A delicious, authentic recipe for Butter Chicken – one of India’s most popular chicken curry dishes. This recipe will make you never want to get takeout again! It’s cozy and comforting, and the creamy tomato butter sauce bursts with fragrant Indian spices. Vegan-adaptable.  Plus  35+ Mouthwatering Indian Recipes to Make at Home! Video.

The best recipe for Butter Chicken, (Chicken Makhani) a classic Indian dish made with tender chicken breast in a fragrant spiced tomato curry sauce enriched with ghee. Vegan-adaptable and GF. 

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.~ Anaïs Nin

Butter Chicken is a classic Indian curry dish called Murgh Makhani, which means “luxurious chicken” typically made with chicken bathed in the most fragrant, creamy, spiced, tomato sauce enriched with ghee.  It’s called Butter chicken because the sauce is made with ghee which adds incredible depth, a nutty umami flavor, and creamy richness. Serve this with fluffy, Indian-style basmati rice and golden buttery naan bread! The butter chicken sauce alone, spooned over veggies and rice, will make you so incredibly happy you will want to melt into your chair. One of my favorite Indian food recipes on the blog!

You’ll love how authentic the flavors are. After two trips to India and repeatedly making this recipe for years in our catering business, I’m so excited to be able to share it with you, finally! The spices truly elevate here.

Butter Chicken | 60-Sec Video

Why you’ll love this Butter Chicken!

  • It’s Better than takeout! The flavors here will rival any take-out, and you can control the quality of the ingredients.
  • It’s Adaptable! Make it with chicken, roasted cauliflower, crispy tofu, or even fish! The best thing is this butter chicken recipe is that it is adaptable,  which for mixed households is a godsend! Meaning, your spouse who wants his chicken dinner, and your teen who is vegetarian can both enjoy this and will both totally loooooove it! You can also make this dairy free with coconut milk.
  • We’ve simplified it!  We skip the marinating step in the recipe, and you can’t tell! It’s reasonably quick and easy (45-60 mins), can be made ahead and freezes well. Great for meal prep.
butter chicken ingredients.

Butter Chicken Ingredients

  • Chicken Breast- I prefer the lightness of chicken breast here, but feel free to use chicken thighs- you can even leave them whole in the sauce.  A great plant-based swap is to use roasted cauliflower florets, or crispy tofu.
  • Gheeghee versus butter truly elevates this dish. It has a unique flavor that you can’t get with butter. You can make homemade ghee or buy it! Vegans can substitute vegan butter or coconut oil.
  • Onion, fresh ginger and garlic cloves – all add depth of flavor.
  • Fresh Chilies – Serrano chilies offer the best flavor and heat here, but milder jalapeno is a fine substitution.
  • Tomatoes – Use canned tomato puree, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes or puréed fresh tomatoes.
  • Spices in butter chicken: The spices make the dish- try to use as many as you can. Cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, paprika (not smoked), black mustard seeds, chili powder, fenugreek leaves, garam masala spice blend, turmeric, coriander, optional cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.
  • Coconut milk , whole milk yogurt or heavy cream – Butter chicken sauce is made creamy with either plain yogurt or coconut milk. You could also use heavy cream.
Spices in butter chicken

How to make Butter Chicken (step-by-step Instructions)

Step One: Season chicken (either whole or cut into bite-sized pieces) with salt, pepper, and garam masala. Heat ghee over medium heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven, add chicken and brown the chicken until golden and set it aside. No need to cook it through.

Step Two: Add the remaining ghee to the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and chilies and saute 5-6 minutes until deeply tender and fragrant. Add the garlic, ginger, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook until ginger is cooked and golden, about 3 more minutes.

Add the spices: garam masala, fenugreek, chili powder, paprika, and cinnamon stick, and toast the spices for one minute., to bring out the flavor.

