Butter Chicken

Tested & Perfected Recipes Cookbook Recipe

This easy butter chicken recipe features ultra-tender chicken simmered in a rich, creamy, spice-infused tomato sauce.

Photo by Johnny Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2021)

One of my favorite recipes from my new cookbook, and a staple menu item in many Indian restaurants in the U.S., butter chicken was supposedly created when a restaurateur in India combined leftover chicken with a tomato sauce enriched with butter and cream. Traditionally, the chicken for this dish is marinated in yogurt, lemon, and spices and then cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor. To save time and make the dish home cook-friendly, I sauté unmarinated, seasoned chicken in a skillet and then briefly simmer it in a creamy, spice-infused tomato sauce. This results in ultra-tender chicken. In fact, one of my recipe testers remarked that this must be called “butter chicken” because the chicken is so tender, it’s like “buttah!”

Along with basmati rice or naan, I love a little mango chutney on the side; it adds a delicious gingery sweetness that complements the chicken.

What You’ll Need To Make Butter Chicken with Mango Chutney

butter chicken ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a medium bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces evenly with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the garam masala; toss to coat evenly.

tossing chicken with salt and garam masala

Add the flour.

adding flour to seasoned chicken

Toss again, making sure the chicken is well coated.

tossing seasoned chicken with flour

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot and shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer and cook, without stirring, until the chicken is lightly golden on the underside, about 3 minutes.

browning chicken on first side in skillet

Using tongs, turn the chicken pieces over and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Using the tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside while you make the sauce (you’ll use the skillet in the next step—there’s no need to wash it).

browning chicken on second side in skillet

Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

adding ginger and onions to skillet

Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne (if using), and remaining teaspoon of garam masala; stir and cook 1 minute more.

adding spices to ginger and onion mixture

Add the tomato sauce, cream, sugar, pepper, water, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

adding cream, tomato sauce, and seasoning

Add the chicken along with any accumulated juices, to the sauce.

adding the browned chicken to the sauce

Simmer a few minutes, until the chicken is warmed through.

simmering the chicken in the sauce

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with the cilantro, if using.

adding cilantro to butter chicken

Serve with basmati rice and mango chutney.

Photo by Johnny Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2021)

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Butter Chicken

This easy butter chicken recipe features ultra-tender chicken simmered in a rich, creamy, spice-infused tomato sauce.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs chicken tenderloins, tendons trimmed, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces (see note)
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger (from a 2-inch knob)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

For Serving (optional)

  • Basmati rice
  • Mango chutney (such as Major Grey's)

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces evenly with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the garam masala; toss to coat evenly. Add the flour and toss again, making sure the chicken is well coated.
  2. In a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot and shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer and cook, without stirring, until the chicken is lightly golden on the underside, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken pieces over and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside while you make the sauce (you’ll use the skillet in the next step—there’s no need to wash it).
  3. Melt the remaining tablespoon butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. If the onion starts to brown, reduce the heat. Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne (if using), and remaining teaspoon of garam masala; stir and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomato sauce, cream, sugar, pepper, water, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken, along with any accumulated juices, to the sauce and simmer just a few minutes until the chicken is warmed through. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with the cilantro, if using, and serve with basmati rice and mango chutney. (Note that the sauce will thicken as it sits; thin with a bit of water if necessary.)
  5. Note: Chicken tenderloins typically have a white tendon attached to them. They can be a little tough to chew, so I like to remove them with kitchen shears before cooking. Just pinch the tip of the tendon with your finger and snip where the tendon meets the chicken.
  6. Note: This dish is traditionally cooked with ghee, a type of clarified and fermented Indian butter that has a higher smoke point than plain butter. Since I don’t have ghee on hand in my kitchen and butter burns over high heat, I use a combination of butter and oil to get a similar effect (oil raises the smoke point of the fat and prevents the milk solids in the butter from burning).

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (4 servings)
  • Calories: 793
  • Fat: 59 g
  • Saturated fat: 23 g
  • Carbohydrates: 40 g
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 28 g
  • Sodium: 1,063 mg
  • Cholesterol: 167 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Thank you for another winner recipe! My boys loved this dish and I will be making it again.

    • — Susan on January 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • Great recipe! I had a lot of fun making this while my husband read the instructions out loud and then waited for me to complete each step before reading the next one. It came together quickly and easily.
    The spices were delicious and interesting.

