Butter Chicken
Butter Chicken
5 from 21 votes
Butter chicken, a luscious, heart-warming delight, goes beyond mere sustenance. Indulge in the rich, creamy, subtly spiced symphony that leaves a lingering aftertaste, making every moment a culinary celebration.
Butter Chicken

Subtlety and depth – these are the hallmarks of the Butter Chicken, an iconic Indian dish that has captivated food enthusiasts globally. From the bustling streets of Delhi to the trendy eateries of London or New York, its reputation precedes it, making it a dish that needs little introduction. 

But for the uninitiated, let’s peel back the layers. The roots of Butter Chicken, or Murgh Makhani, can be traced back to the early 20th century, in the bustling by-lanes of Delhi. The creation of this flavourful masterpiece is credited to the owners of the iconic Moti Mahal restaurant.

The idea was to utilize leftover tandoori chicken by simmering it in a buttery, tomato-based gravy, delicately spiced with garam masala. An immediate hit, it quickly swept across the world, leaving a trail of satisfied smiles and requests for seconds. 

Now, let’s talk about the technicalities of creating this gastronomic delight. Crafting Butter Chicken isn’t too difficult; with a little patience and a lot of love, anyone can recreate this marvel at home.  

The process begins with marinating the chicken in a blend of spices, infusing each bite with intense flavour. Next, the chicken is cooked until it’s tender and juicy.  

The pièce de résistance, though, is the luxuriously creamy, rich, and tangy tomato sauce that wraps everything together, resulting in a harmony of taste and texture that’s hard to resist. 

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and this holds true for our beloved Butter Chicken as well. This recipe leaves plenty of room for innovation. Want to kick up the heat a notch?  

Add some more chillies. Or perhaps, in the spirit of keeping things light, you might opt for a version that goes easy on the butter and cream but still captures the essence of the dish.  

Some folks prefer to add bell peppers or use bone-in chicken for additional flavour. The key is to remember the essence of Butter Chicken – its delicate balance of spices, its velvety texture, and its deep, comforting flavours. 

Butter Chicken is like a symphony orchestra, where each note complements the others, creating a magnificent whole that’s so much more than the sum of its parts. There’s magic in the mingling of the spices, the caress of butter, the tang of tomatoes, and the succulent tenderness of the chicken. 

Butter Chicken! It isn’t merely a dish; it’s an experience, a decadent affair with layers of flavour waiting to be unravelled and enjoyed.  

Its allure lies not just in its taste but in the art of its creation, the joy of witnessing raw ingredients transform into something that brings warmth to your belly and a smile to your face.

You see, Butter Chicken isn’t just a recipe; it’s a culinary journey that transports you to the vibrant heart of India, without you ever needing to leave your kitchen. So, come along, let’s create, savour, and celebrate the delightful dish that is Butter Chicken! 

What Ingredients to Use & Why 

The essence of a memorable dish lies in its ingredients. When it comes to the treasured Butter Chicken, each ingredient has a crucial role to play, contributing to a symphony of flavours.  

From the chicken’s succulence, and the aromatic spices to the velvety gravy – each component has a story to tell. Let’s dive into this narrative, exploring the purpose of each ingredient and how it enhances the overall recipe. 

Chicken: The star of the show, chicken, is preferred for its mild, unobtrusive flavour that beautifully absorbs the marinade’s spices.  

You want to use boneless, skinless chicken that’s easy to manage and cooks evenly. An alternative could be turkey or tofu, for those leaning towards the vegetarian side. 

Garlic and Ginger Paste: The twin pillars of Indian cuisine, garlic and ginger are a potent duo. They add depth, warmth, and a hint of spice to the chicken. As an alternative, consider using minced garlic and ginger, though the paste provides a smoother consistency to the dish. 

Chilli Powder: Adding that much-needed heat, chilli powder is what gives Butter Chicken its slightly spicy undertone. If you’re wary of spice, reduce the quantity or use a milder chilli like paprika. 

Salt: The humble salt is the balancer, enhancing flavours and pulling all ingredients together. Without salt, even the most vibrant of dishes can taste flat. If you’re watching your sodium intake, consider using a low-sodium substitute. 

Oil: Used for frying the chicken and sautéing the base ingredients, the oil acts as a carrier for flavours. You could use any neutral oil, though ghee (clarified butter) is an aromatic alternative often used in Indian cuisine. 

Onions: The unsung hero of this recipe, onions add sweetness and body to the gravy. When cooked down, they create a rich base that complements the tomatoes beautifully. A suitable alternative could be shallots. 

