I’ve finally found a basic butter chicken sauce recipe that I’ve tweaked and am very happy with. I love how flexible it is. Adjust to taste! I used it to make butter chicken meatballs for a work event. I liked them so much I made them at least three or four times over the holidays.


It’s more sanitary to make the sauce first so your meatballs aren’t sitting around for too long. Don’t be afraid to get creative and adjust the recipe to your tastes. It may take a few tries to find the right heat balance. Speaking of heat, the first time I did it I only did ¼ tsp degi mirch and one jalapeño pepper and there was basically no heat. The second time I did ½ tsp degi mirch and two jalapeños and it was at the limit of my personal tolerance. I now do ½ tsp degi mirch and only one jalapeño and it’s pretty much perfect for me. Your taste will vary.

  • 1 cup butter, divided
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1–2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground tumeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼–½ tsp cayenne pepper or a milder pepper like Kashmiri (degi mirch; my preference)
  • ⅔ cup chicken broth
  • 1–3 tbsp tomato paste (I prefer a stronger tomato base, so I use half a small can)
  • 1½ cup heavy cream

I like to dice everything before I start. You’ll want a decent sized pot.

  1. Melt a portion of the butter in the pot (just enough so the onions don’t burn) and add the onions. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until the onions start to brown. Add more butter as necessary. (If you put all the butter in at the start, the onions will never brown.)

  2. Add the remaining butter, tomatoes, jalapeños, and spices. Cook until the jalapeños are soft, about 10 minutes.

  3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 15–20 minutes.

  4. Add the tomato paste and then purée the mixture. I prefer to do this right away in the pot using an immersion blender. Alternatively, you can let it cool for maybe 20 minutes and then transfer it to a standing blender.

  5. Return the puréed sauce to the pot, stir in the cream, and let simmer for another 5 minutes


Depending on how big you make the balls, I’ve gotten anywhere from 40 to 60.

  • 3 pounds ground turkey (my preference) or chicken
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp tandoori masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (if you want a little kick) or a milder chili pepper like Kashmiri (degi mirch; my preference)
  • 2–3 tbsp minced fresh herb like cilantro or 1 tbsp of something dried; I have been using dried kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves)

Preparation is simple: combine everything in a bowl, shape into balls of desired size, and sear in an oiled pan.

Now just put the meatballs in a greased crockpot, cover with the sauce, and cook on low for 3–4 hours. The internal temperature of the meatballs (whether chicken or turkey) should be 165°F.

Serve with rice and any number of vegetable sides I talk about in my other posts on Indian cooking .