Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

The Spruce / Ana Zelic

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
454 Calories
23g Fat
11g Carbs
49g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 454
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 30%
Saturated Fat 10g 52%
Cholesterol 166mg 55%
Sodium 365mg 16%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 49g
Vitamin C 11mg 55%
Calcium 65mg 5%
Iron 3mg 19%
Potassium 828mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This famous Indian dish was invented in Delhi in the 1940s and quickly became popular in other parts of the world thanks to its creamy quality and mild spice intensity, which made it very palatable for people who weren't used to the heat of some traditional Indian dishes but who craved the flavor of foreign spices. Even though it's called butter chicken there isn't actually too much butter in it; it gets its name from the tender, buttery flavor of the chicken and the creamy sauce that covers it.

The recipe is quite mild as-is, ideal for kids and adults who are not used to spicy food, so adjust the spices to your liking, like doubling the curry powder and white pepper. Traditionally this recipe uses chicken breasts, but you could also use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Additionally, you could add some turmeric or dry ginger for an extra kick of flavor, or add a teaspoon of chili flakes or sliced habanero peppers for a spicy version.

Serve this recipe over hot cooked basmati rice to soak up the wonderful sauce. A crisp green salad or a fruit salad are good accompaniments. 

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts (skinless, cut into 1-inch pieces)

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)

  • 3 teaspoons curry powder (divided)

  • 1 medium onion (thinly sliced)

  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)

  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (finely chopped)

  • 3 tablespoons butter (divided)

  • 1 pinch white pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups tomato puree

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or evaporated milk)

  • 3 cups cooked basmati rice, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Butter Chicken ingredients

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  2. In a medium bowl, place the chicken pieces and add the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 2 teaspoons curry powder.

    In a medium bowl, place the chicken pieces and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and curry powder

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  3. Toss to coat the chicken, cover, and set aside.

    toss chicken in the seasonings

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  4. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, warm up the remaining olive oil with one tablespoon of butter.

    oil and butter in a pan

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  5. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and saute for one minute.

    Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and saute in the pan

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  6. Add the remaining curry powder and remaining butter. Stir well.

    Add the remaining curry powder and remaining butter to the onion mixture

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  7. Add the pepper, salt, and tomato puree. Mix well and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Add the pepper, salt, and tomato puree to the onion mixture

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  8. Stir in the skillet the marinated chicken pieces with their juices.

    Stir in the skillet the marinated chicken pieces with their juices

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  9. Bring the chicken to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 11 to 15 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked to 165 F as tested with an instant-read thermometer.

    cook the chicken in the skillet

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  10. Stir in the heavy cream and mix. Cook for one more minute.

    Stir the heavy cream into the pan with the chicken

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  11. Turn off the heat and let the chicken rest for 2 to 5 minutes.

    Turn off the heat and let the chicken rest in the skillet

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

  12. Serve the chicken over basmati rice.

    Butter Chicken, served with rice

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

Vegetarian Butter "Chicken"

The sauce in this dish is wonderful over any animal or plant-based protein. It's even amazing on its own over rice or potatoes. If you'd like to make a vegetarian take on the dish, here's an easy suggestion:

  • Press one block of extra firm tofu until most of the liquid has gone out.
  • Cut the tofu into 1.5-inch cubes, spray with olive oil, and bake in an oven at 400 F for 30 minutes.
  • As you bake the tofu, prepare the sauce with all the ingredients, minus the chicken.
  • Once the tofu is baked and firm, add it to the sauce and mix until all the cubes are well coated.
  • Serve over basmati rice.

The same steps above can be repeated for tempeh or seitan, but bake these plant proteins for only 15 minutes, as they already have a harder texture and won't be soggy when added into the sauce.

Use the tomato sauce to mix with canned garbanzo beans, or any firm bean of your liking for another take on the dish.