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Butter Chicken

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This easy butter chicken recipe features ultra-tender chicken simmered in a rich, creamy, spice-infused tomato sauce.

Photo by Johnny Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2021)

One of my favorite recipes from my new cookbook, and a staple menu item in many Indian restaurants in the U.S., butter chicken was supposedly created when a restaurateur in India combined leftover chicken with a tomato sauce enriched with butter and cream. Traditionally, the chicken for this dish is marinated in yogurt, lemon, and spices and then cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor. To save time and make the dish home cook-friendly, I sauté unmarinated, seasoned chicken in a skillet and then briefly simmer it in a creamy, spice-infused tomato sauce. This results in ultra-tender chicken. In fact, one of my recipe testers remarked that this must be called “butter chicken” because the chicken is so tender, it’s like “buttah!”

Along with basmati rice or naan, I love a little mango chutney on the side; it adds a delicious gingery sweetness that complements the chicken.

What You’ll Need To Make Butter Chicken with Mango Chutney

butter chicken ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces evenly with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the garam masala; toss to coat evenly.

tossing chicken with salt and garam masala

Add the flour.

adding flour to seasoned chicken

Toss again, making sure the chicken is well coated.

tossing seasoned chicken with flour

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot and shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer and cook, without stirring, until the chicken is lightly golden on the underside, about 3 minutes.

browning chicken on first side in skillet

Using tongs, turn the chicken pieces over and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Using the tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside while you make the sauce (you’ll use the skillet in the next step—there’s no need to wash it).

browning chicken on second side in skillet

Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

adding ginger and onions to skillet

Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne (if using), and remaining teaspoon of garam masala; stir and cook 1 minute more.

adding spices to ginger and onion mixture

Add the tomato sauce, cream, sugar, pepper, water, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

adding cream, tomato sauce, and seasoning

Add the chicken along with any accumulated juices, to the sauce.

adding the browned chicken to the sauce

Simmer a few minutes, until the chicken is warmed through.

simmering the chicken in the sauce

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with the cilantro, if using.

adding cilantro to butter chicken

Serve with basmati rice and mango chutney.

Butter Chicken Video Tutorial

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Photo by Johnny Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2021)

Butter Chicken

This easy butter chicken recipe features ultra-tender chicken simmered in a rich, creamy, spice-infused tomato sauce.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs chicken tenderloins, tendons trimmed, cut into 1½-inch pieces (see note)
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger (from a 2-inch knob)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1¾ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

For Serving (optional)

  • Basmati rice
  • Mango chutney (such as Major Grey's)

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces evenly with ¾ teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the garam masala; toss to coat evenly. Add the flour and toss again, making sure the chicken is well coated.
  2. In a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot and shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer and cook, without stirring, until the chicken is lightly golden on the underside, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken pieces over and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside while you make the sauce (you’ll use the skillet in the next step—there’s no need to wash it).
  3. Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. If the onion starts to brown, reduce the heat. Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne (if using), and remaining teaspoon of garam masala; stir and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomato sauce, cream, sugar, pepper, water, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken, along with any accumulated juices, to the sauce and simmer just a few minutes until the chicken is warmed through. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with the cilantro, if using, and serve with basmati rice and mango chutney. (Note that the sauce will thicken as it sits; thin with a bit of water if necessary.)
  5. Note: Chicken tenderloins typically have a white tendon attached to them. They can be a little tough to chew, so I like to remove them with kitchen shears before cooking. Just pinch the tip of the tendon with your finger and snip where the tendon meets the chicken.
  6. Note: This dish is traditionally cooked with ghee, a type of clarified and fermented Indian butter that has a higher smoke point than plain butter. Since I don’t have ghee on hand in my kitchen and butter burns over high heat, I use a combination of butter and oil to get a similar effect (oil raises the smoke point of the fat and prevents the milk solids in the butter from burning).

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 793
  • Fat: 59 g
  • Saturated fat: 23 g
  • Carbohydrates: 40 g
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 28 g
  • Sodium: 1,063 mg
  • Cholesterol: 167 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • I’m really excited to try this Jenn. Can this be made in advance like your marsala? I’d like to make a few dishes in advance then only have to prepare the naan, then serve them together as a meal. Love your recipes; I’ve come to count on them.

    • — Heidi on September 30, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Heidi, This reheats nicely so, yes, it’s fine to make ahead. enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hello, It looks like you made your own Garam Masala blend…or I’m missing something. 😊 Can you tell me what you used, or a brand that you recommend?
    Thanks!
    Rivka

    • — Rivka on September 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Rivka, I’m not creating my own garam masala — the little bowls of spices you see are the garam masala, coriander, cumin, and cayenne. And generally use McCormick’s garam masala. Hope you enjoy the chicken!

