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This rich and warming cashew butter chicken is as good as it gets! By using cashews instead of cream, this recipe is as rich and creamy as any restaurant-style butter chicken, but it's so much healthier for you. Savory, mildly sweet, and creamy notes meld together with a blend of warming spices and tender bites of chicken. It's easy to make, naturally dairy-free, and delicious!
This dairy-free Indian dinner is one of those easy dinner recipes that is perfect to keep in your back pocket. Reliable, comforting, warming curry is always a winner, and this healthy rendition tastes like restaurant-style butter chicken. Whether you're rushing around with all the back-to-school prep going on, craving a warm and comforting dinner, or want delicious leftovers for lunch, this recipe's got your back!
Comforting butter chicken has never been this good for you! Blended cashews are liquid gold for this recipe. This is everything you need:
- Cashew nuts: Omit the heavy cream without giving up on the creamy, velvety consistency. Cashew pieces are less expensive than whole cashews and work well in this recipe.
- Oil: To cook the chicken and saute the onion.
- Boneless chicken: The star protein that soaks up the rich flavors of the cashew-based butter chicken sauce. Use chicken thighs or chicken breasts.
- Onion: Adds depth and sweet undertones.
- Garlic and ginger: For savory and zesty notes.
- Crushed tomatoes: Add a burst of freshness and a little tang.
- Brown sugar or coconut sugar: Balances the flavors.
- From the spice rack: Garam masala, ground turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, cardamom pods, and sea salt.
How to make cashew butter chicken
This recipe is as simple as blending cashews into a cashew cream, cooking the chicken, and making the sauce. These are the instructions:
- Make cashew cream: Blend cashews and water until smooth. Don't clean your blender yet!
- Brown the chicken: Cook the chicken on both sides until it browns up, then chop it into bite-sized chicken pieces.
- Make the sauce: Sauté and stir the onion, then add garlic and ginger. Next, throw in the spices, toasting them before adding the tomatoes. Give it a whirl in your blender to make it creamy.
- Throw it together: Pour the curry back into the pan, add the blended cashews, chicken, water, and brown sugar. Bring it to a boil, letting the flavors meld together, then leave it to simmer. Enjoy!
Tips for making cashew butter chicken
- Cashews: Make sure they're blended until smooth. If you don't have a high-powered blender, soak them in water to make them softer and easier to blend. You can also run the cream through a sieve to make sure no gritty bits get through.
- Onions: Caramelize the onions and let them brown well to bring out a sweet undertone.
- Spices: While the onions brown, combine all the spices in a small bowl for a quick and easy addition.
- Rice: If you're enjoying your cashew butter chicken with rice, start the basmati rice first. The rice will finish before the cashew butter chicken is done, so remove it from the heat to the side until everything else is complete.
What to serve with cashew butter chicken
Finish the meal off with a mango chia pudding for dessert.
Can I substitute cashew butter for the blended cashews?
That is possible. Start with less, ⅓ – ½ cup, and add more as needed. You can add more to make it thicker or add water to thicken it. The cashew butter will thicken as it cooks. And remember that cashew butter is made with roasted cashews so it will add a slightly roasted flavor to the curry.
Can I store leftovers?
Yes, this is one of those recipes that somehow tastes even better the next day! Keep your leftover cashew butter chicken in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to three months in freezer bags.
Can I adjust the level of spice?
Yes, this cashew butter chicken uses minimal chili powder for mild heat, so feel free to add more. Or add some red chilies while cooking the ginger and garlic if you like it spicier.
How would I make a vegetarian version?
To make a vegetarian version, use tofu in place of the chicken. Cut it into cubes and fry it until the edges are crispy.
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons oil (divided)
- 1 lb boneless chicken thighs or breasts
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 5 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2 inch piece of ginger (peeled and chopped)
- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
- Sea salt (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ to 1 teaspoon chili powder (depending how spicy you like it)
- Seeds from 4 cardamom pods
- Place the cashews and 1 ½ cups of water into your blender or food processor and blend on high until completely smooth. Pour into a bowl and set it aside. Don't clean your blender yet – you'll need it again.1 ½ cups raw cashews
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until it is brown on both sides, about 10 minutes total. You don't need to cook the chicken all the way through. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.1 lb boneless chicken thighs or breasts
- While the chicken is browning, start cooking the curry. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and let it cook for 5 minutes more.1 medium onion, 5 cloves garlic, 2 inch piece of ginger
- Add the spices to the onions and let them cook for a minute, stirring the whole time. Pour the tomatoes into the pan and scrape the bottom of the pan. Carefully transfer to your blender and blend on high until smooth.28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 1 tablespoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ to 1 teaspoon chili powder, Seeds from 4 cardamom pods
- Pour the curry back into the pan, add the blended cashews, the chopped chicken, ½ cup of water, and the brown sugar. Bring the curry to a boil then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it cook for 10 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt.2 tablespoons brown sugar, Sea salt
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.