Butter Chicken Meatballs Recipe - Pinch of Yum
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Butter Chicken Meatballs

35 reviews / 4.9 average

These butter chicken meatballs are covered in a rich and mildly spiced tomato gravy that is made luxurious with just a little bit of butter and cream. Serious weeknight magic!

This is a brand new recipe that’s part of our Spring 2023 SOS Series – in other words, EASY recipes! View our full collection of SOS recipes here.


In This Post: Everything You Need For Butter Chicken Meatballs


Butter chicken, but make it meatballs!

Oh my goodness, it’s so good! My family is truly in love with this recipe.

These butter chicken meatballs are covered in a rich and mildly spiced tomato gravy that is made luxurious with just a little bit of butter and cream. It is a thing of beauty. I look forward to dinner all day long when I know we are having this. And as I’m sure you imagine, the leftovers are even better, so lunch the next day is something to look forward to, too.

You can make it on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot, and you can use a regular or immersion blender to get your sauce nice and creamy. I often have a batch of baked chicken meatballs on hand so I like to use those, but this would be delicious and easy with some store-bought meatballs to really lock in the SOS goodness here

There are a lot of spices listed, but the beauty is that you probably already have them all and it takes two minutes or less to measure them and get them cooking into something spectacular.

Weeknight magic on deck!

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A picture of Butter Chicken Meatballs

Butter Chicken Meatballs


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 45 servings 1x

Description

These butter chicken meatballs are covered in a rich and mildly spiced tomato gravy that is made luxurious with just a little bit of butter and cream. Serious weeknight magic!


Ingredients

Units Scale

Butter Chicken Base:

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
  • half of an onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or a garlic paste)
  • a small piece of fresh ginger, grated (or a ginger paste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • one 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water (more as needed later)
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use 1 teaspoon, just depends how salty you want it)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 20 ounces of cooked chicken or turkey meatballs (these are the ones I always use! this should be about 4 cups of meatballs)

To Finish:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (more to taste)

To Serve: 

  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice, or precooked rice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Make your rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and spices; sauté until softened. 
  3. Add tomatoes, water, salt, and sugar. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
  4. Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth, or use an immersion blender directly in the pot to blend. 
  5. Add sauce back to the pan. Add the meatballs; simmer with the cover on or keep on low heat until warmed through.
  6. Add the butter and cream to make a luscious, heavenly sauce to coat your meatballs.
  7. Serve over rice with a sprig or sprinkle of cilantro. Add spiciness to taste with cayenne or chili oil! OH ME OH MY.

Notes

Blending methods: For the silkiest sauce, I like to use a regular blender (we have a Blendtec at home). But an immersion blender can also work and it is the easier option; this works best with a deeper pot like a Dutch oven or the Instant Pot. If you’re using an immersion blender, tilt the pot to one side to pool all the sauce together before using. If you’re getting splatters, you might need to add an extra bit of water to make sure there’s enough volume of sauce to run it through the immersion blender smoothly. I would not recommend using an immersion blender in a shallow skillet where it will splatter over the sides – in that case, best to transfer to a blender!

Instant Pot instructions: Add all sauce ingredients; cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender directly in the Instant Pot to make it smooth; add meatballs and turn it to warm or sauté until heated through (this takes 5-10 minutes). Finish by stirring in the cream and butter.

Instant Pot instructions with regular chicken: If you’re using just regular chicken breasts or thighs instead of meatballs, add the chicken to the Instant Pot right at the beginning of cooking with the sauce. Cook on high pressure for 12 minutes, then remove and shred or pull apart the chicken. Meanwhile, blend sauce, and then add chicken back in with the cream and butter. We do it this way quite a bit as well!

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Indian-Inspired

Keywords: butter chicken, butter chicken meatballs, Indian recipes, quick and easy dinner, dinner recipe

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About Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken is a type of curry where chicken is coated in a spiced tomato and butter sauce, according to Wiki! It’s an Indian dish that is traditionally called Murgh Makhani, normally involving marinated chicken that is then cooked in a clay oven.

I’m taking a slightly different approach here – meatballs instead of chicken! No marinating, no clay oven, but the butter sauce in this recipe meant to be a fast and easy take on the classic that everybody loves.

I have made the Butter Chicken from Two Sleevers plenty of times (remember our “best of the internet Instant Pot recipes” post?) so this version is a play on that! I reduced the overall sauce amount so it’s not a double batch, and used store bought garam masala instead of making my own with whole spices, and discovered along the way that we actually really loved this with meatballs!

Making This Dairy Free

Subs for the butter: I think using dairy free butter would be awesome and an easy swap for the butter.

Subs for the cream: A knob of dairy free cream cheese melted in there would be perfect! Another idea: when you blend the sauce, add a handful of cashews (assuming you have a high powered blender) and you’d get a creamy, totally dairy free sauce. Method would be similar to this recipe.

Other Proteins That Would Be Good Here

Chicken: Obviously just regular chicken breasts, or chicken thighs, are the traditional protein and they work great – I use them both from time to time! If you do use regular chicken breasts or thighs, I’d recommend trying to find a texture that is somewhere between shredded and chopped. Roughly pulled chunks is what I like best! If you’re making this in the Instant Pot, I would just throw the chicken right in as the sauce cooks! 10 minutes for smallish chicken breasts, 12-14 for chicken thighs.