    • — Sarah on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this the other night, DEE-licious!! Thanks for another winner Jenn 🙂
    Ally in NJ

    • — Ally O'Connor on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • You can add about a teaspoon of crushed dried fenugreek leaves just before you leave it to simmer. Will take the flavor up a notch.

    • — Lubna on January 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • This Butter Chicken dish is so good, easy to make and delicious. Pretty comparable to what I have had in an Indian Restaurant, I am thrilled with how it turned out and it pairs up so nice with your Naan Bread recipe!

    • — Myra on January 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • Doubled the recipe with great success.
    Deeeeeeeelicious.
    The flour and spices for browning, were so tasty and also eye appealing, I intend to do the same for specialty chicken salads. It will be lovely. The chicken was so tender with your timing too.
    Thank you for such a wonderful Family meal.

    • — Sue Hadick on January 18, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wow, this was delicious. I will definitely add to our rotation. So much flavor, family loved it. Another home run from my favorite chef to follow, your recipes never disappoint.

    • — Eileen on January 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight. Wow, very tasty – loved it. Definitely a repeater. I will add more cayenne next time but thanks so much for a tasty recipe.

    • — Karen on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! I just made this tonight…SO good. It may not be a traditional Indian recipe, but I appreciate that your recipes are so approachable to the home cook looking for something a little different and that brings Indian spices into our worlds, especially in a time when going out to dinner is tough right now. I will definitely be making this again as it was not too time consuming and delicious. I also LOVE your tikka masala recipe and I’ve passed that along to my sister and it’s become a staple in her rotation. I use A LOT of your recipes and they never disappoint. I give you total credit for all of them. I have your cookbooks and have gifted them as well. I thank you for your time and helping us home cooks make delicious meals…and I’m GF (not by choice) so going out to dinner was tough before the pandemic! All of your recipes are GF adaptable thanks to so many GF products and you even have GF recipes (thank you for the consideration)! I look forward to continuing my food journey with you. Be well.

    • — Adria on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • 💕

      • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
      • Reply
  • Just made the butter chicken and so yummy!!!! I used coconut milk and regular chicken breasts as I’m trying to use up items in my pantry/fridge. It turned out really well and the chicken wasn’t dry of which I thought might happen since I didn’t use tenders. I so appreciate your recipes as do my family and friends. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Janster (a former REALLY super bad cook) on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was fantastic! Next time now when I make it I will add more heat because we like spicy. The only mistake I made is I thought I bought skinless boneless chicken thighs only to find out they were only skinless lol. That will teach me to look closer at the packaging next time. I also made the mistake of adding the full amount of the Garam Marsala when I was tossing the chicken. Only to notice that I had to use some of it in the sauce. So I just added an extra half tablespoon to the sauce and it still turned out. I’m curious what your thoughts are if I were to substitute coconut milk for cream next time? Do you think that would change the flavour profile too much?

    • — Judy on January 16, 2022
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it even with the (unintentional) tweaks! 🙂
      I do think this would work with full-fat coconut milk. It may add a hit of coconut flavor to the sauce, but it would be subtle.

      • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
      • Reply
  • I made this yesterday and it was awesome, really great recipe. I paired it with basmati rice and naan bread and we really enjoyed the meal. Thank you for providing this recipe.

    • — Randy Sampson on January 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious!! The chicken was very tender, and the sauce creamy and flavorful! The recipe was very easy to follow. I might try with half and half next time just to make it a little healthier.

    • — Alison on January 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn, can I make this in the morning and warm before serving? If so, oven time and temp or microwave?

    • — Carol Winkelman on January 14, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, I think this is best if served right after it’s prepared but it reheats nicely. I’d gently reheat it on the stove. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
      • if it thickens upon sitting, will I have to add liquid to it when reheating

        • — Carol Winkelman on January 14, 2022
        • Reply
        • Yes, you will likely need to thin it out a bit.

          • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
          • Reply
        • WOW…for someone who is not a lover of Indian food, this was delicious. Served with chutney, naan, jasmine rice (that’s what I had in the house) and a dry riesling. So good. Did a mise en place in the morning and quickly put it together while my guests did wine and roasted, charred broccolini. The only problem was getting those white strips off the tenderloins. My kitchen scissors are wimpy. Will replace shortly. Jenn what brand do you have? Thanks again for a marvelous meal.

