The Best Butter Chicken Recipe

Learn how to make astonishingly easy Butter Chicken at home that will have everyone believing it’s takeout!  This recipe ensures spectacular results with adept seasonings, charred chicken to replicate that gorgeous smoky flavor of the tandoor, the correct tomatoes, down to correctly adding the butter so your sauce doesn’t split. In less than 45 minutes after marinating, you’ll be rewarded with tender chicken swimming in lusciously rich and creamy, bronze-orange tomato-cream curry sauce! I give you permission to lick the plate.

Up close of Indian Butter Chicken with rice showing how saucy it is


Watch HOW TO MAKE Butter Chicken

You’ll love this Indian Butter Chicken

  • EASER THAN YOU THINK. Once the chicken has been marinated, the recipe can be on your table in 45 minutes!  
  • ONE SEASONING MIX – TWO PUROSES. Measure once, use the seasonings in both the chicken marinade and the tomato-cream sauce.
  • FRIENDLY INGREDIENTS. Find all the spices at your grocery store.
  • CHARGRILLED CHICKEN. The chicken is seared until charred in a sizzling hot cast iron skillet to replicate that gorgeous smoky flavor of the tandoor.
  • CORRECT INGREDIENTS. This recipe uses juicier chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, fire roasted diced tomatoes instead of crushed, more yogurt to tenderize the chicken, cashews for sweet creaminess and fenugreek leaves for that signature flavor.
  • NO SPLIT SAUCE. The key to silky sauce is to add the butter before blending – not after!
top view of Butter chicken in a bowl showing how creamy it is

Ingredients for Butter Chicken

This Indian Butter Chicken recipe is made with easy-to-find ingredients but boasts big, bold, exotic flavor.  I have divided the ingredients into three sections 1) the chicken marinade, 2) the spices, 3) the sauce.  Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

For the chicken marinade 

  • Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are dark meat which can be charred at high heat without drying out, yielding the juiciest, most flavorful chicken that melts in your mouth. 
  • Yogurt:  This protects the chicken from drying out while searing, while the calcium and lactic acid work together to break down the protein in the chicken, leaving it super tender. Plain yogurt or full fat Greek yogurt will work.
  • Lemon juice:  You may use fresh or bottled. The citrus helps tenderize the chicken by breaking down lean muscle fibers and the tanginess helps cut through the earthy seasonings.
  • Aromatics:  Garlic and ginger add crucial pungent flavoring to the chicken.  Fresh is best but you may use 1 teaspoon each garlic powder and ground ginger in a bind.


Easy Butter Chicken is intensely flavorful due to the plethora of seasonings.  I know it is a lot of spices, but they each play a crucial role in the complex flavor profile and only take a couple minutes to whisk together. You will need:

  • Garam Masala: is a very common seasoning and can be found at your local grocery store located with the spices. It is a tantalizing combination of ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg.
  • Paprika:  please use regular paprika and not smoked paprika or the smokiness will overwhelm the curry sauce!
  • Chili powder:  a blend made of chili peppers and other spices including cumin, onion, garlic powder; note American chili powder is NOT hot cayenne pepper.
  • Cayenne pepper: you can make this recipe as mild or as spicy as you like depending on how much cayenne you add, or omit completely.
  • Coriander: earthy, tart, and sweet.
  • Turmeric: earthy and bitter, with a bit of peppery spice.
  • Cardamom:  minty, citrusy, herbal and spicy 
  • Salt: use regular table salt.

For the SAUCE

  • Ghee: This is a type of clarified butter that is commonly used in Indian cuisine prized for its rich, nutty flavor and high smoking point. It is made by simmering butter, which causes the water content to evaporate and the milk solids to separate. The clarified butter is then strained, resulting in a golden, translucent liquid known as ghee. Purchase ghee at the grocery store or on Amazon here.
  • Fire roasted diced tomatoesThe type of tomatoes is crucial and makes a huge difference in the taste of the entire dish!  Please use fire roasted for their complex smokiness, deeper flavor and lower acidity.
  • Heavy cream: This makes for a silky-smooth sauce and balances the tomatoes.  If you want to keep things healthier, use an equal amount of evaporated milk instead. 
  • Cashews: Unsalted cashews add a mild sweetness and creamy richness. The bulk bins at Sprouts and Whole foods are a great option for purchasing.
  • Aromatics:  Garlic and ginger are the building blocks of the sauce. 
  • Dried fenugreek: This is a key ingredient and flavoring of Indian Butter chicken with a tangy, bitter taste.  You can purchase it at an Asian market or order it on Amazon here.
adding Butter chicken to a bowl showing the chargrilled chicken

