Butter Chicken


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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 deliciously spiced yogurt blend, then sauteed and simmered in a rich and creamy curry sauce that’s ridiculously good.

Butter chicken with rice in a bowl.

There’s so much to love about Indian food, especially when rich curry sauces are involved. Coconut curry chicken is an easy weeknight meal, and I have a vegetarian version for chickpea curry in my cookbook. But tikka masala and butter chicken (also known as murgh makhani) are two of the most popular Indian dishes. And while those two may seem similar, there are some slight differences in the sauces.

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 your preference is ultra-creamy curry sauces, you’re going to absolutely love this butter chicken recipe!

Ingredients for butter chicken on a table

Butter chicken ingredients

I’m usually one who attempts to simplify ingredient lists, but there’s not a lot of room for shortcuts with butter chicken, especially if you hold true to a traditional version. So I’m sticking with authentic ingredients today, but with a few small additions that’ll make this the best butter chicken ever.

  • Chicken Thighs: Boneless skinless chicken thighs are preferred as they remain juicy and tender when cooked.
  • Spices: Both the marinade and the sauce use similar spices, including Kashmiri red chili powder and garam masala (see note on chili powder below). 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 freshly squeezed lemon! It has more vibrant flavor than jarred lemon juice.
  • Garlic and Ginger: You have two options – 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: Blended raw cashews are 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.
  • Coconut Sugar: While any granulated sugar works in this recipe, my personal preference is coconut sugar.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter is ideal, but you can also substitute that with ghee or olive oil if you’re dairy-sensitive or dairy-free.
  • Heavy Cream: Both heavy cream and coconut cream work great. So feel free to choose your preference.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below

Chili powders on a plate for butter chicken


To clarify the chili powder used in this recipe, American chili powder is 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.

But when it comes to Indian food, Kashmiri red chili powder is everyone’s go-to across a variety of dishes. It’s 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!

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

How to Make The Best Butter Chicken

The steps below may look intimidating, but once you start cooking, it’s actually really simple. Just remember that each step serves a purpose in making the most delicious butter chicken possible!

Marinating chicken in a bowl for butter chicken

Prep and marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces. Then marinate it 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 diced chicken in spices.

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 it to a separate bowl.

Making curry sauce in a pan for butter chicken

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 aromatic flavors meld together.

Blended butter chicken curry sauce in a Vitamix.

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

Butter chicken in a large pan with a spoon.

The final steps. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, then stir together the blended sauce, butter, and heavy cream. Add the chicken back to the pan and stir it together with the sauce for 3 to 5 minutes, until it’s warmed through.

Creamy butter chicken in a pan with a serving spoon

Common Questions

Can you swap the chicken thighs with chicken breasts?

While yes, you can, I do recommend you 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 another good reason!

Is it necessary to use a blender for this recipe?

If you’d like a smooth and velvety sauce, I think it is. But you could also transfer the sauce to a bowl or large mason jar and use an immersion blender as well.

Storage Tips

This 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).

  • To store: Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
  • To freeze: If you’ve got leftovers or simply want to make a batch for the future, freeze this recipe in a freezer-safe container or my favorite Souper Cubes. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

More One Pan Chicken Recipes

Let’s be honest, chicken reigns supreme when it comes to flavorful, filling, and easy dinner ideas. 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

4.93 from 42 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
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. Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen!



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

For Serving


  • 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 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).


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
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

This recipe was originally published April 2022, but updated to include new helpful information.

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Just made this and it’s a hit with the WHOLE family 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 I made it exactly as the recipe is written. Definitely adding this to my dinners list.5 stars

  2. Made Butter Chicken again, love the spice combo. I always make 3 or 4kg at a time and freeze it in servings. It’s so popular with family and friends ❤️5 stars

  3. This was my first time to make Butter Chicken and I love your recipe. It’s so creamy and the cashews give it the nutty flavor. I’m lovin’it!5 stars

  4. This is a favorite in our household, but we use chicken breasts instead. The sauce is vibrant, tasty, and addictive. We like to amp up the heat a bit with some cayenne and we swap between basmati and white rice.5 stars

  5. This is a favorite in our household, but we use chicken breasts instead. The sauce is vibrant, tasty, and addictive. We like to amp up the heat a bit with some cayenne and we swap between basmati and white rice.5 stars

      1. I’ve been making this meal for about a year now and it’s a family favorite. I was wondering what is the best way to thaw this meal after freezing?5 stars

  6. Great recipe. The chicken was very tender and the recipe seemed to have lots of steps so I suggest having everything prepped while the chicken is marinading. I used a hot curry instead of the chili sauce and it still didn’t have the heat my husband likes. I will try adding cayenne next time. Really enjoyed the butter chicken with naan bread over basmati rice with a small serving of brocolli. Will make this again.4 stars

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed the recipe, Pat! And yes, you can definitely tweak the heat level to your liking. That’s an easy fix. Enjoy! :)

  7. Is there a substitute for the crushed tomatoes? I love love love butter chicken but can’t figure out a way to elimate the crushed tomatoes.

  8. This looks soooo yummy, I will definitely try this one, and I was thinking of making a tofu version ahead of time and freeze to serve at a gathering for next week because a vegan friend is coming. Do you have any suggestions for adapting the recipe with tofu instead of chicken?5 stars

    1. I haven’t tried making a tofu version yet, but I’m sure you can slice and toss the tofu into the sauce once it’s cooked.

