Creamy Butter Chicken Pasta (without cream)

Craving creamy butter chicken without all the calories? This delicious butter chicken pasta is about to become your new weeknight obsession. As a health nut with a serious sweet (and savory) tooth, I know the struggle of balancing deliciousness with healthy goals. That’s why I developed this easy recipe to give you the rich, Indian-inspired flavors of classic butter chicken and pasta. It is the best way to combine Italian pasta with Indian food in a lighter, family-friendly package.

Butter chicken pasta in a large skillet.

Recipe Video

Ditch the takeout menu and get ready to impress your loved ones with a healthy, flavorful dish that won’t leave you feeling sluggish. Let’s get cookin’!

Ingredients

(You can find the exact measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this page.)

Labelled ingredients for butter chicken with pasta.
  • Pasta: I’ve used penne today. You can choose any short pasta, which go well with the heavy butter chicken sauce. If you’re going for long ones, choose thicker pasta like fettuccine. Thin pasta like angel hair and linguine are more suited for sauces like spinach almond pesto or red chili pesto.
  • Chicken: Boneless chicken thighs work best for this recipe. You can also use boneless skinless chicken breasts. For juicy chicken breasts, ensure that you tenderize the chicken using this method before you start cooking. 
  • Spices:
    • Chili powder: I’ve used the regular Indian chili powder for the heat and Kashmiri chili powder for the color and flavor. You can substitute them with cayenne pepper and paprika respectively.
    • Coriander powder
    • Turmeric powder
    • Cumin
    • Garam masala
  • Other flavor-makers: Onions (red onions work great for this recipe), tomatoes, ginger and garlic
  • Plain yogurt: For the chicken marinade
  • Cashews: For the creamy sauce
  • Cooking fat: We use olive oil and butter combo as in many of my recipes like garlic parmesan chicken skewers and hot honey lemon pepper wings. This helps minimize the amount of calories and saturated fat without compromising on the taste.
  • Fresh herbs: Cilantro or parsley.

How to make butter chicken pasta

1. Marinate chicken

Chop the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Marinate the pieces with chili powder, salt, black pepper, yogurt and lemon juice. 

Chicken and marinade ingredients in a white bowl.

Poke holes in the pieces of chicken with a fork. This helps the chicken absorb the marinade better and faster.

Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Marinated chicken being poked with a fork for butter chicken sauce.

2. Cook pasta

Boil water with salt in a large pot. 

Add pasta and cook until al dente. (The texture of the pasta should be tender but firm and chewy.)

Drain the pasta. Remember to reserve a cup of pasta water.

Pasta water being reserved for sauce.

Toss the cooked pasta with a little olive oil and keep covered until the sauce is ready.

Cooked pasta in a covered pot.

3. Make butter chicken sauce

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet. (A quick tip: Use roasted garlic compound butter instead of regular butter to boost the flavors.)

Add marinated chicken and sauté on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes until the chicken turns opaque.

Marinated chicken being sauteed in a large skillet.

(NOTE: Since the chicken is marinated in yogurt, it will not brown. Instead, you get flavorful juices as bonus!)

Transfer the chicken with the juices to a bowl. Keep aside.

Partially cooked chicken with cooking juices in a white bowl.

Heat oil and butter in the same pan. Sauté diced onions on medium heat until they turn translucent.

Sauteed onions in a large skillet.

Add chopped ginger and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Sauteed onions with ginger and garlic in a large skillet.

Add cashews and stir for a minute.

Sauteed onions with ginger, garlic and cashews in a large skillet.

Finely chop tomatoes and add. Add salt and sauté on medium-high heat until the tomatoes turn mushy.

Chopped tomatoes with sauteed onions, ginger, garlic and cashews in a large skillet.

Add tomato paste and spices: Kashmiri chili powder, coriander powder, cumin, turmeric powder and garam masala. 

Sauté until all the spices get combined and you get a glossy onion tomato mixture. 

Cooked onion tomato mixture in a large skillet.

Remove from heat and let it cool. Add ½ a cup of pasta water. Blend in a high speed blender or food processor until you get a smooth sauce.

Transfer the creamy sauce back to the skillet.

Butter chicken curry sauce being cooked in a large skillet.

Add the partially cooked chicken along with the juices.

Partially cooked chicken added to butter chicken curry sauce being cooked in a large skillet.

Cover and bring it to a boil on medium heat. Adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding more pasta water as necessary.

Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Butter chicken curry simmering in a large skillet.

4. Add pasta and finish

Remove from heat and toss with cooked pasta.

Cooked penne pasta with butter chicken sauce in a large skillet.

Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs.

Butter chicken pasta in a large skillet.

Recipe tips

  1. For even more flavor: Replace half cup of pasta water  in the butter chicken sauce with (low sodium) chicken broth.
  2. For more “Indian flavor”: Add a teaspoon of crushed kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) as in the traditional butter chicken recipe.
  3. Marinating time: If you have the time, marinate the chicken longer. Marinating chicken overnight gives the best results.
  4. Cooking time: As with any Indian curry sauce, the longer you sauté each of the ingredients, the tastier the sauce would turn out.

Storage and making ahead tips

Storing leftovers: Butter chicken pasta keeps in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, if stored properly in a dry airtight container.

Reheating: Pasta tends to absorb moisture and get thicker over time. Reserve some pasta water and add before reheating and serving.

Making ahead: Store the butter chicken sauce and cooked pasta separately. They can be stored for 4 days in the fridge and a month in the freezer.

Making it for a crowd

This chicken pasta recipe can be easily scaled up or down. Use the slider that will appear if you hover your mouse over the number of servings in the recipe card below.

Butter chicken with pasta on a white plate.

Fresh salads

Click here for more salad recipes.

