Butternut Squash Better Butter Chicken, elevates the flavors of an all-time favorite dish amongst many with the addition of velvety sweetness and nuttiness of the butternut squash. The spices of this dish will take you on an exotic journey of flavor and spices beyond your imagination!
Song of the day! “Pallo Latke” by Shadi Mein Zaroor Aana, Rajkummar & Kriti, Yasser Desai & Fazilpuria.
Butternut Squash Better Butter Chicken is a dish with beautiful spice blends tantalizing your taste buds in such beautiful ways. The flow of coconut milk helping to ease the heat and making it so rich and flavorful adding such complexity and richness to simple chicken bites.
Butternut Squash in Butter Chicken?
Well, if any of you know me, I am always thinking outside the box. How did I come to use the squash in an Indian classic? Well, I just had a butternut squash laying around the kitchen and I have been craving butter chicken so much lately. Don’t you just love the richness of the crimson sauce with the ghee and yogurt, all those exotic spices just ‘schmoozing’ the chicken in a sultry and sensual way? I know I love it, especially with some naan to sop up all that good sauce.
So back to the squash, I kept thinking about the flavors of the squash and how I thought in my mind that it would play so well with the spices and flavor notes of the butter chicken. So not to waste a good creative idea, I am running with it, that’s my story and I am sticking to it. I hope I am not offending anyone by playing with the recipe. I am not calling it authentic Indian. It is only my playful creative self wanting to bring to manifestation all the joyful ideas, and most of all think of ways so food does not get wasted, because that would be a shame. Let’s think of the butternut squash and how it worked very hard to grow and mature and be ready for us to use with the aid of a loving grower who put all the passion and knowledge, plus labor giving us wonderful things to eat. Now, that’s what I call awareness. So, having said all that, I think the squash is honored to be a part of this beautiful and oh so delicious Butternut Squash Better Butter Chicken!
I like to be organized and ready with a dish like this. Having the ingredients all ready makes the process very enjoyable which translates into great energy to infuse this recipe with. I truly believe that what you are feeling goes into your food. Have you ever noticed sometimes when you eat in a restaurant and the food looks good but it does not sit well in your stomach? I think that the cooks were having a stressful night or were not in great moods and all that went into the dishes they prepared. All I have to say is beware of how you are feeling when in the kitchen creating, and thank goodness for maalox, lol.
So back to our recipe. With all the ingredients ready, the only thing that I did the night before was to marinate the chicken. This way it had plenty of time to familiarize itself with all the other participants, and not only that, but it helps tenderize the chicken. The marinade is a combination of garam masala, garlic paste, ginger paste, bay leaf, yogurt, oil, salt, and of course the chicken, usually the breasts, but if you are a dark meat person I personally think the boneless skinless thigh work well and have so much flavor and tenderness.
The next step is to create the sauce which is not difficult at all.
- First, heat up some ghee which is just clarified butter that can be easily found at an Indian market or store near you. If you do not have an Indian store, just use butter and melt it with a bit of oil.
- Before getting into the sauce stage I sauteed the marinated chicken until I started to see the edges brown and caramelize. With the ghee getting hot, in go some nicely chopped onions and cubed squash; at this point, I like adding the spices of freshly crushed coriander, chili powder, garam masala, cumin. I must warn you to stand back a bit because the fragrance is quite potent and if it gets into your nose can cause some extensive sneezing. Another thing to remember is if you touched the spices with your fingers do not, I mean DO NOT touch your eyes or rub them, you will look like an emotional mess within seconds seemingly crying with tears running profusely down your cheeks.
- So, when you have all the spices in and the onions are nice and soft and those cubes of squash have a beautiful golden crust forming on the surface, coated with what is now a spice paste, this is when you want to pour in your crushed tomatoes. I used a wonderful Italian D.O.P. San Marzano which I thought would bring some nice sweetness and acidity to the mix. The reason why this stage is so important is that the spices are releasing all their flavor and when the tomatoes go in, it seals all that fragrance capturing it in a lovely waltz of spice and puree.
By all means, the aromas are amazing. I feel like I am in the streets of Dehli, the noise of the bartering of selling and buying. The horn honking and shouting, the bicycle bells ringing, and also some of that oh so beautiful music with its exotic rhythms as background noise. Imagining all that from just a little butter sauce aroma, pretty amazing huh! lol. I like being humorous, it is good medicine and the only side effects are sore muscles at the back of your head from smiling too much!
