Fragrant, creamy, and rich without being heavy, this Indian Butter Chicken adds some subcontinental flair to your weekly meal plan. Get ready for your kitchen to smell absolutely incredible! Golden flavored chicken and creamy butter chicken sauce makes this recipe easy and delicious!
Why You’ll Love This Simple Butter Chicken Recipe
- It’s Based on Two Reader Favorites. Readers love my tender Slow Cooker Butter Chicken and Instant Pot Butter Chicken, but so many of you have wondered if there’s a way to make these recipes on the stovetop. Well, now there is! Whether you love those recipes or you haven’t tried them because you were waiting for a stovetop version, this Indian butter chicken recipe is guaranteed to be a success.
- Authentic Flavor, Everyday Ingredients. I love cooking Indian dishes, but a lot of Indian recipes require a trip to a specialty grocer. This Indian butter chicken is extra super fantastic because all the ingredients can be found at any grocery store, but it still has the authentic flavor you expect. Best butter chicken recipe ever? You bet!
- Easy Prep. While this might not be the easiest dinner you’ll ever make (we’ll leave that to my Egg Roll in a Bowl and Honey Walnut Shrimp), it is easy compared with other Indian dishes. Measure out the ingredients before you start and it will all come together easy peasy!
- Spiced, Not Spicy. If you’re not into spicy food, you may approach Indian food with trepidation. With butter chicken, you can grab a fork and dig in—no caution needed! This recipe is full of aromatic, warm spices, but it’s not spicy hot.
- Indian Cuisine at Home. If you want to travel the subcontinent through tasting different Indian dishes (and not shell out hundreds of dollars on full-size portions at restaurants), this butter chicken recipe is perfect. For more inspiration, try Paneer Tikka Masala, Potato Curry, and Lentil Curry too!
How to Make Indian Butter Chicken Recipe
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. For getting a nice sear on the chicken. Vegetable oil works too.
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs. Cut these into bite-sized pieces.
- Kosher Salt. My preferred option for cooking.
- Black Pepper. Freshly ground is best.
- Curry Powder. I recommend mild curry powder, not hot.
- Unsalted Butter. This adds richness and flavor.
- Yellow Onion. Dice it evenly so it all finishes cooking at the same time.
- Garlic. You’ll need 4 average-size cloves. If yours are bigger or smaller, adjust accordingly.
- Fresh Ginger. Fresh ginger is more pungent and warm than ground ginger. It’s worth it here!
- Garam Masala. An Indian cooking staple, this is a blend of spices that you’ll also find in my Chicken Tikka Masala.
- Chili Powder. Adds earthy flavor and just a bit of heat.
- Ground Cumin. Another go-to for Indian cooking.
- Tomato Sauce. Then, fill the can halfway with water and add that too.
- Half-and-Half. This gives us a creamy, rich sauce without the heaviness of heavy cream.
- Plain Greek Yogurt. Yogurt thickens the sauce and adds a bit of tanginess to the overall flavor.
- Fresh Cilantro. Cilantro haters can skip it, or add a smaller amount of fresh mint leaves.
- Accompaniments. Serve your Indian butter chicken with brown rice, quinoa, Homemade Naan, and additional cilantro.
- Sear the Chicken. Transfer to a plate.
- Cook the Onion. Until it’s just starting to soften.
- Add the Spices. Cook until fragrant.
- Simmer. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, then partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the Chicken and Half-and-Half. Stir and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Temper the Yogurt. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to the Greek yogurt and stir to combine. Then, stir this mixture into the pot. This keeps it from curdling.
- Finish. Stir in the cilantro and serve Indian butter chicken over brown rice or quinoa, or with a side of naan. ENJOY!
- Dairy-Free Indian Butter Chicken. Substitute the butter with coconut oil and leave out the water, yogurt, and half-and-half. Instead, add a can of full-fat coconut milk at the same time you add the tomato sauce.
- Vegan Indian Butter Tofu. Use the same swaps above, then add Air Fryer Tofu, Crispy Tofu, or plant-based “chicken” as the protein. (This makes it suitable for vegetarians too!)
- Indian Butter Chicken With Cauliflower. Replace half of the amount of chicken with cauliflower florets.
