Bal Arneson’s Famous ‘No-Butter Chicken’

Butter chicken, by Canadian standards, is a heart attack waiting to happen — many recipes contain an excess amount of cream.

But Bal Arneson, host of The Spice Goddess on the Food Network, knows authentic Indian food, made without cream, can have exceptional health benefits. Her cookbook entitled “Everyday Indian,” transforms Indian recipes into nutritious, delicious dishes. A good example is her “no-butter chicken” — instead of cream she uses yogurt and spices for flavor.

“Traditionally you cook with beautiful aromatic flavorful spices. You use fresh tomatoes, fresh homemade yogurt and that makes a thick sauce, so you never need to use cream,” she says.

Yogurt contains less fat, calories and cholesterol than cream and is a typical alternative to butter or cream, says.

Arneson’s ‘no-butter chicken’ recipe also includes her two go-to spices: Tumeric powder and garam masala. Both provide flavor and have healing properties.

Turmeric, an orange-colored spice (“Don’t get it on your clothes,” Arneson advises), has a peppery flavor. It infiltrates the body’s cells and protects the body from tumors, cancer and ulcers, according to “Healthy Foodie” Doug DiPasquale. It also increases liver function, reduces pain and disinfects, Arenson says.

“At the beginning sign of cold and flu, I take a heaping tablespoon of tumeric powder and hot water and drink it in the morning,” Arneson adds.

Garam masala is a toasted blend of many spices, such as coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom and more. (See Arneson’s garam masala recipe here.)

Cloves reduce inflammation, including joint pain and sore throats, and prevents stomach cancer, WHFoods says. Cardamom has antibacterial properties and fights urinary tract infections.

After the spices have been added to the “no-butter chicken,” try including other healthy ingredients, such as zucchini, eggplant or scallops, Arneson advises.

And if you get a craving for “real” butter chicken, feel free to use whipping cream instead of yogurt. “Even I give in and indulge from time to time,” Arneson writes in her cookbook.

Bal Arenson’s No-Butter Chicken


1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp Garam Masala (page 12)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup water


Place the oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat, add the onions and saute until dark golden brown. Add the garlic and ginger, reduce the heat to medium and cook for two minutes. Add the tomato paste and cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds.

Reduce the heat to low, add the garam masala, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, turmeric and salt, and cook for two minutes. Mix in the chicken and cook until the chicken is almost done, about five to seven minutes. Add the yogurt and water and cook until the chicken is fully cooked, about five minutes. Serve it with brown rice or plain rotis.

Serves four.
Suggested wine: Gew├╝rztraminer