Butter Chicken

A spoonful of this Indian butter chicken with warm basmati rice may just be one of the best chicken recipes you’ll ever have. Juicy chicken thighs are marinated in a delicious spiced yogurt blend. But the real MVP here is this rich and creamy curry sauce – it’s ridiculously good.

Butter chicken with rice in a bowl.

First, Let’s Distinguish Between Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala

There’s so much to love about Indian food, especially when rich curry sauces are involved. There’s the fan favorite tikka masala, but let’s not confuse it with butter chicken (also known as murgh makhani) because the sauces are a bit different.

The sauce for tikka masala is less creamy and has a more prominent spiced kick to it. Butter chicken on the other hand has a creamier, more buttery sauce that balances out the rich spices. So if you’re all for ultra-creamy curry sauces, you’re going to absolutely love this butter chicken recipe.

Ingredients for butter chicken on a table

It’s All About The Butter Chicken Sauce (and Marinade)!

When I thought about how I could simplify the ingredient list (because I’m all for making recipes easier), I realized there’s not a lot of room for shortcuts here. Especially when it comes to more traditional and authentic dishes like butter chicken. So, I’m sticking with the classic ingredients used in this recipe, but with a few small additions that’ll make this the best chicken curry ever.

  • Spices: Both the marinade and the sauce use similar spices, including Kashmiri red chili powder and garam masala. Additionally, the chicken marinade includes ground turmeric and the curry sauce includes ground coriander and cumin.
  • Yogurt: I’m using Greek yogurt for this recipe, but any plain yogurt (even dairy-free yogurt) works as well. Just make sure to use full-fat yogurt for creamy, flavorful, and tangy chicken.
  • Lemon Juice: Stick with fresh squeezed lemon!
  • Garlic and Ginger: There’s two options for you here. You can mince fresh ginger and garlic, or take the easier route and buy garlic ginger paste.
  • Onion: A diced yellow onion adds depth of flavor to the sauce.
  • Cashews: This is my secret tip to make the curry sauce as creamy as can be!
  • Tomatoes: One can of crushed tomatoes serves as the base for the sauce.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is ideal, but you can also substitute that with ghee or oil if you’re dairy-sensitive or dairy-free.
  • Heavy Cream: Both heavy cream or coconut cream work great!

Find the printable recipe with measurements below

Chili powders on a plate for butter chicken

American Chili Powder vs Kashmiri Red Chili Powder

If you didn’t know – American chili powder is actually a blend of ground dried chiles with other spices like cayenne pepper, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika. This savory blend makes it perfect for adding into Tex-Mex dishes (like my classic chili recipe).

When it comes to Indian food, Kashmiri red chili powder is everyone’s go-to for a variety of dishes. It’s simply made from ground dried chiles alone, and is actually mild in flavor. Plus, its vibrant red color adds beautiful warm tones – especially in curries!

Pro Tip: Carefully look to make sure the word “Kashmiri” is labeled on the packaging. If it just says red chili powder, it’s going to have much more intense heat. To put this into perspective – Kashmiri chili powder is between 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville heat units, while red chili powder reaches 4,000 Scoville heat units!

So, here’s a quick run-down of the different chili powders and their heat level:

  • Cayenne – very hot
  • Red Chili Powder – very hot
  • Deggi Mirch – medium hot
  • Kashmiri Chili Powder – mild
  • Paprika – mild

Chicken Thighs vs Chicken Breast

I’ll just be straightforward and say use chicken thighs. I’m a little biased given how much I love chicken thigh recipes – but for good reason. They’re much more tender than chicken breasts and won’t dry out as you continue to simmer the chicken in the curry sauce. Also, traditional butter chicken uses chicken thighs. So, that’s gotta mean something right?

How To Make The Best Indian Butter Chicken

The steps below may look intimidating. But once you start cooking, it’s actually really simple. Just don’t skip out on anything, as each step serves a purpose for super delicious results.

Prep and marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces. Then marinate them in a bowl mixed with yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, Kashmiri red chili powder, garam masala, turmeric, and salt. Cover and refrigerate this for at least an hour (or overnight for even tastier results).

Cooking chicken in a pan for butter chicken

Cook the chicken. Use a large sauté pan to cook the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes, until it’s opaque and cooked through. Then transfer to a separate bowl.

Make the curry sauce. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and stir for another minute. Then add the cashews, crushed tomatoes, sugar, and water. Stir, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for 5 minutes to let all those delicious flavors meld together.

Blend it up. To make the sauce extra smooth and creamy, using a blender is key! Just pour the sauce into a high-powered blender and blend for about a minute, until it’s perfectly smooth.

The final steps. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, then stir together the creamy butter sauce, butter, and heavy cream. Then add the chicken back to the pan and mix it in with the sauce. Let it cook for 3 to 5 minutes until it’s warmed through.

Creamy butter chicken in a pan with a serving spoon

Storage Tips

If you know me, you know I’m all about meal prep and big batch cooking. And this my friends is a recipe that’s perfect for meal prep (just think of how you might buy butter chicken at the supermarket in the frozen food aisle).