      • — Jenn on September 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • I’ve had butter chicken before at Indian buffets, but no desire to make it until I saw this recipe. Couldn’t believe how flavorful the sauce was when I first tasted it! Wish it was a pretty dish to look at, but it’s certainly delicious. 🙂 So easy to make too. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Natalie on August 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe! I paired it with the naan and it made for an amazing meal. Jenn, your recipes make me a rockstar cook, thank you!

    • — Trina W on August 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • I cook a number of Indian dishes and had not come across this dish before. The spice combinations are a little different and I was surprised by the lack of garlic. I followed the recipe, mostly (I cooked down the masala and tomato sauce before adding the cream). It was excellent. Thank you for this recipe.

    • — Wally on June 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn- we really enjoyed this tonight and it fit the ultimate test of success: all four of us liked it! Thanks so much!

    • — Sara on May 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • Fantastic recipe that totally rivals restaurant quality. I didn’t have tenderloins on hand, I used chicken breast and it still came out great. Adding this to my rotation. Thanks for another 5 star recipe Jenn:)

    • — Stephanie on May 25, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can this (very yummy!) recipe be doubled successfully in one large skillet without any changes?

    • — Jill Puckett on April 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Jill, that should be fine; you’ll just need to brown the chicken in two batches. (And glad you like it!)

      • — Jenn on April 12, 2022
      • Reply
  • No one in our family has had butter chicken before, but since we all like warm spices, I decided to give it a go — SO DELICIOUS! Thanks for another home run, Jenn!

    • — Lainey H. on April 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was delicious! I love a recipe that comes together easily. The total calories come out a tiny bit on the high side per serving, but that’s to be expected with butter chicken. The meal makes up for that in flavor and it’s really filling especially with a small side vegetable. We had this for leftovers two days later and it was even better. I would totally make this again.

    • — Joseph on April 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can curry powder be used instead of garam masala? Can’t find any at the grocery store. Will it alter the taste?

    • — Renee on March 31, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Renee, it will change the flavor a bit, but will still be delicious. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 31, 2022
      • Reply
      • Spectacular and so easy to make. Thanks again Jenn for another wonderful recipe!!

        • — Florence on May 22, 2022
        • Reply
  • Jennifer, I finally tried your Butter Chicken recipe this weekend…fantastic! Chicken Breast meat can be dry, so never my first choice, but these little chunks are very moist and the sauce is so flavorful. Thank you!

    • — Kathy Vukasovich on February 27, 2022
    • Reply
  • I have never made an Indian-style dish before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. My husband was not enthusiastic. But we loved it! Will definitely make it again. The spice level was just right for me, but if you like your food a bit more spicy, you could increase the spices a bit. You will be very happy if you try this dish.

    • — Mary Anne on February 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • If I can’t get my hands on chicken tenders, can I use regular old chicken breasts? If so, how would I cut them to make them most similar to tenders? Can’t wait to try this!!

    • — Alex S. on February 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Alex, chicken breasts won’t be quite as tenders, but it will still be good. You don’t need to cut them into tenders first; just cut them into 1-1/2-inch pieces. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on February 7, 2022
      • Reply
      • The chicken breasts worked out very well and were quite tender! (Next time I’ll try to head to the bigger grocery versus the small specialty market😉) Overall, I loved this!! I upped the cayenne a bit because I like it spicy and slightly decreased the cumin because I find it can be overwhelming. A winner!!

        • — Alex S. on February 7, 2022
        • Reply
        • So glad it came out well — thanks for reporting back! 🙂

          • — Jenn on February 8, 2022
          • Reply
          • This was so good that I keep thinking about it! I’m wondering if you could try other proteins (shrimp, lamb) instead of chicken just for variety. What are your thoughts?

            • — Alex S. on February 9, 2022
          • Sure, the cooking times may be different, but I think other proteins would work here. (And glad you like it!)

            • — Jenn on February 10, 2022
  • This recipe is delicious and easier than some others I have tried. Question: can boneless thighs be used without further recipe adjustments?

    • — nancy on February 6, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • This is delicious recipe! I slide my knife down both sides of a chicken tender to remove the tendon which results in smaller (SUPER tender) almost bite size pieces of chicken. Frying and turning each little piece takes more time but is so worth it. The sauce is rich and deeply spiced and there’s a touch of heat present even without the Cayenne.

    • — Angie on February 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wow!!!!
    total food snob here!!!
    Been to India!!
    And this was as close to authentic Indian I have made!!!And that is not an easy task!!
    Delish!!!!

    • — Sarah on January 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely delicious, and easy to make. I even found the chutney in my grocery store – it was perfect with the chicken. Loved it.

    • — Diane on January 29, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can you freeze the leftovers?

    • — Fean on January 27, 2022
    • Reply
    • I’m not sure how this would freeze and reheat because of the cream in it but if you have leftovers that you don’t want to go to waste, it’s worth a try. Please report back if you try it!

