An easy recipe for butter chicken, a wonderful Northern Indian dish of intense, complex flavors.
I love serving this saucy dish on a bed of cauliflower rice, and since leftovers taste really good, I sometimes double the recipe.
I adore Indian cuisine. Going to an Indian restaurant for a buffet lunch is always such a treat for me. The flavors, the spices, the presentation - I'm always amazed at how very flavorful food can be. In recent years, I've been teaching myself to make many of my favorite Indian-style dishes at home.
This recipe is one of my favorite meals. I'm not normally a big fan of chicken, preferring beef or lamb, but this recipe is simply amazing. Like most Indian recipes, it's incredibly flavorful, and in this particular case, it's also wonderfully creamy.
The list of ingredients for making this recipe isn't particularly short - I usually aim for much shorter in my recipes. But that's the thing with Indian cuisine - all these amazing flavors need to come from somewhere. And that "somewhere" is lots of spices and aromatics.
However, don't let that deter you. It takes just a few minutes to assemble everything. And once that's done, the cooking itself is a matter of minutes
The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of the ingredients needed to make homemade butter chicken:
Heavy cream: Full-fat Greek yogurt can also work. But heavy cream is better, and then you also have less of a risk of it curdling.
Tomato paste: Not a particularly low-carb ingredient, but used sparingly here. This recipe requires just 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. To avoid waste, you could either use the remaining tomato paste in another recipe (such as this ground beef meat pie) or divide it into small plastic containers and freeze it for later use. An ice cube tray with a lid works well for this.
To season: Kosher salt, garam masala, curry powder, paprika, and crushed red peppers. All of these can be found in most supermarkets. If you're unable to find garam masala, you can order it online.
Butter: I love using creamy European butter, but any butter will be great.
Aromatics: Onion, garlic, and ginger. It's best to use freshly minced garlic and ginger in this recipe.
Chicken breasts: I use boneless skinless chicken breasts. Boneless skinless chicken thighs would be great too and would be even juicier and more flavorful.
Diced tomatoes: Leave them undrained. It's best to use petite-diced tomatoes. If using regular diced tomatoes, give them an extra chop before using. And if you can find Pomi Chopped Tomatoes, those are amazing.
Parsley: Used mostly for garnish, so it's OK to skip it. Cilantro works too and is more flavorful.
The detailed instructions for making this recipe are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of the steps:
You start by mixing together spices, tomato paste, and some water, to create a thick paste.
Next, you cook onion, garlic, and ginger in some butter. Add the seasoning paste too. Then you add the chicken cubes and sauté them.
Now add the diced tomatoes and keep cooking until the chicken is cooked through.
The final step is to lower the heat and stir in the heavy cream. This creates a beautifully silky sauce. That's it! Garnish with parsley and serve.
While you want the chicken pieces to be cooked through, you don't want them overcooked and dry. So make sure to only cook them until they're cooked through (165F internal temperature) and not longer.
Frequently asked questions
It's an Indian curry dish of chicken cooked in a well-seasoned sauce of tomatoes, butter, and cream.
They're very similar. The difference is that butter chicken is creamier, while tikka masala is dryer and its flavor profile focuses more on the tomatoes.
Garam masala is a blend of ground spices used in Indian cuisine. It typically contains cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, coriander, cumin, and cardamon. The name garam masala means hot or warm spice, but the spice blend is actually quite mild and focuses on aromatic rather than on hot spices.
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- You can add cumin to the spice mix. Try ½ teaspoon.
- Ghee is a good substitute for butter.
- Use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts.
- Cilantro can be used instead of parsley.
This flavorful, saucy dish is traditionally served over rice, which works well to absorb the tasty sauce. I have found that cauliflower rice makes a very good substitute.
In addition, I often serve this dish with a side of a green vegetable, such as microwave broccoli.
Leftovers keep well for 3-4 days in the fridge, in a sealed container, though they're not as good as fresh. To avoid drying the chicken, reheat the leftovers gently, covered, in the microwave on 50% power.
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Easy Butter Chicken Recipe
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion chopped (3 oz)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
- 1 ½ lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes undrained (petite-diced is best, or give them an extra chop)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for garnish
- In a small bowl, use a small spatula or a fork to mix together the tomato paste, water, kosher salt, garam masala, curry powder, paprika and crushed red peppers, to create a thick paste. Set aside.
- Measure out the cream and remove it from the fridge, to bring it to room temperature.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, about 4 minutes, until soft.
- Add the garlic, ginger and seasoning paste and cook 1 more minute, stirring.
- Add the chicken cubes. Stir well to coat. Sauté the chicken on all sides for 2 minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes. Keep cooking over medium-high heat, stirring, for 3-5 more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Lower the heat to low and stir in the heavy cream to create a silky, creamy sauce. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley.