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Butter Chicken Meatballs

I'm channeling a favorite curry recipe -- Butter Chicken into these irresistible Butter Chicken Meatballs. Tender and flavorful chicken meatballs are tossed in a rich and creamy curry sauce. 
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword butter chicken meatballs
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 898kcal
Cost $6.72



  • 2 tablespoons EACH: ground cumin, garam masala
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons EACH: ground turmeric and paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons EACH: finely minced garlic, finely minced ginger (~4 cloves; ~1 inch piece)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional


  • 1 pound (16 oz.) ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup (111g) yellow onion grated on a box grater
  • 1/2 cup (44g) panko (See Note 1)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/3 cup (46g) white flour
  • 1/4 cup (43g) coconut oil (measured when solid)


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (225g) finely diced yellow onion (~1 very large onion)
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.; 411g) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (274g) heavy whipping cream
  • Serve with: cooked basmati rice, toasted Naan, and fresh cilantro (optional) (See Note 2)


  • SPICE MIX: In a small bowl measure out and then stir together all the spices, garlic, and ginger (You can peel the ginger with a spoon or vegetable peeler and then finely mince it).
  • CHICKEN MEATBALLS: In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, grated yellow onion (peel and then grate on large holes of a box grater then measure to get a lightly packed and leveled 1/2 cup), panko, egg, cilantro, and lemon juice. Add 1/2 of the spice mix from step #1 (just eyeball out half of it) and season meatballs with salt and pepper to taste (I add 1 teaspoon of each). Knead the ingredients together until evenly combined. Do not overmix or overknead; stop as soon as ingredients are combined. Cover tightly and refrigerate this mixture until step 5.
  • SAUCE: While meatball mixture is chilling, make the sauce. Heat the 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet; add in the 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 7-9 minutes. Reduce the heat if it begins to burn/brown-- we're looking for a golden color. Add in the 1 tablespoon sugar and continue to sauté until onions are lightly caramelized, another 3-5 minutes. We're adding layers of flavor, so don't rush this sautéing. Add in the other half of the spice mix and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Stir for 2-3 minutes or until very fragrant. Reduce heat if the mixture begins to burn.
  • SAUCE CONT.: Add in the fire-roasted crushed tomatoes and saute for 1 minute. Add in the 1 and 1/4 cup heavy cream and add salt and pepper to taste (I add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Stir, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce has thickened and is fragrant.
  • ROLL MEATBALLS IN FLOUR: While sauce is simmering, work on the meatballs, starting by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F. Add the 1/3 cup flour to a bowl and set aside. Here's my process for meatballs: Line a large plate or sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly spritz a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon with nonstick cooking spray and then use that to portion out meatballs to the parchment paper-lined plate. Portion out all the meat onto the plate without rolling into balls. Once all the meat is portioned out, then roll each portion into a ball. Once all the balls have been rolled, give them all a quick roll in the flour. Tap off the excess flour and return the meatballs to the plate. By doing everything in a batch instead of one at a time, you'll find it goes so much quicker.
  • SEAR MEATBALLS: Heat 1/4 cup of the coconut oil to medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add in half of the meatballs. Sauté for 4 minutes, turning with tongs after 2 minutes, until the meatballs are browned on the outsides, but not cooked through. Discard the parchment paper and return the meatballs to the plate (without the parchment paper)
  • BAKE MEATBALLS: Repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding extra coconut oil if needed. Transfer meatballs to the plate and quickly rinse or wipe out the skillet. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Return the rest of the meatballs to the oven-safe skillet. Place the skillet in the oven and bake 7-15 minutes or until the meatballs are completely cooked through (160 degrees F). I check the meatballs with an oven thermometer at 5 minutes and then check every 3 minutes after that. It usually takes about 12 minutes in my oven.
  • FINISHING SAUCE: Meanwhile, transfer the simmered and thickened sauce to a blender. Blend until completely smooth and return to skillet. if desired, stir in some chopped cilantro here (I add about 1/3 cup). Once meatballs are cooked through, add them into the sauce and stir to coat.
  • SERVE: Serve saucy meatballs over cooked basmati rice (See Note 2) and garnish with additional cilantro leaves (optional). Serve with toasted naan (See Note 3). Enjoy!


Note 1: Panko is a Japanese-style breadcrumb found near other breadcrumbs or in the Asian food aisle of your store. 
Note 2: Here’s how I cook the basmati rice:
  • Measure the rice and rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear.
  • Place the rinsed rice in a bowl and cover it with water to soak for about 5-10 minutes.
  • While the rice soaks, fill a large pot with water and set to boil.
  • Once the water is at a rolling boil, drain the rice and add it to the pot.
  • Cook, without reducing the heat, for 5 minutes (taste and ensure the rice is tender; add another minute if not) and then drain and fluff with a fork.
Note 3: Here's how I toast naan: Spray both sides of the naan with olive oil cooking spray and “grill” the naan on the stovetop over the open flame until slightly charred. Alternatively, warm (covered with a damp paper towel) in the microwave.


Calories: 898kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 63g | Saturated Fat: 39g | Cholesterol: 268mg | Sodium: 401mg | Potassium: 1021mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1578IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 152mg | Iron: 4mg