Butter Chicken

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Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani — chicken with butter) is one of the most popular curries around the world! Tender, marinated chicken is cooked in a luxuriously rich and creamy curry sauce. Skip the take-out– this recipe will rival any restaurant and can be made in the comfort of your home.

Image of a plate full of Butter Chicken on a bed of rice, garnished with cilantro.

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken has always been one of my favorite curries, and I am so excited to finally share my version with you! The chicken is so tender and juicy; it practically melts in your mouth, and the curry sauce is loaded with flavor and just the right amount of spice.

The great thing about Butter Chicken is that it is a much milder curry when compared to other Indian curries, so it’s very family friendly. In fact, my kiddos say this is their favorite curry dish! You can certainly add more spice to this dish, but as written, it is very mild.

I highly recommend using thighs in this recipe. The thighs simmer for a while in the curry sauce which heightens the flavor of everything. This results in ultra-tender chicken. Breast meat will work, but it won’t be near as tender or flavorful and you’ll have to watch the cook time a bit more carefully.

Process shots: bowl of measured out spices; bowl of mixed spices; bowl with spices, yogurt; bowl of everything mixed together, ready to marinate.

How to make homemade Butter Chicken

One of the best things about this recipe is that the ingredients are very easily accessible. No need to go to a specialty store or order anything online; you should be able to find everything at your local grocery store! 

  • Double purpose spice blend: Many Indian curries call out seasonings for the chicken marinade and different ones for the curry/sauce. I’ve combined the two processes so you only have to make one spice blend. Half goes in the marinade and the rest in the sauce. 
  • Marinate chicken: Mix the chicken with half of the spice blend along with a few other ingredients and set in the refrigerator to marinate. If you’re short on time, even 30 minutes of marinating time will yield good results. If you have a little more time, the chicken just continues to get more flavorful and more tender.
  • Curry sauce: When the chicken is done marinating, we cook it in a skillet along with some onion and the rest of the spice mix. After that, the rest of the ingredients are added to create the curry sauce. Everything is simmered until the chicken is tender and the sauce is thickened. And just like that, homemade Butter Chicken is ready to serve.

Spice blend in Butter Chicken

If you enjoy Indian food, you likely have all these spices in your cabinet, and if not, they’re very common at just about any grocery store.

  • Garam masala
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper: Here’s where you can play a bit with spice; I add in very little (1/8 teaspoon) cayenne, which you can completely omit if you’re very sensitive to spice. Alternatively, you can increase up to a full teaspoon if you’d like some heat in this Butter Chicken.
  • Salt

To the spice blend we also add fresh minced garlic and minced ginger. I recommend fresh since they add so much flavor to the chicken and the sauce, but in a pinch dried ginger and garlic powder will work.

Process shots: adding butter and onions to a skillet; sauteing the butter and onions; adding spices and tomato paste to the pan; adding the marinated chicken to the pan.

Butter Chicken FAQs

What is the difference between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala?

While these two curries are similar (and chicken tikka masala is a personal favorite of mine!), they do have a few differences.

  • Chicken Tikka Masala is typically less creamy than Butter Chicken.
  • Butter Chicken usually has less of an intense tomato flavor.
  • Finally, Tikka Masala is traditionally cooked in a tandoor while Butter Chicken is cooked in a pan over a fire.

Is Butter Chicken actually Indian?

The dish was developed in the 1950s by three restaurateurs: Kundan Lal Jaggi, Kundan Lal Gujral and Thakur Dass, who were the founders of a restaurant– in India. The dish was created by chance when leftover chicken was mixed in a tomato gravy. That tomato gravy was rich with butter and cream. (Source)
 
Process shots: cooking the chicken mixture; adding cream and tomatoes; simmering until tender; serving Butter Chicken on a bed of rice.

What to serve with Butter Chicken

  • We love Butter Chicken served over basmati rice (or plain cooked white rice).
  • You can serve pita bread, flatbread, roti (buttery Indian flatbread), or even Naan bread on the side. 
  • Serve with an Indian vegetable stir fry as a side dish — think cauliflower, carrots, etc.
  • A very common accompaniment to Indian dishes is an easy cucumber and yogurt salad (called Raita); a plain cucumber salad would also make a delicious side dish.

Cooking basmati rice

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 is soaking, 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.

It might seem like a few extra steps, but I promise it is quick, and the rice is perfect every time.

Close-up shot of a plate of Butter Chicken, with a fork on the side.