Meatless: This would be delicious with a cubed block of paneer. I just saw one at Costco this morning so that is fresh on my mind. YUM. You could fry up the paneer first and then get it all up in the sauce? Mmmm. Similarly – baked crispy tofu would be amazing! Here’s our guide for how to cook tofu with instructions for my favorite tofu method (the “baked crispy” one).

Meatless Meatballs: And let us not forget about the ALDI frozen meatless meatballs which are so fabulous and would just pop right into the sauce for a perfect meatless meal.

How To Get More Veggies In

Peppers: This would be more like a tikka masala, but you could sauté or roast some bell peppers and throw them in with the sauce and the chicken! Yum. I would not recommend putting them right into the Instant Pot because they might overcook and get mushy.

Cucumber Salad: No cooking required. Toss sliced cucumbers with a tiny splash of vinegar, olive oil, salt, and sugar. Throw some herbs in if you want. The end!

Simple Green Salad: My go-to for adding greens to a meal (especially in an SOS fashion) is this simple green salad. There’s a homemade balsamic maple dressing here, but I’ve also used store bought dressings – Trader Joe’s maple vinaigrette is fantastic. Throw some nuts and dried fruit on top and my whole family will get into this big time.

Roasted Veggies: Little more work required for this, but roasting up some broccoli or cauliflower in the oven while everything cooks up in the Instant Pot would be an easy, delicious idea too!

Butter Chicken Meatballs: Frequently Asked Questions

Can this recipe be made vegetarian?

Yes! Paneer, tofu, or meatless meatballs would all be great options here. Highly recommend these vegetarian meatballs!

Can this recipe be made dairy-free?

Using vegan butter and using the coconut milk option would make this dairy-free. You could also try blending a handful of cashews into the sauce to make it creamy (if you have a high-powered blender).

Can this recipe be made gluten-free?

The only issue with gluten in this recipe could be the meatballs you use. For our Baked Chicken Meatballs, you can sub in some almond flour or GF breadcrumbs. Or, you can pivot to chicken breasts instead and eliminate the gluten entirely.

Is this butter chicken spicy?

As-is, not at all! But if you’re looking for some spice, I’d recommend some cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes to increase the heat.

Can this recipe be made with chicken breasts instead of meatballs?

Yep! If you’re making this in the Instant Pot, I would just throw the chicken right in as the sauce cooks! 10 minutes for smallish chicken breasts, 12-14 for chicken thighs. Then pull them out to chop or shred before you blend the sauce up, and then add the chicken back in after.

Other Favorite Weeknight Meatball Recipes

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65 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Looks delicious! Is the blender step crucial, or can you skip it? Would prefer to skip the extra dishes🙂

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      It’s crucial to get the silky smooth texture of the sauce! If you choose to not blend, I’d just make sure everything is chopped pretty finely before going in. 🙂

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      Made this for dinner last night with coconut milk and non-dairy butter. I also used leftover rotisserie chicken and added in leftover roasted pasilla peppers and some cayenne and it was delicious.

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I tried this recipe last night. It was perfect for a week night meal– super easy & delicious.

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I made this last night and had everything on hand it was so nice not to have to run to the grocery store! I used chicken breast instead of the meatballs and served it with fresh steamed green beans. I was sure that my young adult son who has specific tastes would take 2 bites and then make himself something else for dinner. He had seconds and then asked for leftovers for lunch at work today!!! We will be making this one again and I’ll be temped to double the spices only because I was feeding all adults. Dinner last night and leftovers for lunch today were phenomenal. Thank you

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This is unbelievable. I’ve made so many butter chicken/paneer/whatever recipes and not been happy with any of them UNTIL NOW. Delicious. Even my picky kids liked it. And it’s super easy! Thank you!!!

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Thanks for this recipe, it was amazing, simple, and so full of flavor. I used Simek’s meatballs (MN cooks know them 😃) and used a TJ’s frozen brown rice pouch. This will be on repeat for sure!

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was delicious, and very easy to make! If you like it with more sauce, I would recommend maybe even doubling the sauce.

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was spot on, and it came together quite quickly. Definitely going to be a part of our meal rotation over the autumn and winter months!

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was excellent. Made as-is with ground turkey meatballs as that’s what we had. Really easy and delicious meal.

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Made this recipe tonight and it was so delicious! my toddlers loved it! and everyone else also enjoyed this meal! definitely will be making again!

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo

    The chicken meatballs were already a hit/staple at my house, now this! I tried it tonight at it was delish! Thank you for another great go-to!

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This was absolutely fabulous! Leftovers were even better. I was a little concerned that there was so little spice but I shouldn’t have worried! Your recipes are always spot on! I sent a picture to my son and he was so jealous he made it for himself later that evening! Thank you!

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This article is really informative and also if you want more information on then this source is really helpful.
    Thanks for share this information.

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo

    These were wonderful! Made them for dinner last night and we loved them. Such an easy turkey meatball recipe too! I’ll be making this again!

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I want to make this family favorite for dinner for Passover (not very religious just avoiding bread and pasta). Can I make without the breadcrumbs by leaving out the egg? I love them as written, and want to make this week!
    Thanks!!

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo

    YES! this recipe is a winner. I make the chicken meatballs weekly, usually to go with pasta, but this is my new favorite use for them. I made the sauce in the instant pot, used coconut milk and ghee instead of cream and regular butter, and added chickpeas at the end for a little extra oomph. So good and easy!

  16. Pinch of Yum Logo

    So easy. So good. I added some chickpeas and some veggies. I will definitely want some naan next time to soak up that delicious sauce!