  9. My favourite butter chicken recipe ! I like to soak the cashews, again for that extra creaminess.

    Lisa, would you have a dhal recipe to share ? It’s winter here in Australia and craving more of those warm nourishing dishes ….

    Or a nice creamy laksa ?

    Thank you for your great work5 stars

    1. I’m happy you love my butter chicken recipe, Claudia! And no, I don’t have a recipe for dhal or laksa yet. But I’ll make sure to add them to my list. :)

  10. This butter chicken recipe is sublime. I made it today for lunch and was beyond impressed with the creaminess and rich flavor profiles.

    Lisa, thank you for creating concise, wholesome, inspiring and delectable recipes.
    When I discovered your food blog in 2019, I remember feeling positively elated to find content that was delicious, healthy AND gluten-free.
    This will sound silly but there was a time when I thought I was doomed to a life of eating bland chicken breast and sad broccoli. 

    I have enjoyed every single recipe I have tried from your site. Thank you for playing a part in restoring my zest for cooking and creativity in the kitchen. 5 stars

    1. Don’t worry Kasia, we’ve all been there! But happy to hear you’ve been enjoying so many Downshiftology recipes and hope you continue to do so :)

  11. This is an amazing butter chicken! My husband and my little kids loved it. Its got heat and a beautiful balance of sweetness. I would give it 10 stars if I could! Thank you so much for making this recipe so easy to follow, and so delicious!5 stars

  12. Have made this recipe twice and both times were a hit. I did follow the recipe exactly. Can see making this dish regularly moving forward. Just hoping to remember to defrost the chicken earlier (if needed) and prep a day in advance so as to give it a whole night to marinate before cooking it the following day next time. I only marinated it for 30 minutes in my two attempts, but still amazing.5 stars

  13. Absolutely perfect! The whole Family loved it, including my sometimes very picky little ones. Love it!5 stars

  14. I hosted a dinner party for the first time and made this recipe. Everyone loved how the butter chicken turned out! Best recipe I’ve ever tried! I didn’t have kashmiri red chilli powder so I used 1-2 tsp of crushed red chili flakes. Are there any veggies I can add to this dish?5 stars

    1. Happy to hear this worked out perfectly for your dinner party! For veggies, you could add sliced bell peppers.

  15. I have made this butter chicken twice now. The creaminess of the sauce in this recipe just can’t be beat. Love, love, love it! 5 stars

  16. I made this tonight for our dinner, it was so delicious! 
    I have made a lot of different recipes for Butter Chicken over the years and by far your recipe turned out to be the Best!  I had marinated the chicken thighs from early this morning it was so tender and yummy! My husband agreed and raved about the flavours! 
    I also received your cook book last night, an early Christmas gift to me :) 
    Looking forward to trying out more of your fantastic recipes!
    Thank you Lisa! 5 stars

  17. I really really wanted to love this recipe. However, i felt like this recipe felt short in the texture. I followed the recipe to the teeth, gravy was too thick and left a dry taste in my tongue. I even added some extra ghee to recover this dry taste I felt linger in mouth. Finally, I figure out the culprit is that this recipe uses Greek yogurt but Indian dishes generally uses whole plain yogurt. I grew up eating Indian food so I was able to distinguish this. Don’t get me wrong, I felt like this is good base recipe specially using cashew to bring out the smooth textures but the flavor of the Greek yogurt is a bit overwhelming and bet the purpose of the Indian seasoning. Also, I do recommend adding some dry fenugreek leaves to enhance the flavors a bit. 3 stars

  18. Lisa this was over the top full of flavors!!!  And no time to make. Thanks for the recipe and wait for your cook book. My tummy is 😃 

    Angel  5 stars

  19. I started making it late with hungry little birds swarming around me (kids).  I ended up taking a shortcut and they loved it!  My pickiest was helping me cook and said “mom I’m trusting you!!” When she saw how different it was. I threw the marinade yogurt mix into the instant pot for 10 minutes and added garbanzo beans and corn (I’m somewhat random in my cooking).  Family Loved it. Hubby took 3 helpings!  I completely skipped the second part of the recipe.

    I used coconut cream and coconut yogurt to make it lactose-free. 5 stars

  20. I’m really really sensitive to spicy (like table pepper is too much) so I followed the recipe except substituted smoked paprika for the chilli powder and it came out really great. Just a tip in case anyone is a baby about spiciness like me:)5 stars

  21. I had to tone down the seasoning for my husband (who ended up not being willing to even try it).  I also don’t currently have a working blender so I used my immersion blender which worked great for it. Will definitely make this again.  Will wait until I make dinner for my daughter and her SO so I can use the full seasoning, too. 5 stars

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. 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

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

  27. 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

  28. 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

    1. 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.

  29. 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 ❤️

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

    2. Delicous! My boyfriend had two plates of it and then even washed the dishes, so I guess he loved it very much 😂 Will do it in future again ❤️5 stars

  30. 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.

  31. 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

  32. 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

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

  33. 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!

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

  34. 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?

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

  35. 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? 

    1. 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.

  36. 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

    1. 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. :)