Recipe: Butter Chicken Sauce for Everything

Recipe: Butter Chicken Sauce for Everything

By Jenny Osburn | The Union Street Cafe Cookbook |

Maybe it’s just the circles I run in but it feels like there’s never been more talk about food than RIGHT NOW. What with a new Canada food guide, the publication of the Lancet Planetary Health diet, and a national campaign underway to #standup4schoolfood, the buzz around food is everywhere.
As someone who reads everything about food that I can find, I’m excited to see government and mainstream health organizations embrace science when it comes to telling us what to eat. By now we’ve all seen the Canada Food Guide’s beautiful image of the ideal proportions in putting together a meal: lots of veggies and fruit, plus protein from a variety of sources, and whole grains.

But how does that translate into what’s for dinner? As a mom of three amazing kids of varying pickiness I used to struggle with making meals that everyone would like and I could feel good about. Since a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in my youngest daughter though, we’ve all kind of been forced to grow up a bit. We can see in real time the effect of refined starches on her blood sugar levels. We all know a growing kid is hungry all the time, and we need to feed her food that counts without too many of the junk carbs she used to eat freely. Whether you can make your own insulin or not, highly processed foods wreak havoc with your body.

We are by no means eating that ideal plate every day, but we’ve been able to do better, little bit by little bit. One thing that helps is a tasty sauce that everyone can agree on. I’m always surprised that many kids seem to like curry! This super-simple butter chicken sauce is tasty with most any combination of vegetables and protein, and makes enough for two dinners for 4 or 5 people.

Butter Chicken Sauce for Everything

1/4 C sunflower oil
8 or more cloves garlic, crushed or grated
1 can (798 ml) crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp paprika
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 C water
1 C whipping cream or coconut milk

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat for three or four minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then pour in the tomatoes. Add the paprika, turmeric, salt, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne, and whisk to combine. Add the water and cream or coconut milk and simmer for ten minutes or so before using.

Once the sauce is simmering away, try cooking up a 1/2 lb. of diced chicken thighs or tofu in a little oil. When the chicken or tofu is browned, stir in a can of chickpeas and 4 cups of vegetables: cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, frozen green or yellow beans, anything goes. Add half the sauce and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the chicken (if using) is cooked through. Serve over brown rice.

Jenny Osburn is the author of The Union Street Café Cookbook. Her second collaboration with Laura MacDonald of Deep Hollow Print, The Kitchen Party Cookbook, is now available! Find more recipes at and see what she’s up to on instagram at jenny.osburn