Tomatoes: Offering a tangy twist, tomatoes help balance the rich, buttery elements of the dish. Fresh tomatoes are preferable, but canned tomatoes can be a handy substitute. 

Cashews: Cashews lend a nutty richness to the gravy, and when blended, they create a smooth, creamy texture. Almonds can be used as a healthier alternative. 

Garam Masala: The life of any Indian dish, garam masala is a blend of several spices, adding complexity and warmth. No exact alternative exists, but a mix of cumin, coriander, and cardamom can somewhat replicate its flavours. 

Butter: The ingredient that lends its name to the dish, butter adds a glossy finish and enriches the gravy, giving it a melt-in-the-mouth quality. If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, consider using margarine or vegan butter. 

Double Cream: Double cream adds a velvety richness, making the gravy indulgently creamy. An alternative could be full-fat coconut milk for a dairy-free version. 

Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Methi): Dried fenugreek leaves impart a slightly sweet, nutty flavour, a unique taste that’s hard to replace. However, celery leaves can be used as a distant alternative. 

It’s not just about what goes into the dish, but the love, care, and attention to detail that truly brings it to life. Remember, ingredients may form the body of Butter Chicken, but it’s your passion and love for food that infuses the soul into this delightful dish.  

Whether you’re sticking to the traditional recipe or venturing out with alternatives, every version of Butter Chicken carries a bit of you in it, making it truly special. Let’s honour these ingredients, recognizing their purpose and contribution, and create magic, one pot of Butter Chicken at a time! 

A Walk Through the Aromas of Indian Spices in Butter Chicken 

As I set out on my culinary journey crafting Butter Chicken, the experience is more than just the joy of eating. It’s a journey into a world brimming with enchanting aromas and flavours. Indian cuisine is renowned for its use of spices, and Butter Chicken is no exception. 

The spices in Butter Chicken aren’t merely ingredients; they’re the soul of the dish, adding depth, warmth, and layers of flavour that define Indian cuisine.

They are what turn an ordinary dish into an extraordinary experience, transporting you to a different world, a world where spices aren’t just flavour enhancers; they’re storytellers. 

Take garam masala, for instance. It’s a blend of several spices – cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and more. Each spice brings its unique flavour, and together, they create a medley that’s beautifully complex, warm, and earthy.  

Garam masala isn’t just a spice blend; it’s a testament to the idea that unity indeed is strength. It adds that elusive taste that you can’t quite put your finger on but makes Butter Chicken so incredibly delicious. 

Chilli powder, another integral spice, lends a hint of heat that tickles your palate just enough to keep it interesting.  

It’s the gentle whisper of spice that balances the creaminess of the dish, keeping it from becoming too rich. It reminds you that sometimes, a little spice is necessary to appreciate the sweetness of life. 

The use of ginger and garlic paste in the marinade injects a punch of robust flavours into the chicken. Their slightly spicy, somewhat pungent flavours seep into the chicken, ensuring every bite is bursting with flavour.  

Spices are the heart and soul of Butter Chicken, but they’re more than just flavour enhancers. They tell the story of a culture that celebrates diversity, unity, and a deep-rooted love for food. So, the next time you take a bite of Butter Chicken, remember to savour the spices. They’re not just ingredients; they’re the story of an ancient culinary tradition that continues to captivate the world. 

The Creamy Chronicles of Butter Chicken 

Creamy, buttery, and utterly comforting, that’s Butter Chicken for you. It’s a heartwarming tale of simple ingredients transforming into a culinary masterpiece.  

At the heart of this transformation is the velvety, creamy gravy that wraps around every morsel of chicken, making each bite a delightful experience. 

The creaminess in Butter Chicken primarily comes from two ingredients – butter and double cream. Yes, it’s as decadent as it sounds. Butter, with its rich, silky texture, adds a glossy finish to the dish. It lends a hint of indulgence, a melt-in-your-mouth quality that’s hard to resist. 

Then there’s the double cream. Its velvety richness makes the gravy indulgently creamy, giving you the kind of comfort that only a soul-warming dish like Butter Chicken can provide.  

But it’s not just about the texture; the double cream also balances the heat from the spices, smoothing out the flavours and creating a harmonious blend that’s music to your palate. 

But wait, there’s more to the creaminess than just butter and cream. There’s an unlikely hero – cashews. When blended into the tomato-onion base, they lend a subtle, nutty richness to the gravy. They also contribute to the gravy’s creamy texture, making it smoother and more luxurious. 

