This healthy butter chicken recipe features tender ground chicken meatballs smothered in a delicious, buttery, tomato curry sauce. Dairy and gluten free, this Indian-inspired dish is Paleo, Whole30, & only 4 net carbs per serving!

keto butter chicken meatballs smothered in a tomato curry sauce over cauliflower rice

Healthy butter chicken seems like an oxymoron, right? But I promise, making a few swaps for dairy free ingredients makes these chicken meatballs healthy, while still creamy and buttery and absolutely delicious! Using garam masala, garlic and ginger, tomato sauce, and a few other authentic Indian spices, this cozy murgh makhani (butter chicken) meatball recipe will be on repeat this Fall! Are you ready to turn your kitchen into an Indian Restaurant?!

Paleo Baked Butter Chicken Meatballs

Ingredient Notes

meat: for this recipe, I use ground chicken, however, you can also use ground turkey if you prefer. I love getting ground chicken from Butcher Box. It is organic, and tastes delicious! It also comes in the 1.5 lb size required for this recipe.

garam masala: this is a mixture of cinnamon, peppercorns, cardamom, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, mace, and nutmeg that gives the curry its flavor and color. You can find this at your local grocery store or combine the spices to make it yourself

breadcrumbs: many chicken meatball recipes call for breadcrumbs, however, to make this grain free and gluten free, I use almond flour instead.

dairy-free: This recipe can be made dairy free by using vegan butter. It calls for ghee (or vegan butter), almond milk, and full fat coconut milk to make the creamy curry sauce. Ghee is butter that has been clarified, where most of the milk solids and dairy have been removed. It is a commonly used pantry staple in the paleo community and a delicious option if you’re not allergic to dairy. If you have a true dairy allergy, I would avoid ghee. If you are not dairy free, you can swap the butter and almond milk for regular butter and heavy cream. 

heat: the sauce in this recipe is naturally more mild than other curry dishes. If you’d like more heat, add more cayenne pepper. 

Alternative Diets

Keto: If you are eating Keto, these butter chicken meatballs are perfect! There are just 4 net grams of carbs per serving. Serve over cauliflower rice to keep it low carb.

Vegan: While this recipe calls for many vegan ingredients, the ground chicken is not vegan. To make vegan butter chicken meatballs, find your favorite plant-based ground meat swap!

Whole30: This recipe is Whole30 compliant! Be sure to serve the butter chicken meatballs over cauliflower rice.

prepping ground chicken with ingredients in a clear glass mixing bowl

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the meatball ingredients and mix well. Form the mixture into 16 balls (or 20 smaller ones) approximately 1.5 inches in diameter.
  3. Place the balls on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the ghee (or vegan butter), and add in the onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 4-5 minutes. At this point, you can either continue making the sauce on the stove or use the slow cooker method below.

ground chicken meatballs with no breadcrumbs on a baking sheet with parchment paper

Choose Your Final Cooking Method

Stove Top

  1. Add in the tomato sauce, spices, and coconut milk. Stir in the additional tbsp of ghee. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the meatballs are done. 
  2. Add the meatballs to the sauce and let them simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  3. Serve with basmati rice or cauliflower rice, top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy!

Slow Cooker 

  1. Transfer the buttery sautéed onions, garlic, and ginger to the slow cooker. Add in the tomato sauce, spices, coconut milk, and additional tbsp of ghee to the slow cooker and stir. Turn it on low heat to let the sauce start cooking.
  2. When the meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the slow cooker and gently stir them in with the sauce. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Serve with basmati rice or cauliflower rice, top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy!

healthy chicken meatballs with creamy tomato curry sauce in a black slow cooker

Mary’s Tips & Tricks

How to Serve: I like to serve my butter chicken fresh off the stove over basmati or cauliflower rice. Use frozen rice versions for quick cooking!

Substitute for garam masala: If you’re in a pinch and need an easy substitute for garam masala, you can mix 4 parts ground cumin with 1 part allspice. 

