This recipe for easy Indian Butter Chicken is full of spice and flavor! Using chicken thighs, aromatic Indian spices, and a little help from a jar of premade butter masala sauce, you’ll have a comforting and satisfying dinner on the table. This recipe is a copycat of the butter chicken served at the African and Indian restaurant Sanaa.
Butter chicken or murgh makhani in Indian is a simple dish made by mixing chicken with a light curry sauce made of butter, tomato, and cream. This dish is actually a copycat of the dish from Sanaa restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The restaurant serves African and Indian dishes and is one of the best places to find amazing food at Walt Disney World. Purchase a copy of Delish Loves Disney to make over 50 secret Disney recipes at home, including this delectable butter chicken.
Use a simple dry spice blend mixed butter and the fragrant flavors of garlic and onion. Add tomato paste and chili paste for thickening. The best part that makes this truly EASY Indian butter chicken is the use of premade butter masala sauce.
You can find great premade Indian-inspired sauces in specialty grocery stores to help make Indian quickly and easily from home.
Add the chicken to the sauce along with a splash of cream and lemon juice to balance out the flavors. This chicken tastes great served over basmati rice with a toasted piece of naan on the side for a comforting dinner everyone will enjoy!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s the perfect weeknight meal because it’s made with the help of jarred butter masala sauce which saves you time in the kitchen.
- The perfect way to introduce someone to the bold and spicy flavors of Indian food.
- You can use any protein you enjoy or even make it a vegetarian dinner.
- Easily adjust the level of spice depending on your taste preferences.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Chicken Thighs – Boneless, skinless chicken thighs work great in this recipe as they add texture, protein, and flavor from the slightly higher fat content.
- Unsalted Butter – It wouldn’t be butter chicken without butter to add a rich flavor to the sauce. You can also use ghee in place of the butter.
- Garlic & Onion – Infuses the dish with fragrant garlic and onion flavor throughout.
- Water – For deglazing the pan after cooking the onion and garlic to make a fragrant spice mixture.
- Spices – Use a mix of garam masala, paprika, coriander, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper to add additional flavor to the jarred sauce.
- Tomato Paste & Red Chili Paste – Give a deep tomato acidic touch to the sauce along with a kick of spice.
- Diced Tomato – Gives the sauce a chunky texture and even more tomato flavor.
- Prepared Butter Masala Sauce – Your favorite jar of butter masala will work here, but I really love the Maya Kaimal brand butter masala sauce. You can also use a jar of tikka masala sauce.
- Olive Oil – Used to help sear the chicken thighs in the hot skillet.
- Salt & Pepper – Balance the seasonings and the flavors in the sauce.
- Heavy Cream – Adds a light creamy texture and taste which also helps to thicken the sauce.
- Lemon Juice – Balances the spices by cutting through with fresh acidity.
- For Serving – Serve butter chicken over basmati rice, top with cilantro, and serve with a side of fresh naan bread.
How To Make Easy Indian Butter Chicken
- Make the chicken butter masala spice: In a medium-sized saucepan, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion and saute until translucent for about 5-7 minutes. Lower the heat, then add the garlic and stir until fragrant and soft but not browned or burned. Pour in the water, then add the seasonings and stir to cook together for 5 minutes.
- Mix in the butter masala sauce: Mix in the tomato paste, chili paste, and jarred sauce and stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes making sure to stir occasionally.
- Cook the chicken thighs: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then sear for 6-8 minutes on both sides or until the chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Set aside to drain on paper towels once cooked.
- Assemble the chicken butter masala: To the simmering sauce, stir in cream and fresh lemon juice. Stir in cilantro and remaining butter. Then give it a taste to adjust any seasonings before stirring in the cooked chicken thighs.
Serve over a bed of jasmine or basmati rice along with naan bread and freshly chopped cilantro on top.
- Short on time? In addition to saving time using jarred sauce, you can also cut the sauce simmering time to 15 minutes instead of 30 minutes.
- Make sure to remove any excess fat off of the chicken thighs to keep the butter chicken mixture even in texture.
- When pan-searing chicken thighs, it’s best to use a kitchen thermometer to make sure they reach an internal temperature of 165F.
- You can use canned diced tomato in place of fresh tomato in this recipe, just make sure you drain it first to keep the consistency of the sauce creamy and thick.
- If you prefer an ultra-smooth sauce, pour the cooked sauce into a blender or use an immersion blender to process until creamy and smooth.
- Vegetarian Butter Masala: If you’re not a meat-eater, feel free to use cubed tofu, tempeh, or your favorite beans for a high-protein Indian meal.
- Dairy-Free Chicken Butter Masala: To make this butter chicken dairy-free, use canned coconut milk instead of heavy cream and swap out the butter for a vegan butter substitute.
- Low carb Butter Chicken: Serve this dish over a bed of cauliflower rice for a low carb version.
- You control the spice. The level of spice is completely in your hands. Feel free to reduce or omit the chili paste in the recipe and any spicy seasonings in the dry mix.
- While not traditional, you can add some sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, or bell peppers to bump up the veggies in this dish.
- You can serve this dish over Instant Pot Brown Rice, or a bed of quinoa or your favorite grain.
This dish originated in 1948 in northern India and is called Murgh Makhani in its Indian translation.
While both are very similar in taste and texture, butter chicken originated in India, and tikka masala originated in the UK. They have slightly different blends of spices.
Butter chicken is technically made with a curry sauce but it is very mild compared to other curry sauces. Because it’s made with tomato and cream, it has a slightly sweet flavor and the cream helps cut through the spice.
Other Comforting Dinner Recipes
This recipe tastes great as leftovers so enjoy it for meal prep for leftovers throughout the week. No matter how you enjoy it, we know you’re going to love it!
Indian Butter Chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, fat removed and cut into small pieces
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 3/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup prepared butter masala sauce, (you can also use tikka masala sauce)
- 2 tablespoons red chili paste
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
- Basmati rice, for serving
- Fresh naan, for serving
- In a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add onion and cook until translucent. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic, stirring frequently until garlic is soft, about 2 to 3minutes. Stir in water, then add garam masala, paprika, coriander, cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste, masala sauce, red chili paste and tomato. Reduce heat to low and simmer30 minutes.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add chicken and sear on both sides; continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat, drain juices and season with salt and pepper.
- Add remaining butter, cream, lemon juice and cilantro to the sauce. Stir to combine, until the butter is melted. Stir in the chicken. Serve with basmati rice and fresh naan.