This homemade butter chicken recipe features succulent chicken pieces in a creamy golden sauce everyone will fall for. Learn how to make this iconic Indian dish at home that tastes better than takeout!
The best butter chicken recipe
We are a family of curry lovers.
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What is butter chicken?
Butter chicken, also known as chicken makhani (Murgh Makhani), is a popular Indian dish. It features tender chicken chunks in a rich sauce made of tomatoes, onions, butter, and a blend of Indian spices.
Spending quite a substantial amount of time in India, I first fell in love with this dish during my two-week homestay with a local family. Not only did they feed me well (almost too well!), but they also taught me many staple dishes, including this butter chicken recipe.
You’ll love it, too, because:
- It’s restaurant quality. With authentic spices and fresh cream, this homemade recipe tastes like something from an Indian restaurant (like our chicken vindaloo or chicken curry).
- Quick and easy. With barely any hands-on time, this comes together in no time.
- Slow cooker option. While we prefer to use a stovetop, this works in a slow cooker or instant pot.
- Naturally low in carbs. If you serve it with cauliflower rice or low carb naan, this makes a fabulous keto dinner.
While this recipe may have a longer list of ingredients, they are actually very simple ones that are pantry staples. Here is what you’ll need:
- Chicken thighs. Skinless and boneless. You can also use chicken breast to make butter chicken though the traditional recipe uses chicken thighs.
- Garlic and ginger. Minced garlic and ginger are used to marinate the chicken and create a flavorful base for the dish.
- Tandoori paste. Tandoori paste is a popular Indian marinade that contains different spices and herbs.
- Spices. We all know what a vital role spices play in Indian cuisine. I use a blend of cumin, garam masala, turmeric, cinnamon, and smoked paprika. Of course, salt and pepper are to taste.
- Tomatoes and onions. Crushed tomatoes and sliced onion are the main components of the sauce.
- Chicken broth. Using chicken broth instead of water is an easy way to make the butter chicken sauce taste richer and more flavorful.
- Butter. To fry up the chicken.
- Ghee. I use ghee to start off the sauce for my butter chicken. You can use a combination of vegetable oil and butter if you don’t have ghee.
- Heavy cream. Heavy cream instantly transforms the sauce into a creamy and rich golden goodness.
- Cilantro. Freshly chopped cilantro to sprinkle on top of the curry.
How to make butter chicken
We have broken down the process of making this recipe into a few simple steps. Follow these cooking directions to make a delicious restaurant-worthy butter chicken at home.
Step 1- Marinate the chicken
Start with marinating the chicken. Cut the boneless and skinless chicken thighs into a bowl. Next, add the minced ginger, minced garlic, tandoori paste, and lemon juice to the same bowl. Mix well to coat the chicken pieces in the marinade.
Step 2- Pan-fry the chicken
When the chicken has absorbed all the rich flavors of the marinade, add some butter to a non-stick pan and allow it to heat up. When the pan is hot, add the chicken. Cook the chicken on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until it is no longer pink. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
Step 3- Cook the onion
Add ghee to the same pan followed by the sliced onions. Next, add the spices and cook the onions until fragrant.
Step 4 – Prepare the gravy and add the chicken
When the onions soften, add crushed tomatoes and cooked chicken to them. Pour in the chicken broth and let it simmer on low heat.
Once the sauce has thickened, add heavy cream and allow it to simmer for another 15 to 25 minutes. You should end up with a bold orange color curry with a rich texture and tender chicken pieces.
Serve butter chicken over a bed of rice. Garnish it with plain yogurt and serve with chopped parsley.
Instant pot butter chicken recipe
- Sauté onions, garlic, and ginger in ghee/butter in Instant Pot.
- Add spices, tomato puree/crushed tomatoes, and chicken thighs.
- Cook on Manual/Pressure Cook mode for 8 minutes.
- Natural pressure release for 5 minutes, then quick release.
- Stir in heavy cream/coconut milk and simmer on Sauté mode for 5-7 minutes.
- Serve hot with chopped cilantro.
- Don’t skip the marinating step. Marinating helps tenderize the chicken and takes your homemade butter chicken to the next level. Let marinating the chicken be your first step. While you prepare the rest of the ingredients, the chicken will have some time to absorb different flavors and aromas and tenderize.
- Cook the tomatoes long enough. Tomatoes are one of the key ingredients for the butter chicken sauce. Cooking the tomatoes for 10 to 15 minutes thickens the sauce and deepens the flavor. If it is a little too chunky, you can rectify that by pureeing them using an immersion blender.
- Don’t add all of the heavy cream in one go. To prevent the sauce from becoming grainy, mix the heavy cream with a small amount of gravy first and then add it to the dish.
- Add tomato paste. For a richer flavor, add a tablespoon of tomato puree (tomato concentrate) to the curry while it is simmering.
- Add some spice. A sprinkle of chili flakes or cayenne pepper can give this dish a peppery punch.
To store: Place leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Properly stored butter chicken will be good for 3-4 days.
To freeze: Transfer it into a freezer-safe airtight container, label it with the date, and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat: Allow it to defrost in the fridge and then reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Frequently Asked Questions
This chicken dish is supposed to be mildly spicy. But you can make it as spicy as you like if you enjoy a kick of heat in your food. It is also slightly sweet. The sweetness of butter chicken comes from the tomatoes. You can use a small amount of honey or sugar if the tomatoes aren’t naturally sweet.
Both are Indian curry dishes where the key ingredient is chicken. While they may look similar, there are quite a few differences between them.
For butter chicken, the chicken is pan-fried, whereas, in tikka masala, it is typically skewered and char-grilled or roasted in the oven.
To balance the sweetness in your Butter Chicken, add acidity, heat, and salt, dilute the sweetness, or adjust the spices. Experiment with these options until you achieve the desired taste and balance of flavors.
- 1 piece ginger minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 small lemon juiced
- 1 1/4 lbs chicken thighs chopped
- 2 tablespoons tandoori curry paste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 small onion sliced
- 1 teaspoon garam marsala
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 can crushed tomatoes 14 ounce
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- In a bowl, add the ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chicken, and tandoori curry paste and mix well.
- Add the butter to a non-stick pan and place it over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes, until no longer pink. Remove from the pan.
- Add the ghee to the pan and then the onion and spices. Cook until fragrant. Add the chicken back into the pan, along with the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth and bring it to a simmer.
- Once it has thickened, stir through the heavy cream and let it simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until it has thickened.
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