Made with lots of spices and ghee, this Easy Butter Chicken is bursting with flavor. It’s such a comforting, hearty meal with plenty of extra sauce to soak up in your rice or naan bread, you’ll be daydreaming about it long after the last bite!
Craving more Indian food? Try our chicken tikka masala or some chickpea curry.
Easy Homemade Butter Chicken Recipe
Butter chicken is easily one of my favorite Indian dishes. I love the pieces of juicy chicken covered in a creamy, savory, and sweet sauce – even more when I can soak up all the extras with some freshly made naan bread.
For those who say homemade butter chicken is a bit difficult or time-consuming to make, you’ll love this easier version of the classic Indian dish. The chicken requires just an hour to marinate (though longer is definitely better) and once you begin, dinner can be on the table in well under an hour. Trust me, this recipe is so easy that you can’t mess it up!
What Is Butter Chicken?
Butter chicken (murgh makhani) is a creamy curry dish from Northern India. As the name suggests, the sauce is made with butter (specifically clarified butter – aka ghee) which creates a rich sauce and traditional spices like garam masala, chili powder, and fenugreek leaves add a bold flavor. Tomato sauce is added to round out the sauce.
What Does Butter Chicken Taste Like?
Butter chicken has a rich, savory, and sweet flavor. The butter and cream add richness, while the spices give it more of a traditional curry flavor, and the tomato sauce balances it all out with a hint of sweetness.
Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala
Butter chicken and tikka masala are two chicken curry dishes that look and taste very similar. However, there are a few differences. While butter chicken is cooked in butter, tikka masala is primarily cooked in oil. Additionally, tikka masala is a bit spicier and contains onion in the tomato base.
Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list – the majority are common spices that you can easily find at the store and everyday ingredients, like chicken breast and yogurt.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Chicken – Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are super juicy and flavorful.
- Yogurt – The base of the marinade.
- Fresh ginger & garlic – For wonderful aromatics and flavor.
- Spices – The chicken marinade is made with garam masala, chili powder, dried fenugreek leaves, garlic powder, cumin, onion powder, sweet paprika, salt, and turmeric.
- Ghee – Ghee is clarified butter, which adds the rich, buttery flavor to the dish.
- Tomato passata – Tomato passata is thinner than other tomato sauces and made with just cooked, strained tomatoes.
- Heavy cream – Adds the creaminess to the sauce.
- For serving – We like to serve this with white rice, garnished with chopped cilantro, and also some naan bread.
Variations & Substitutions
If you do not frequently cook Indian food, some of the ingredients on the list may be unfamiliar. If you’d like to make a few substitutions, here are some suggestions.
- Ghee – You can substitute vegetable oil or coconut oil. I do not suggest regular butter as the milk solids will burn at high heat. However, ghee is clarified butter so you can make your own clarified butter to use in its place.
- Yogurt – Plain Greek yogurt will also work.
- Garam masala – Curry powder can be used instead, at a 1:1 ratio or you can use 1/2 teaspoon ground all spice.
- Fresh ginger – If you don’t have fresh ginger on hand, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger can be used instead.
- Fenugreek – You can use an equal amount of mustard seeds or just leave it out.
- Tomato passata – Canned tomato puree or plain tomato sauce (not flavored spaghetti sauce) will work as well.
- Chicken thighs – We recommend chicken thighs for this recipe since they carry a bit more fat and flavor, but you can use boneless chicken breast instead if preferred.
How to Make Butter Chicken
This homemade butter chicken recipe is much easier than you may expect. If you marinate the chicken in advance, you can have dinner on the table in under an hour.
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
- Marinate the chicken. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients until smooth. Toss the chicken with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Sear the chicken. Heat the ghee in a dutch oven. Add the marinated chicken, searing on all sides and stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
- Add the sauce. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and any leftover marinade to the pot. Scrape any browned bits off the bottom.
- Simmer. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Enjoy. Serve with cooked white rice and naan.
Tip – Marinate the Chicken Overnight
Video: Homemade Butter Chicken
Butter chicken is typically served with cooked rice, like basmati rice or our curry rice. It pairs perfectly with our homemade naan bread to scoop up all the remaining sauce. If you have other favorite Indian sides, they’ll work great here too.
- Storing leftovers. Leftover homemade butter chicken should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- To freeze. Butter chicken freezes fairly well. I recommend placing it in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag, remove as much air as possible, and lay flat. It will keep up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
- Reheat. The best way to reheat is on the stovetop, though the microwave will work in a pinch. Be sure to store it separately from any rice, as the rice will absorb the sauce.
More Easy Chicken Recipes:
- Chicken Alfredo
- Chicken Tetrazzini
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Slow Cooker Orange Chicken
- Chicken Pad Thai
- Salsa Verde Chicken
I hope you love this delicious and easy recipe – be sure to give it a review below! Also don’t forget to follow Belly Full on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube!
Easy Butter Chicken
For the Chicken
- 1 & 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger , minced
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (see note below)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon tumeric
For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup ghee
- 1 1/2 cups tomato passata (see note below)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- cooked white rice , for serving
- fresh chopped cilantro , for garnish
- naan bread , for serving
- Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces, set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk together the yogurt, garlic, ginger, and all the seasonings until smooth.
- Add the chicken to the bowl and toss in the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for at least one hour to marinate (12 hours is ideal.)
- Place a dutch oven or large skillet with deep sides over high heat. Once hot add the ghee. Place the marinated chicken into the pot and sear, stirring occasionally, cooking until browned on most sides, 10 minutes.
- Add the tomato passata, cream, sugar, salt, and any leftover marinade from the chicken to the pot and mix it all together, scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Bring to a simmer and lower the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with hot cooked white rice garnished with fresh chopped cilantro, and some naan bread.