It can be stored in the fridge, or frozen for later. If you’re freezing, I would make a second batch – it’s such a great meal to reheat for future dinners!

  • To store: Any leftovers can be store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
  • To freeze: Finding frozen butter chicken in the freezer is a gold mine! So if you’ve got leftovers or simply want to make a batch for the future – freeze the recipe in a freezer-safe container or my favorite Souper Cubes. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Butter Chicken Recipe Video

Need some visual help on making this butter chicken? Cook along with me in the video below!

More One Pan Chicken Recipes

Let’s be honest, chicken reigns supreme when it comes to flavorful, filling and easy dinner ideas. But here’s a few extra recipes to keep in your back pocket.

Nothing beats this butter chicken when you’re in the mood for some Indian comfort food. If you make it, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

A bowl with butter chicken and rice with a spoon

Butter Chicken

5 from 14 votes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Marinating Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
This butter chicken is hands down one of the best chicken recipes! Marinated and spiced chicken simmers in the creamiest, most velvety curry sauce. It may just be one of the best dinner recipes you'll ever have.

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil

For the Butter Sauce

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ cup raw cashews
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or other sweetener)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or ghee)
  • ½ cup heavy cream (or coconut cream)

For Serving

  • basmatic rice
  • freshly chopped cilantro

Instructions 

  • Dice the chicken. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and place it in a bowl.
    Diced chicken in a bowl for butter chicken
  • Marinate the chicken. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, red chili powder, garam masala, turmeric, and salt to the bowl. Stir it all together, then cover and refrigerate for an hour (or up to overnight).
    Marinated chicken in a glass bowl for butter chicken
  • Cook the chicken. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Place the marinated chicken in the fry pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the chicken is opaque. Transfer the chicken to a separate bowl.
    Cooked chicken pieces in a pan for butter chicken
  • Make the sauce. Add the onions to the pan and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened and translucent.
    A pan with cooked onions for butter chicken
  • Add the ginger, garlic, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and stir for another minute. Then add the cashews, crushed tomatoes, sugar, and water. Stir it all together, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.
    Butter chicken curry sauce in a large pan with spoon.
  • Transfer the sauce to a high-powered blender and blend for a minute, until smooth and creamy.
    Blending butter chicken curry sauce in a blender
  • Combine it all together. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel (if you'd like to remove any lumps from the final sauce), then stir together the creamy butter sauce, butter, and heavy cream.
    Making butter chicken curry sauce in a large pan
  • Add the chicken back to the pan over medium heat and stir with the sauce for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is warmed and cooked through.
    A large skillet with butter chicken
  • To serve. Enjoy the butter chicken on it's own, or serve it over basmati rice topped with fresh cilantro.
    A bowl with butter chicken and rice next to cilantro

Lisa’s Tips

  • You can typically find Kashmiri red chili powder at your local Indian market. But you can also purchase it online! Alternatively, you can use a combination of paprika and cayenne pepper for a similar taste and heat level. And if you’d like to “up” the heat level, just use regular red chili powder instead of Kashmiri red chili powder.
  • If you’d like to save time making this recipe, don’t mince the ginger and garlic at home. Just buy a jar of ginger garlic paste! You can substitute 1 tablespoon in the marinade and 1 tablespoon in the sauce for both the garlic and ginger listed in the recipe above.
  • You can substitute the cashews with blanched almonds, sunflower seeds, or pine nuts, or simply leave them off (the sauce will just be a little thinner).
  • If you don’t have a high-powered blender, transfer the sauce to a bowl and use an immersion blender

Nutrition

Calories: 346kcal, Carbohydrates: 8g, Protein: 26g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 141mg, Sodium: 551mg, Potassium: 426mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 637IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 2mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Butter Chicken, Butter chicken recipe
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38 comments on “Butter Chicken”

  1. My husband said this was the best thing I’ve ever cooked. And I cook ALL the time. I seriously love all your recipes. Can’t wait for your book. It’s preordered ;). 5 stars

  2. Of course, another recipe from Downshiftology which did not disappoint. Everyone in my household agreed that it’s like the ones we eat at Indian restaurants if not better. Thank you very much, Lisa! We love you 😍 5 stars

  3. Amazing amazing! Thank you so much! Please make a mutton curry recipe!5 stars

  4. Delicious recipe Lisa! Made it with chicken thighs but given the rising price of chicken nowadays, I am trying to eat more plant-based. Can I replace the chicken thighs with chickpeas? What modifications to the recipe would you recommend if I can use chickpeas?5 stars

  5. This is incredible! I used chicken breast and used red chili powder because I already had it in the drawer (what can I say I love spicy food). It was easy to make, but was so delicious and I’ll be dreaming of that sauce for weeks. Thank you for yet another amazing recipe that will become part of my regular dinner rotation. Next time I will try tofu instead of chicken tho. 5 stars

  6. This was terrific butter chicken. The closest to restaurant quality I’ve made! I did halve the amount of ginger, however. I also cut up an entire chicken instead of using just chicken thighs. Lasted a few days!5 stars

  7. Absolutely delicious! Will definitely make again! Also, can’t wait to get your cookbook! 

    • Yay! Glad you enjoyed this butter chicken recipe Melissa. And yes – can’t wait for you to get your copy!

