It’s time for some comfort food! I have a friend from India who makes the best curries ever and honestly I’m so lucky I get to eat all the amazing, authentic food he makes. I could never replicate that authenticity, but this is my take on an Indian Butter Chicken. This is my Pumpkin Butter Chicken Thighs because I love pumpkin and it’s wintertime, the season for yummy comfort food with a little bit of carbs and protein thrown in the mix.
Traditionally, Butter Chicken is basically chicken being simmered in an aromatic, buttery, creamy tomato sauce, but there are numerous ways to make this dish. Adding pumpkin just makes it more hearty, and instead of the traditional chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces, I’m using with skin-on bone-in chicken thighs that are pan seared until golden. That’s great for 2 reasons: chicken thighs are a fattier cut of meat, which means they’re going to have more intense, rich flavor than chicken breasts. Regardless the cooking method, chicken thighs will always yield a richer, more flavorful product. Secondly, you get to skip all the extra chopping, unless you’d rather go with boneless chicken thighs. In that case, just dice them into bite-sized pieces.
If you can’t find pumpkin, you can use butternut squash or sweet potatoes. The most important and exciting element of Indian food though, is all the spices they use. They’re complex and so fragrant, adding so much depth of flavor to a dish. If you happen to missing one, it’s not a deal breaker. You can omit, but adding them all certainly makes a difference in the final product. I know the ingredients list is very long, but don’t be alarmed; half of them are spices, and they’re worthy addition to your spice rack!
This is a one-pot recipe that comes together in about 45 minutes – the longer it cooks the more flavorful it gets. Easy cleanup! Start by prepping the chicken: season the thighs heavily with salt and pepper. Let them sit while you prep the remaining ingredients.
Then build the curry by searing the chicken thighs until golden. Remove and set aside. Then cook the onions until translucent. Add all the spices, stir in the tomatoes and coconut milk, then bring the sauce to a simmer and add in the diced pumpkin and the chicken. Simmer for about 20 minutes – or up to 45 if you want a more flavorful, reduced sauce – until the pumpkin gets soft and the chicken is cooked through.
You can use a heavy pot or a skillet (using a skillet will actually allow the tops of the chicken thighs to sit above sauce level, avoiding the chicken skin to get soggy. Just a little detail, but worth pointing out!)
If you make this Pumpkin Butter Chicken Thighs please be sure to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you and I love responding to every comment. And don’t forget to also tag me on Instagram. I’d love to see your photos!
Pumpkin Butter Chicken Thighs
- For the Chicken:
- 8 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder, optional
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- For the Sauce:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tsp Garam Masala
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp brown sugar (or granulated sugar)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 medium pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1 can coconut milk
- Greek yogurt, optional, for serving
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- lime Wedges, for serving
- In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken thighs, skin side down and allow to cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 3-5 minutes more. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Discard most of the remaining fat in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter to the pan, then add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garam masala, curry powder, coriander, cumin, chilli powder, and turmeric to the pan and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, another minute. Add in the brown sugar, crushed tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium.<
- Add in the diced pumpkin and the chicken. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, as needed.
- Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkin gets soft and the chicken is cooked through. Alternatively, if you want a thicker, more flavorful sauce, allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until sauce has reduced by half. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over basmati rice, with lime wedges and naan bread, and a dollop of yogurt sauce, if desired.
Tips & Tricks: If you can’t find pumpkin, you can use butternut squash or sweet potatoes. Best served over cooked basmati rice, with lime wedges. Naan bread bread is also a great option.