Creating the creamy gravy for Butter Chicken is an art in itself. It’s about understanding the balance of flavours and textures, and knowing how to combine the ingredients to achieve that perfect creaminess that makes Butter Chicken so irresistible. 

The creamy gravy is what sets Butter Chicken apart. It’s a luxurious experience, a velvety dream that wraps around your senses, leaving you in a state of culinary bliss.

So here’s to the creaminess of Butter Chicken, a tribute to the magic that simple ingredients can create when they come together in perfect harmony. It’s not just a recipe; it’s a journey into the world of creaminess, a journey worth taking every time you crave something comforting. 

The Harmony of Sweet and Spicy in Butter Chicken 

The world of gastronomy thrives on balance. The interplay of contrasting flavours and textures makes for a complex, pleasing dining experience.  

When I think about such culinary balance, one dish that instantly springs to mind is Butter Chicken, a culinary marvel that brings together the sweet and spicy in a beautiful harmony. 

Sweetness in Butter Chicken isn’t cloying; rather, it’s subtle and understated. It comes from the onions, which are cooked down until they release their natural sugars.  

They don’t just add sweetness; they add depth and richness that forms the backbone of the dish. The caramelized undertones from the onions keep the spicy elements in check, ensuring they don’t overwhelm the palate. 

But Butter Chicken isn’t just about sweetness. There’s spice too, the kind that adds warmth and dimension, without setting your tongue on fire.  

The chilli powder lends a gentle heat, while the ginger and garlic paste bring a robust, slightly spicy edge. These ingredients work in harmony with the sweet elements, resulting in a dish that’s complex yet balanced. 

What makes Butter Chicken truly special, though, is the fact that this sweet-spicy balance is achieved without the use of any artificial sweeteners or excessive spices.  

It’s all about using the ingredients to their fullest potential and understanding how they can work together to create a harmonious dish. This delicate balance is a testimony to the depth and sophistication of Indian cuisine, a cuisine that celebrates the complexity of flavours. 

The Art and Science of Marinating Chicken for Butter Chicken 

When I make Butter Chicken, one thing I never compromise on is the marination process. It’s the first step in the recipe but by no means the least important. In fact, marinating the chicken is both an art and a science, a crucial stage that can make or break your Butter Chicken. 

Marinating is not merely soaking chicken in a concoction of ingredients. It’s a process that allows the chicken to absorb the flavours, ensuring that every bite is flavour-packed.  

Garlic and ginger paste, chilli powder, and salt work their way into the chicken, infusing it with a depth of flavour that forms the foundation of Butter Chicken. 

Garlic and ginger paste bring a zesty edge to the chicken, their robust flavours permeating deep into the meat. Chilli powder, on the other hand, imparts a subtle heat, enough to tantalize your taste buds without overpowering the other flavours. 

But the art of marinating isn’t just about the ingredients. It’s also about the time.  

It takes patience to let the chicken marinate and absorb the flavours. The longer you marinate, the more flavourful your chicken will be. It’s about understanding that good things take time, and great Butter Chicken is worth the wait. 

Marinating is an exercise in patience and understanding. It’s about knowing the ingredients and how they interact with the chicken. It’s about appreciating the process and the transformation that occurs. 

Unravelling the Mysteries of the Butter Masala 

Every time I make Butter Chicken, I’m reminded of the magic that is the Butter Masala. A tantalizing mixture of flavours, it transforms ordinary ingredients into a dish that’s extraordinarily delicious. So, let’s dive into the secrets of this quintessential element of Butter Chicken. 

The base of the Butter Masala consists of onions and tomatoes. The onions bring a delicate sweetness, while the tomatoes offer a tangy note. When cooked down, they form a rich, velvety sauce that’s both sweet and tangy.  

This forms the backbone of the Butter Masala, a foundation upon which other flavours can shine. 

Then come the aromatic components – garlic and ginger paste, and garam masala. These ingredients lend an exotic note to the Butter Masala, their fragrance and flavours permeating through the dish.  

Garlic and ginger paste bring a zesty edge, while garam masala, a blend of spices, adds warmth and depth. It’s these ingredients that turn the Butter Masala from a simple tomato-onion sauce into a flavour-packed base for Butter Chicken. 

Adding another layer of complexity to the Butter Masala are cashews. When blended with the sauce, they impart a creamy texture and a subtle nuttiness. They act as a counterpoint to the spices, their delicate flavours balancing out the robustness of the garam masala. 

The Butter Masala is a testament to the complexities of Indian cuisine. It showcases how simple ingredients, when combined in the right way, can create a dish that’s more than the sum of its parts.  

