Indian Butter Chicken

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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!!

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 – 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!!

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
  • Garlic
  • 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. 

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!!

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: 

  1. Heat a little butter in a skillet and sauté the onions until they begin to soften and caramelize.
  2. Add the diced chicken to the skillet and cook until almost done.
  3. Then, stir in the spices and garlic. 
  4. 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.
  5. Let the sauce bubble away until thickened, then serve the butter chicken over rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.  

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!!

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. 

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!!

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. 

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!!

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. 

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!!

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Yield: 4

Indian Butter Chicken

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!!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

    1. 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.
    2. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is done; flip and stir often to ensure even cooking.
    3. Add the garlic, stir to combine, and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant; stir frequently.
    4. 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.
    5. Add the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter and heat until it has melted; stir frequently to encourage melting.
    6. 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.
    7. Add rice to the serving plates and top with chicken and as much sauce as desired.
    8. 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 906Total Fat: 63gSaturated Fat: 37gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 303mgSodium: 975mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 58g

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Chickpea and Potato Curry — This vegan, gluten-free curry is pure HEALTHY COMFORT FOOD with a fusion of Thai and Indian flavors!! Hearty, delicious, easy, ready in 30 minutes, and the leftovers freeze wonderfully!!

Originally posted April 9, 2018 and reposted January 20, 2023 with updated text.

About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Comments

  1. I have been making Indian butter chicken on a monthly basis for the past decade, at least. But every time I do, I either try a new recipe, or try to create a new one myself, because i’ve never quite got it to a standard I could compare with one of my all time favorite restaurant dishes. Until now!!! Oh my God…this came out so completely perfect in every single way. I followed the recipe exactly except for doubling the cayenne (I like it spicy) adding one chopped fresh tomato, and I did in fact go with the fresh ginger. Anyhow, I just want to thank you, thank you so very much!!! For creating a recipe I know I will be using for years to come. My search is over!!! ❤️❤️❤️

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this came out perfect in every single way for you! Glad this will be your go to Indian butter chicken and your search is over! That’s a very high compliment since it sounds like you are quite the aficionado if you’ve been making it monthly for a decade plus!

  2. Followed this recipe exactly and my family loved it. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

    Rating: 5
  3. This recipe is great! I doubled it for my family of 8 and we had leftovers. I paired it with some steamed cauliflower and naan. My hubby and kids all love Indian and they said it was the best homemade Indian dish I’ve made. They’ve asked me to scrap all the other recipes I’ve tried. We have a winner! Even better the next day.

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad that this was voted the best homemade Indian dish you’ve made and you’re scrapping all other recipes!

    2. Fantastic recipe, tastes better then any indian food I have had… add with Trader Joe’s garlic naan and you have yourself the perfect meal. I also added in julliened carrots and some kale for some extra nutrition and cake out great.

      Rating: 5
      1. Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad it was better than any previous Indian food you’ve tried! The TJ’s naan is perfect here, agreed!

  4. I made this for supper for my husband and I and it was delicious! I followed the recipe exactly and wouldn’t change a thing except when I make it for my vegetarian daughter. For her I’ll sub the chicken for roasted chickpeas or tofu or both. She’ll love it!! I always look forward to seeing your recipes in my inbox. I haven’t made even one that I didn’t like. Can’t wait to try more of them! God bless you for making cooking easy, fun, and delicious!

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you loved this and will make it again (vegetarian style)!

      I appreciate that you appreciate easy, fun, and delicious recipes – that is always my goal!

      1. Once the prep was done, this dish came together in minutes! I did play a little with the spices, based on what was on hand and personal taste, but the butter/cream/tomato tempering each other made this dish wonderfully silky and smooth. It’s definitely going into rotation, and I’m thrilled to find your site.

        Rating: 5
      2. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this is definitely going into rotation!

        I’m glad you found me as well :)

  5. What exactly is the ingredient you are calling “tomato sauce”? I would like to make this for my son’s birthday in 3 days.
    Thanks!

  6. This was incredibly good. I picked this recipe since I had all the ingredients on hand. Many recipes called for cardamom pods, which I could not find in the supermarket. I made this twice. The first time I pounded out the chicken and then marinaded in buttermilk. The second time I skipped it. I really think it tasted better the first time. Also, I used fresh ginger. Definitely think that’s the way to go. Delicious.

    Rating: 5
  7. The recipe calls for one tablespoon ground ginger or 1+ tablespoon fresh. What does the 1+ mean? Usually dried spices are more potent than fresh and you need more fresh. I’m not sure if the plus sign means heaping tablespoon or something else. The recipe looks great, but I want to make sure I know what I need before I start making this. I have fresh ginger on hand so I want to use it up.thanks.

