Indian cuisine has some of the most eye-catching and mouth-watering dishes in the world, and this Indian butter chicken recipe showcases just that.
This dish embraces all the good qualities of Indian cuisine by pairing chicken thighs with an array of spices and a silky-smooth tomato-based sauce. With its aesthetics and taste, it serves up a feast for all the senses.
This recipe only requires one pan and just about half an hour to finish, making it an excellent choice to change up your chicken dishes.
What Does This Chicken Taste Like?
The overall flavor profile of Indian butter chicken is unique and multi-dimensional.
The dominant taste of the sauce is the sweet and sour combination of tomato sauce. Alongside the basic spices, signature Indian ones like garam masala, turmeric, or cumin give this dish a distinctive warm and peppery note.
Also, the addition of heavy cream makes the sauce richer and creamier.
Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala
Indian butter chicken shares many ingredients with a fellow Indian signature dish, tikka masala.
These two are extremely similar in terms of both appearance and taste, but there are a few key differences.
The color of tikka masala is a bit darker than butter chicken due to the ingredients used. Butter chicken places importance on the creaminess and sweetness of the sauce, while tikka masala is about heat and heavy spices.
Is This Recipe Healthy?
Indian butter chicken is a healthy option to add to your menu.
This dish contains a lot of ingredients that may raise some eyebrows, but we make sure that the amounts are regulated to keep the dish within the limits of our nutrition guidelines.
Spices are abundant in this recipe, yet the sodium level is only 569 mg per serving.
Also, the use of heavy cream to thicken the sauce and Greek yogurt to tenderize the chicken does not affect the calorie count and saturated fat level heavily. Each serving has only 490 calories and 9.6 g of saturated fat.
On the other hand, this meal provides you with a decent amount of lean protein, with 33.5 g in each serving, thanks to chicken thighs.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Chicken: Butter chicken often features shredded or cubed chicken breasts, but we’re going for chicken thighs for added flavor. We use skinless and boneless thighs to reduce the fat content of the cut.
Seasoning: The seasoning used in this recipe makes a beautiful mise en place before cooking and adds gorgeous color to the finished dish.
This blend has your usual suspects of salt, pepper, sugar, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, and Cajun seasoning. But this dish won’t be called Indian butter chicken without some signature spices like garam masala, turmeric, and cumin.
We also use Greek yogurt and lime juice to tenderize the meat and add some acidity. Greek yogurt helps to keep the chicken moist and juicy.
Sauce: This tomato-based sauce features our homemade tomato sauce and tomato paste to bring out the sweet and sour taste.
But before adding those two ingredients, we make the base with butter, garlic, and ginger. The lingering aroma of these three sets the tone for the flavor profile of the entire dish.
To finish up the sauce, we cook it down in chicken broth and stir in some heavy cream for the beloved creamy texture.
Other: We sprinkle the dish with cilantro to add a hint of freshness.
Lastly, this dish would be incomplete without naan bread or something to dip in the sauce. We recommend a worthy replacement of flour tortillas. You can dip them in the sauce or use them to wrap the chicken.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Indian butter chicken should last for up to 4 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer. Make sure to let the dish cool and transfer it to airtight containers for storage.
To reheat, cook on medium heat until warm on the stove or cook in the microwave in 30-second increments. Stir the chicken frequently to reheat it evenly.
What to Serve With
We think it’s best to pair this rich and creamy chicken dish with some refreshing fruity salads or a crunchy side.
This Indian casserole not just coats, but sneaks all the flavors into each grain of rice and each strand of meat to give you the most savory, robust meal ever. Oh we just checked--it’s not a casserole, but a one-pan meal that cooks and serves in no time at all.
For this recipe, our chefs sear chicken breasts and cherry tomatoes in a pan until tender, then combine them with a velvety white sauce. To maintain the desired crispiness and bittersweet flavor of the vegetable, we add fresh spinach near the end of the cooking process.
20 oz skinless boneless chicken thighs (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 flour tortillas
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp garlic (minced)
1 tbsp ginger (minced)
1 tbsp Hunt’s tomato paste
1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Homemade tomato sauce
1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
4 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
Cut the chicken: Cut the chicken thighs into strips, then cut the strips into bite-sized pieces.
Mince the garlic: Slice off the root part of the cloves. Bash them with a knife and peel off the skin. Mince the garlic with a knife or a mincer.
Mince the ginger: Separate the knobs and peel the skin with a knife. Cut the knobs into thin round slices, then cut the slices into thin strips. Cut the strips into small cubes, then mince them into small pieces.
Chop the cilantro: Bunch the cilantro into a small mound, then chop finely with a knife.
Season the chicken: Prepare a bowl and add 20 oz skinless boneless chicken thighs. Add the seasoning: 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt, 1/2 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Mix the seasoning blend and rub it on the chicken thighs.
Toast the tortillas: Toast 4 flour tortillas for 1 minute on each side in a pan over medium heat.
Caramelize the garlic and ginger: Place a pan over medium heat until hot. Add 2 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tbsp garlic, and 1 tbsp ginger. Stir for 30 seconds to caramelize.
Start the sauce: Add 1 tbsp of Hunt’s tomato paste and stir for 30 seconds.
Stir-fry the chicken: Add the seasoned chicken and stir for 5 minutes.
Add more seasoning: Add 1/2 cup of homemade tomato sauce and 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour. Stir for 2 minutes.
Cook down the sauce: Add 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth and reduce the sauce by about half for 5 minutes. Then stir in 4 tbsp heavy cream for 1 minute and take it off the heat.
Garnish and serve: Sprinkle with 2 tbsp cilantro. Serve the chicken with the toasted flour tortillas.
How to Make Indian Butter Chicken
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 490Calories from Fat 225
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 9.6g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Vitamin A 976IU
Vitamin C 9mg
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tuyet Pham is an award-winning Saigonese chef who believes that joy is the secret ingredient to delicious food. At Healthy Recipes 101, Tuyet personally tests and simplifies every recipe, ensuring maximum flavor with minimal effort. With a background at prestigious French restaurants P’TI Saigon and Le Corto, Tuyet knows how to make every dish exceptional.
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.
Natalie Butler is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a passion to help others live their best life through food, fitness, safer beauty and a healthy lifestyle. She has expertise with a variety of diets and diseases and believes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for health.
It's a delight for the taste buds of those who enjoy richly flavored cuisine.