Butter Chicken is one of the most popular Indian dishes in the world. It also happens to be one of the easiest! The chicken is incredibly tender and packed with flavor from my yogurt marinade. The sauce is so incredibly delicious, you’ll want to gobble it up with a spoon!
Butter Chicken Recipe
When I was in university there was an amazing Indian take out restaurant just around the corner. I would count down the minutes left in my class before lunch so I could run over and order their butter chicken. If you know me, you know I don’t run for many things, but for this butter chicken I would actually run down the street to get my order.
If you wanted butter chicken at lunch you had to beat the lunch hour rush. Everyone in town knew this was the place to get butter chicken. The sauce was so creamy with a hint of sweetness. Loaded with tender pieces of chicken simmered until fork tender.
Served with a giant piece of naan, and I mean GIANT! The owner had a tandoor oven in his shop and he would fresh cook each piece of naan. Then brush the fresh crispy naan with butter, wrap in foil and hand you over the best naan in the city.
Healthier Butter Chicken Recipe
I hate to admit the number of times I was late getting back to class because I simply refused to rush eating this meal. Butter chicken is one of those comfort meals that provides so much joy while eating it. Using your naan bread to scoop up pieces of chicken and rice and just indulging in the incredible dish.
Using your hands to eat this meal makes it even more special and enjoyable, while making you closer to the food. When you touch the food you create a physical connection to it, you can actually feel the food before you indulge in it. Feel the temperature and the texture which then enhances the flavor. It is one of the joys behind the culture of eating with your hands.
It took me weeks to perfect my butter chicken recipe. I wanted it to be creamy, sweet, a bit spicy and heart warming. When I have butter chicken my spirits are immediately lifted. There is something so special about this warm cozy meal simply served with rice and naan bread that can brighten my day and warm my heart.
Butter chicken is on repeat in our house and so it was important for me to find a ‘healthier’ take on the recipe that did not have a large amount of cream added in. Instead I use Greek yogurt. It provides the perfect creamy texture and an added bonus of extra protein!
What is Butter Chicken?
Butter Chicken is an Indian dish of chicken in a mildly spiced tomato sauce. It’s also called Murgh Makhani or Chicken Makhani. Funny enough, it’s common to not actually use butter in the sauce for butter chicken.
My version uses no butter or ghee, and is made without cream and you don’t miss it one bit! The creaminess comes from the Greek yogurt. It has such a rich, creamy tomato sauce that’s begging to be spooned over the rice on your plate and scooped up with naan bread.
You may also be surprised that this curry dish does not actually contain curry powder. Curry is just the term for a dish that contains a blend of spices, some of which do contain curry powder, but butter chicken does not. Do not let the term curry steer you away from trying this classic dish!
What is in Butter Chicken?
There are a few star ingredients that make this dish irresistible.
- The chicken is marinated in an aromatic spice blend of garam masala, chili powder, cumin and turmeric. Fresh garlic and ginger bring the marinade together with tangy yogurt and lemon juice which both tenderize the chicken
- This lightened up version of butter chicken uses Greek yogurt in the sauce rather than cream. This not only lowers the calories in this dish but increases the protein! Cashews are a healthier option for thickening the sauce and adds a subtle nuttiness to the sauce. The cashews are optional or can be subbed for almonds.
- Honey adds a hint of sweetness to offset the tanginess of the tomato sauce
- Garam Masala is a classic blend of spices – cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. As noted above this dish does not contain curry powder. Instead it is a perfect blend of other classic spices. With the increasing popularity of Butter Chicken, garam masala is readily available in the spice or international aisle of grocery stores
How to Make Butter Chicken
Full Printable Recipe at Bottom of Page
Check out my short Video Tutorial Here
1 Combine all chicken marinade ingredients with the cubed chicken and marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes – 2 hours.
2 For the sauce, in a large sauce pot or frying pan with high edges, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil for 2-3 minutes until softened and lightly browned on medium heat.
3 Add in the garam masala, ground coriander, chili powder, turmeric and cashews (if using). Toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously.
4 Add in the chicken broth and stir to combine. Use your spatula to scrape the bottom of your pan to lift any browned bits. Add to a blender with the tomato sauce.
4 Blend the sauce until smooth (or use a handheld immersion blender). Pour the sauce back into the sauce pot or frying pan with high edges.
5 In a frying pan on medium heat, sauté the marinated chicken for 4-5 minutes until cooked through.
6 Add the chicken to the sauce and stir to combine. Stir in the honey.
7 Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is tender.
8 Add in the yogurt (or cream) and stir to combine.
9 Serve with rice and naan bread. (optional: serve topped with a scoop of yogurt or drizzle with cream)
Can this Dish be Made in Advance?
YES! This is a great make ahead meal. The longer your sauce and chicken cooks the more flavorful and tender it gets! This dish can be made in advance and reheated before serving.
Leftovers are just as good if not better the next day!
This is also a great meal prep for lunch for the week. Portion out your rice and butter chicken into lunch containers and you will have a delicious week of lunches ahead!
Can I Freeze Butter Chicken?
YES! I love a recipe that freezes well so I don’t have to worry about leftovers going to waste. This recipes freezes well. You can freeze it for up to 5-6 months in a freezer-safe zip lock bag or container.
Freezing Tip: Use freezer-safe zip lock bags or containers and freeze in individual serving sizes. This way when your looking for a quick lunch for work you can grab a personal sized frozen portion and have a delicious lunch!
Looking for More Easy Dinners?
- Sticky Glazed Meatloaf – another great make ahead dinner. Prep your meatloaf and leave in the fridge until ready to bake!
- Crispy Honey Garlic Beef – crispy strips of beef fried and tossed in a sweet and savory honey garlic sauce. This is a must try.
- Carne Desmechada – or Colombian Shredded Beef, is a flavor packed dish featuring tender shredded beef in a rich tomato sauce. Serve with rice and plantains for a perfect Latin dinner!
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may earn me a small commission.
- 4 – 5 chicken breasts, medium sized boneless skinless, sliced into cubes
- 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt, or plain yogurt of choice
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
Butter Chicken Sauce
- 2 teaspoons oil, for cooking
- 1 onion, medium, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Handful cashews, optional
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbps plain Greek yogurt, or plain yogurt of choice or cream
- Cooked rice
- Naan bread
- Yogurt or cream for serving
- Parsely or cilantro for topping
- Combine all chicken marinade ingredients with the cubed chicken and marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes – 2 hours.
- For the sauce, in a large sauce pot or frying pan with high edges, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil for 2-3 minutes until softened and lightly browned on medium heat.
- Add in the garam masala, ground coriander, chili powder, turmeric and cashews (if using). Toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously.
- Add in the chicken broth and stir to combine. Use your spatula to scrape the bottom of your pan to lift any browned bits. Add to a blender with the tomato sauce.
- Blend the sauce until smooth (or use a handheld immersion blender). Pour the sauce back into the sauce pot or frying pan with high edges.
- In a frying pan on medium heat, sauté the marinated chicken for 4-5 minutes until cooked through.
- Add the chicken to the sauce and stir to combine.
- Stir in the honey.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is tender.
- Add in the yogurt (or cream) and stir to combine.
- Serve with rice and naan bread. (optional: serve topped with a scoop of yogurt or cream)