Seitan Makhani (Vegan “Unbutter Chicken”) Recipe

by on March 10, 2013

Ok I have to admit something to you.

I’ve never actually had buttered chicken, but it’s because once upon a time I was a little afraid of spicy food and afraid I would not like Indian food… (Hah funny I know right.) I also stopped eating butter and dairy a long time ago and also did not eat foods with dairy products. So I will not try to argue that I know this is an “authentic” recipe or anything like that.

Just because you eat plant based now doesn’t mean you have to miss out on delicious Indian curries!

BUT I will tell you that this vegan version of “Buttered” Chicken is oil-free, butter free and cream free, so you can feel a little less guilty about indulging in a creamy Indian curry. Since I don’t like to use fake meat products often, I made my own “wheat meat” also known as seitan. (Seitan is not gluten free, so if you are allergic you can sub tofu or chickpeas).

This was a fun experiment as I’d never made “wheat meat” before but it was actually pretty easy.  See my instructions for seitan here.

This curry sauce can be used for any item really, if you want to cook tofu, vegan chicken, chickpeas, potatoes, cauliflower etc. instead of the seitan you can do that as well. It goes really well on top of rice or Indian bread such as roti or chapati (more vegan friendly than naan bread.)

Indian curries can be a little complicated to make if you make fresh curry pastes, but this recipe is very easy and uses readily available dried spices. Plus it’s also much healthier than using jarred curry sauces from the store and you can adjust the spiciness to your liking.

I hope you have fun making it!

Seitan Makhani (Vegan “Unbuttered Chicken) Recipe

Serves 6

Curry Ingredients:

1 onion, finely chopped
4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 tsp ground ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 – 2 tsp chili powder
4 tsp ground cumin
3 bay leaves
2 cups tomato puree (you can puree canned tomatoes)
2 cups almond or soy milk (original unsweetened)
1/2 cup plain vegan yogurt (I used So Delicious coconut – plain)
2-4 teaspoon garam masala
Cayenne pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Herbamare or salt or to taste
Black pepper to taste

Vegan Chicken:

1 (16 oz) package chicken-style seitan, cut into cubes (See my recipe here) Or sub tofu or chickpeas
1-2 teaspoon garam masala

Roti/chapati or basmati rice to serve with


1. Heat a large non-stick  saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, water, ginger, garlic, curry powder, chili powder, cumin, and bay leaves. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for 3-4 minutes more. *Note I used canned tomatoes and just pureed them in the blender beforehand.

2. Reduce the heat to low and mix in the almond milk. *For a creamier curry, transfer contents to a blender or food process and process until smooth. Return to pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the vegan yogurt and season to taste with garam masala, cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Heat a separate medium sized non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the seitan and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and season the seitan with teaspoons garam masala. Stir in about a 1/4 cup of the tomato-yogurt sauce and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes so it can absorb some of the flavours.

4. Transfer the seitan mixture to the saucepan and heat through.

5. Serve. (Curry will be really saucy and goes well on rice.)


Sub the seitan for sliced tofu, chickpeas, potatoes or cauliflower for variety.

You can also double the amount of seitan or add vegetables to make a chunkier curry.

Have you ever had butter chicken before? Have you ever made your own Indian curry at home?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miriam May 21, 2013 at 7:07 AM

Hi Chef
I’m a huge fan of butter chicken and have made it several times at home, and it always been a great hit. This recipe looks amazing and what a great way to finally try homemade seitan.

My Indian cooking got a boost when I discovered they use fenugreek leaves. The leaves come dried in most supermarkets and are crushed and mixed in right before serving. It makes a lot of difference in taste, gives the dish depth and a more authentic flavor. Highly recommendable.

I also make it with fresh tomatoes and a clove of cardamom.

Thank you for all your wonderful recipes!


2 Alicia May 10, 2013 at 8:56 PM

I love Indian food.
I recently made butter chickpeas from a vegetarian cookbook and veganised it by making cream from cashews and water. It had chickpeas and potatoes in the recipe and I also added grated zucchini and frozen green beans for extra veges. But it used condensed tomato soup and I would prefer to go with out the added sugar and salt in the soup so will give your recipe a try.


3 Barbara Tazbin March 11, 2013 at 10:16 PM

Hi Veronica,

Tonight I made your curry recipe. I was so excited to use Eden chickpeas in the recipe, and then to my dismay I realized that I had NO CHICK PEAS in the house : (

SO, I collected myself and said “hmmm, what can I substitute for chick peas? I had no tofu, and my other family members would not have wanted tofu anyway.

And then there in front of me were 2 cartons of Dr. MacDougall’s Chana Masala. So I drained the two boxes, so I could get the benefit of the fresh liquid that was already simmering on my stove. I also added some Trader Joe’s red lentils, and you know what? It came out great. I had bought some fresh garam masala at the Savory Spice Shop in my town, and that spice definitely made a difference. Also, adding cayenne pepper, black pepper, herbamare helped the taste. Since I think I added a little extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, I decided to balance it out with a few teaspoons of raw coconut crystals [that is the only new ingredient that I added to your recipe]. I love Indian food, and it was so nice to enjoy some ethnic cuisine for a change, instead of my usual veggies, and salads. We also love your Mexican black bean soup recipe, but I already wrote you about that : )

I have the online book for your soups, and have barely made a dent in it. It’s so great to have wonderful Vegan contributors/writers/cooks like you. Your enthusiasm for your site really comes through in your emails!

thank you!
Bobbi from New Jersey
Fuhrman nutritarian since October 1, 2012 [over 40 lbs lost so far!]


4 Teresa March 11, 2013 at 9:28 PM

I love Indian foods…….yummy!
I can’t wait to try this one.


5 Beth-Anna March 11, 2013 at 4:48 PM

We love butter chicken, but have a milk allergy in our house. I blend cashews up with almond milk for the “cream’ and it’s amazing. Great taste, texture and color.


6 Low Fat Vegan Chef Veronica March 11, 2013 at 4:53 PM

You could also try coconut milk as well. I think that’s similar to Korma curries which use cream and cashews in it.


7 Em March 11, 2013 at 3:45 PM

Well it certainly looks authentic from the picture!

I use to LOVE Butter Chicken in my omnivore days though I never made it myself. I used to make a vegetable version of it, usually once a week, which was super-delicious (imho) – I wonder if that had something to do with the two cans of coconut cream I’d put in it??… I know that’s probably making you gag just reading about it – and there’s no way I’d consume that much fat now – but back in the day, fat to me was like petrol to a car…literally!

Thanks for the seitan link, V. I went back and had a look at how you do it. It does sound really easy – if I get the right flour. I also like that you prepare it with some spice and in broth.

I’m tucking this recipe away for my winter experimentations. I think it would also be great with potatoes and chickpeas, as you suggest – I especially like the idea of seitan and potatoes together:)


8 Anita Misseghers March 11, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Hi Veronica

I use low fat coconut milk in my butter Indian chicken. It gives the recipe a nice flavour.


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