Make ahead

This is a dish that just keeps getting better as it sits, making it great for meal prep or making ahead of time, if you have company coming (stress free!). We like this butter chicken even better on day 2. 

Allow the food to cool completely and refrigerate for 2-3 days. Unfortunately, this is not a dish that freezes and thaws well.

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Butter Chicken

5 from 4 votes
Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani — chicken with butter) is one of the most popular curries around the world! Tender, marinated chicken is cooked in a luxuriously rich and creamy curry sauce. Skip the take-out-- this recipe will rival any restaurant and can be made in the comfort of your home.
Print Recipe

Butter Chicken

5 from 4 votes
Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani — chicken with butter) is one of the most popular curries around the world! Tender, marinated chicken is cooked in a luxuriously rich and creamy curry sauce. Skip the take-out-- this recipe will rival any restaurant and can be made in the comfort of your home.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Butter Chicken
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 250kcal
Cost $6.81

Ingredients

Spice Mix & Chicken Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons EACH ground cumin, garam masala
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons EACH: finely minced garlic, finely minced ginger (~4 cloves; ~1 inch piece)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3/4 cup full fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Fine sea salt

Curry

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced yellow onion (1 large onion)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 ounces) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • Serve with: cooked basmati rice and fresh cilantro (See Note 2)
  • Optional serve with: pita bread, flatbread, roti, or Naan bread

Instructions

  • SPICE MIX: Combine the 2 tablespoons cumin, 2 tablespoons garam masala, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons turmeric, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons finely minced ginger (peel the ginger with a vegetable peeler or scrape off the peel with the sharp edge of a spoon), 1 and 1/2 tablespoons finely minced garlic, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (See Note 1). Stir together and set aside.
  • MARINATE CHICKEN: Trim the fat and cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and place in a large bowl or bag. Add the 3/4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and HALF of the spice mix (just eyeball it). Stir to coat (or knead the bag to coat). Cover the chicken tightly (or seal the bag) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to overnight. Do not marinate longer than 24 hours.
  • COOK ONION AND SPICES: Add the 2 tablespoons butter to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add in the 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes. Reduce the heat if it begins to burn. Add in the reserved half of the spice mix and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Stir for 2-3 minutes or until very fragrant. Reduce heat if the mixture begins to burn.
  • COOK CHICKEN: Push the onion and spices to the edges of the pan and add the chicken in the middle of the pan (remove the chicken out of the marinade but don't wipe off the marinade from the chicken (but also don't pour the marinade left in the bag/bowl into the pan)). Cook for about 3-4 minutes, over medium high heat, or until the chicken is white on the outside (but not cooked through). Stir often and incorporate the spices and onion into the chicken as you cook. (See Note 3)
  • SAUCE: Once the chicken is white all over, add in the can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, 1 and 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon white sugar, and add salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon). Stir, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F) and sauce has thickened. If desired, stir in some chopped cilantro here (about 1/3 cup).
  • SERVE: Serve curry over cooked basmati rice (See Note 2) and garnish with additional cilantro leaves (optional). Serve with flatbread, roti, or naan.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: You can omit cayenne pepper entirely if you're very sensitive to spice. Alternatively, you can increase (up to a full teaspoon) if you'd like some heat in this butter chicken.
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 that rice in a bowl and cover it with water to soak for about 5-10 minutes.
  • While the rice is soaking, 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: if opting to use chicken breast instead of thighs, cook completely through at this point and then remove from the heat onto a plate and cover with foil. Only add the chicken breast back into the curry to warm through in the last minute of cooking the curry sauce. Otherwise the chicken breast will be too dry.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 250kcal | Carbohydrates: 8.4g | Protein: 14.4g | Fat: 17.9g | Cholesterol: 93.1mg | Sodium: 71.7mg | Fiber: 0.9g | Sugar: 6.5g

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7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Butter chicken is one of my favorites. I haven’t made it in ages. You have inspired me. I’m going to add it to my menu next week. Thanks!

  2. I’m pregnant and have been craving Indian lately. In the past week, I made your coconut curry and this butter chicken. Both were amazing! The flavor in this dish was spot-on. I did make a few adjustments, mostly to the texture. I used half of the chicken called for because I like a bit more sauce to chicken ratio. I also cooked the chicken separate from the onions so that I could puree the sauce in my blender. Roughly chopped cashews also added a nice little crunch to the dish. Thank you for an easy and very tasty recipe!

    1. Indian was a huge pregnancy craving for me! I’m so glad you’re loving these recipes! Thanks so much fo your comment and tips on these! 🙂

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