Step three: Add the tomato puree plus 1 cup water. Add the salt and sugar, give a good stir. Add the seared chicken. Simmer gently on low heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, allowing all the fragrant spices to infuse the sauce and your home.

Step four:  After simmering 8-10 minutes, stir in the coconut cream and simmer gently once more for 3-4 more minutes.

Step five: Taste the sauce, adjusting the salt and spice level to taste (add cayenne to taste). Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve! This Butter chicken tastes savory and flavorful, rich with Indian spices, with a subtle, pleasant heat and a beautiful creamy butteriness to the sauce.

Expert Tips

  1. Use ghee for the best flavor.
  2. If using yogurt, balance the recipe with a little sweetness- a teaspoon of honey or brown sugar works wonders.
  3. Find the brightest red paprika you can, for the best color and presentation, and remember that smoked paprika is not the right flavor profile.
  4. Salt and season the chicken well first, and give it a good sear to lock in those flavors.
  5. The leftovers taste better and better over time as the flavors meld.

Butter Chicken Serving Suggestions

Butter chicken is rich and delicious, and best served over something to soak up the sauce like basmati rice, or naan bread. For a low-carb option, cauliflower rice works too!

The best recipe for Butter Chicken, (Chicken Makhani) a classic Indian dish made with tender chicken breast in a fragrant spiced tomato curry sauce enriched with ghee. Vegan-adaptable and GF. 

Make this ahead!

What is nice about this Butter chicken recipe, is that it can be made ahead and will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator- great for meal prep! The butter chicken can also be frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Butter Chicken Variations

As you can see from the recipe, this can easily be adapted. To make this vegetarian, substitute roasted cauliflower or crispy tofu for the chicken. To make this vegan, leave out the ghee and use coconut oil (although the ghee truly does add great flavor). Feel free to serve the Indian Butter Sauce over simple, oven-roasted veggies and basmati rice.

Instead of chicken, you could simmer white fish in the sauce. Instead of chicken breast, you can use whole chicken thighs ( skin on bone in) searing them first.

You could simmer meatballs in the sauce. It’s really that versatile!

The best recipe for Butter Chicken, (Chicken Makhani) a classic Indian dish made with tender chicken breast in a fragrant spiced tomato curry sauce enriched with ghee. Vegan-adaptable and GF. 

What is the difference between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala?

Butter chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala are similar in that both are made with chicken that is simmered in a spiced tomato curry sauce.  But Butter Chicken is both creamier and milder than Chicken Tikka Masala which tends to be less rich and more spicy, and slightly tangier.

Can Butter chicken be made in an Instant Pot?

Absolutely!   Follow the recipe as stated in the recipe card, up until you add the chicken back into the pan with the tomato sauce. Set the instant pot to high pressure for 7 minutes, naturally release then add the remaining ingredients following the recipe card.

The Origin of Butter Chicken

Butter chicken (murgh makhani) is thought to have happened as a happy accident. Created quite spontaneously by 2 chefs, Kundan Lal Jaggi, and  Kundan Lal Gujral in a restaurant in Old Delhi, India called Moti Mahal, in 1947,  they mixed leftover tandoori chicken with a tomato curry gravy, enriched with ghee. Murgh makhani means “luxurious chicken” which perfectly captures the spirit of the dish.

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A delicious authentic recipe for Indian Butter Chicken, a classic Indian dish.

Butter Chicken Recipe (Chicken Makhani)

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Description

The best recipe for Butter Chicken, (Chicken Makhani) a classic Indian dish made with tender chicken breast in a fragrant spiced tomato curry sauce enriched with ghee. Vegan-adaptable and GF.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 2 teaspoons salt (use 1 teaspoon per pound of chicken)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons ghee

