Butter chicken is a creamy buttery Indian gravy dish with a hint of tartness that is perfect for any special occasion. The vegan chicken I am using in this recipe is the seitan made with a hint of Indian spices. The buttery gravy has sweetness from the cashews and cream; and tartness from the lime and tomatoes. Let us dive into this seitan butter chicken recipe.
Let us not undermine the fact that this is a tedious recipe. I suggest you make the seitan a day ahead or days ahead in a big batch and use over the course of time in numerous recipes. Vegan chicken tikka, vegan chicken sandwich, vegan fried chicken, vegan chicken momos, etc. to name a few.
Please note that this recipe is not vegan, but just meat free butter chicken recipe, a vegetarian recipe.
Sometimes, I bulk cook the gravy and use it with paneer, tofu, cauliflower, or seitan.
Or do the other way around. Make the gravy ahead of time.
This recipe has the following 4 steps
- Making seitan
- Marination and searing of seitan
- Making curry/ gravy
- Combining the chicken and curry.
Making Seitan: our vegan chicken for the recipe
- While making seitan we need to take care not to add water beforehand. Just combine all the ingredients and if the dough feels very hard, then add one or two tablespoon of water. The dough will quickly come together and it will be difficult to knead further. This is because of the high gluten content.
- So, for dividing the dough either we can use a knife or simply twist and break with the hands. Breaking the dough with hands gives it an irregular shape which looks like real chicken. Also, take care to make small pieces, as they will double in size as they steam. With this recipe, we will go for 14-16 balls.
- If one has no steamer step up: Simply bring water to a boil in a pan and put the seitan balls in it. Cover and let it cook while simmering. Take care to maintain the boil in the water. It will take 40-45 minutes, given that we make 14-16 small sized balls. But irrespective of what method we use, it is always a good idea to take out a piece and slice through it to check if it is cooked through.
- The only disadvantage of boiling in that our seitan balls will lose some salt and aroma of the spices. Take care to make up for that in the marinade.
Marination and searing the chicken
- I prefer to use hung curd. To make hung curd, I take full-fat curd ( or plain yogurt) and place it in a nut milk bag or cheese-cloth ( any similar cloth )and press to remove all the whey. Then I hang it overnight in a hook and let all the water drop.
- If you cannot wait for that long. Just gently press the water out by squeezing and use the thick curd.
- Using Mustard oil is customary in butter chicken and tikka dishes. It gives an earthy flavor to the marinade. You can certainly substitute it with any other cooking oil. But try to follow the recipe step where it is required to heat the oil and add turmeric and chili powder to it. Take care to quickly transfer it sizzling hot to the marinade mixture to avoid burning the spices. This step is essential to extract the red color from the chilies and yellow color from the turmeric. This step will ensure the reddish-orange marinade which is characteristic of chicken tikka. It also imparts the smokiness to the marinade.
Making curry for the seitan butter chicken
- Making good curry is the most crucial part of this recipe. Though all the spices mentioned are essential, but do not get intimidated by the list of whole spices. Use what you have in hand.
- Straining the blended curry is very essential for that characteristic creamy silky butter chicken curry.
- Not to forget that we have added a lot of whole spices in the curry
- and we don’t want their coarse spicy bits to hit our palate. So, remove the whole spices before blending.
- Also, be careful while adding the powdered spices. When the oil is hot, and the flame is high they can easily burn. So always reduce the flame before adding the powdered spices. Give them a quick stir and add the strained curry.
- If you don’t feel confident in adding spices directly to the hot oil, simply put the curry first and then add the powdered spices. In this case, we need to take care to cook the curry long enough so that the spices are cooked. Especially turmeric. Raw turmeric flavor can ruin the curry.
- Always cook the curry at low flame and keep stirring in between. Also, take care to keep it covered all the time. Stay safe of the bubbling curry. Reduce the heat to the lowest before opening the lid.
- If the curry becomes thick, add warm water to fix the consistency of the curry.
When we have the buttery curry ready, all we need o do is cook the seared seitan in the curry to form, the buttery seitan butter chicken.
