These easy and delicious butter chicken meatballs are made completely from scratch and come together with simple, wholesome ingredients. If you're looking for new chicken meatball meals, this is a must-try recipe.
Butter Chicken is one of the most popular (and milder) curries at any Indian restaurant. The sauce is very simple and consists of tomatoes, butter, onions, and some common spices. Here we use chicken meatballs instead of the usual whole pieces or chunks of chicken.
Why You'll Love Butter Chicken Meatballs
- Butter chicken meatballs are a simple and wholesome from-scratch meal.
- You control the ingredients and quality because the sauce is made from scratch.
- You can also use your favorite store-bought butter chicken sauce.
- Great freezer meal, so make a double (or triple) batch for easy meal prep.
- Tastes even better the next day, great leftovers to take to work for lunch.
- Baking Sheet
- Parchment Paper
- Heavy pot or pan with higher sides
These are the ingredients needed to make butter chicken meatballs with a from-scratch butter sauce. You can also opt to purchase a high-quality butter chicken sauce instead.
- Ground Chicken | easily found at any grocery store; just buy your favorite brand or grind your own. My favorite way to enjoy ground chicken is to buy skin-on, boneless chicken thighs and grind them myself. This is a cheaper, more flavorful, and healthier way to enjoy ground chicken.
- Egg | to bind the chicken meatballs and help them retain their shape.
- Bread Crumbs | bread crumbs help keep meatballs from drying out; gluten-free or wheat, it doesn't matter. Even better — soak some bread in milk and squeeze out the excess. I do this with stale, leftover sourdough all the time.
- Butter | or ghee, is it really butter chicken without one of the two? Or both?
- Fresh Garlic
- Garam Masala | a spice blend widely used in Indian cuisine, garam masala can be made from many different spices. Still, some of the most common are cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, mace, and nutmeg. You can make your own or buy garam masala online.
- Curry Powder | curry powder is a spice mix originating from British India, and is not to be confused with the native spice mix of garam masala. In this butter chicken sauce, we use both. Buy curry powder online.
- Turmeric | Turmeric is a major ingredient in curry powder. In this butter chicken sauce, we will be using extra turmeric powder. You can also use a whole fresh turmeric root. Buy turmeric powder or fresh turmeric root online.
- Cayenne Pepper | usually a moderately hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes. We won't be using enough of it to make this butter chicken spicy, but you are free to add more to taste.
- Tomato Paste | you can use canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes too, but I find that paste works great.
- Full-Fat Coconut Milk | don't use reduced fat or skimpy coconut milks, but opt for full fat for all the flavor and texture. Conversely, you can use coconut cream and add extra liquid.
- Plain Greek Yogurt | again, a full-fat variety is always best.
- Salt & Pepper
- Fresh Cilantro | used as a garnish and for a bright green pop of herbaceous flavor that pairs well with the sauce's richness.
- Basmati Rice and Naan | to serve.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine ground chicken, egg, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs thoroughly and form into 16-18 meatballs. Use your hands or a cookie scoop.
Now do one of two things: either lightly fry the meatballs to brown the surface for extra flavor OR line the baking sheet with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the baking sheet.
If browned and fried, bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes until the meatballs are fully cooked.
If raw, bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until meatballs are crispy and golden. You may also use an air fryer on the bake setting.
While the meatballs are baking, heat a large skillet and add the oil or ghee and the minced onion. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until softened.
Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Add the garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and tomato paste and continue cooking for another minute until the tomato paste begins to darken and lose any rawness.
Add the coconut milk, and 1 cup water. Stir together and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the butter chicken sauce simmer for 20 minutes. As you let it simmer, the sauce will thicken and darken in color.
After simmering, you can optionally blend the sauce with an immersion blender for a smoother texture but this is not necessary and a matter of personal preference.
Stir in the Greek yogurt and butter. Add more water if the sauce is too thick, and simmer for a few minutes.
Taste for salt and adjust.
Add meatballs to the sauce and serve over rice and/or with naan. Top with chopped cilantro, and enjoy!
Hint: Let the tomato paste cook off for at least 2 minutes. It should be almost dry on your pan. If the paste starts to dry too early, add some water and keep going.
Storage, Freezing, & Reheating Instructions
Storage: Store your butter chicken meatballs in sauce tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days. They will get better as they sit.
To reheat, simply add some water to a pot on low heat and add your meatballs. Cover the pot and check on it every 5 minutes until it reaches the desired temperature.
Add more water if the sauce is too thick as needed.
Freezer: This is SUCH a good freezer meal and as the recipe scales up so easily, it makes sense to make a big batch for freezing and reheating.
Freeze your butter chicken meatballs in a single layer in a plastic bag or silicone bag.
I use these fantastic silicone freezer bags for this purpose.
It is always best to let the meatballs come close to room temperature first before storing or freezing, and this will only take about 15-20 minutes.
To reheat from frozen, you can do the same as above or even add the meatballs into a covered pot in the oven. I like to let my meatballs defrost in the refrigerator first, but you can absolutely reheat them directly from the frozen state.
To keep chicken meatballs from falling apart, make sure you include an egg in the ground meat and mix everything well. Meatballs are not like other ground meat recipes; you don't have to be overly worried about over-mixing. Lightly frying the meatballs before baking will help them keep their shape and make them even tastier.
When making meatballs, it's common to use bread crumbs and eggs as binding agents. However, using too many breadcrumbs can result in a loose texture, while not using enough can lead to the meatballs falling apart. Similarly, adding too many eggs can make the meatballs too wet and difficult to handle. It's important to find the right balance of ingredients to achieve the desired consistency.
If your butter chicken sauce is too watery and refuses to thicken, you're likely not using full-fat ingredients or have simply added too much water. Turn the heat down to the lowest and frequently stir until it reduces and thickens. Be patient. Adding more butter is another option.
If you don't have eggs or don't eat them, soak your breadcrumbs in some milk and then drain out the excess. Even better, soak some bread in milk and use that instead of breadcrumbs. Ensure the milk is squeezed out and the bread is not dripping or soggy.
- 1 lbs ground chicken
- 1 egg
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow onion minced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 oz tomato paste that's 1 standard small can
- 14 oz full-fat coconut milk that's 1 standard can
- ½ cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro minced, for serving
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine ground chicken, egg, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs thoroughly and form into 16-18 meatballs. Use your hands or a cookie scoop.
- Now do one of two things: either lightly fry the meatballs just to brown the surface for extra flavor OR line baking sheet with parchment paper and place meatballs on baking sheet.
- If browned and previously fried, bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes, until meatballs are fully cooked. If raw bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until meatballs are crispy and golden. You may also use an air fryer on the bake setting.
- While meatballs are baking, heat a large skillet and add the oil or ghee as well as the minced onion. Cook approximately 5 minutes, or until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the garam masala, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and tomato paste and continue cooking for another minute until the tomato paste begins to darken and lose any rawness.
- Add the coconut milk, and 1 cup water. Stir together and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the butter chicken sauce simmer for 20 minutes. As you let it simmer, the sauce will thicken and darken in color.
- After simmering, you can optionally blend the sauce with an immersion blender for a smoother texture but, this is not necessary and a matter of personal preference.
- Stir in the Greek yogurt and butter. Add more water if the sauce is too thick, and simmer for a few minutes. Taste for salt and adjust.
- Add meatballs to the sauce and serve over rice and/or with naan. Top with chopped cilantro and enjoy!