    1. It means start with 1 tbsp and add more to your liking if desired. Everyone’s tastes vary, so add it to suit your personal preferences.

  8. This was a very good recipe. I did double the tomato sauce for my own tastes and it was good. I think I cut the chicken too small because with all the simmering, my chicken was tough.

    I amdefinitely going to do it again but I’ll probably cut back on the cumin….I’m not a huge fan HOWEVER, since the recipe is agood one, I didn’t mind it so much.

    Thank you for sharing this. You brokeme out of my cooking comfort zone and got me feeling a tad more adventurous with spices I normally shy away from

    1. Glad that this recipe took you out of your comfort zone and you’ll make it again!

  9. This turned out amazing! I love the flavor profile. I am excited to make it for my family. Which vegetable or side would go well with this dish?

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you will make it again for your family.

      I would go with some basic roasted vegetables or whatever your family is happy to eat!

  10. It’s delicious, but mine looked more of a brown than orange/brown. How do you get that color? Please let me know. I did follow the recipe exactly as written. Thanks, Teresa

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad it tasted delicious!

      It could be the intensity of the pigment in the turmeric, or other spices, or tomato sauce; not sure exactly but glad the taste was great.

    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad you appreciated the directions and had success with your first Indian dish!

  11. This was a very simple, very tasty dish! It was a familyfavorite that will always be in rotation.

    Rating: 5
  12. My wife and I tried the Indian Butter Chicken at a local Indian restaurant and just loved it. The next day I started looking for a recipe that we could make at home. I googled Indian Butter Chicken, and with 5 star reviews it was an easy choice to make this one. I ordered the Garam Masala from Amazon and we decided to make it today. The instructions were easy to follow and the result was OUTSTANDING!!!! It tasted as good, if not better, than the butter chicken we had at the restaurant. We did use the basmati rice and bought some Naan bread to scrape up the delicious sauce. Since we are lovers of hotter food we doubled the cayenne pepper and it was perfect. If you ever wanted to make a easy fantastic Indian dish this is the one to try.

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad that this was as good or possibly better than at the restaurant!

      I am glad the recipe was easy for you to follow and that you loved it! I am a total lover of spicy/hot food BUT for my website I write things more ‘middle of the road’ but I love your idea of doubling the cayenne :)

  13. This was fantastic! This is the first time I’ve made an Indian dish and it was very easy to make. My wife is not a fan of ginger and she still liked it. I will try it with less ginger next time though.

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad that it came out fantastic! Yes feel free to adjust the seasonings to taste.

  14. Let me preface this review by saying my husband is from India and I myself have been to India 3 times…so I know Indian food & I’ve been cooking Indian food for the 20+ years of our marriage. Averie, this recipe is fabulous! You nailed it! Butter chicken is always a favorite among American kids because it’s not very spicy if at all and just delicious in general. My kids being no different, I’ve tried many butter chicken recipes from various Indian cookbooks and websites and they are absolutely horrible compared to this one! Actually they were horrible not compared to this one! Either really dry and tasteless or swimming in so much butter you couldn’t even eat it! The only change I made to your recipe was adding more tomato paste because for some reason mine always turns out very pale compared to usual restaurant butter chicken and your photos as well. I have made this recipe 4 times now, tonight being number 5 and even my India born & raised husband loves it! Great job Girlie!!!!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad this is your favorite butter chicken and that you’ve been making it often! It’s a wonderful compliment and such high praise than your Indian-born husband loves this, too! Thank you!

  15. Looks delicious, your video really drew me in.

    Would you mind updating the ingredients list to specify how the onion should be prepared? Many thanks!

  16. This is amazing!!!!! I usually don’t leave reviews, but after tasting this dish, I think everybody needs to know just how delicious and easy this meal is. Dinner was done in literally less than 30 minutes and that’s with a three year old asking a million and one questions while I cooked. The flavor is so rich and the sauce is velvety. Just fabulous! Thank you so look much for sharing this recipe.

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the 5 star review and I’m glad you commented and that you loved the recipe so much!

  17. We loved this recipe! I could eat the sauce by itself, it is so good! Thank you!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad you loved it and could eat the sauce by itself (me too)!

  18. Family loved it, as did I. My only regret was not having Naan bread to serve with it. The basmati rice was the perfect complement, but I love to tear off pieces of bread and dip in the sauce. I used to live in the Middle East and had butter chicken quite frequently, but never realized how easy it was to make. Shukran and shukria, Averie!

    Rating: 5
  19. Another great recipe!!I’ll make it again and again! I thought the spices were overwhelming but still good.

    Rating: 4
    1. You can always tone them down to your personal preferences but in general Indian food tends to be robustly spiced. Glad you will make it again and again!