And that’s the beauty of Butter Chicken – a dish that takes you on a flavourful journey, one bite at a time. 

Decoding the Role of Dairy in Butter Chicken 

One of the hallmarks of Butter Chicken is its creamy texture, which comes from two key dairy ingredients – butter and double cream. These two elements lend a luxurious quality to the dish, making it decadently rich and incredibly comforting. 

When I add butter to the masala, I notice an immediate change in the aroma. It becomes richer, deeper, almost intoxicating.  

Butter doesn’t just add creaminess; it amplifies the flavours of the other ingredients, making them more pronounced. It also imparts a beautiful sheen to the sauce, making it look as good as it tastes. 

Double cream takes the creaminess to another level. It transforms the masala from a mere sauce into a velvety, spoon-coating delight. It smooths out the flavours, melding them together into a harmonious whole.  

With the addition of double cream, the Butter Chicken becomes truly indulgent, a treat for the senses. 

While butter and double cream add richness, it’s the dried fenugreek leaves, or methi, that bring a unique flavour. They have a slightly bitter, aromatic quality that offsets the creaminess, adding another layer of complexity to the Butter Chicken.  

Methi leaves are the finishing touch, the final flourish that takes Butter Chicken from great to unforgettable. 

Dairy in Butter Chicken isn’t just about creaminess. It’s about creating a balance of flavours and textures, a dance of creamy, spicy, and aromatic that makes this dish a culinary masterpiece. So, here’s to butter, double cream, and methi, the dairy stars that make Butter Chicken the beloved dish it is. 

Discovering the Impact of Cooking Techniques on Butter Chicken 

Cooking techniques are as important to the final dish as the ingredients themselves. They influence everything, from the texture of the food to its flavour profile. In Butter Chicken, two cooking techniques stand out: frying and simmering. 

Frying the marinated chicken introduces Maillard reactions – a series of chemical reactions responsible for the browning of food. These reactions result in the development of complex flavours and aromas, enhancing the taste of the chicken.  

This step also seals the juices within the chicken, ensuring it remains succulent and tender. 

Simmering, on the other hand, is all about slow and gentle cooking. Once the chicken pieces are added back to the butter masala, they are allowed to simmer.  

This process helps the chicken absorb the flavours of the sauce while also allowing the sauce to thicken. The result? A dish where every bite of chicken is an explosion of flavours, and the sauce coats your palate with its creamy, spicy goodness. 

I’ve found that mastering these techniques has elevated my Butter Chicken to new culinary heights. They’ve helped me understand how manipulating heat and time can transform ingredients into a delicious symphony of flavours.  

And in doing so, I’ve discovered the joy and satisfaction that come from creating something so profoundly delicious from simple, everyday ingredients. 

The Perfect Pairings with Butter Chicken 

When I serve up a dish of Butter Chicken, the next question that naturally follows is, “What should I pair it with?”  

This deliciously creamy and mildly spiced dish has a palette of flavours that can be complemented by several side dishes. So, let’s explore the wonderful world of perfect pairings for Butter Chicken. 

An all-time favourite is the classic basmati rice. This long-grained rice, known for its fragrant aroma and light, fluffy texture, serves as the perfect canvas for the rich and flavourful Butter Chicken. It absorbs the buttery sauce well, ensuring each bite is an enjoyable combination of aromatic rice and creamy curry. 

Garlic naan, another popular choice, brings its unique charm to the table. The soft, warm bread is slightly charred, offering a wonderful contrast to the creamy curry. The pungent aroma of garlic elevates the overall flavour, making each mouthful an absolute delight. 

Steamed vegetables, though less traditional, make a great accompaniment to Butter Chicken. The natural sweetness of the veggies complements the richness of the curry, providing a well-rounded meal. 

Exploring Variations of the Classic Butter Chicken Recipe 

As someone who’s tried and tested various iterations of the classic Butter Chicken recipe, I can confidently say that experimentation is the spice of life. Variations of this classic recipe can open up a new avenue of flavours, creating a culinary experience that’s both exciting and enjoyable. 

One such variation that I’ve come to love involves swapping the double cream for coconut milk. This not only provides a lactose-free alternative but also introduces a subtly sweet and tropical note to the Butter Chicken. This slight twist makes the dish lighter without compromising on its creamy texture. 

Another exciting variation is using tofu instead of chicken, creating a vegetarian version of Butter Chicken that’s as good as the original. Marinated tofu soaks up the butter masala beautifully, making it an excellent protein substitute for those who don’t eat meat. 

