A Classic Indian Dish Reimagined

The No-Butter, No-Cream Butter Chicken

A Classic Indian Dish Reimagined:
The No-Butter, No-Cream Butter Chicken

The Public Market Team was invited by the Bajaj family to savor a homemade Indian feast of butter chicken, daal, and naan.


A Classic Indian Dish Reimagined

Watch how Kim Bajaj and her daughter Maya whip up an extraordinary Indian feast — a delicious tradition certain to live on in the family for many years to come.

A Healthy Spin on the Classic Indian Dish: Butter Chicken …  Without the Butter!

When we arrived at the Bajaj residence, their light and airy kitchen with magnificent high ceilings was filled with the comforting aroma of Indian spices. 

Kim Bajaj warmly reminisced about her mother-in-law’s cooking prowess, 

“She measures nothing … she just throws everything in the pot, 

and it comes out magic.” 

Today, however, Kim is taking the culinary reins, offering her take on the beloved Indian classic: butter chicken. With a healthy twist, Kim’s version ditches the butter and cream, but promises an abundance of flavor.

Family Ties and Kitchen Adventures


Kim and Maya, her daughter, make a delightful duo. As Maya prepares to fly the nest for college, these shared moments in the kitchen become even more poignant. Kim emphasizes the importance of these bonding sessions, cherishing Maya’s growing confidence in cooking – a vital life skill she can carry with her.

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The ingredients they use are simple: onions, chicken breast, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and spices. While most might recognize these elements, it’s the lack of butter and cream that sets Kim’s dish apart. Despite this omission, the dish does not skimp on richness, a testament to Kim’s inventive approach.

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Honoring the Past While Looking Ahead

Traditional butter chicken is known for its creamy, indulgent texture, but Kim’s version stands out. The sautéing of aromatic ingredients like onions, garlic, and ginger provides the base. 

The spices, ranging from smoked paprika to a teasing hint of cayenne pepper, are added for that quintessential kick. 

As Kim mentions, 

“This is the time when you would add butter and cream, which 

most people do. But I don’t put either.”

Yet, the omission does not compromise taste.The dish is vibrant, flavorful, and comforting. It’s a reminder that good food doesn’t always need decadence to be delicious.

While the butter chicken simmers, Kim and Maya are busy preparing the accompaniments, including the much-loved naan (they love the kind from Trader Joe’s) and daal that was prepped the night before. 

Daal and naan are staples in the rich tapestry of Indian cuisine. Daal, derived from the Sanskrit word “dhal” meaning “to split”, refers to lentils or other pulses that have been split and often skinned. When cooked, these lentils become a flavorful, spiced stew, commonly seasoned with turmeric, cumin, garlic, and more. It’s a primary source of protein in many Indian diets and is typically served as a hearty side or main dish. 

On the other hand, naan is a soft, leavened flatbread made primarily from refined wheat flour. Kim and Maya reheat the nan on a tava, a flat disc-shaped griddle or frying pan that originates from India. Kim also gave us some pro tips, like achieving the perfect naan texture by slathering it with butter. Who doesn’t love that?!

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A tava is traditionally made of cast iron and used primarily for cooking flatbreads like naan. It can also be employed to fry foods. Due to its broad surface area and even heat distribution, the tava ensures that the bread is cooked uniformly, achieving a balance of softness on the inside with slightly crispy or charred spots on the outside.

Brushed with butter, naan is often used as a delicious utensil of sorts, perfect for scooping up daal, curries, and other saucy dishes, bringing flavors together in each bite. Both daal and naan hold significant places in Indian meals, symbolizing the harmony of nutrition and indulgence.

When plated, each dish looks delicious, hearty, yet healthy, making it clear that this meal is a labor of love.

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Kim’s gentle tease about her mother-in-law’s potential reaction to her version of butter chicken is endearing. She anticipates a giggle but hopes for pride, seeing the dish as a tribute to the lessons passed down. It’s not just about the recipe; it’s about keeping family traditions alive and fostering connections between generations.

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Rounding off the delightful culinary journey, Maya introduces her “Bara Papa,” or grandfather, showcasing the role he plays in the family’s cooking adventures. Though he may not be the primary cook, he’s always ready to assist, making him an invaluable part of the team.

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This was more than just a delicious meal, it was a story of family, love, and the magic that occurs when tradition meets innovation.


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Kim graciously shared her recipes for Butter Chicken and Daal with us, and we’d love to share them with you too.

No-Butter, No-Cream Butter Chicken 

Serving Size = 6-8


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 diced yellow onions
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 10 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (can add more depending on heat level you like)
  • 2 (14oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 lbs diced chicken breast
  • 1/2 bunch of chopped cilantro as garnish at the end


  1. Sauté onion, garlic + ginger in olive oil, add salt, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes to the pot and let it simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Then put the mixture into the blender and puree it.
  4. You can then add the mixture back to the pot and add the chicken, making sure to cover the chicken entirely.
  5. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Add chopped cilantro at the end as a garnish.

Daal (lentil dish)

Serving Size = 6-8


  • 1 cup yellow lentils
  • 4 cups water 
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic (optional)
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 diced yellow onion
  • Salt to taste


  1. Sauté onion, garlic + ginger in olive oil, add cumin seeds, coriander, turmeric, cloves, salt, and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add washed lentils + water, then stir together.
  3. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes.
  4. If making in Instapot, give 3 minutes on high pressure, then let pressure release naturally.
  5. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

“This is the time when you would add butter and cream, which most people do. But I don’t put either.”

– KIM Bajaj

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