This butter chicken recipe makes a flavorful Punjabi-style chicken curry. Make this easy dish for a homemade meal just as good as takeout!
I'll show you how to make butter chicken in just a few easy steps, and with a surprising twist - not the usual gobs of butter!
Typically the curry sauce has copious amounts of butter in it, which is where the name of the dish comes from.
Instead, this recipe uses thick Greek yogurt to get the same creamy texture found in a restaurant, but without all of the grease. Just two tablespoons of butter swirled in before serving is all this needs.
Be sure to make my Chana Masala for a delicious side dish!
Entree definition: butter chicken
Also known as Murg Makhani, this popular curry dish comes from the Indian state of Punjab. In fact, it was created by chance when leftovers were combined to make something new.
Tender pieces of chicken are cooked in a creamy tomato sauce with plenty of warm spices. And while curries are known for being spicy, this dish has just the right amount of heat without burning your tongue.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Note: This is just a partial list of ingredients. For the full ingredient list, see the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Chicken - Because this butter chicken recipe is so flexible, you can use any boneless, skinless breasts, thighs, or tenders. Cut the meat into bite size pieces, about 1-inch in length.
- Garam masala - Feel free to adjust the amount depending on how much heat you want in the dish. Use your favorite storebought brand or make my homemade spice blend.
- Tomato sauce - I like to use tomato sauce since it’s more readily available and creates a smoother sauce. If you prefer little bits of tomato, use Tomato Passata or puree a can of crushed tomatoes.
- Heavy cream - Half and half can be used as a substitute if needed. Or, use coconut cream which is the solid part at the top of full fat canned coconut milk.
Making this dish is a snap - just marinate the chicken, then cook it in the same pan with the sauce!
Serve over steamed rice with a side of Shirazi salad and some garlic naan, which you can make at home or find at most stores.
If you like this butter chicken, try my Chicken Korma recipe, too!
- Marinate chicken: Toss the chicken pieces with the marinade ingredients in a large bowl, then cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Cook over high heat: Pour the chicken with the marinade into the pan, then spread the meat into a single layer and saute until cooked through.
- Simmer with sauce: Next, stir in the tomato sauce, sugar, and salt. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened and reduced.
- Finish and serve: Stir in the cream and simmer for a few more minutes, then spoon over rice and garnish with cilantro.
- Rice for serving - This Punjabi style butter chicken tastes delicious with just about any rice variety. Basmati is the most common, and there’s even a brown basmati that’s incredibly fragrant. Regular white, brown, or jasmine will work just as well.
- Adding vegetables - Feel free to include things like sliced carrots or squash to the pan once the chicken is cooked.
- Storage - Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Freezing - This curry should freeze just fine, but the texture may become a bit grainy. If that happens, add a bit more cream when reheating. Store in an airtight container or freezer safe ziploc bag for up to 3 months. Then, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- Reheating - Simmer leftovers on the stove until warmed through, adding a splash of cream if needed to thin out the sauce. Or microwave in bursts so you don’t dry out the chicken.
Butter Chicken (Punjabi-Style)
- 1 ½ lbs chicken breast meat (See Note 1)
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 2 tsp garam masala (See Note 2)
- 1 ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 8 oz tomato sauce (See Note 3)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- Cilantro for garnish
- Combine Marinade ingredients with the chicken in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, overnight, or up to 24 hours.
- Heat the oil over high heat in a large fry pan or wok. Add the marinated chicken and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is white all over - it doesn't really brown due to the marinade.
- Add the tomato sauce, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Sauce will thicken and reduce.
- Season with salt if needed. Stir through the cream and simmer another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to melt into the sauce.
- Garnish with cilantro leaves and a pinch of some more Garam Masala. Serve over rice and with garlic naan bread. (See Note 4)
- I like to use chicken breast meat, the chicken tender strips or thigh fillets, cut into bite size pieces.
- Use more or less Garam Masala depending on your taste for heat. This is not a very hot dish, the spice blend is more flavor than heat. I think sometimes people confuse spicy with heat and there is a difference! 🙂
- I use Tomato Sauce in this recipe and have also used Tomato Passata, both work well in this. Tomato Passata is uncooked tomato puree that has been strained of seeds and skins. It is not cooked, where Tomato Sauce is cooked and often has other ingredients such as carrots, onions, sugar and garlic. If you want little bits of tomato in the sauce passata works well. Smoother go tomato sauce.Passata is readily available in most supermarkets, usually alongside pasta sauces. It costs just a little more, sometimes the same, as canned tomatoes. If you can't find it, puree canned tomatoes. (Australia, from what I understand don't use what you call Tomato Sauce!).
- You can pick up frozen baked naan at most supermarkets or Trader Joe's if available near you.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.