10 Ways To Upgrade Jarred Butter Chicken Sauce

butter chicken
butter chicken - Ascentxmedia/Getty Images

Butter chicken, or murgh makhani, is one of the most popular Indian dishes out there. With its smooth, creamy texture and tomato-heavy flavor, it has been a fan favorite for many years. It is also difficult to recreate at home; somehow, the flavors are never quite the same as in a restaurant. Additionally, making the sauce for butter chicken takes a significant amount of time and effort that many people cannot spare. When you want to eat butter chicken at home, an easy solution is simply to buy the sauce ahead of time.

Of course, you run into issues here as well, because the flavor of jarred butter chicken sauce also tends to lack ... something. Depending on which sauce you buy, you may be missing different flavors. Perhaps you have no idea where to begin to improve your jarred sauce. Whether you want to attempt one or try a combination of these, all of the tricks in this list are sure to drastically improve the flavor of your premade butter chicken sauce.

Read more: The Best And Worst Grocery Store Fried Chicken

Build Flavor With Chopped Garlic, Onion, And Ginger

garlic, onion and ginger
garlic, onion and ginger - Levoncigol/Getty Images

Perhaps the holy trinity of Indian cuisine is onion, ginger, and garlic. Sautéing these ingredients and adding them to your butter chicken sauce is bound to add incredible depth of flavor to your dish. While butter chicken usually doesn't have onion, if you like the flavor that onion imparts in your dishes, you can always add it in. If you want to keep it more traditional, you can simply stick to garlic and ginger – just be careful not to make any of these common mistakes when cooking with ginger. If you want your sauce to be completely smooth, you can blend it in a blender, or use an immersion blender in the pot after you add in your cooked ingredients. If you don't mind a few pieces of onion here and there, leave them be; this step is completely optional.

Another reason you may want to add garlic and ginger to your butter chicken sauce is that there are several very important health benefits to this flavor combination. First, they provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Additionally, garlic and ginger are both known to reduce the risk of heart disease, which may be a great idea, especially if you add a generous portion of butter to your butter chicken sauce.

Sauté Additional Spices To Amp Up The Flavor

array of spices
array of spices - YARUNIV Studio/Shutterstock

Perhaps an obvious piece of advice to amp up the flavor of your butter chicken is to add extra spices. Spices like garam masala, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon are great ways to add a depth of flavor to your dish. This easy butter chicken recipe calls for garam masala, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, but there are any number of spices that you can add to really bring out the flavors of your sauce. Even spices that you may not normally associate with savory foods -- like cardamom -- can really elevate your butter chicken sauce.

We also have one very important tip when it comes to adding spices to your butter chicken: Fry your spices in oil before adding them to your sauce. This technique, which is especially common in Indian cooking, helps to draw the flavors out of the spices and infuse them into the oil. This will enhance the flavor of your dish more than adding any number of raw spices. Be careful not to overcook or burn your spices, however, because that could lead to an acrid flavor.

Additionally, you should make sure that your sauce has the proper amount of salt. Salt is the one ingredient that can most impact the flavor of your sauce -- or, for that matter, of any food.

For Extra Creaminess, Don't Be Afraid Of Butter

butter swirl
butter swirl - MOUTASEM PHOTOGRAPHY/Shutterstock

Butter. For many, it's a little bit of a dirty word. It is, however, also the most important ingredient in butter chicken – so important, in fact, that it's in the name. It's the main difference between butter chicken and another popular Indian dish, chicken tikka masala. It makes the dish incredibly rich, smooth, and creamy. It also makes the dish on the less healthy side, sometimes with as many as 600 calories per serving.

That said, if you are looking to indulge in a truly creamy, delicious, restaurant-like butter chicken, butter may be the key. Many premade butter chicken sauces may not have as much butter as restaurant-made sauces because of health concerns, so adding a few pats of butter will amp up the creaminess of your sauce. Additionally, it is important to remember that while butter is unhealthy in large amounts, moderate amounts have some health benefits, including many vitamins and minerals.

Squeeze In Citrus For Freshness And Balance

cut up limes
cut up limes - Martin Poole/Getty Images

If you want to add a little bit of zip to your sauce while cutting through its richness, try adding a little bit of citrus. Lemon or lime juice would be great to add to a sauce that needs a little help in the flavor department, not only because they impart a delicious, zesty taste, but also because they help to balance out the other flavors.

Citrus fruits like lemon can be hugely transformative in the flavor profile of a dish, especially when added at the end of the cooking process (such as adding a squeeze of lemon to the top of your plate). Lemon can have the same effect that a sprinkle of salt has in terms of elevating all of the flavors that are already in the food. On top of that, lemon or lime juice will make your premade sauce taste fresh, making any heaviness or greasiness much less present.

Kick Up The Heat With Chili Peppers

chili peppers
chili peppers - Barcin/Getty Images

If you are a fan of spice, then adding a kick of heat to your butter chicken sauce is a great way to upgrade your meal. While butter chicken is not a traditionally spicy dish, there are plenty of people who enjoy the meal with some added heat. There are several ways to add spice to your dish. First, you can add in some extra chili peppers; there are at least 15 different kinds of chili peppers you could use. Whether you have fresh peppers or ground chili powder, this is an excellent way to kick your dish up a notch. Another great spice to include is cayenne pepper.