Butter Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon ghee,
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 12 serrano chilies (or sub 1 jalapeno) split in half lengthwise (leave tops intact)
  • 4 fat garlic cloves- finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger finely minced (or use ginger paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds or regular mustard seeds
  • 14-ounce can tomato puree, tomato sauce (or sub 2 medium tomatoes, blended with their juices, roughly 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup water (or veggie broth or chicken stock)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala spice (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (optional, but elevates the dish substantially)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 23 teaspoons paprika (do NOT use smoked paprika, if you don’t have regular, just leave it out!)
  • 1 cup coconut cream (or sub heavy cream) or full fat yogurt.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, brown sugar, or honey
  • optional additions: cayenne pepper to taste, pinch turmeric, pinch cardamom, pinch coriander
  • garnish with cilantro

Serve with naan bread,  fluffy basmati rice, cauliflower rice or cauliflower florets and optional raita!


Instructions

  1. Season chicken (either whole or cut into bite-sized pieces) with salt, pepper and garam masala. Heat ghee over medium heat in a large skillet or dutch oven, add chicken and brown the chicken until golden and set aside. No need to cook through.
  2. Add the remaining ghee to the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and whole chilies and saute 5-6 minutes until deeply tender and fragrant. Add the garlic, ginger, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook until ginger is cooked and golden, about 3 more minutes. Add the spices: garam masala, fenugreek, chili powder, paprika, and cinnamon stick, and toast the spices, for 30-60 seconds to bring out their flavor.  Add the tomato puree plus 1 cup water.
  3. Add the salt and brown sugar, give a good stir. Add the seared chicken. Simmer gently on low heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, allowing all the fragrant spices to infuse the sauce and your home.
  4. After 10 minutes, stir in the coconut cream and simmer gently once more for 3-4 more minutes. For a brighter red hue, you could add more paprika if you like. 
  5. Taste, adjusting the salt and spice level to taste (add cayenne to taste). Feel free to fish out the whole chilies. 
  6. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with basmati rice or naan.

Notes

Ghee: This recipe is all about the Indian “Butter” Sauce. The ghee truly makes it. Trust me! If you don’t have ghee- it is easy to make at home – see our homemade ghee.

Coconut Cream– use the thick solids out of the coconut milk can. Light coconut milk will be too runny. You can also use heavy cream or extra thick yogurt in a pinch.

Garam Masala Spice can be made at home- see our Homemade Garama Masala  or find it at your local supermarket – it’s one that we use here on the blog frequently, so perhaps worth investing in or making.

Dried Fenugreek leaves (not seeds or powder!) are worth tracking down, as they elevate Indian dishes substantially! Asian markets usually carry them or they can be ordered here on Amazon.

Vegan: Use coconut oil instead of ghee and coconut milk. The Indian Butter Sauce is delicious over roasted cauliflower or Crispy tofu !

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 307
  • Sugar: 6.1 g
  • Sodium: 866.3 mg
  • Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated Fat: 11.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 18 g
  • Fiber: 5.8 g
  • Protein: 16.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 48 mg

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Comments

  1. I made this yesterday ( my 6th from this site)and loved the whole experience from the gentle but distinct aroma filling the house to a complex satisfying taste of a healthy wholesome dish. I changed nothing, served over cauliflower rice.
    Thank you Sylvia






  2. Hi there. Spokane local, and this is about the 8th dish of yours we’ve tried. They’re great.

    Our chicken was a bit on the dry and tough side. We used 3 breasts of about 10-12 ounces. We cut each breast into 4 chunks on the bias, hoping to infuse the flavors a bit more effectively. We seared the chicken well… maybe 90 seconds per side. The chunks finished for about 20 minutes in the sauce. What should we change next time? (And there *will* be a next time. Amazing flavor.)

    Thanks!






    1. Hey Jerrod, Sorry your chicken was tough. Sometimes it can actually be the chicken itself. I always have better luck with organic and pasture-raised. The chicken has more time to grow, and because it can run around their meat is actually more tender. Commercial chickens are fattened up too quickly, grow too quickly processed several weeks earlier and I find have tougher meat. I know it can cost prohibitive though. You could always make this with thigh meat, which is usually very tender.