Using different proteins, like prawns or paneer, also works wonderfully. Each brings its unique texture and flavour, transforming the classic Butter Chicken into something new yet equally delectable. 

Variations on the classic Butter Chicken recipe demonstrate how versatile this dish can be. It’s a culinary canvas that welcomes creativity, allowing me to play around with ingredients and techniques to create a dish that caters to various preferences and dietary requirements.  

No matter how much I experiment, the essence of Butter Chicken – its creamy, flavourful delight – always shines through. 

Check Out These Other Recipes 

Can’t get enough of that delectable Butter Chicken? Good news! I’ve got a whole treasure trove of Indian curry recipes that you’ll absolutely adore. Here are some that you definitely can’t miss: 

Let me start with the Chicken Tandoori. If you think Butter Chicken is the epitome of Indian flavours, wait until you’ve had a taste of this!  

It’s a vibrant, aromatic dish where chicken is marinated in yoghurt and a blend of delectable spices, and then grilled to perfection. It’s truly an explosion of flavours in your mouth. 

And if that got your taste buds dancing, the Chicken Jalfrezi won’t disappoint. It’s a heartwarming curry with chunks of chicken, peppers, and onions, all swimming in a beautifully spiced and tangy sauce. It’s like a warm, comforting hug in a bowl, just like our beloved Butter Chicken. 

Can’t forget about the Lamb Karahi either. It’s a delightful change of pace if you’re more of a red meat lover. A robust blend of lamb, tomatoes, and a host of aromatic spices, this curry is a perfect treat for those cosy nights. 

When you crave that Butter Chicken goodness, but want to mix things up a bit, the Chicken Tikka Masala will do just the trick. It’s similar, yet distinctively unique. The smoky charred pieces of chicken basking in a thick, creamy, and flavourful sauce will transport you straight to the bustling streets of Delhi. 

To end this culinary journey, I’d suggest a serving of Chicken Biryani. It’s a beautifully layered dish of tender, marinated chicken and fragrant Basmati rice. It’s an Indian curry masterpiece that you simply can’t overlook. 

Can’t wait to see your comments and know how you’ve enjoyed these dishes. Make sure to let me know if you’re up for more Indian curry recommendations!  

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

by Nabeela Kauser
Butter chicken, a luscious, heart-warming delight, goes beyond mere sustenance. Indulge in the rich, creamy, subtly spiced symphony that leaves a lingering aftertaste, making every moment a culinary celebration.
5 from 21 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Marination Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4
Calories 385 kcal



  • 500 g Chicken
  • 1 tsp Garlic Paste
  • 1 tsp Ginger Paste
  • 2 tsp Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt

Butter Masala

  • 30 ml Oil
  • 2 Onions
  • 500 g Tomatoes
  • 50 g Cashews
  • 500 ml Water
  • 1 tsp Garlic Paste
  • 1 tsp Ginger Paste
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 50 ml Double Cream
  • 1 tsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves Methi


  • Cut the chicken into small bite size pieces then add into a bowl along with all the marinade ingredients and mix until each pieces is fully coated before setting aside to marinate for at least 1 hour
  • Once the chicken has marinated heat up the oil in a pan on medium heat until hot
  • Add the marinated chicken pieces and fry for 2-3 minutes on either side until lightly charred then remove from pan and set aside
  • Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened
  • Add the tomatoes, cashews, water, garlic paste, ginger paste, salt and garam masala then cook for 5-10 minutes until tomatoes are softened
  • Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool down before adding into a food processor and blending until a smooth paste forms – if there are any lumps strain through a sieve back into the pan
  • Add the butter, double cream and fenugreek leaves and cook for a further 10-15 minutes
  • Add the cooked chicken pieces and allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through
  • Serve with basmati rice or garlic naan then enjoy!



Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 385kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 16gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 67mgSodium: 1265mgPotassium: 615mgFibre: 3gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 1695IUVitamin C: 23mgVitamin D: 0.3µgCalcium: 58mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Butter, Chicken, Cooking, Curry, Dinner, Food, Recipe, Spicy
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!

Rate this Butter Chicken recipe

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 months ago

5 stars
Aunty, this dish is lovely. I’m learning to cook Pakistani dishes and this was so helpful! My butter chicken doesn’t turn out as red as yours but I add a little food colouring to it 😊


Hi, I’m Nabeela and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

More Recipes

Chicken Gyros

Chicken Gyros

Chicken Risotto

Chicken Risotto

Chicken Doner Kebab

Chicken Doner Kebab

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Stir Fry

Chicken Stir Fry

Find Your Perfect Recipe!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x