Why you’ll love this easy butter chicken with pasta

Garlic naan and butter chicken served at Indian restaurants tastes creamy and amazing. But, butter chicken can easily reach 800-1000 calories per serving. The rich sauce, often made with butter and cream contributes significantly to the calorie count.

Enjoying these dishes occasionally is absolutely okay, but when you can enjoy the flavors of butter chicken at home with a healthier twist, why not?

Here’s what makes this recipe a winner:

  • Creamy & dreamy (without the cream): We outsmart the calorie bomb by using clever ingredient swaps in the traditional butter chicken recipe.
  • Flavor explosion: Penne pasta with tender chicken cubes in a spicy and creamy sauce is pure magic!
  • Guilt-free indulgence: Like harissa pasta, this recipe is also proof that you don’t need loads of butter, heavy cream or even coconut milk to make the best butter chicken pasta.
  • Easy weeknight win: You can bring this pasta dish to the dinner table in under an hour (30 minutes, if you had already marinated the chicken). It’s a perfect recipe for busy families who crave restaurant-quality meals at home.
Indian butter chicken pasta in a large skillet.

Printable Curry Paste Recipe

Grab a printable copy of the curry paste that helps home cooks like you cook different curries in 30 minutes or less:

.

More chicken recipes

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Butter chicken pasta in a large skillet.

Easy Butter Chicken Pasta Recipe

Craving creamy butter chicken without all the calories? This creamy, delicious butter chicken pasta is about to become your new weeknight obsession. This easy recipe gives you the rich, Indian-inspired flavors of classic butter chicken and pasta. It is the best way to combine Italian pasta with Indian food in a lighter, family-friendly package.
Author: Sheeba
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course dinner, LUNCH, Main Course, Party food
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 581.8 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 225 grams pasta (8 oz)

To marinate chicken

  • 500 grams chicken thighs (17.6 oz) skinless, boneless
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne pepper)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

To make butter chicken sauce

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (divided)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • ¼ cup cashews
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder (or paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

STEP BY STEP IMAGES

Scroll back to find detailed recipe photos!

Instructions
 

Marinate chicken

  • Chop 500 grams chicken thighs into bite-sized chunks.
  • Marinate the chicken with 1 teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon sea salt, 3 tablespoon plain yogurt and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
  • Poke holes into the chunks of chicken with a fork. Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Cook pasta

  • Boil water with 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot.
  • Add 225 grams pasta and cook until al dente. (The texture of the pasta should be tender but firm and chewy.)
  • Drain the pasta. Remember to reserve a cup of pasta water.
  • Toss the cooked pasta with a little olive oil and keep covered until the sauce is ready.

Make butter chicken sauce

  • Heat 1 teaspoon butter and 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet.
  • Add marinated chicken and sauté on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes until the chicken turns opaque.
  • (NOTE: Since the chicken is marinated in yogurt, it will not brown.)
  • Transfer the chicken with the juices to a bowl. Keep aside.
  • Heat 1 teaspoon butter and 2 teaspoons olive oil in the same pan.
  • Dice 1 large onion. Sauté on medium heat until they turn translucent.
  • Roughly chop 4 cloves garlic and 1 inch piece of ginger. Add to the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  • Add ¼ cup cashewsand stir for a minute.
  • Finely chop 2 medium tomatoes and add with 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté on medium-high heat until the tomatoes turn mushy.
  • Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and spices: 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon garam masala.
  • Sauté until all the spices get combined and you get a glossy onion tomato mixture. Remove from heat and let it cool.
  • Add ½ a cup of pasta water to the mixture. Blend in a high speed blender or food processor until you get a smooth sauce.
  • Transfer the creamy sauce back to the skillet. Add the partially cooked chicken along with the juices.
  • Cover and bring it to a boil on medium heat. Adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding more pasta water as necessary.
  • Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat.

Add pasta

  • Add cooked pasta and toss with with the butter chicken sauce.
  • Garnish with a sprinkle of 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro.

Video

Notes

  1. Pasta: I’ve used penne here. You can choose any short pasta, which go well with the heavy butter chicken sauce. If you’re going for long ones, choose thicker pasta like fettuccine.
  2. Chili powder: I’ve used the regular Indian chili powder for the heat and Kashmiri chili powder for the color and flavor. You can substitute them with cayenne pepper and paprika respectively.
  3. Storing leftovers: Butter chicken pasta keeps in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, if stored properly in a dry airtight container.
  4. Reheating: Pasta tends to absorb moisture and get thicker over time. Reserve some pasta water and add before reheating and serving.
  5. Making ahead: Store the butter chicken sauce and cooked pasta separately. They can be stored for 4 days in the fridge and a month in the freezer.
  6. More tips and tricks: In the post above.
Nutrition Facts
Easy Butter Chicken Pasta Recipe
Amount per Serving
Calories
581.8
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
32.2
g
50
%
Saturated Fat
 
8.6
g
54
%
Trans Fat
 
0.2
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
6
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
14.4
g
Cholesterol
 
129.8
mg
43
%
Sodium
 
1034.3
mg
45
%
Potassium
 
761.5
mg
22
%
Carbohydrates
 
54.9
g
18
%
Fiber
 
4.4
g
18
%
Sugar
 
6.6
g
7
%
Protein
 
31.3
g
63
%
Vitamin A
 
1070.7
IU
21
%
Vitamin C
 
14.9
mg
18
%
Calcium
 
77
mg
8
%
Iron
 
3.1
mg
17
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Author profile photo

Hi! I’m Sheeba, welcome to Go Healthy ever after!

I have a passion for cooking delicious nourishing food that’s easy to cook with fresh natural ingredients free from additives or preservatives. The easy healthy recipes you find here will inspire you to cook with creativity.

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