-marinate the chicken with yogurt, chili powder, tumeric, salt and oil the night before. This actually helps the chicken taste tender when cooked.
Butter Chicken in a pot while cooking
Butter Chicken cooking away

Butter Chicken Recipe (Serves 4-6) Gluten-free
  • 2 cups raw cashew nuts
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus extra to taste
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1  1/2 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste (recipe below)
  • 1  1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1  1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1  1/2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala
  • 3 cups milk
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Ginger-Garlic Paste (Makes ½ cup) Dairy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian
  • 1 (4-inch) piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 10 cloves garlic

Using a dish towel, pat ginger dry and transfer it to a mini food processor (or use a mortar and

Add garlic and 2 Tbsp water and process until smooth, wiping down the sides of the food
processor as required. Stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Butter Chicken Directions
In a saucepan, combine cashews and 4 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce
heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until nuts have softened. Strain and set aside to cool. Transfer
to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, yogurt, chili powder, turmeric, salt, and oil and mix well until
chicken pieces are fully coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place chicken on prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until par-cooked.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Reduce
heat to medium. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in coriander,
cooking for 1 more minute.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp cashew paste, sugar,
fenugreek leaves, cumin, and chaat masala and cook for 1 minute. (Leftover cashew paste can
be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.) Add chicken and milk and bring
to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through but still
juicy and tender. Season with salt to taste.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

Basmati Rice
  • 2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
Rinse Rice Well, at least 3-4 times, until the water runs clear. Put rice, salt, lemon juice, and oil in a large saucepan, add 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil, stirring to prevent rice from sticking.

Reduce head to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 12-15 minutes until rice is cooked. Remove from heat and set aside, covered, for another 8-10 minutes. Remove lid and fluff the grains with a fork. Serve immediately. 
Butter chicken served with Basmati Rice and Pappadums 
We really enjoyed making this Butter Chicken recipe and the directions were easy to follow. I did cut down the amount of cashew nuts we cooked to 1 cup since only 2 Tablespoons are needed for this recipe. I also used fenugreek seeds (which we added in while cooking ginger-garlic paste and onions) since I couldn't find fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi). Serving Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice is important as the rice helps to absorb all that delicious flavours and sauce. The chicken was also super tender as it is initially parcooked and then cooked again with the rest of the spices. 

If you enjoy Butter Chicken as much as I do then make this recipe! We also really liked the Shrimp Mango Curry (pictured below). You can find Chef Thottungal's cookbook Coconut Lagoon at any major publishing outlets such as Chapters, Indigo and Amazon. 

Excerpts from Coconut Lagoon by Joe Thottungal. Copyright © 2019 Coconut Lagoon. Published by Figure1 Publishing Inc. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


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  3. I made this recipe and absolutely loved it. There is however one mystery. The recipe calls for 2 cups of cashews in the ingredient list, yet in the instructions you only use 2tbs of the of the paste. When I made it I had a lot of leftover paste which I wasn't able to use. Did you have the same issue?

  4. Yes in the cookbook he talks about keeping it in an airtight container and using it for other recipes. If you read my own notes above I cut it down to only 1 cup as only 2 tbsp is used. If I did this again I would consider cutting down to mahbe 1/2 a cup? Or just make a lot!! Leftovers for days :)


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