Indian Butter Chicken Recipe
This Indian Butter Chicken recipe strikes the perfect balance between flavor and spice — LOTS of flavor with a small hint of heat. Indian butter chicken is chicken in a spiced tomato, cream and butter sauce over a bed of sticky rice.
I’m a huge sucker for Indian food. And my kids love it too! You can try my vegetarian Indian butter cauliflower recipe, chickpea spinach curry, chicken tikka masala, or my chickpea curry if you are also a fan of the Indian/Thai flavors.
Why This Recipe Works
- This recipe makes it easy to make your favorite Indian dish right at home!
- By marinating the chicken, we achieve a deeper level of flavor in this dish.
- This recipe makes enough to serve a family of 4 or 5 OR leftovers if you are feeding a smaller group than that.
- Garam Masala: It’s an obscure spice, but if you love Indian food as much as I do, it will be a frequent flyer in the kitchen!
- Cumin: When you smell this spice you’ll know why it’s important in this dish! Paired with the garam masala, it’s how we get our iconic Indian flavor/aroma.
- Cardamom: This spice has a bit of complex flavor to it. It’s kinda minty, herbal-y, and fruity all at the same time.
- Tomato Sauce: This is the base of our sauce but you can also use crushed tomatoes.
- Butter: The characteristic ingredient in butter chicken.
- Cream: This is what gives us our creamy look and texture in the sauce.
- Greek Yogurt: Adds a little tart and thickness to the sauce.
- Make the chicken marinade. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the garlic cloves, canned tomatoes, Greek yogurt, and all the spices.
- Stir in the cut up chicken. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours.
- Par bake the chicken. In a large skillet, melt some butter. We use a decent amount of butter for this recipe, 6 tablespoons.
- Add the thinly sliced red onions to the butter and cook over medium to medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the chicken and the marinade to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream and chopped cilantro.
- Bake the butter chicken. Transfer the par baked chicken to an 8×8-inch baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Serve over cooked rice.
Cayenne Pepper: I add 1/4 tsp and it gives the recipe a small “kick.” If we didn’t have young kids we were feeding I’d probably bump it to 1/2 tsp for more heat. You can do as you wish!
Tomato Base: You can use a can of tomato sauce OR crushed tomatoes. Either works well! I haven’t made this recipe using fresh tomatoes, but you definitely can!
You can marinate the chicken for much longer! I like to make this in the morning so that the chicken can marinate throughout the day. So my chicken sits in the marinade for about 6 hours.
What to serve with Indian Butter Chicken
Serve Indian butter chicken atop a bed of rice. It can be white rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice… whatever you have on hand.
- My easy naan recipe comes in handy here, as naan is the perfect accompaniment to this saucy Indian dish.
- Buttered vegetables are always welcome with any main course.
- Roasted frozen cauliflower.
- A simple spring mix salad.
Butter chicken is chicken in a spiced tomato, butter and cream sauce. It has a mild and somewhat sweet flavor because of the butter base — which helps soften some of the spices. It’s got a tomato-y flavor too which is the base of the sauce.
Tikki masala isn’t as creamy as butter chicken. It can sometimes be spicier than butter chicken, too.
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Indian Butter Chicken
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts - cut into 1" inch chunks
- 4 garlic cloves - minced
- 1 inch ginger root - grated
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper - add more if you want more heat (see notes)
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce - or crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
- 3 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 red onion - thinly sliced, in half moons
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons cilantro - chopped
- cooked rice - for serving
- In a medium sized bowl combine the garlic loves, ginger, cayenne, diced tomatoes, yogurt, garam masala, salt, cardamom, and cumin. Stir to combine. Stir in the cut up chicken. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large skillet melt the butter. Add the sliced onions and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the chicken and the marinade to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes (the mixture should be boiling about mid-way through). Remove from heat. Stir in the heavy cream and chopped cilantro.
- Transfer the par baked chicken to an 8×8 inch baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes, uncover and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- Serve hot over a bed of rice and a side of naan bread.
This recipe was originally published on Dec. 8, 2019. It was republished on July 29, 2021, to include additional information and photos.