Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. I love the deeply aromatic spices and flavors so much. I have a quick and easy chana masala recipe that I love, as well as a recipe for easy chicken tandoori with vegetables. I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t have a recipe for butter chicken in my repertoire because it’s a classic and something I always order when we go out for Indian food. While this recipe for Indian butter chicken tastes far from basic, cooking it at home is so simple. Tender chunks of chicken thighs are simmered in a rich, creamy, buttery, tomato sauce flavored with garam masala, ground ginger, and chile powder. You’re going to love this as much as I do.
What is Butter Chicken?
If you’ve never tried Indian butter chicken before, I’m so sorry. Because you’ve been missing out your whole life! Known as “murgh makhani” in India (chicken with butter), this dish is made with a spiced tomato sauce, and (as the name suggests), it’s made with a healthy amount of butter and heavy cream.
What’s in This Butter Chicken?
Most of the ingredients needed for this easy butter chicken recipe are spices and other aromatics. You may have to buy a few for this recipe, but they can all be used in lots of other recipes too.
For this butter chicken, you’ll need:
- Vegetable oil
- Garam masala
- Ground ginger
- Chili powder
- Tomato paste
- Tomato sauce
- Bay leaf
- Cream (use full-fat Greek yogurt or half and half if you want to make this a little lighter, but I don’t recommend using milk)
- Chicken thighs–I’m such a fan of chicken thighs. They have more flavor and won’t dry out as they cook in the sauce.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh cilantro
Tip: I keep this spice blend simple, but you could add cumin, coriander, or turmeric if you like.
How to Make Butter Chicken
This easy butter chicken recipe is so simple. And, it takes just over 30 minutes to make, so it’s weeknight-friendly, which I love. Here’s how to make it:
Make your sauce base. Sauté the onion in a little olive oil and butter until translucent. Add the spices to the skillet and continue cooking until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and sauce, along with the bay leaf.
Thicken it up. Slowly stir in the cream, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
Cook the chicken. In a separate skillet, cook the chicken in a skillet with butter and oil until it’s brown on all sides. Pour the tomato cream sauce into the pan with the chicken, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Finish with more butter. Stir in the butter until melted. Serve the butter chicken over basmati rice, then garnish with lime and cilantro.
TIP: If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of water to thin.
What is the Difference Between Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala?
Like butter chicken, chicken tikka masala is another popular Indian dish, and the two are quite similar. The difference is chicken tikka masala typically has a more complex flavor profile that is spicier and tangier, whereas butter chicken is often milder, richer, and creamier.
Is There a Cream Substitute I Can Use?
If you’re trying to make this butter chicken recipe a little healthier, you could use half and half in place of all or part of the cream.
Can I Prep This in Advance?
Butter chicken leftovers reheat well so it’s great to make ahead. If you have leftovers or want to meal prep this recipe, I recommend reheating it in a saucepan with the lid on to prevent the chicken from drying out.
Depending on how much sauce you have left over, you may need to add a splash of cream or water to loosen up the leftover chicken and sauce.
Tips for Making Butter Chicken
- While thighs have more flavor and won’t dry out, you can use boneless chicken breasts in this easy butter chicken recipe.
- To make this dish spicy, add a dash of cayenne pepper, but add it gradually—a little goes a long way.
- Finally, you can add lots of other veggies to this butter chicken if desired. Try it with frozen peas, spinach, kale, carrots, or butternut squash.
What to Serve with Butter Chicken
- Garlic naan (warm it in your oven)
- Basmati rice or white rice
- Garlic bread
- Mango smoothie (for mango lassi vibes)
- Chana Masala with Spinach
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Butter Chicken Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs , trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil , divided
- 4 tablespoons butter , divided
- 1 yellow onion , diced
- 3 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ½ lime
- cilantro leaves , for garnish
- Add the chunks of chicken to a bowl and season with the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat and set aside.
- In a large, high-sided skillet or 6-quart pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes or until it begins to soften. Add the garam masala, ground ginger, and chili powder and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't burn. Stir in the tomato paste and tomato sauce and whisk until smooth; cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the cream until smooth then add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- While the sauce cooks, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is lightly browned on all sides.
- Add the tomato cream sauce to the chicken and stir to combine. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add a squeeze of lime and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with basmati rice and garlic naan on the side.
More Easy Chicken Recipes You’ll Love
- Easy Tandoori Chicken with Vegetables
- 7 Spice Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowls
- Oven Roasted Chicken with Lemon Rosemary Butter
- Easy Shredded Chicken and Zucchini Tacos
- Honey Mustard Chicken
- The Best Baked Chicken Breasts
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