Butter Chicken Recipe | The Recipe Critic
If you’ve never eaten butter chicken, you’re in for a treat! This classic Indian dish takes chicken thighs and simmers them in a creamy tomato sauce packed with spices until the chicken is irresistibly tender. Serve over steamed jasmine rice with warm naan bread!
If you love butter chicken, don’t miss our Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala, Coconut Curry Soup or Thai Chicken Skewers.
Classic Butter Chicken Recipe
If you’re a fan of Indian food, chances are you’ve had butter chicken. And if so, chances are you’ve become a cult follower like me. If you’re unfamiliar, butter chicken is a classic Indian dish consisting of chicken thighs simmered in a creamy tomato sauce until the chicken is super tender and infused with the most delicious flavor.
If you’re new to the Indian cooking game, the list of spices I use may not be familiar to you, but don’t worry, because these days you can find them all in almost any grocery store. . Garam masala is the dominant spice used in butter chicken (we’ll talk about other spices below), and it has the most wonderful curry taste. It’s full of spices, but it’s not spicy, there are notes of coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and pepper. It’s quite heavenly.
Spices in Butter Chicken
- garam masala: We talked about garam masala above, but the full list of ingredients includes cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and cardamom pods. So if you don’t have any of the spices below, you can always double the garam masala instead. It will always give your curry an amazing flavor!
- Cumin: Ground cumin adds a nice smoky note to butter chicken.
- Fenugreek: While this ingredient is definitely optional if you can’t find it, it adds a nice salty element to the butter chicken.
- Coriander: Ground cilantro is actually the seed version of cilantro, so it has a similar flavor profile to this one. I find the ground coriander to taste a bit smokier and I like how it complements the ground cumin.
- Turmeric: If you’ve never used turmeric before, now is the perfect time to start! This vibrant orange spice gives dishes a lovely yellow hue and has a lovely warm ginger flavor.
- brown sugar: To balance out all those spices you need a bit of sweetness and brown sugar is my go-to sugar.
Other Ingredients You’ll Need
- Chicken: Classic butter chicken is made with chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are much tastier than chicken breasts and may contain a long simmered sauce. Unlike chicken breasts, chicken thighs get super tender and pull apart really well when cooked for half a long time.
- Yogurt: Whole milk yogurt is a classic ingredient in many Indian dishes. Here, it’s used to marinate chicken, as it helps tenderize it in the process. It also adds a delicious creaminess and light flavor!
- Garlic, onion and ginger: I mean, is a dish complete without a little garlic and onion?
- crushed tomatoes: You can also use whole tomatoes and mash them yourself, but buying them already pureed is such a time saver.
- Lemon juice: I love the tangy flavor that lemon adds to butter chicken, it’s a must!
- Heavy cream: A classic component of butter chicken is cream sauce, and to achieve this we use a fair amount of heavy cream. That’s what makes butter chicken so luxurious.
Let’s make butter chicken!
Don’t get me wrong, I love Indian takeaways as much as any other, but when you make butter chicken from scratch, it’s so fresh and delicious!
- Mix the yogurt, lemon juice and spices: In a medium bowl, add the yogurt, garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, garlic, ginger, and lemon juice.
- Marinate the chicken: Add the chicken pieces to a large resealable ziplock bag. Add marinade to bag and massage marinade into chicken. Leave to marinate for 1 to 3 hours.
- Brown chicken: Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and cook your chicken over high heat. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Don’t overcook it as it will continue to cook in the sauce. Put aside.
- Sauce mix: In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the tomato paste and cook for about 2-3 minutes until blackened. Add tomato sauce, heavy cream, butter and sugar. Whisk until smooth and cook for 3-5 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken.
- Combine: Add the chicken to the sauce and toss to combine.
- Serve: Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with jasmine rice and naan bread.
Cooking tips and substitutions
Here are some ways to make this delicious butter chicken your own!
- Discard excess marinade: Be sure to remove all excess marinade before searing the chicken or the bottom may burn.
- Alternative to heavy cream: If you don’t want to use heavy cream, you can substitute coconut milk or even light coconut milk.
- Use chicken breasts: If you really don’t like chicken thighs, you can use chicken breasts, but be sure not to overcook them.
- Types of yogurt: Any type of plain, whole-milk yogurt will work, whether it’s regular or Greek.
- Add more texture: To add some sweetness and texture, I like to add a handful of raisins and cashews. So delicious.
- Wait to return: When searing the chicken, don’t try to flip it until it pulls away easily from the pan.
- Serve with: I always like to serve my butter chicken with yellow rice and warm garlic naan! It’s such a tasty combo.
Can I make butter chicken ahead of time?
Yes! In fact, butter chicken is just as good if not better the next day. Prepare from start to finish, let cool completely and store the chicken and sauce in one container and the rice in another container. It will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Reheat over low heat until the chicken is heated through.
In a medium bowl, add the yogurt, garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, garlic, ginger, and lemon juice.
Add the chicken pieces to a large resealable ziplock bag. Add marinade to bag and massage marinade into chicken. Leave to marinate for 1 to 3 hours.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and cook your chicken over high heat. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Don’t overcook it as it will continue to cook in the sauce. Put aside.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the tomato paste and cook for about 2-3 minutes until blackened. Add tomato sauce, heavy cream, butter and sugar. Whisk until smooth and cook for 3-5 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken.
Add the chicken to the sauce and toss to combine.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with jasmine rice and naan bread.
Updated on June 17, 2023
Portion1portioncalories565calories (28%)Carbohydrates21g (7%)Protein38g (76%)Fat38g (58%)Saturated fat17g (85%)Cholesterol247mg (82%)Sodium1614mg (67%)Potassium1090mg (31%)Fiber4g (16%)Sugar13g (14%)Vitamin A1372UI (27%)Vitamin C19mg (23%)Calcium159mg (16%)Iron4mg (22%)
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and is an estimate only. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and serving sizes per household.