Combining the chicken and curry to create the seitan butter chicken
- When the curry is ready, add the chicken ( seitan) pieces. Cook the seitan chicken pieces in the curry so that they absorb the goodness of the curry.
- Balance the flavors of the curry according to your taste . Give it a taste test towards the end. Sometimes the tomatoes in season are very sweet. And we know that tomatoes are the base of our curry. So to counter sweetness you may add a teaspoon of lime juice. Also, if the tomatoes are sour and you feel that the overall curry is tart to your palate, add half a teaspoon of sugar or add more cream.
Seitan Butter chicken
For making seitan
- 1 cup Vital wheat gluten
- 2 teaspoon Besan chickpea flour
- ⅓ cup Yogurt
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Roasted cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon Lime juice
- 2 teaspoon Oil
For making Seitan marinade
- ½ cup Hung curd
- ⅓ cup Roasted chickpea flour
- 1 tablespoon Lime juice – 1 tbsp
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- ½ teaspoon Red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
- 2 teaspoon Mustard oil
- Oil for greasing and searing
Whole spices For curry
- 1 piece Cardamom stick
- 2 Greater cardamom seeds removed and coarsely crushed
- 1 Green cardamom seeds removed and coarsely crushed
- 4-5 Black peppercorns
- 2 Cloves
Powder spices for curry
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Degi Mirch powder
- 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon Garam masala
- ½ teaspoon Salt as per taste
Others ingredients for curry
- 1 large Onion coarsely chopped
- 5-6 cloves Garlic
- 4-5 medium Tomato diced or a can of diced tomatoes
- 6 Cashew nuts
- 4 tablespoon Butter
- 2 teaspoon Oil
- 2 teaspoon Ginger grated
- 2 tablespoon Fresh cream
- In a bowl add all the ingredients and knead to make a dough. Yogurt and lime juice will provide enough water to knead the dough. If needed add 1-2 tablespoon of water.
- Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- In the meantime prepare a steamer.
- Divide the dough into irregularly shaped pieces by breaking and twisting with your hands. Take care not to make very big pieces as they will double in size on cooking. Make 14-16 balls.
- Place them on the steamer basket and steam for about 45 minutes.
- Once done, take them out and let cool.
- In a pan dry roast chickpea flour at low heat. Roast it to a point where it becomes aromatic. It should take 6-7 minutes
- Once the chickpea flour cools, transfer it into a bowl and add hung curd, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
- Heat the mustard oil in a small pan. When it starts to smoke, turn off the flame and add turmeric and red chili powder.
- Pour the oil into the bowl and mix everything well.
- Add the seitan to the marinade. Cut it into smaller pieces if you need to.
- Coat them well and let them marinate for at least half an hour.
Searing the seitan
- Heat a grill pan. Grease it with cooking oil and sear the seitan pieces for 1-2 minutes on each side.
- When done, keep them aside and start working on the curry.
Butter Chicken Curry and combining the curry and seitan
- In a pan add 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil.
- Add all the whole spices and let them infuse the water with their aroma and flavor. Give them 2-3 minutes.
- Now add coarsely diced onion and tomatoes. Also, add garlic and cashew nuts.
- Put 2 tablespoon of butter and cover the pan.
- Let it cook for 10-15 minutes till tomatoes start to become mushy.
- Turn off the flame and let it cool a bit.
- Once cooled,( remove the whole spices that you can ) transfer into a blender and blend to make a smooth paste.
- Sieve the blended paste to remove all the whole spices bits and tomato peels. You will get a silky smooth gravy.
- Now, heat the same pan and add oil and butter at the same time.
- As the butter melts, add grated ginger. Sauté it for a minute and reduce the flame to low.
- Add all the powdered spices and give them a quick stir. Quickly add the gravy and mix well.
- Add ½ cup of water and cover the pan. Let it cook for about 10 minutes at low heat.
- Now add the fresh cream and let simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. At this stage, fix the consistency of the curry by adding more water if needed.
- Add the vegan chicken or seitan pieces to the butter chicken curry.
- Cook everything at low flame for 5-6 minutes.
- Take out in a serving bowl and serve hot with naan or steamed rice.