A second easy way to introduce spiciness to your premade butter chicken sauce is to add some fresh peppers such as jalapeños, serranos, or habaneros. Keep the ribs and seeds in if you like the heat, or discard these if you want to keep the dish a little mild. Simply chop up your peppers and sauté them. Then add them to your sauce and blend all of the ingredients together for a uniform, delicious heat.

Balance The Sauce With A Touch Of Sweetness

spoonful of sugar
spoonful of sugar - Aphirak Thila/Getty Images

If your sauce seems a little dull, or if it is too bitter or sour, you can easily fix this problem by adding some sweetness. While this may be counterintuitive, adding a little bit of sugar may be exactly what your premade butter chicken sauce needs. This is because adding just a little bit of sugar (even just a spoonful) can balance out any sour or bitter flavors in your dish. Honey and maple syrup are also great options if you don't want to use cane sugar.

In the same vein, there are many ways to sweeten your dish without using sugar. Adding sweet vegetables is a great way to add balance to your dish while also rounding out the flavors and textures of your dish. Sweet corn, butternut squash, or sweet potato would add not only a hint of sweetness to butter chicken sauce, but also provide extra nutrition that makes for a delicious, well-balanced meal.

Marinate Your Protein

marinated chicken
marinated chicken - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

Whether you are going traditional and making butter chicken with chicken, or taking an alternative route with lamb, tofu, or beef, if you are adding a protein into your sauce, then marinating your protein is the best way to imbue your dish with flavor. Yogurt, lime, turmeric, cumin, garlic, and ginger are all great ingredients to add to an Indian-style marinade, as they will saturate your protein with similar flavors to those of your sauce while also tenderizing your meat (if meat is what you are using).

Yogurt is an especially great marinade base for chicken because the natural enzymes and acids in the yogurt work to tenderize it. Additionally, yogurt allows chicken to retain much of its natural moisture while cooking, meaning you will have a juicier cut of meat. No matter what ingredients you use to marinate your meat, these flavors will make your entire dish more flavorful.

Another tip is to warm up your premade sauce in the same pan you used to cook your meat. This allows the flavors from the protein and the marinade to soak up into the sauce, enhancing the whole dish.

Add Fresh Tomatoes And Cream For A Brighter Color

fresh tomatoes
fresh tomatoes - Kamila Koziol/Shutterstock

The three main ingredients in butter chicken sauce are butter, tomato, and cream. If you want to brighten up your premade butter chicken sauce, why not add more of these staple ingredients, making your sauce taste fresh and therefore more delicious? Simple butter chicken recipes call for canned crushed tomatoes, which is a good option for the tomatoes. If you don't have crushed tomatoes on hand, however, you can just as easily add in fresh tomatoes or tomato purée.

As for cream, it is important not to be shy. How much cream is already in your sauce depends on the brand that you buy; however, butter chicken sauce is meant to be a delicious, light orange-red hue, rather than the dark red sauce that we sometimes see. In the Mashed version of a butter chicken recipe, there is one cup of cream. While this may seem like a lot, this indulgent dish is best with the right amount of creaminess.

Stir In Some Tangy Yogurt

jar of yogurt
jar of yogurt - olepeshkina/Shutterstock

While we may have discussed the merits of marinating your protein in yogurt, this ingredient is also a great one to add to your sauce for some extra texture and tanginess. Adding yogurt to curry is a common practice in Indian cooking because it lightens up the dish and helps to complement any spiciness that you may have added. The most traditional yogurt for this technique is an Indian yogurt called dahi; however, Greek yogurt generally works just fine.

Yogurt is typically added toward the end of the cooking process. In the case of premade sauce, however, you can simply stir in your yogurt when your sauce is warmed. The one caveat is that when you add it to your sauce, you must be careful not to let your yogurt curdle. The best way to do this is to temper your yogurt, adding the heated sauce into your yogurt a little bit at a time until it reaches a warm temperature.

For A Hint Of Nuttiness, Add Cashew Cream

bowl of cashews
bowl of cashews - pujihamzah13/Shutterstock

If you want a different way to improve your premade butter chicken sauce's texture, opt for a cashew cream. This is super easy to make, and the best part about it is that cashews add a delicious nuttiness to butter chicken sauce. While this is not a traditional ingredient for butter chicken, cashew gravies are fairly common in Indian cuisine and may be exactly what you need to enhance your jarred sauce.

Cashew cream, which you can stir into your sauce, is simple to make. You simply soak a handful of cashews (or as many as you would like, according to your taste preferences) in water overnight. Then you blend the cashews with a little salt, or add nutritional yeast for an extra protein boost, and voilà! You have a super creamy, nutty mixture to add to your butter chicken sauce. If you want to spice things up even more, you can add a clove of garlic, some olive oil, or a little lemon.

Read the original article on Mashed