    2. The chicken should also be at room temperature so it cooks evenly and I brine my chicken..soaking it in salt water 20 minutes to an hour before I cook it. This forces the chicken to stay more moist when it’s cooked. I do the same for pork as well.

  3. I love many of your recipes. This one didn’t quite do it for me. I followed the recipe as written, and the butter sauce just wasn’t as rich, thick, and buttery as I’d hoped. I’m inspired, though, and will keep trying! Thank you for sharing.

  4. I’m making tonight. When do you add the lemon?
    Also, I found fresh fenugreek leaves at the Indian market, lucky me!

  5. Super tasty and rich. I added cauliflower riced to the sauce towards the end of the cooking process. Turned out great. I also added a little extra lemon juice to my daughter’s helping to take some of the spicy out. Thank you for this treat!






  6. Hi Sylvia I am loving reading your recipes. I’ve tried a couple and they are fantastic. I plan to base all my meal prepping in the near future around your recipes,
    For future posts would you be able to post the quantities in metric units as well as imperial? Thanks Rai

  7. Great recipe. We are big fans of Indian cuisine and this recipe satisfied our cravings for Indian food. I made it yesterday for dinner. I had all spices in my kitchen, I fallow the recipe. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I used coconut oil to fry the chicken and coconut milk for sauce. Only one thing I did differently- I zipped the sauce before adding coconut milk.
    My hubby and I were so impressed with this dish. Thank you for this tasty recipe.






  8. This is a GREAT recipe. I use chicken, and keep the chilis to about 1/2 jalapeno or serrano (hubby does not like it too hot). You can get fenugreek leaves online at Amazon. Ghee is easy to make – there are many videos online – all you need is a heavy small saucepan and good salt-free butter.






  9. This is now one of my favourite recipes – so tasty! Even my meat loving husband likes the vegan version, but it’s great with chicken too!






  10. Thank you so much for this recipe! My family loooved it! We all enjoy a crockpot Indian Butter Chicken recipe I make, but my youngest daughter recently became a vegetarian, so I was looking for a destructed version. So we did make your own bowls – I served it with rice, roasted cauliflower, your chicken, and chickpeas (from dried). The sauce was amazing – so worth the little extra time! I couldn’t find the fenugreek leaves and left out any sugar. The entire dish fed my family of 4 with enough for leftovers later in the week! Oh and both of my girls said this was better than the crockpot version 🙂






  11. Hi Sylvia,

    Another great recipe, I made this last night using chicken and we all loved it! Followed your recipe exactly and it was delicious. It’s so good to have so many really good recipes to make, dinners have become much more interesting thanks to you!

    Annette.






  12. Hi Sylvia,
    This dish is going to be another of my favorites from your website. I like that I can make a big batch of the Indian Butter Sauce and use it for other dishes during the week. I could not find fenugreek leaves anywhere and finally had to order online. It was worth the effort. Coconut milk, tomatoes, chilies, ghee, and all those spices were delicious over pan fried tofu. The next day I used the leftover sauce over purple sweet potatoes. You have a poached cod in lemongrass broth recipe I also love. I grew my own lemongrass this year so I always have some on hand. Perhaps I will try to grow some fenugreek next spring.






    1. Thanks Terry, some how I missed this! Appreciate this so much! I can’t believe you grew your own lemongrass… That is truly amazing. All the best to you!!!






  13. I often save the extra butter chicken gravy to use it later with some other veg or non-veg items. I like your idea of using it with califlower or tofu. And the gravy really looks perfect.






  14. This is simmering away on the stove as I write this. It smells delicious! After I cooked the chicken, I scooped some of the liquid from the sauce into the pan and scraped out all the lovely brown bits. They tasted amazing!

  15. Hey! I saw the recipe thumbnail on foodgawker. I love your pictures! I am sure that the butter chicken is awesome as well.

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