- To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Freeze for up to 3 months in an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- To Freeze. Warm leftovers gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Meal Prep Tip
If you’re making butter chicken for meal prep, store it separately from the cilantro and rice or quinoa.
What to Serve with Indian Butter Chicken
- Other Grains. In addition to the options above, you can serve your Indian butter chicken with basmati rice, white rice, or make a pan of Turmeric Rice.
- More Indian Dishes. For a restaurant-style experience at home, make a few more Indian dishes to serve with your butter chicken! Try my Slow Cooker Chicken Curry or Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala.
- Vegetables. Serve butter chicken alongside Air Fryer Cauliflower or Roasted Acorn Squash. Cauliflower rice is great too!
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. This is a Dutch oven that will last for decades to come!
- Measuring Spoons. Double-sided so you don’t have to stop to rinse spoons halfway through a recipe.
- Liquid Measuring Cup. I like using this to mix the yogurt and sauce; the high sides mean you can whisk it well without overflow.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Use Fresh Spices. The spices are key here, so you don’t want to use anything that’s past its prime. When you open the jar, the spices should be fragrant. If they’re not, it’s time to replace them. Spices and herbs that don’t have much of a smell (or smell musty) won’t add flavor to your dishes.
- Cut the Chicken Evenly. Even pieces mean all the chicken will finish cooking at the same time—and that you won’t have some pieces that are tough and over-cooked while others are still pink in the middle.
- Don’t Swap the Half-and-Half for Milk. I know it can be tempting to cut calories wherever you can, but this is neither the time nor the place! Since we’ve already swapped cream out for half-and-half, there’s not anymore room to swap half-and-half for milk—if you do, you’ll end up with a thin, watery sauce.
- Temper the Yogurt. Adding a little bit of the Indian butter chicken sauce to the yogurt will temper it, which means it won’t curdle when you add it to the pot. While curdled butter chicken sauce is perfectly fine to eat, it’s not terribly appetizing!
Indian Butter Chicken
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder divided
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1 small yellow onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 4 cloves minced garlic about 4 teaspoons
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce, plus 1/2 can of water
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for serving
- Brown rice
- Homemade Naan
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- In a Dutch oven or similar large, sturdy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, black pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon of the curry powder, stirring to coat the chicken evenly. Sear the chicken on all sides until lightly golden (about 5-6 minutes)—the chicken does not need to be cooked through at this point. Remove to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and the onion to the pot. Cook until the onion is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon curry powder. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Reduce the heat to low. Carefully pour in the tomato sauce (be careful of splatters). Fill the can of tomato sauce up halfway with water, then add the liquid to the pot. Stir to combine, then partially cover the pot and let simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Return the chicken and any juices that have collected on the plate to the pot. Stir in the half-and-half. Let simmer until the chicken is fully cooked through, about 5 minutes more.
- Place the Greek yogurt in a small bowl and add a few big spoonfuls of the hot butter chicken liquid. Stir to combine, then add the mixture to the pot (this tempers the yogurt so it doesn’t curdle).
- Stir in the cilantro and 1 tablespoon butter. Enjoy warm over brown rice, quinoa, or naan, sprinkled with more cilantro.
- TO MAKE DAIRY FREE: Use coconut oil in place of the butter; omit the water, yogurt, and half and half; add 1 (14-ounce) can of FULL FAT coconut milk with the tomato sauce.
- TO MAKE VEGAN: Follow dairy-free above; use Air Fryer Tofu or Crispy Tofu or plant-based “chicken” in place of chicken breast
- TO STORE: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Freeze for up to 3 months in an airtight container or freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- TO FREEZE: Warm leftovers gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Butter chicken and tikka masala are two different dishes. Butter chicken has a milder flavor, while tikka masala is spicier and tangy.
There is curry powder in Indian butter chicken, but by no means is it the dominant player here. There are a lot of other spices in the mix, so the curry flavor isn’t overly strong.
You can adjust the heat level by adding cayenne pepper or hot curry powder, but as it’s written, this Indian butter chicken recipe is not spicy. The spice blend here is warm and fragrant.
There is a subtle sweetness to butter chicken thanks to the tomato sauce and dairy, but it’s not sugary sweet.
Butter chicken originated in the Punjab region of India.