      • — Jenn on January 27, 2022
      • Reply
  • I followed the recipe exactly and it was fantastic. My young kids loved it too. They usually won’t try anything they think is spicy but they gobbled it right up. I will definitely be making this one again.

    • — Connie M on January 26, 2022
    • Reply
  • Thank you for another winner recipe! My boys loved this dish and I will be making it again.

    • — Susan on January 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • Great recipe! I had a lot of fun making this while my husband read the instructions out loud and then waited for me to complete each step before reading the next one. It came together quickly and easily.
    The spices were delicious and interesting.

    • — Sarah on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this the other night, DEE-licious!! Thanks for another winner Jenn 🙂
    Ally in NJ

    • — Ally O'Connor on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
    • The recipe was very good. I’ve never had butter chicken or made it before so enjoyed using the different spices. Had naan on hand but forgot to make the rice. I made rice for leftovers the next day.

      • — Carol on April 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • You can add about a teaspoon of crushed dried fenugreek leaves just before you leave it to simmer. Will take the flavor up a notch.

    • — Lubna on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • This Butter Chicken dish is so good, easy to make and delicious. Pretty comparable to what I have had in an Indian Restaurant, I am thrilled with how it turned out and it pairs up so nice with your Naan Bread recipe!

    • — Myra on January 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • Doubled the recipe with great success.
    Deeeeeeeelicious.
    The flour and spices for browning, were so tasty and also eye appealing, I intend to do the same for specialty chicken salads. It will be lovely. The chicken was so tender with your timing too.
    Thank you for such a wonderful Family meal.

    • — Sue Hadick on January 18, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wow, this was delicious. I will definitely add to our rotation. So much flavor, family loved it. Another home run from my favorite chef to follow, your recipes never disappoint.

    • — Eileen on January 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight. Wow, very tasty – loved it. Definitely a repeater. I will add more cayenne next time but thanks so much for a tasty recipe.

    • — Karen on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! I just made this tonight…SO good. It may not be a traditional Indian recipe, but I appreciate that your recipes are so approachable to the home cook looking for something a little different and that brings Indian spices into our worlds, especially in a time when going out to dinner is tough right now. I will definitely be making this again as it was not too time consuming and delicious. I also LOVE your tikka masala recipe and I’ve passed that along to my sister and it’s become a staple in her rotation. I use A LOT of your recipes and they never disappoint. I give you total credit for all of them. I have your cookbooks and have gifted them as well. I thank you for your time and helping us home cooks make delicious meals…and I’m GF (not by choice) so going out to dinner was tough before the pandemic! All of your recipes are GF adaptable thanks to so many GF products and you even have GF recipes (thank you for the consideration)! I look forward to continuing my food journey with you. Be well.

    • — Adria on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • 💕

      • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
      • Reply
    • I’ve made this delicious recipe a couple of times & it’s always great. Do you think you can freeze the leftovers?

      • — Fran on January 25, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Fran, glad you’ve enjoyed it! I’m not sure how well this would freeze and reheat because of the cream. That said, if you have leftovers that you don’t want to go to waste, it’s worth a try. Please LMK how it is once you reheat it if you try it!

        • — Jenn on January 26, 2022
        • Reply
  • Just made the butter chicken and so yummy!!!! I used coconut milk and regular chicken breasts as I’m trying to use up items in my pantry/fridge. It turned out really well and the chicken wasn’t dry of which I thought might happen since I didn’t use tenders. I so appreciate your recipes as do my family and friends. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Janster (a former REALLY super bad cook) on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was fantastic! Next time now when I make it I will add more heat because we like spicy. The only mistake I made is I thought I bought skinless boneless chicken thighs only to find out they were only skinless lol. That will teach me to look closer at the packaging next time. I also made the mistake of adding the full amount of the Garam Marsala when I was tossing the chicken. Only to notice that I had to use some of it in the sauce. So I just added an extra half tablespoon to the sauce and it still turned out. I’m curious what your thoughts are if I were to substitute coconut milk for cream next time? Do you think that would change the flavour profile too much?

    • — Judy on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it even with the (unintentional) tweaks! 🙂
      I do think this would work with full-fat coconut milk. It may add a hit of coconut flavor to the sauce, but it would be subtle.

      • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
      • Reply
  • I made this yesterday and it was awesome, really great recipe. I paired it with basmati rice and naan bread and we really enjoyed the meal. Thank you for providing this recipe.

    • — Randy Sampson on January 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious!! The chicken was very tender, and the sauce creamy and flavorful! The recipe was very easy to follow. I might try with half and half next time just to make it a little healthier.

    • — Alison on January 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn, can I make this in the morning and warm before serving? If so, oven time and temp or microwave?

