Indian Butter Chicken Recipe

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This Indian Butter Chicken Recipe is an easy, make-at-home version of the restaurant classic.

overhead shot of two servings of indian butter chicken in white bowls with white rice and cilantro garnish and pita bread on the side

What is Indian Butter Chicken?

Indian Butter Chicken, also known as Chicken Makhani, is a classic, flavorful Indian dish.  It was developed in the 1950’s by three partners who owned a restaurant in India. The dish was made “accidentally” when they combined leftover chicken with a tomato gravy that was rich in butter and cream.  Indian Butter Chicken was born!

An Indian Butter Chicken recipe, Butter Chicken or Chicken Makhani can vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant, and region to region. Some are made with whole bone-in chicken thighs. But most experts agree the original recipe may have been created to use up leftover restaurant tandoori chicken. Tandoori chicken is an Indian delicacy, made by marinating chicken in a yogurt and spice mixture, then roasting in a clay oven. Since we don’t have a cylindrical clay oven, we opted for an easy sautéed method featuring the same yogurt and spice marinated chicken.

servings of indian butter chicken in white bowls with white rice with pita bread in the background

How to make Indian Butter Chicken:

Chicken is marinated for several hours in a yogurt and spice mixture.  Then the chicken is cooked in a skillet with a spicy tomato sauce. You control the heat, so make it as spicy or as mild as you want.  But I say bring on the heat! You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs in this dish, but for our table we prefer bite sized chunks of tender chicken breast.

To lighten the dish a little, we have great success using half-and-half for the cream. Feel free to use full-fat cream if you prefer, or if you already have it on hand.

We’ve added a little chili powder to give our recipe a smoky flavor like tandoori chicken may have, and of course cayenne for heat. If you happen to have Indian chili powder, which is pure ground chilies with no additives, I would use it and skip the cayenne in this recipe. Indian chili powder is more like cayenne, in flavor and heat, than standard chili powder.

overhead shot of single serving of indian butter chicken in a white bowl served with white rice and cilantro garnish

We love the flavor of this tomato infused curry sauce, which is very similar to the other super popular Indian dish – Chicken Tikka Masala. As you may know, Chicken Tikka Masala is a British creation. Butter Chicken is a dish from the Punjabi region of India. Butter Chicken tends to be less tomatoey and spicer than Chicken Tikka. And it’s often finished with a bit of butter melted into the sauce.

Chicken Tikka Masala may be made with less cream too, but both recipes include garam masala, fresh ginger, garlic and plenty of rich spices.  If you haven’t tried much in the way of Indian food, this is a good recipe to start with. The flavors are incredible, and it’s really pretty easy to make.

serving of indian butter chicken and white rice in a white bowl with a forkful of chicken and cilantro garnish

If you love tender chunks of marinated chicken, plenty of spice and a creamy hot sauce, then don’t miss this company worthy dish! Serve with hot Basmati rice and Naan bread, and garnish with fresh cilantro for an incredible trip without leaving your kitchen!

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Here are a few more Indian inspired recipes you might enjoy:

overhead shot of two servings of indian butter chicken in white bowls with white rice and cilantro garnish and pita bread on the side
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5 from 9 votes

Indian Butter Chicken

This chicken recipe is packed with great flavors!
6 10 6
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 483kcal
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword indian butter chicken, indian butter chicken recipe

Ingredients

MARINADE & CHICKEN:

  • 1 cup full fat plain Greek yogurt (use fat free if counting WW points)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs), cut into bite-sized pieces

SAUCE:

  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)
  • 8 ounces low-sodium tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup half and half cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

FOR SERVING:

  • hot cooked rice
  • chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

PREPARE THE CHICKEN:

  • Combine all the marinade ingredients in a glass bowl. Toss to combine, cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

PREPARE THE SAUCE:

  • Heat 1/2 tablespoon of butter and the vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the garam masala, chili powder, cayenne and salt. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the marinated chicken pieces. Don’t worry about scraping out any remaining marinade mixture - just discard. Sauté until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through. Reduce the heat, and add the half-and-half and remaining tablespoon of butter, and warm gently until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat.
  • Serve over hot rice and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Video

Notes

  • Rice is not included in nutritional information.
  • If you wish to make the sauce a little richer, add an additional tablespoon of butter.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 483kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 58g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 182mg | Sodium: 543mg | Potassium: 1395mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 951IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 165mg | Iron: 3mg | Blue WW Smartpoints: 6 | Green WW Smartpoints: 10 | Purple WW Smartpoints: 6
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Tricia Buice

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Comments

  • Dean wrote:

    Making this for first time. Do you use any of the marinade when cooking the dish or discard all of it?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Discard!

