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Butter Chicken

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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)

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 reader 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.

Butter Chicken Video Tutorial

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Photo by Johnny Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2021)

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

  • 1½ lbs chicken tenderloins, tendons trimmed, cut into 1½-inch pieces (see note)
  • 1¼ 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)
  • 1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger (from a 2-inch knob)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1¾ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ 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 ¾ 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 ½ 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

  • If I could give you ten stars for this recipe, I would. Outstanding! I have made many recipes from your blog, and this is now my favorite. The flavors were even better when I reheated the leftovers. Wow. As good as any take-out Indian food I have ever eaten. A definite winner!

    • — Cheryl on January 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is a general question-NOT-for posting on this recipe:
    When I choose PRINT, there is no print preview and it seems most recipes take 2 pages. Is this specific to my computer or your format offers no print preview. To overcome this, I have to copy/paste to a document and reformat. [If you received my first comment a few minutes ago, I was asking about there not being a photo in the Print version, but I missed the fact I was copying & pasting into Word and the photo wasn’t coming with it. Sorry–you do offer the photo in your Print layout–just wish there was a print preview OR recipes were most always limited to 1 page. THANK YOU again!

    • — Claire on December 30, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Claire, when you’re viewing the full recipe (near the bottom of the page), look in the upper righthand corner of that box – you’ll see an icon there that looks like a printer. Is that what you’re clicking on to print? If so, you should have a dialogue box pop up with printing options and a print preview option (just like you would when printing anything else). Prior to the dialogue box popping up, you should see a page with the recipe. In the upper right corner, there’s a box that you should be able to check/uncheck to include a pic of the recipe (or not). Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 4, 2023
      • Reply

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