Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is one of the most popular Indian restaurant dishes, at least in North America. If you have not had butter chicken before, you should expect beautifully tender pieces of chicken in a creamy sauce that is not hot and spicy, but rather luscious and almost sweet.

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What is Butter Chicken?

If you were to ask me what my favorite cuisine is, if I had to narrow it down, I would say Indian food. I love to go out for Indian food and try to do so as often as possible. When ordering take out, Indian food is always at the top of the list. The flavors are delicious, subtle and bold at the same time and soul-satisfying.  Butter Chicken is one of the most ordered dishes at most Indian restaurants, and it’s no surprise. It’s creamy, full-flavored and spiced with ginger, coriander and tomato. Frankly, it’s hard to resist.

Butter chicken on rice in a yellow bowl on a wooden table, with naan on the table and a colorful napkin.

Quick and Easy Butter Chicken

For many, cooking Indian meals at home might seem impossible, but it’s really not that difficult if you have a selection of Indian spices, like turmeric, coriander, cumin and garam masala. By just remembering to toast these spices in fat before adding the liquid, you’re halfway to success already. Many recipes marinate the chicken ahead of time in a spiced yogurt marinade, but here we just simmer the chicken in heavy cream, making it especially indulgent and much quicker without having to plan for marinating time.

Butter chicken in a green casserole with white rice and naan in the background.

What to Serve with Butter Chicken

This dish is so indulgent, in fact, that you won’t want to leave any of the sauce in your bowl or on your plate when you’re finished, so soak it up with some store-bought or homemade naan bread (warmed in your oven or air fryer). Serve it with some basmati rice and a simply prepared vegetable of your choice.

Butter Chicken

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 30 m
  • Total Time: 50 m
  • Servings:


  • 4 tablespoons butter divided
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • salt
  • cilantro leaves for garnish


  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they start to soften – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, garam masala, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Sauté for a few more minutes, stirring often to toast the spices.
  2. Add the chicken pieces and sauté for a few minutes, until they are no longer pink. Pour in the tomato purée and heavy cream and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the remaining butter and swirl the pan to melt the butter into the sauce. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Serve the butter chicken over basmati rice and garnish with the cilantro leaves. Some naan bread would be really nice with this so that you can scoop up any left over sauce.
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Comments (11)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    Sooo good! I’ve never even tried Indian food before but this looked so good, I had to make it. I’m so glad I did. I have 3 of your cookbooks and love every recipe I’ve tried of yours. Add this to my faves! Thank you, Meredith!

  2. 5 stars
    This is such an easy recipe and the result is fantastic. It is not a spicy (hot) recipe at all. Easy to follow with simple steps and ingredients that I have in my pantry/freezer. Very flavorful. Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    This is a delicious Indian recipe. Not spicy but very flavorful. I think this recipe would even convert people who say they don’t like Indian food. Thank you for a great recipe!

    1. Hi Barbara. Sure you could use coconut milk instead – just make sure it is not light coconut milk, which would separate.

  4. 5 stars
    Wow! I have never had Indian food; I have never used ground coriander or tumeric or garam masala. I knew that if Meredith wrote the recipe, it was bound to be good. It’s spicy but not hot; just extremely flavorful. Great dish!

  5. 5 stars
    Made this tonight and it was delicious. I could not find tomato puree, so I used tomato paste. It was a bit bitter, so I added some sugar while simmering. Tasted great.

  6. 5 stars
    Hi blue Jean chef! I am from Puerto Rico can you kindly explain to me what is Marcela. I have never seen it out here can I substitute it?

    1. Hi Carmen, Garam Masala is a blend of Indian spices that you might find in the spice aisle of your grocery store. If you can’t find it, substitute curry powder.

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