Butter Chicken Indian Recipe Variations and Substitutions

Butter Chicken varies from region to region, cook to cook, so feel free to mix it up however you like!  Here are a few ideas:

  • Ghee substitute: Use an equal amount of unsalted butter. Note, butter is more likely to split when simmered.
  • Make it spicy:  ¼ teaspoon cayenne is mild-medium. Increase to ½ teaspoon or more to make it spicier.
  • Grill the chicken:  Approximate the chargrilled flavor of the tandoori by grilling the chicken pieces until charred.  I suggest skewering the chicken first for easy rotating because the pieces are small.
  • Broil the chicken: Position a rack directly under the broiler and preheat to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the rack and broil until the chicken starts to brown in spots, 3 to 6 minutes per side (it will not be cooked through). 
  • Add vegetables: Substitute some of the chicken for your favorite vegetables such as cauliflower, zucchini, squash, eggplant, broccoli, mushrooms butternut squash, spinach, etc.
  • Use roasted vegetables: For an even more complex-tasting dish, roast the veggies before tossing them with the curry sauce. 
  • Swap the protein.  Use pork tenderloin or shrimp. For pork, follow the same instructions for the chicken. For shrimp, marinate for only 30 minutes, cook, then stir into the sauce just before serving to prevent it from overcooking. 
  • Use coconut milk:  Swap the heavy cream for full fat coconut milk for a fantastic coconut infusion of flavor.
  • Make it lighter:  Use evaporated milk in place of the heavy cream. I don’t suggest half and half as it is more likely to split while simmering.
scooping up Indian Butter chicken showing how creamy the sauce is

How to make Butter Chicken

This easy Indian Butter Chicken Chicken recipe comes together in a few steps:

1. Marinate the chicken
2. Sear the chicken
3. Simmer the sauce
4. Blend the sauce
5. Simmer the chicken

Let’s take a closer look at how to make it with step-by-step photos and instructions below (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

Step 1: Make the Spice Blend

  • Whisk together all of the spices; set aside.
showing how to make butter chicken recipe easy by mixing together garam masala, ground cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, salt, chili powder and turmeric

Step 2: Marinate the Chicken 

  • Remove 3 tablespoons of the Spice Blend to a large bowl (whatever you are going to marinate the chicken in).
  • Whisk in the yogurt, lemon juice, half of the garlic and half of the ginger. 
  • Add the chopped chicken and stir to evenly coat. 
  • Marinate the chicken for AT LEAST 30 minutes, but overnight is ideal.
a collage showing how to make Butter Chicken Indian recipe by making the chicken marinade by whisking together yogurt, garlic, ginger, lemon juice and spices

Step 3: Cook the Chicken in Batches

  • Heat a high smoking point oil (like vegetable or canola) in a large cast iron skillet over high heat.
  • Working in batches, add the chicken to the skillet and cook until charred on each side (creates that signature flavor!). Transfer the chicken to bowl.
showing how to make butter chicken by searing chicken until charred in a skillet

Step 3: Make the Sauce

  • Melt 3 tablespoons ghee or butter in a large saucepan or braiser.
  • Sauté garlic, ginger and remaining spices for one minute.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, water and cashews and simmer for 8 minutes.
a collage showing how to make best butter chicken recipe by melting ghee and sautéing butter, garlic, ginger and spices, adding cashews and tomatoes and simmering

Step 5: Blend the Sauce

  • Transfer the tomato mixture to a high-powered blender and purée until smooth.
showing how to make  Butter Chicken recipe by blending the masala curry sauce in a blender until smooth

Step 6: Combine and Simmer

  • Stir the heavy cream into the blended sauce followed by the fenugreek leaves, sugar and chicken.
  • Gently simmer over low for 10 minutes.
a collage showing how to make Butter chicken by stirring heavy cream and fenugreek leaves into the sauce, followed by the chicken, then simmering

Step 7: Serve

  • Serve over basmati rice with optional cilantro.
showing how to serve Butter Chicken recipe by garnishing with cilantro

Tips for MAking the Best Butter Chicken Recipe

Follow the below tips and tricks for the most successful, restaurant worthy Indian Butter chicken recipe in the comfort of your home!

