Fabulous butter chicken, created right in your own kitchen! Rich, creamy, and full of flavor, you’ll love being able to cook up this famous Indian curry to serve at your table! Perfect served with hot basmati rice or naan.
What else is there to say?
We love butter chicken…so much so that when we go eat it at a restaurant, we will usually order two for the four of us…
…because let’s get serious, those pretty little metal dishes they serve it in are TINY.
So you really don’t get as much as you’d like AND it’s not exactly a cheap meal out.
So what better reason than to learn how to make this amazing dish at home in your own kitchen, where you can literally make up a huge pot full and eat as much as you want, whenever you want?
Keep in mind that making butter chicken does require a bit of planning and preparation…but trust me, when you take that first bite, you’ll know that it was all worth it.
Preparing and Marinating
The first step is to prepare the chicken and marinate it overnight. You could get away with marinating it for a few hours, but overnight is best.
Cut boneless, skinless chicken thighs into chunks and marinate in a mixture of lemon juice, plain yogurt, chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, ginger, garlic and salt. The yogurt marinade not only infuses the chicken with the flavors of all those wonderful spices, it also tenderizes the meat.
I make sure all the chicken pieces are coated really well with the marinade, and then seal it up in a zip top bag and let it hang out in the fridge overnight. At this point, my family gets pretty excited with anticipation of having butter chicken for dinner the next day!
Cooking the Chicken
Traditionally, the chicken for butter chicken is threaded onto skewers and cooked in a very hot tandoor or clay oven.
No tandoor oven? No problem.
Obviously, most people do not have a clay oven in their kitchen. Luckily, we can achieve very similar results simply by roasting the chicken at a high temperature in our regular ovens.
While I do not skewer the chicken because I just want to keep things simple, you can certainly skewer the chicken chunks if you like and cook as directed in the recipe. Keep in mind, though, that it is not necessary.
I simply spread the chicken chunks out on a baking pan and roast at 450F/230C until the chicken is cooked through and is nicely browned and has some charring. That browning contributes flavor when the chicken is added to the sauce.
Speaking of the butter chicken sauce, this is probably the most exciting part.
Using all the same spices that you used in the marinade with the addition of some nutmeg, the sauce starts with toasting the spices in some ghee in a pot. Toasting the spices is an important step as the heat helps to release their natural oils and aromas and the flavors spread through the sauce much more that if you were to simply dump them into the sauce. The same also applies to the minced ginger and garlic when you then add them to the paste and heat them through before adding the tomato passata (or puree), some honey for a touch of sweetness, and the cream.
Then comes adding the roasted chicken and, of course…BUTTER. It doesn’t make sense to have butter chicken without any butter! Heat through and it is ready to devour!
You can do like the restaurants do and drizzle some fresh cream on top of the butter chicken in the serving dish, and then top with some fresh chopped coriander. Then it really looks legit! Or you can simply scoop a ladle-full straight from the pot to your bowl or plate with some hot rice and naan and start eating!
Obviously, basmati rice is the rice of choice to go with butter chicken, but if you aren’t picky (and we aren’t), I’ve also served this with regular long-grain rice, and yes, I’ve even served this with short-grain pearl rice. The star of the show is the butter chicken and really, no one is going to complain about what rice you decide to serve with it.
Having some naan to mop up all the curry sauce is almost a requirement, and if you happen to be gluten-free (or even if you’re not!), I’ve got a great Gluten-Free Flatbread recipe you can make! It’s soft, delicious, and is an excellent way to make sure that none of that liquid gold curry sauce goes to waste!
This recipe was inspired by and adapted from the butter chicken recipe from Amber India, one of our favorite Indian restaurants in California from when we lived there years ago. Their recipe was published in the local newspaper and at the time, I remember thinking how incredibly daunting and intimidating it seemed. And even though my version has been modified to make it simpler for the home cook, I’m sure that you might think the same when you look through this recipe.
But let me assure you that if you try this, you are going to LOVE IT. And not only will you love it, but you will be amazed at how easy it actually is. Butter chicken isn’t just for eating at restaurants anymore. 😉
Rich and Creamy Butter Chicken
- 1 tbs ghee (butter is fine if you don't have ghee)
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 2 cloves garlic minced or grated
- 2 tbs ginger minced or grated
- 2 1/4 cups tomato passata (may also be called tomato puree; NOT tomato paste)
- 2 1/4 cups cream (can use whole milk or combination of the two)
- 2 tbs honey
- 1/4 cup Butter
- In a large ziploc bag, place chicken pieces and lemon juice. Set aside.
- Combine yogurt, salt, chili powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, garam masal, garlic, and ginger in a bowl and mix well.
- Add yogurt-spice mixture to the chicken in the ziploc bag, making sure that chicken is coated well.
- Seal ziploc bag and refrigerate chicken for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).
- Preheat oven 450 deg F/230C.
- Remove chicken from marinade and place on a foil liked baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, until chicken is browned.
- When the chicken is in the last 15 minutes of roasting, melt ghee in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add dry spices to the ghee and stir with a spatula or spoon until fragrant (30 seconds).
- Add ginger and garlic to spices and cook for about 1 minute with the spices.
- Add tomato passata, cream, and honey to the pot and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil.
- Add cooked chicken pieces to the pot and heat through.
- Add 1/4 cup butter and stir into sauce to melt.
- Scoop butter chicken into serving dish and garnish with a drizzle of cream and fresh coriander, if desired. Serve immediately.
- Chicken thighs work best for this recipe as they do not dry out like chicken breasts do and stay tender throughout.
- Marinate the chicken for at least 6 hours before cooking, but overnight is best.
- If desired, skewer the chicken chunks before roasting for more browning and charring all around the pieces. This step is not necessary.
- This recipe makes a lot of curry sauce because my family wanted a greater ratio of sauce to chicken than in the original recipe from Amber India. You can reduce the amount of tomato passata and cream to 1 1/2 cups each, if desired.
- If you do not have cream, you can substitute with whole full-fat milk, but your sauce may not be as thick.
This post was originally published on October 30, 2017, but was republished on May 19th, 2020 with new photos, instructional photos, writing, and slight recipe adjustments.