  20. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE, did I say I absolutely LOVE Butter Chicken – my addition to all these wonderfully fabulous suggestions is… near the end of cooking – a cup, or so, frozen sweet peas. TRUST ME!

    Rating: 4
  21. This is incredible!!! Butter chicken is my ultimate comfort food and on a cold wintry night, I could not be happier with this dish! Bones: even my picky 8 year old cleaned his plate! I like this version even more than the local indian restaurant!Thanks so much!

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad you think it’s better than your local Indian restaurant and that your picky eater approved of it!

  22. I followed the recipe exactly as written and it was perfect! So rich and creamy. Would not change a thing. Will definitely make this again!!! Thank you.

    Rating: 5
    1. Thanks for the five star review and I’m glad that following the recipe exactly yielded great results and that you will make it again!

  23. This butter chicken is awesome. We made it last night and we both loved the flavor. We added a bit more cayenne than the recipe called for but other than that we completely followed the recipe. Our recipe did not turn out to be that color, it was more towards greenish brown. Could that be because of the type of garam masala? The cumin is not light colored either. We did use ground ginger and not fresh. The color really doesn’t matter as the taste was awesome, but I am curious as to how this change came about. Any ideas?

    Rating: 5
    1. That’s interesting about the color. Between the tomato sauce and all the yellow/orange colored spices I would think it would be almost impossible to get it to turn greenish brown but I am guessing somewhere along the line there was some sort of chemical reaction that caused a color change but that’s above me. Maybe switch brands entirely of the products you used and see if that changes the color – but as you said, not that important because the taste was awesome! Glad you loved it!

  24. Made this recipe today & it was awesome. We’re a big family so I tripled everything but cut down a little on tomato sauce. Everyone loved it. Thank you.

    Rating: 5
    1. Good idea on not quite tripling the tomato sauce. Thanks for the 5 star review and glad this worked out great!

  25. When I do butter chicken I normally do the marinade first (although I don’t bother cooking it tandoori style). I tend to just blend the marinade which leads to no chopping. For the main dish I blend the tomatoes, chili (normally Serrano), and ginger which certainly cuts down on the prep time. This is the one Indian dish I prepare where I don’t use onions. Anyway, if you have any interest I can certainly give my recipe which involves almost no effort whatsoever although I do have many more spices on hand than most people.

  26. I cook the butter Chicken for my family and they loved it. I used chicken thigh with the bone and without the skin. I made some cuts in thigh of the chicken in order for the sauce an flavor could go through the chicken. It was delicious, the flavor of the sauce were in every bite of chicken. I also prepared the Naan bread. Which were a little complicated to do, but the taste were there but not the look.

    Rating: 5
  27. I just don’t see how you can get this rich color with only 1 spoon of turmeric. I have tried it twice now, and the color is pale yellow. What is the secret? Special brand of turmeric? Food dye?

    1. I use turmeric from Trader Joe’s and also the tomato sauce has color. No food dye involved. I am not sure how or why yours is pale yellow given the tomato sauce and the turmeric and I also add cayenne to mine, too. It would seem at the very least it would be reddish in color and not pale given the tomato sauce. Thanks for trying the recipe.

  28. I made this with great success today. And the ironic thing is that I eat this kind of cusine very regularly because of my ethnicity and it has to be one of the best Indian dishes I have made. But there is no way I put that much cream and butter in my dish so I reduced it but was still really good. maybe one day you can teach us how to make samosas!!

    1. This is such an amazing compliment because I know you are Indian and you I’m sure do cook this way often and so it’s a HUGE compliment for you to say that it was one of the best Indian dishes you have made! That’s so amazing and thank you!!

      I figured what the heck and just went for it with the butter/cream :)

      Samosas…now that is one I have never attempted. I know they can be baked, but I’m sure are better fried, and I hate frying things in my house. A week later you can still smell it. lol

  29. Butter Chicken is hands down Kailey’s fave meal (and her birthday meal every year!)…. I’ve never made it home made before. I’m going to make this for her!

    1. It’s super easy to make and if she’s a butter chicken fan, I think she will love it! It makes a ton of sauce as I noted so if you’re not feeling so saucy like I am lol just cut back on some of the half & half.

  30. This looks delicious! I remember reading somewhere that butter chicken is good Indian comfort food and I can see why after reading the recipe. I woke up to snow (yet again) this morning so I could use something yummy and warm with plenty of flavor!

    1. I can’t believe it’s still snowing there! Wow! Well stay warm and this would be the perfect type of comfort food on a snowy day!

  31. I am Indian and I have to say that your butter chicken looks divine :-)
    Have to finish any Indian dish off with coriander

    1. Thanks for the compliments on my butter chicken. Means a lot coming from an Indian! Thanks!