  • Don’t chop the chicken too small. Aim for 1.5-inch chunks so that the chicken doesn’t cook all the way through when it’s first seared. It will finish cooking in the sauce. (Note, because thighs are thin, they will be 1 ½ inches wide, not thick.)
  • The longer you marinate, the better! Marinate the chicken for 3 to 6 hours, or even better, overnight.  
  • Char the chicken. Don’t be afraid of the crispy bits! Browning the chicken adds that undeniably delicious, trademark chargrilled flavor. 
  • Simmer the chicken gently.  Once you add the chicken to the sauce, simmer it gently over low, (you should barely see bubbles popping).  You never want to simmer chicken at too high of heat or it will become tough and rubbery.
  • Adjust the spice!  You can make this Butter Chicken recipe as mild or as spicy as you like by adjusting the cayenne pepper.
  • Don’t add butter after simmering sauce. This can cause it to separate. Only add butter/ghee before blending.
  • Control curry consistency.  If the curry sauce is too thick, thin it with water. I suggest heavy cream + water instead of half and half because half and half can separate after simmering.
  • To clean your blender:  Spray your blender with bleach to remove the turmeric.

Butter Chicken (Indian Recipe) Serving Suggestions and Pairings

I always serve this Indian Butter Chicken recipe over hot steamed basmati rice with a showering of fresh cilantro and a side of naan to mop up the incredible sauce.   Add a simple side salad or roasted vegetables for the perfect meal.  Here are some tasty sides to choose from:

  • Rice: I prefer nutty basmati rice for the Indian flavored dish, but any rice will work to mellow and absorb the flavorful sauce. Just pop the rice in your rice cooker for an easy side.
  • Low carb options: cauliflower rice, quinoa, broccoli rice or a blend of brown rice and any of the aforementioned options.  You can even use low-carb noodles such as zoodles or spaghetti squash.
  • Bread: naan is fabulous to soak up the delectable sauce.  Naan is a yeast-leavened Indian bread, traditionally baked in a tandoor, a clay oven, and is widely available at most grocery stores.  Once you’ve secured your naan, you’ll want to warm it up a bit for optimal taste and texture (see how below).
  • Condiment:  serve with dahi (a yogurt made from cow or water buffalo milk), cucumber raita (yogurt-based sauce) or yogurt to cut through the richness of the curry.  Make a simple raita (recipe below), or pick up Indian dahi (a brand called Desi Dahi is good) at the grocery store.
  • Vegetable/Salad: a simple green salad, Ramen Salad or Asian Pineapple Salad would both be delicious or serve with roasted vegetables like roasted broccoli, roasted asparagus, or roasted cauliflower.
  • Fruit: Pineapple, kiwis, mangos, grapes – pick your favs!
showing how to serve Butter Chicken over basmati rice with naan

Indian Butter Chicken FAQs

What does butter chicken taste like?

Butter Chicken is rich, creamy, and velvety with a smokiness from the chicken, tanginess from the tomatoes, with sweet richness from the butter, cashews and cream. It is mildly spiced, with notes of ginger, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, and fenugreek. The tender chunks of chicken swimming in the smooth, luxurious sauce, creates a delightful comforting and indulgent spoonful.

Is Indian Butter Chicken the same as Tikka Masala?

No, Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken are two different popular curries although they look strikingly similar with their creamy orange sauce and chunks of chicken.  They are made with many of the same ingredients including chicken, yogurt, tomatoes and garam masala, so it can be difficult to tell the two apart by appearance alone.  With one taste, however, you will see the two favorite curries differ significantly in flavor.  

-Tikka Masala boasts more complex flavoring thanks to onion and generous seasonings. It is significantly spicier than Butter chicken and heavier on the tomato flavor.

-Butter Chicken is more mildly flavored, mildly spicy with less pronounced tomato flavor. It boasts a mild sweetness and is richer and creamier than Tikka Masala thanks to the butter and cashews.

Is Butter Chicken Indian?

Yes, Butter Chicken is a popular and iconic Indian dish that originated in the Punjab region of northern India. It’s known for its rich flavors and creamy texture. It is featured in Indian restaurants worldwide and is considered a representative dish of Indian cuisine.

Where did Butter Chicken Come From?

Indian Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is believed to have originated in the Punjab region of northern India. It is said to have been created by a chef named Kundan Lal Gujral in the early 20th century. Gujral worked at a restaurant, called Moti Mahal in Delhi, where he experimented with leftover tandoori chicken by simmering it in a tomato-based gravy enriched with butter and cream. This resulted in the creation of butter chicken, which quickly gained popularity for its rich flavors and unique taste. Since then, Butter Chicken has become a beloved dish in Indian cuisine and has gained international recognition.

What is Butter Chicken sauce made of?

