A spoonful of this Indian butter chicken with warm basmati rice may just be one of the best chicken recipes you’ll ever have. Juicy chicken thighs are marinated in a delicious spiced yogurt blend. But the real MVP here is this rich and creamy curry sauce – it’s ridiculously good.
First, Let’s Distinguish Between Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala
There’s so much to love about Indian food, especially when rich curry sauces are involved. There’s the fan favorite tikka masala, but let’s not confuse it with butter chicken (also known as murgh makhani) because the sauces are a bit different.
The sauce for tikka masala is less creamy and has a more prominent spiced kick to it. Butter chicken on the other hand has a creamier, more buttery sauce that balances out the rich spices. So if you’re all for ultra-creamy curry sauces, you’re going to absolutely love this butter chicken recipe.
It’s All About The Butter Chicken Sauce (and Marinade)!
When I thought about how I could simplify the ingredient list (because I’m all for making recipes easier), I realized there’s not a lot of room for shortcuts here. Especially when it comes to more traditional and authentic dishes like butter chicken. So, I’m sticking with the classic ingredients used in this recipe, but with a few small additions that’ll make this the best chicken curry ever.
- Spices: Both the marinade and the sauce use similar spices, including Kashmiri red chili powder and garam masala. Additionally, the chicken marinade includes ground turmeric and the curry sauce includes ground coriander and cumin.
- Yogurt: I’m using Greek yogurt for this recipe, but any plain yogurt (evne dairy-free yogurt) works as well. Just make to use full-fat yogurt for creamy, flavorful, and tangy chicken.
- Lemon Juice: Stick with fresh squeezed lemon!
- Garlic and Ginger: There’s two options for you here. You can mince fresh ginger and garlic, or take the easier route and buy garlic ginger paste.
- Onion: A diced yellow onion adds depth of flavor to the sauce.
- Cashews: This is my secret tip to make the curry sauce as creamy as can be!
- Tomatoes: One can of crushed tomatoes serves as the base for the sauce.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is ideal, but you can also substitute that with ghee or oil if you’re dairy-sensitive or dairy-free.
- Heavy Cream: Both heavy cream or coconut cream work great!
Find the printable recipe with measurements below
American Chili Powder vs Kashmiri Red Chili Powder
If you didn’t know – American chili powder is actually a blend of ground dried chiles with other spices like cayenne pepper, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika. This savory blend makes it perfect for adding into Tex-Mex dishes (like my classic chili recipe).
When it comes to Indian food, Kashmiri red chili powder is everyone’s go-to for a variety of dishes. It’s simply made from ground dried chiles alone, and is actually mild in flavor. Plus, its vibrant red color adds beautiful warm tones – especially in curries!
Pro Tip: Carefully look to make sure the word “Kashmiri” is labeled on the packaging. If it just says red chili powder, it’s going to have much more intense heat. To put this into perspective – Kashmiri chili powder is between 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville heat units, while red chili powder reaches 4,000 Scoville heat units!
So, here’s a quick run-down of the different chili powders and their heat level:
- Cayenne – very hot
- Red Chili Powder – very hot
- Deggi Mirch – medium hot
- Kashmiri Chili Powder – mild
- Paprika – mild
Chicken Thighs vs Chicken Breast
I’ll just be straightforward and say use chicken thighs. I’m a little biased given how much I love chicken thigh recipes – but for good reason. They’re much more tender than chicken breasts and won’t dry out as you continue to simmer the chicken in the curry sauce. Also, traditional butter chicken uses chicken thighs. So, that’s gotta mean something right?
How To Make The Best Indian Butter Chicken
The steps below may look intimidating. But once you start cooking, it’s actually really simple. Just don’t skip out on anything, as each step serves a purpose for super delicious results.
Prep and marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces. Then marinate them in a bowl mixed with yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, Kashmiri red chili powder, garam masala, turmeric, and salt. Cover and refrigerate this for at least an hour (or overnight for even tastier results).
Cook the chicken. Use a large sauté pan to cook the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes, until it’s opaque and cooked through. Then transfer to a separate bowl.
Make the curry sauce. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and stir for another minute. Then add the cashews, crushed tomatoes, sugar, and water. Stir, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for 5 minutes to let all those delicious flavors meld together.
Blend it up. To make the sauce extra smooth and creamy, using a blender is key! Just pour the sauce into a high-powered blender and blend for about a minute, until it’s perfectly smooth.
The final steps. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, then stir together the creamy butter sauce, butter, and heavy cream. Then add the chicken back to the pan and mix it in with the sauce. Let it cook for 3 to 5 minutes until it’s warmed through.
If you know me, you know I’m all about meal prep and big batch cooking. And this my friends is a recipe that’s perfect for meal prep (just think of how you might buy butter chicken at the supermarket in the frozen food aisle).
It can be stored in the fridge, or frozen for later. If you’re freezing, I would make a second batch – it’s such a great meal to reheat for future dinners!
- To store: Any leftovers can be store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
- To freeze: Finding frozen butter chicken in the freezer is a gold mine! So if you’ve got leftovers or simply want to make a batch for the future – freeze the recipe in a freezer-safe container or my favorite Souper Cubes. It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Butter Chicken Recipe Video
Need some visual help on making this butter chicken? Cook along with me in the video below!
More One Pan Chicken Recipes
Let’s be honest, chicken reigns supreme when it comes to flavorful, filling and easy dinner ideas. But here’s a few extra recipes to keep in your back pocket.
Nothing beats this butter chicken when you’re in the mood for some Indian comfort food. If you make it, let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
This butter chicken is hands down one of the best chicken recipes! Marinated and spiced chicken simmers in the creamiest, most velvety curry sauce. It may just be one of the best dinner recipes you’ll ever have.
Dice the chicken. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces and place it in a bowl.
Marinate the chicken. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, red chili powder, garam masala, turmeric, and salt to the bowl. Stir it all together, then cover and refrigerate for an hour (or up to overnight).
Cook the chicken. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Place the marinated chicken in the fry pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the chicken is opaque. Transfer the chicken to a separate bowl.
Make the sauce. Add the onions to the pan and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened and translucent.
Add the ginger, garlic, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander, cumin, and stir for another minute. Then add the cashews, crushed tomatoes, sugar, and water. Stir it all together, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Transfer the sauce to a high-powered blender and blend for a minute, until smooth and creamy.
Combine it all together. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel (if you’d like to remove any lumps from the final sauce), then stir together the creamy butter sauce, butter, and heavy cream.
Add the chicken back to the pan over medium heat and stir with the sauce for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is warmed and cooked through.
To serve. Enjoy the butter chicken on it’s own, or serve it over basmati rice topped with fresh cilantro.
- You can typically find Kashmiri red chili powder at your local Indian market. But you can also purchase it online! Alternatively, you can use a combination of paprika and cayenne pepper for a similar taste and heat level. And if you’d like to “up” the heat level, just use regular red chili powder instead of Kashmiri red chili powder.
- If you’d like to save time making this recipe, don’t mince the ginger and garlic at home. Just buy a jar of ginger garlic paste! You can substitute 1 tablespoon in the marinade and 1 tablespoon in the sauce for both the garlic and ginger listed in the recipe above.
- You can substitute the cashews with blanched almonds, sunflower seeds, or pine nuts, or simply leave them off (the sauce will just be a little thinner).
- If you don’t have a high-powered blender, transfer the sauce to a bowl and use an immersion blender.
Calories: 346kcal, Carbohydrates: 8g, Protein: 26g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 141mg, Sodium: 551mg, Potassium: 426mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 637IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 2mg
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