Indian Butter Chicken — An EASY, ONE-POT recipe for a classic Indian favorite!! Juicy, BUTTERY chicken simmered in a CREAMY tomato-based sauce! Next time you’re craving Indian food, you can make it yourself in 30 minutes!!
Easy Butter Chicken Recipe
I am by no means an expert in Indian cooking. Or for any ethnic recipes that I share, from Mexican to Asian. But after plenty of research, trial and error, and condensing some very complicated and time-consuming recipes for Indian butter chicken into this very straightforward and easy one, I can definitely say that it’s a winner that my daughter and I loved.
It reminds me a lot of my Chicken Tikka Masala, but rather than having to marinate the chicken overnight in a Greek yogurt-based marinade, no planning ahead is required for Indian butter chicken. Score!
Sweet Vidalia onions are caramelized in butter before adding the chicken, garlic, and a slew of spices, including garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and ginger. I am not shy when adding spices because flavor development is my goal and bland food is my nemesis.
None of the spices are so exotic that they are hard to find and you can find them all in your regular grocery store. Keeping recipes convenient enough so that people actually make them is important to me!
Garnished with cilantro and served on top basmati rice, this is a keeper that’s faster than going to your local Indian restaurant because it’s ready in 30 minutes and tastes every bit as amazing. It may be a simple butter chicken recipe, but I promise it’s packed with flavor!
Indian Butter Chicken Ingredients
To make this simple butter chicken recipe (including the addicting butter chicken sauce), you’ll need:
- Unsalted butter
- Sweet Vidalia onion
- Chicken breasts
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Heavy whipping cream
- Tomato sauce
- Basmati rice
- Fresh cilantro
The butter chicken spices that I used included:
- Garam masala
- Ground cumin
- Ground turmeric
- Ground ginger
- Salt and pepper
- Cayenne pepper
Can I Make This Vegetarian?
Yes, very easily! You can sub cubed tofu or chickpeas for the chicken, if desired.
Is There a Heavy Cream Substitute I Can Use?
Not that I’m aware of. Indian butter chicken is one of those dishes where full-fat butter and cream is a must.
If you tried to use a substitute like whole milk or yogurt, I’m not sure how well the butter chicken would taste. Not to mention the butter chicken sauce would likely be super runny.
A few readers have reported success using full-fat coconut or coconut cream, but both options would of course add a coconut flavor to the recipe.
How to Make Butter Chicken
This recipe for Indian butter chicken is as quick and easy as it gets! Here are the basic steps to making this simple butter chicken recipe:
- Heat a little butter in a skillet and sauté the onions until they begin to soften and caramelize.
- Add the diced chicken to the skillet and cook until almost done.
- Then, stir in the spices and garlic.
- You can’t have butter chicken without plenty of butter! After adding the spices, you add (more) butter and heavy cream. It’s a full-fat dairy marriage in heaven that produces a buttery, creamy, full-bodied sauce that is butter chicken’s signature.
- Let the sauce bubble away until thickened, then serve the butter chicken over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.
What to Serve with Homemade Butter Chicken
I’ve had a few readers ask what they should serve as a side with this easy butter chicken recipe. I like serving naan bread (sold in most grocery stores), steamed or roasted veggies, or a side salad with butter chicken curry.
The butter chicken has so much flavor that you can pair it with simpler sides.
Can I Freeze Indian Butter Chicken?
Yes, this Indian butter chicken recipe can be prepared, allowed to cool, and then frozen for up to three months.
Tips for Making the Best Butter Chicken
Very Saucy – If you’re a sauce fan, this recipe produces an abundant amount of butter chicken sauce as written.
If you don’t want it as saucy, you can scale back on the amount of tomato sauce and/or cream. The sauce it good enough to slurp down as if it were a soup, which I relished doing.
Salt – I used no-salt added tomato sauce and used nearly 2 teaspoons salt in total, but if you’re using salted tomato sauce 1 teaspoon salt will likely be enough. Always salt to taste.
Not Spicy – Note that the cayenne pepper in the sauce doesn’t make the dish spicy. It just adds a nice depth of flavor.
However, you’re welcome to add more cayenne pepper if you like things spicy.
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- 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick + 1 stick), divided
- 1 large sweet Vidalia or yellow onion, diced small
- 1.50 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, diced into bite-sized pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
- 2 tablespoons garam masala
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger or 1+ tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream (see Notes below)
- one 8-ounce can tomato sauce (I used no-salt added; see Notes below)
- basmati rice (or your favorite rice), for serving
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, or to taste for garnishing
- To a large skillet add 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), onion, and sauté over medium-high heat until the onions begins to soften and caramelize about 5 minutes; stir intermittently. It does not have to be fully caramelized before moving on.
- Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is done; flip and stir often to ensure even cooking.
- Add the garlic, stir to combine, and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant; stir frequently.
- Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, ginger, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper (does not make it spicy but adds depth of flavor), and stir to combine.
- Add the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter and heat until it has melted; stir frequently to encourage melting.
- Add the heavy cream, tomato sauce, stir to combine, and allow mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and reduced slightly. Taste and if desired, add additional salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, etc.
- Add rice to the serving plates and top with chicken and as much sauce as desired.
- Evenly garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. Dish is best warm and fresh but will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- If you’re a sauce fan, this recipe produces an abundant amount of sauce as written. If you don’t want it as saucy, you can scale back on the amount of tomato sauce and/or cream.
- I used no-salt added tomato sauce and used nearly 2 teaspoons salt in total, but if you’re using salted tomato sauce 1 teaspoon salt will likely be enough.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 906Total Fat: 63gSaturated Fat: 37gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 303mgSodium: 975mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 58g
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Originally posted April 9, 2018 and reposted January 20, 2023 with updated text.