Indian Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken simmers in a buttery tomato sauce and is punctuated by several special spices and herbs. Skip the Indian takeout and cook up your very own version of the popular dish!

Best Butter Chicken Recipe
Prerna Singh

Abhinav, my brother, couldn’t get enough of butter chicken, and for that reason, I had to make a point of hating it. Sometimes sibling rivalry makes you do things that do not make any sense.

Every celebratory occasion in the family, butter chicken made an appearance on the dinner table. I would grunt and nag mom for preferring him more than me—but all of us knew that was all a façade because I would always end up wiping the plate clean.

Indian butter chicken in a round dish with cilantro on top
Prerna Singh

What Is Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken is prepared with marinated chicken that's first grilled and then served in a rich gravy (a.k.a. curry) made with tomato, butter, and a special spice blend as a base.

Unlike most Indian curries where the preparation of the base starts with a blend of onion and a ginger garlic paste cooked in oil, butter chicken uses tomato as a base and is cooked in butter, giving it a slightly sweet flavor. Cashews and almonds add to the sweetness and richness of the dish.

The History of Butter Chicken

The roots of butter chicken are only as recent as the 1950s, when it was developed accidentally by the chef of famous restaurant Moti Mahal in Delhi, the capital of India. For chef Kundan Lal Gujral, it was a common practice to throw in butter, tomatoes, and leftover tandoori chicken into a pot to make use of the leftovers.

Little did he know that this dish would become their best seller and put them on the map. Now the recipe is adapted by restaurants across the world, though it's really a “special occasion” dish in Indian homes.

Best Butter Chicken Recipe grill the chicken
Prerna Singh

Butter Chicken vs. Chicken Tikka Masala

Some people get confused between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala. The two might look and taste similar to some, too. The main difference is in the preparation.

Even more importantly, butter chicken originated in India, while Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in the United Kingdom—it’s the national dish!

How to Make Butter Chicken
Prerna Singh

The Spices for Butter Chicken

Kashmiri Lal Mirch: Butter chicken gets its bright color and its name from Kashmiri Lal Mirch, a variety of red chile from the northern region of Kashmir. I usually buy mine from our local Indian store but online retailers carry great varieties, too. (To cheat, though, if you can't find this spice, add a couple drops of red food coloring to brighten up the dish.)

Ginger Garlic Paste: Traditionally, freshly grated ginger and garlic are used for the paste but if you’d like to speed up the process you can also buy a jar of ginger garlic paste from a local specialty food store or order one online, such as Rani Ginger Garlic paste.

Kasuri Methi: The real unsung hero in this symphony of spices is kasuri methi, a variety of fenugreek leaves. It’s added to the dish in a very small amount, but its earthy flavor balances the richness of cream and the depth of spices used in the dish. Takes the dish to up to a whole different level.

If you have a local Indian grocery, it should carry this spice. These days, major supermarkets including Whole Foods and Safeway also carry it.

Authentic Indian Food at Home

With this recipe, I have tried to stay as authentic as I can, while also keeping it simple enough that you could fix it for dinner tonight without breaking your back.

Feel free to use just garam masala or even chicken tikka masala spice mix if you do not have all the spices for the marinade. You can even use paprika instead of Kashmiri Lal Mirch if you have trouble finding it, and can completely omit Kasuri Methi if you absolutely have to (but remember, it sure is the unsung hero!).

I also used roasted canned tomatoes here to save the time of peeling whole tomatoes. Canned tomato also adds to the deep red color in the dish.

How to Make Butter Chicken
Prerna Singh

Make-Ahead Butter Chicken

You can freeze this dish in an airtight covered container or a zip-top bag for a month. Thaw and reheat in a saucepan over medium-low heat to retain the texture.

Butter chicken uses a lot of butter (makhan in Hindi) while chicken tikka masala uses tikka masala (a spice blend) comprised of coriander, paprika, black and green cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric. Butter chicken is sweeter and chicken tikka masala is spicier.

Looking for More Great Indian Recipes?

Indian Butter Chicken

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 60 mins
Servings 4 servings

If you have trouble finding the spices, you can substitute paprika for the Kashmiri Lal Mirch and skip the Kasuri Methi.


For the chicken and marinade:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into roughly 1-inch cubes

  • 1/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri Lal Mirch

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • Salt to taste

For the sauce:

  • 8 to 10 whole almonds

  • 8 to 10 whole cashews

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons dried coriander seed

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground garam masala

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Kashmiri Lal Mirch

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

  • 1/2 tablespoon Kasuri Methi

To serve:

  • Cooked rice, roti, or naan bread


  1. Marinate the chicken:

    Bring the chicken and the rest of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the marinade into the chicken.

    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.

    How to Make Butter Chicken assemble the chicken and the marinade ingredients
    Prerna Singh
    Authentic Indian Butter Chicken Recipe marinate the chicken
    Prerna Singh
  2. Soak cashews and almonds:

    Soak cashews and almonds in water for at least an hour to (or up to overnight) before preparing the rest of the recipe.

  3. Cook the chicken:

    Heat a skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle a teaspoon of oil to the pan.

    Working in batches, remove chicken from the marinade and grill them on the pan for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until the chicken is cooked through (clear juice runs out of it when you cut into it). Do not crowd the pan.

    Once cooked, transfer the chicken into a separate dish. Cover and set aside for later.

    Best Butter Chicken Recipe grill the chicken
    Prerna Singh
  4. Start making the sauce:

    Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium sized Dutch oven or a skillet on medium low heat. As soon as the butter melts, add the ginger garlic paste followed by sugar. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.

    Stir in the tomato and cook for 8 to 10 minutes on medium high heat, until all the extra liquid is cooked off. The sauce should be a loose, paste-like consistency.

    Add coriander, garam masala, Kashmiri Lal Mirch, and salt. Stir and cook on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat.

    Easy Butter Chicken Recipe add the butter and garlic and ginger
    Prerna Singh
    How to Make Butter Chicken add the spices
    Prerna Singh
    Authentic Indian Butter Chicken Recipe add the tomatoes
    Prerna Singh
  5. Puree the sauce with the nuts:

    Transfer the paste to a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Add the soaked cashews and almonds. Blend into a smooth paste.

    Easy Butter Chicken Recipe puree the sauce with the nuts
    Prerna Singh
  6. Finish the dish:

    Return the paste to the cooking pan over medium heat. Add the water to the paste and stir to make a smooth sauce.

    As the sauce begins to boil, add the grilled chicken and heavy cream. Stir well. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Authentic Indian Butter Chicken Recipe stir the sauce
    Prerna Singh
    Best Butter Chicken Recipe add the cream
    Prerna Singh
  7. Rest the butter chicken:

    Turn off the heat and uncover the pan. Stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and the kasuri methi. Cover again, and let the dish rest for 8 to 10 minutes so the flavor of kasuri methi can marry into the butter chicken.

  8. Serve:

    Serve the butter with a side of steamed basmati rice, roti, or naan. Leftovers will keep refrigerated, covered, for five days.

    You can freeze this dish in an airtight covered container or a zip-top bag for a month. Thaw and reheat in a saucepan over medium-low heat to retain the texture.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
439 Calories
31g Fat
12g Carbs
32g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 439
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 31g 40%
Saturated Fat 11g 57%
Cholesterol 172mg 57%
Sodium 927mg 40%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 32g
Vitamin C 21mg 103%
Calcium 124mg 10%
Iron 4mg 22%
Potassium 722mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.