Butter chicken is such a popular dish served at Indian Restaurants. Made from chunks of chicken marinaded in Greek yogurt seasoned with garam marsala and other spices traditionally used in tandoori chicken.
The bright orange color of the tomato curry gravy makes this easy butter chicken a feast for the eyes as well as the belly.
Where Does Butter Chicken Come From?
The recipe we know as butter chicken evolved from a restaurant in India repurposing leftover tandoori chicken into a saucy curry dish called Murgh makhani (pronounced “merk mac hiny” The word makhan means butter. Which is indicative of the butter used to caramelize the onions in the wok.
Indian Ingredients in the Marinade
The marinade for the chicken is the secret to this dish. It all starts with plain yogurt.
Yogurt: See this post to learn how yogurt helps tenderize the meat. Plan on marinating the chicken for at least 30 minutes, but you can plan ahead and assemble the chicken the night before for more flavor and tenderizing action.
Fresh Ginger: Use a Microplane to grate the ginger to avoid the fibers. Make sure you collect any juices that collect as you break down the ginger.
Garlic: Peel and mince 2-3 garlic cloves according to your personal taste.
Garam masala: This spice blend typically consists of both sweet and savory spices. Cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, and peppercorns are toasted and ground into a wonderful spice mix.
Other spices: Turmeric powder provides some color and chili powder provides heat. Smoky paprika enhances the bright orange color as well as contributes a delicious smoky note.
A touch of fresh lemon juice and vegetable oil thins out the marinade and brings everything together to easily coat the chicken chunks.
How to Make Butter Chicken
While the chicken is marinating, start some Jasmine rice and prep the ingredients for the dish. The spicy tomato gravy comes together with more of the spices used in the marinade. I like to use red onion, but you can substitute yellow onion instead. Peel and slice the onion in half. Then cut each half into thin slivers and separate the slivers.
Prepare more ginger and garlic cloves and mince some cilantro.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat the chunks dry so the chicken will brown and caramelize in the heat rather than steam.
In a wok over high heat, add the oil and saute the chicken in batches so each piece browns. The chicken will continue cooking in the sauce so this set is to just get the caramelization on the outside. Remove the chicken pieces and set them aside.
Reduce the heat to medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and saute the onions for about 5 minutes until they are deep golden brown.
Add 2 tablespoons of butter and the spices to the onions and stir to combine and bloom the flavors of the spice. Then stir the chicken broth into the pan to deglaze the wok.
Return the chicken and any juices to the pan stir to combine.
Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for 5 minutes so the flavors can combine. Stir in the cream, salt, and pepper and taste. Adjust the seasoning and add more cayenne pepper if you want it spicier. Just before serving sprinkle in the minced cilantro.
Enjoy this cozy dish with rice and garlic naan for a delicious meal at homePrint
This easy butter chicken is chunks of chicken stir-fried in a tomato curry gravy. Enjoy over rice and with naan to mop up the sauce.
- 1–1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs, chopped into bite-sized chunks
Butter Chicken Marinade
- 5 ounces plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced (about a 2” piece)
- 2–3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1–1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (about 1” piece)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 red onions, sliced, (about 1 cup)
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1–1/2 teaspoons honey, as needed
- 3/4–1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons cilantro, minced
- In a medium bowl or zip-close bag, combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, smoked paprika, vegetable oil, and lemon juice with the chicken pieces and stir to coat.
- Cover and refrigerate so the chicken can marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade (discard the marinade), pat the pieces dry to remove moisture from all sides of the chicken. Set aside.
- Prep the ginger, garlic and onion. Gather the seasonings and remaining ingredients.
- In a wok over high heat, add I tablespoon vegetable oil and saute the chicken in batches so each piece browns. The chicken will continue cooking in the sauce so this set is to just get the caramelization on the outside. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and saute the onions for about 5 minutes until they are deep golden brown.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter and the spices to the onions and stir to combine and bloom the flavors of the spices, about 2 minutes.
- Stir the chicken broth into the pan to deglaze the wok.
- Return the chicken and any juices to the pan stir to combine.
- Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for 12-15 minutes so the flavors can combine and the sauce reduce.
- Taste and add the honey if the sauce tastes sharp.
- Stir in the cream a little at a time to the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper and taste.
- Adjust the seasoning and add more cayenne pepper if you want it spicier. Just before serving sprinkle in the minced cilantro.
- Serve over Jasmine rice and with naan to mop up the sauce.
Add the delicious and traditional Indian spice of dried fenugreek (1 teaspoon) is wonderful to the pan when adding the other spices.
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Keywords: curry, garam masala,