          • — Carol Winkelman on January 16, 2022
          • Reply
          • So glad it came out well, Carol! I have Henckels kitchen shears. Hope that helps. 🙂

            • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
  • Any chance I could use something other than the heavy cream? Half & half even?
    Thanks!

    • — Kathryn on January 14, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think you could get away with 1/2 and 1/2. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
      • I made the recipe last night with 1/2 and 1/2 instead of cream–turned out just wonderfully!
        On another note, the recipe doesn’t say to peel the ginger but I did–assumed you should. Was I wrong?
        Thanks Jen–great recipes as always!

        • — Kathryn on January 17, 2022
        • Reply
        • So glad you enjoyed it, Kathryn! And yes, it’s correct to peel the ginger.

          • — Jenn on January 17, 2022
          • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. I’m looking forward to trying this but wanted to ask if this will work in a cast iron skillet or a large regular all-clad aluminum skillet – I don’t have a nonstick skillet. Thanks again for all your amazing recipes, you’ve made me a better cook and a more confident one!

    • — S from DC on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Cast iron will work well. Enjoy 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • A friend had given me her recipe for butter chicken which I was going to make tonight….but then I remember seeing it in your latest cookbook so I made yours tonight for dinner. SO TOTALLY AMAZING…spices were right on..WE LOVED IT!! Thank you for another GREAT recipe!

    • — Cynthia Lucarotti on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • I love butter chicken. Have tried a few different recipes. I look forward to trying this one!

    • — Michele on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I usually love your recipes, and have made some of the dishes based on the recipe you have posted, and they were great. Unfortunately this time, being an Indian and having followed some of the very acclaimed chefs from India, I would have to disagree with your Americanized Butter Chicken recipe. It might be good but just reading over your recipe, I can assure you that this can never be called by any stretch of imagination a butter chicken. The basic essence in a classic butter chicken is the spice mix and the chicken marination. And Flour coating on chicken in a butter chicken??? Good lord.
    Instead of Butter Chicken you might want to call it Quick and Easy Chicken in a Tomato Sauce.
    I still love all your posts and recipes and would earnestly request you to keep it alive with well time tested recipes and not venture into time tested recipes.
    All the best for your future posts.

    • — Debasish Chakravarty on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Debasish – I am Desi too. However, she does state that traditionally this recipe is made using marination in spices etc. She is giving a more short cut version of it.

      The side of mango chutney -now that I have to admit I have never heard of or seen eaten as a complement to butter chicken, but to each their own!

      It is refreshing to see people try to adapt other cultures’ cuisines into their own lifestyle, even if it is not entirely authentic. It doesn’t have to be. It helps to increase awareness and acceptance.

      Love your recipes Jen!

      • — Asra on January 19, 2022
      • Reply
  • I have to be honest, this was SO good. I was scared at first because I’m not a fan of some of the spices but the way it blended was OUTSTANDING. we wiped the pot clean. Will be making again for sure. I’ve never ever made a recipe from you that wasn’t 10/10.

    • — Cristina on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • I have made this recipe (new cookbook is full of great recipes like this one!). I would put this up there in Jenn’s top 10 (maybe top 5) – the best part of the recipe (besides the taste which is divine) is that it is easy to make! Limited ingredients, prep time and cook time. Loved it.

      • — Big John on January 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Can’t wait to try your version of butter chicken. Quick question: I know many garam masala spice blends include salt. Does yours? Just want to check so I know whether to add the additional salt called for in the recipe or skip it. Normally, I would just wait to the end to adjust the salt, but since the seasoning is added right at the get-go I thought I’d check.

    • — Noreen on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Noreen, Mine does not include salt. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 13, 2022
      • Reply
  • I just made this last night – it was amazing!! I didn’t have the chutney but it was still delicious! We had garlic naan to round out the meal. I have never been disappointed by any of your recipes!

    • — Traci on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Good morning.
    May i ask could u use cornstarch to velvet the chicken ?
    Thanks,

    • — Dagmar Vanderkuip on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can coconut milk be substituted for cream?
    This looks grest!

    • — Maddie on January 13, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think that should work. Please LMK how it turns out with coconut milk!

      • — Jenn on January 14, 2022
      • Reply

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