- Finally, the last ingredient is coconut milk. Some people use whipping (heavy) cream and that is also good, but I love that coconut flavor and how it adds that wonderful sweet richness to a spicy heated sauce. Oh, I almost forgot! Don’t forget to put your chicken in and now just patience and time to stew and get all elevated in flavor.
- While it is stewing, I made up some basmati rice. I was looking for some saffron as I love the tinge of color that it gives to the rice and how that looks so lovely with the deep color of the butter sauce. I also decided to whip up some naan and I cooked it on a pizza stone, the closest thing I have to a tandoori oven and I have to admit, it does work quite well and I achieved some nice color on the naan. Now, what all of us have been waiting for.
Time to TASTE!
I break off some naan and scoop up a morsel of chicken and some sauce. It is so creamy and velvety and the fragrance alone has my mouth watering. I can’t stand it….. in it goes. Oh, my, WOW, all those spices, the coriander, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, they are having so much fun on my tongue. There is some heat but not to the point of feeling like someone is holding a blow torch on your tongue. It is subtle and at first, it hits you, but then it subsides. The sauce with the combination of the tomatoes and coconut milk is such a luxurious experience and you can taste a bit of the acidity from the yogurt and marinade of the chicken. The squash comes in delightfully with its sweet starchiness and added butter nuttiness. Oh, those pieces of chicken are just melting in my mouth and that ghee sure adds such a wonderful richness and substantial component to the whole dish. The basmati is a perfect match with this Butternut Squash Better Butter Chicken not forgetting the naan, with those charred and soft stretchy bits that work so well as a spoon to scoop up all the deliciousness of this dish.
India holds a dear place in my heart and one day we are going so we can experience the culture and food first hand. It will be a dream come true and if it is anything like my dreams of India, you will be able to see my smile for miles and miles!
Make one night Indian night and serve up this incredibly luxurious Butternut Squash Better Butter Chicken. Be prepared to be swept away on an exotic journey of imagination and food!
Butternut Squash Better Butter Chicken, elevates the flavors of an all-time favorite dish amongst many with the addition of the velvety sweetness and nuttiness of the butternut squash. The spices of this dish will take you on an exotic journey of flavor and spices beyond your imagination!
- 1 lb of boneless chicken breast cut into bite-size chunks
- 2 tablespoons garam masala
- 1 tsp yellow curry powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Pinch of salt and white pepper
Butternut Butter Chicken Sauce:
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 butternut squash peeled and cubed
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 1/2 tsp ginger paste
- 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 1/2 tsp crushed coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 large can of coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed fenugreek leaves
- salt and white pepper to taste
- In a bowl whisk together garam masala, cumin, yellow curry, turmeric, garlic paste, ginger paste, yogurt, salt, and white pepper.
- Throw in chicken breast chunks and mix well until chicken is well coated. Throw in a bay leaf and mix again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, heat up some vegetable oil in a saute pan on med to high heat and fry up chicken until it starts to brown and caramelize, about 15 minutes. Stir constantly as to not let it burn. Take off heat and set aside.
Butternut Butter Chicken Sauce:
- In a deep saute pan or pot heat up ghee. Toss in onions and butternut squash cubes and saute until onions start to soften about 5 minutes.
- Toss in garlic paste and ginger paste and stir well, then sprinkle in garam masala, chili powder, crushed coriander, turmeric, cumin, salt, and white pepper and stir well until onions and squash are well coated and spices for a paste. You will also see a crust forming on the surface of the squash.
- Toss in crushed tomatoes and stir. Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Pour in coconut milk and sprinkle with fenugreek leaves and stir.
- I transferred it to a tajine to cook it in the oven on low heat.
- Cook in the oven for about 1 hour.
- While the Butternut Squash Better Butter Chicken is cooking, you can prepare some basmati rice. Just follow the instructions on the packaging.
If you want it less spicy use less chili powder. It is very strong, so beware, too much could make it unbearable to eat.
- If you want, you can substitute whipping (heavy) cream instead of coconut milk.
When frying the chicken be careful because the marinade could burn easily. Turn it frequently and keep an eye on it.
If you cannot find the fenugreek leaves it can be omitted.