Butter Chicken has a tomato and cream-based curry sauce made of sautéed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cashews and Indian spices such as garam masala, turmeric, coriander, cumin and paprika sautéed in butter/ghee.  The sauce is pureed, then heavy cream is stirred into the sauce to make it creamy. 

How spicy is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken is typically not very spicy, but rather known for its richness, mild and creamy flavors, slight sweetness and aromatic depth. However, individual recipes and restaurants may offer variations with varying degrees of spiciness, by adding additional cayenne pepper.

What do you eat with Butter Chicken? 

Butter Chicken is traditionally paired with basmati rice in order to soak up the rich sauce and offer a neutral textural component.  It is also usually paired with naan to mop up the leftover sauce.  Other sides to compliment the rich and earthy spices are raita, a creamy yogurt cucumber dish, and mango chutney. 

Is Butter Chicken healthy? 

Butter Chicken is high in protein thanks to the chicken but high in calories due to the heavy cream and butter.  To reduce the calories, evaporated milk can be used in place of the heavy cream, and olive oil in place of butter.  It won’t taste as rich, but still delicious and flavorful.

Are there variations of Butter Chicken?

There are widespread adaptations of Butter Chicken made with different proteins such as pork, paneer, tofu, chickpeas, and vegetables such as peas, cauliflower, and/or carrots.

Can Butter Chicken be made vegetarian?

Yes!  Paneer Butter Chicken is a popular vegetarian alternative made with paneer cheese instead of the chicken. Paneer is an Indian, non-melting cheese, traditionally made from curdled buffalo milk, or a mixture of buffalo and cows’ milks and some sort of fruit or vegetable acid like lemon juice. The cheese is mild and milky in flavor, soft and spongy, ideal for soaking up the flavor of the marsala sauce. The paneer is usually cut into cubes for curries and can be grilled, or cooked on skewers without melting.

Can Butter Chicken be made vegan?

Yes, Butter Chicken be made vegan by using extra firm tofu instead of the chicken, diary free yogurt, coconut milk instead of heavy cream and dairy-free butter.  Drain the tofu first by placing in a bowl then placing a plate on top, then topping with a heavy object for 10 minutes or so.

Is Butter chicken gluten free?

Yes, this Butter Chicken recipe, as written, is gluten free.

How is butter chicken different from curry?

Butter Chicken is a type of curry. The curry is made by mixing garam masala, ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and salt together, adding some of the spice blend to the marinating chicken and the rest to the curry sauce made with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, cream and butter.

What’s the difference between Makhni, tikka masala, korma and vindaloo?

-Makhni (Butter Chicken): A creamy tomato-based chicken curry made with tomatoes, heavy cream, ghee, pureed cashews and earthy spices. It is mild, slightly sweet and slightly tangy. Authentic versions do not contain onions.

-Tikka Masala: This is also a tomato-cream based chicken curry, but is made without ghee, or cashews. It is is spicier than butter chicken, contains onions and has a more complex flavor profile.

-Korma: A mild and creamy curry with a nut or yogurt base, often featuring meat or vegetables.

-Vindaloo: A hot and spicy curry originating from Goa, typically made with meat, vinegar, and a blend of aromatic spices.

showing how to serve Butter Chicken over basmati rice with naan


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top view of Butter chicken in a bowl showing how creamy it is

Indian Butter Chicken

Learn how to make astonishingly easy Butter Chicken at home that will have everyone believing it’s takeout!  This recipe ensures spectacular results with adept seasonings, charred chicken to replicate that gorgeous smoky flavor of the tandoor, the correct tomatoes, down to when to add the butter so your sauce doesn’t split. In less than 45 minutes after marinating, you'll be rewarded with tender chicken swimming in lusciously rich and creamy, bronze-orange tomato-cream curry sauce! I give you permission to lick the plate.
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Total Time: 5 hours 10 minutes
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

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  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs cut into large bite-sized pieces (about 1 1/2-inches)
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (fullfat is best)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic


  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 tsp EACH ground cumin, chili powder, paprika (not smoked), salt
  • 1 tsp EACH turmeric, ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional if you have it)

For the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 tbsps ghee (may sub unsalted butter)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • remaining spice blend (in directions)
  • 1 14 oz. can can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup heavy cream (sub evaporated milk for lower calories)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or more to taste