  • Nicole wrote:

    This is my favorite butter chicken recipe that I’ve found! It was relatively easy and came out tasting delicious! Only changes I made were to add extra onion, garlic, & ginger in the beginning.

  • elizabeth wrote:

    someone asked about making this vegan.i would try with oatmilk and plant based butter product. i would try an assortment of vegetables(what you have/like) also small cubes of tofu or plant based “chicken ” type product could be subbed for chicken-marinate in coconut based yogurt? fyi recipe as written sound great. currently marinating the chicken. thanks

  • Alysha wrote:

    Do you have a recommendation on how to make this vegetarian, and if you would marinate the vegetables the same as the chicken?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      No idea!

  • Lyndsay wrote:

    Can I substitute the Greek yogurt with sour cream? I’m not sure my Greek yogurt is good and I can’t leave in this madness to get more. So I was just wondering I’ve made this a ton of times before and I make it for myself now like once a week I love it!

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I have not tried that, so I’m not sure!

  • Emily Wolf wrote:

    This recipe is delicious! Could you give the serving size in cups as opposed to a fraction? Leftovers and such make estimating 1/4 very tricky. Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Are you counting WW points? I just divide it up into four equal servings as soon as I’m done making it so they’re all the same 🙂 Next time I make it, I’ll see if I can measure out some exact measurements.

  • Becca Jones wrote:

    Made it Vegan and it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!!

  • Sandra gourdine wrote:

    I want to serve butter chicken at my dinner party and would like to have it prepared beforehand guests arrive and then serve it about 90 minutes later. Can I keep it warm in a 200F oven without fear of the cream curdling or separating? Hope you cAn help.

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I would think it would be okay– but I can’t tell you for sure since I haven’t tried it!

  • Danielle wrote:

    Would this work in a slow cooker?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      It’s not a recipe designed for the slow cooker.

  • Cindy wrote:

    OMGoodness – yum! This recipe is so darned close it’s like we are eating at our favorite Indian restaurant. The chicken remains so moist – it really is simple once you get started.

  • Dawn Kragelund wrote:

    Out of this world! Going on my 2nd time making it tonight as it was requested by my 10yr old son. Every single one of my 4 kids ate this happily which is rare. A keeper for sure. Hubs is trying it tonight for 1st time so hoping I win him over now too. So I have tell you I only had limes so I subbed lime juice for lemon. I’m keeping it that way tonight even though I bought lemons planning ahead due to not wanting to jinx my luck with everyone liking it, lol. Limes….lemons…..both citric acid…. Right!?

  • Diane wrote:

    Have made this twice this week – made it for a dinner party, and the family wanted it again!

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Great to hear!

  • Sam wrote:

    This is our favorite Indian dish ever. So easy to make so SO yummy.

  • Becky wrote:

    Absolutely DELICIOUS! Such an easy recipe to follow. Thank you!

  • Melissa wrote:

    Tricia knocked this one out of the park it’s delicious!

  • Toni wrote:

    This is a new favorite meal for weeknights in my house!

  • Sommer wrote:

    Love this recipe! A real crowd pleaser!

  • Liz wrote:

    Whoa, this chicken was so tender and flavorful! The whole family loved it!

  • Karen wrote:

    This recipe looks tasty but I’m not seeing nutrition info. Frustrating as I’ll have to compile it myself should I choose to make this. Did I miss something?

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I’ve updated this information for you. Adding nutritional info is a brand-new feature on my recipes, so I’m busy editing the old recipes to include it. Let me know if there are any others you need nutritional info for, and I’ll get on those right away!