Storage tips: To store any leftovers (which you might not have!), use an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

Freezing: If you want to freeze these chicken meatballs, it’s best to store them with the curry sauce only and make fresh basmati or cauliflower rice when you are ready to serve. Store them in an airtight container separating layers with parchment paper for up to 3 months. 

Meal Prep: This is a wonderful meal prep recipe! Divide the meatballs and rice into portions and store them in separate airtight containers. Reheat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and enjoy!

Paleo Baked Butter Chicken Meatballs with Creamy Garam Masala Curry Sauce

Paleo Baked Butter Chicken Meatballs

FAQs

What is the Paleo Diet?

Paleo-Friendly foods are unprocessed foods that are gluten free, grain free, dairy free, soy free, legume free, and refined sugar-free. Paleo promotes foods that would have been “hunted and gathered”, such as fruit, berries, nuts, meat, fish, eggs, oils, starches, and vegetables. Check out my cookbook for quick & easy meals: Quick Prep Paleo.
 

What is the origin of Butter Chicken?

Murgh Makhani, also known as Butter Chicken is a popular, authentic Indian dish that was actually made by accident by mixing leftover tandoori chicken in a tomato gravy! It features a creamy tomato curry sauce with garam masala, garlic and ginger, and lots of butter. It is naturally milder than other curry sauces.

Is Butter Chicken spicy?

No! It is naturally milder than other curry sauces. To add or take away heat, adjust the cayenne pepper!

Is Butter Chicken healthy?

Typically, butter chicken is made with lots of butter! I have adjusted my recipe to use vegan butter (or ghee, which is clarified butter). It still gives the creamy, buttery flavor, with a healthier, dairy-free alternative. I also make my ground chicken meatballs without breadcrumbs, lowering the carb count and making them gluten free.

Butter chicken vs. Tikka Masala:

What is the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala? This is a super common question and a good one! Both butter chicken and tikka masala feature creamy tomato sauce curries.


The main difference is, the butter! Butter chicken is creamier and milder due to the butter cutting some of the curry spice, while chicken tikka masala has more tomato and more of a kick to it.

But in a competition of butter chicken vs. tikka masala, you really can’t go wrong!

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meatballs covered in a creamy curry sauce served over cauliflower rice with a title that reads easy and healthy butter chicken meatballs

Paleo Baked Butter Chicken Meatballs

Baked Butter Chicken Meatballs (Paleo & Keto)

This healthy butter chicken recipe features tender ground chicken meatballs smothered in a delicious, buttery, tomato curry sauce. Dairy and gluten free, this Indian-inspired dish is Paleo, Whole30, and only 4 net carbs per serving!
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Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1.5 lbs ground chicken
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 tbsp almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp ghee , or vegan butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp ginger paste, or minced fresh ginger
  • 28 oz tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk, add more for a creamier sauce
  • 1 tbsp ghee or vegan butter

Equipment

  • Slow Cooker

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine the meatball ingredients and mix well. Form the mixture into 16 balls (or 20 smaller ones) approximately 1.5 inches in diameter.
  • Place the balls on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Melt the ghee (or vegan butter), and add in the onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 4-5 minutes. At this point you can either continue making the sauce on the stove, or use the slow cooker method below.

Stove Top Method

  • Add in the tomato sauce, spices, and coconut milk. Stir in the additional tbsp of ghee. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the meatballs are done.
  • Add the meatballs to the sauce and let them simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Serve with basmati rice or cauliflower rice, top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • Transfer the buttery sautéed onions, garlic, and ginger to the slow cooker. Add in the tomato sauce, spices, coconut milk, and additional tbsp of ghee to the slow cooker and stir. Turn it on low heat to let the sauce start cooking.
  • When the meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the slow cooker and gently stir them in with the sauce. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Serve with basmati rice or cauliflower rice, top with fresh cilantro, and enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1meatball, Calories: 157kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 54mg, Sodium: 659mg, Potassium: 442mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 256IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 29mg, Iron: 2mg