  • Mix spices: Whisk together all the Spice Blend spices in a small bowl; set aside.
  • Marinate chicken: Remove 3 tablespoons Spice Blend to a large bowl or freezer bag (whatever you are going to marinate the chicken in). Add the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger and garlic. Whisk to combine. Add the chopped chicken and stir to evenly coat. Marinate for 30-45 minutes at room temperature, but BEST if refrigerated overnight.
  • Cook chicken: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking. Working in batches, add the chicken in a single layer and cook until charred on each side, about 2 minutes per side (it will not be cooked through). Transfer chicken to a bowl; set aside. Scrape out the skillet in between batches and add more oil to cook the next batch.
  • Sauté aromatics for sauce: Melt 3 tablespoons ghee in a large braiser (pictured) or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic and the remaining Spice Blend and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Make sauce: Stir in the diced tomatoes, ¾ cup water and cashews. Bring to a boil then reduce to gentle simmer over LOW for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Blend sauce: Transfer the tomato mixture to a high-powered blender and purée until smooth, leaving a corner of the lid open and covered with a paper towel so steam can escape and it doesn’t explode. Transfer back to the pan.
  • Combine and simmer: Stir in the heavy cream, fenugreek leaves and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add the chicken and juices. Gently simmer for 8 minutes on LOW, until the chicken is cooked through. Add additional water as needed to thin (I add about ½ cup.) Season to taste with additional salt, sugar and/or cayenne pepper.
  • Serve: Serve over basmati rice with optional cilantro.



  • Ghee: This is a type of clarified butter that is commonly used in Indian cuisine prized for its rich, nutty flavor and high smoking point. It is less likely to separate in the sauce than butter. Purchase ghee at the grocery store or on Amazon here.
  • Dried fenugreek: This is a key ingredient and flavoring of Indian Butter chicken with a tangy, bitter taste.  You can purchase it at an Asian market or order it on Amazon here.
  • To store and reheat: Leftovers of this Butter chicken recipe will last up to 5 days in the fridge in an airtight container. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave for 30-second bursts or gently warmed in a saucepan over medium heat. 
  • To clean cast iron enamel: Fill the pan a little over halfway with water.  Bring the water to a simmer then add 2 tablespoons baking soda.  Using a long-handled dish brush, scrub – any residue will come right off!
  • Vegetarian Indian Butter Chicken: Swap the chicken with chickpeas, extra firm tofu, paneer (detailed below) or your preferred blend of vegetables such as cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, etc.  To use tofu, drain excess moisture from the tofu by placing it in a pie plate, topping with a heavy plate and weighing down with 2 heavy cans (to release water). Set aside for 10 minutes then cut into ½-inch cubes. 
  • Paneer Butter Chicken: Substitute the chicken for paneer cheese.  Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese that holds its shape and doesn’t melt, even after being cooked. It’s similar to halloumi, but softer and not as squeaky. 
  • Vegan Butter Chicken:  Choose your preferred vegetarian protein substitute above and use dairy free yogurt and butter, and coconut milk instead of heavy cream.

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  1. Joylyn says

    This has to be one of my favorite recipes to put together. It is a huge hit in my house, and we absolutely love the flavor.

    • Jen says

      Yay! I am so happy this is such a hit! Thank you so much, Joylyn!

  2. Kayla says

    This one is great (as usual)! I’d recommend doing the marinade the night before so it is less of a time commitment the night you’re making it.

    • Jen says

      Thank you, Kayla, I’m so glad you enjoy this recipe! And thanks for the tip!

  3. Tara says

    Made this today, it is really tasty but was kind of gritty. Not sure if that is from the cashews or chicken breast that I used. How do I make it Creamy without the grit? Can I eliminate cashews, are they necessart? Thank you for advice

    • Jen says

      Hi Tara, it sounds like the cashews needed to be blended longer until smooth. The cashews add a distinct buttery creaminess, but you can omit them and add additional heavy cream as needed. Hope that helps!

  4. Carly rowe says

    It’s so good! Please do a chicken korma recipe!!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Laurie says

    Just alive with flavour! Better than a restaurant even. I was missing the fenugreek and cilantro for garnish, and it was still fabulous! I’m going to go look for fenugreek ASAP for the next time.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much! I am so glad that you loved it and I hope you love it even more next time!

  6. Shirley says

    simply the best I’ve ever made or had in any restaurant! WOW ! Will discard all other recipes for butter chicken – this one is on a whole other level

    • Jen says

      What a compliment! I’m thrilled that this was such a hit!!

  7. Lola says

    Hi there, is there anything that I can use in place of the fenugreek? Extra garam Masala?? Thank you, this looks so delicious! Will be making for dinner tomorrow night!

    • Jen says

      I’m sorry I didn’t get to this in time for your dinner! I hope it was yummy!