  8. Oh my goodness, this recipe is AMAZING!! I absolutely love Indian food but I live hours away from any restaurants, which means I’ve tried a lot of different recipes trying to find dishes that taste like those you would get at a restaurant. There have been many recipes I’ve tried that have been majorly disappointing, but this butter chicken did not let me down! I will definitely be making this again and sharing the recipe with my family and friends that are Indian food lovers. Thanks!5 stars

  9. We made this dish tonight with brown rice and it was delish! This was our first time making butter chicken and we made extra batches, so it took a lot longer than the estimated time, but it was worth it. We marinated chicken in one bowl and extra firm tofu in another bowl (for vegetarians) last night, then made the sauce and cooked everything tonight. We forgot to add the sweetener, but didn’t miss it – it turned out great anyway. We used both half and half as well as a can of full fat coconut milk – yum!

    We took your suggestion, Lisa, and meal prepped. Since we made meat and vegetarian options and had 3 1/2 lbs of chicken, we made quadruple the recipe and put the extras in containers in the freezer for future weeknight meals. In addition, we had extra sauce left over, and put it in a separate container in the freezer so that when we make this recipe again in the near future, we only need to marinate the chicken (or extra firm tofu) overnight, thaw out the sauce, and save the extra step of having to make the sauce again. I’d love to see a post on chicken tikka masala.

    Thanks for all your great recipes, Lisa! Keep up the great job!5 stars

    • Happy to hear you’re loving this butter chicken recipe Wendy! And yes – this is definitely one to meal prep and freeze for the future.

  10. Dear Lisa, 
    Congratulations! This recipe looks yummy. I have made & enjoyed several of your recipes and always enjoy the pictures. Are there pictures with each recipe in your cookbook? 

    I’m single and have a small refrigerator/freezer. The description says “big batch” recipes. Is there info with each recipe for making smaller versions?

    Wishing you all the best!

    D ❤️

    • Thanks so much for your support! Yes, each recipe in the cookbook has photos, along with special tips (which may include portioning tips) :)

  11. An excellent resource for a foodie like me. I love exploring new cultures, making new recipes, trying out new cuisine.
    Now more than ever while stuck at home, I am appreciating this helpful list so much more. Thanks.

  12. Wow amazingly delicious!! One of my new favorites!5 stars

  13. Thank you very much for this wonderful recipe.  It’s easy to follow and the butter chicken was out of this world!  The only negative for my texture was not 100% smooth but besides that it was perfect.5 stars

  14. The color of mine was different than Lisa’s, not sure why. But it was the best Butter Chicken Ever. It does always take me a lot longer than the recipy “total time” but that is probably me :)5 stars

    • Glad you enjoyed this butter chicken recipe! As for the total time, it’s just a rough estimate :)

  15. Easily the best Butter Chicken I have ever cook – and eaten (if I say so myself…).

    Love your Youtube channel – thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    Best wishes!

  16. That seems like a lot of sugar. What happens if you leave it out?

    • You can reduce the sugar if you’d like. It’s used to help balance out all the spiced flavors.

  17. This looks so good ! I am lactose intolerant, so I can substitute the dairy for nondairy. However my husband is allergic to nuts. Is there something I can also substitute the nuts?

    • Yes, you can sub the dairy for non-dairy options. As for the nuts, you can swap it for sunflower seeds!

  18. Is the nutrition information based on the chicken and rice? Or just chicken?

    Thanks.

  19. Can’t wait to try this! I have a daughter that is allergic to nut. Do you have a suggestion on something to sub for the cashews? 

    • You can sub with sunflower seeds if she cannot eat nuts at all. Alternatively, you could also just omit them entirely. Though the sauce won’t be quite as thick.

  20. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for all your wonderful videos and recipes. Everything always looks so appealing !

    The Kashmiri you linked is not gluten-free. As you’re coeliac….. I thought you might have missed the label – even if you’d be very surprising from you.

    In one of your videos, you mention the eggs sticking in your stainless steel pans. I do use stainless steel pans and my eggs don’t stick. Have you heard about the water drop test ? That’s how you know the pan is a perfect temperature, and nothing sticks – even scrambled eggs :-)
    As you helped me so much with meal prep, it sounds fair to share what might help you :-)

    Thanks again for all your helpful  work.5 stars

    • Hi! The Kashmiri spice is gluten-free (there’s only one ingredient – chilies). But like most packaged foods, it’s not produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility so has an allergy label on the product. I don’t personally have any issues with it, but if you do I’d recommend finding a certified gluten-free brand. :)

  21. Absolutely outta the park Lisa… Home Run!!!
    Sam Hatman5 stars

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