    • — Carol Winkelman on January 14, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, I think this is best if served right after it’s prepared but it reheats nicely. I’d gently reheat it on the stove. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
      • if it thickens upon sitting, will I have to add liquid to it when reheating

        • — Carol Winkelman on January 14, 2022
        • Reply
        • Yes, you will likely need to thin it out a bit.

          • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
          • Reply
        • WOW…for someone who is not a lover of Indian food, this was delicious. Served with chutney, naan, jasmine rice (that’s what I had in the house) and a dry riesling. So good. Did a mise en place in the morning and quickly put it together while my guests did wine and roasted, charred broccolini. The only problem was getting those white strips off the tenderloins. My kitchen scissors are wimpy. Will replace shortly. Jenn what brand do you have? Thanks again for a marvelous meal.

          • — Carol Winkelman on January 16, 2022
          • Reply
          • So glad it came out well, Carol! I have Henckels kitchen shears. Hope that helps. 🙂

            • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
  • Any chance I could use something other than the heavy cream? Half & half even?
    Thanks!

    • — Kathryn on January 14, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think you could get away with 1/2 and 1/2. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
      • I made the recipe last night with 1/2 and 1/2 instead of cream–turned out just wonderfully!
        On another note, the recipe doesn’t say to peel the ginger but I did–assumed you should. Was I wrong?
        Thanks Jen–great recipes as always!

        • — Kathryn on January 17, 2022
        • Reply
        • So glad you enjoyed it, Kathryn! And yes, it’s correct to peel the ginger.

          • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
          • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. I’m looking forward to trying this but wanted to ask if this will work in a cast iron skillet or a large regular all-clad aluminum skillet – I don’t have a nonstick skillet. Thanks again for all your amazing recipes, you’ve made me a better cook and a more confident one!

    • — S from DC on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Cast iron will work well. Enjoy 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • A friend had given me her recipe for butter chicken which I was going to make tonight….but then I remember seeing it in your latest cookbook so I made yours tonight for dinner. SO TOTALLY AMAZING…spices were right on..WE LOVED IT!! Thank you for another GREAT recipe!

    • — Cynthia Lucarotti on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • I love butter chicken. Have tried a few different recipes. I look forward to trying this one!

    • — Michele on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I usually love your recipes, and have made some of the dishes based on the recipe you have posted, and they were great. Unfortunately this time, being an Indian and having followed some of the very acclaimed chefs from India, I would have to disagree with your Americanized Butter Chicken recipe. It might be good but just reading over your recipe, I can assure you that this can never be called by any stretch of imagination a butter chicken. The basic essence in a classic butter chicken is the spice mix and the chicken marination. And Flour coating on chicken in a butter chicken??? Good lord.
    Instead of Butter Chicken you might want to call it Quick and Easy Chicken in a Tomato Sauce.
    I still love all your posts and recipes and would earnestly request you to keep it alive with well time tested recipes and not venture into time tested recipes.
    All the best for your future posts.

    • — Debasish Chakravarty on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Debasish – I am Desi too. However, she does state that traditionally this recipe is made using marination in spices etc. She is giving a more short cut version of it.

      The side of mango chutney -now that I have to admit I have never heard of or seen eaten as a complement to butter chicken, but to each their own!

      It is refreshing to see people try to adapt other cultures’ cuisines into their own lifestyle, even if it is not entirely authentic. It doesn’t have to be. It helps to increase awareness and acceptance.

      Love your recipes Jen!

      • — Asra on January 19, 2022
      • Reply
  • I have to be honest, this was SO good. I was scared at first because I’m not a fan of some of the spices but the way it blended was OUTSTANDING. we wiped the pot clean. Will be making again for sure. I’ve never ever made a recipe from you that wasn’t 10/10.

    • — Cristina on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • I have made this recipe (new cookbook is full of great recipes like this one!). I would put this up there in Jenn’s top 10 (maybe top 5) – the best part of the recipe (besides the taste which is divine) is that it is easy to make! Limited ingredients, prep time and cook time. Loved it.

      • — Big John on January 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Can’t wait to try your version of butter chicken. Quick question: I know many garam masala spice blends include salt. Does yours? Just want to check so I know whether to add the additional salt called for in the recipe or skip it. Normally, I would just wait to the end to adjust the salt, but since the seasoning is added right at the get-go I thought I’d check.

    • — Noreen on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Noreen, Mine does not include salt. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • I just made this last night – it was amazing!! I didn’t have the chutney but it was still delicious! We had garlic naan to round out the meal. I have never been disappointed by any of your recipes!

    • — Traci on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Good morning.
    May i ask could u use cornstarch to velvet the chicken ?
    Thanks,

    • — Dagmar Vanderkuip on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can coconut milk be substituted for cream?
    This looks grest!

    • — Maddie on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think that should work. Please LMK how it turns out with coconut milk!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply

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