butter chicken
Main Dish

Butter Chicken

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Butter chicken is an easy, delicious and flavorful Indian curry recipe. It has a mild, creamy tomato and butter based sauce, which is perfect to serve over rice.

While they originated in different regions, this dish is similar to Homemade Chicken Shawarma. Usually when I make one recipe, I’m making the other recipe within the next week or so. This is primarily because they both use a partial container of Greek yogurt. I can use one container between the two dishes and it doesn’t go to waste! And these recipes are different enough that it doesn’t feel like more of the same.

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Getting Started

The chicken needs to marinate so the night before or mid-day the day of (or somewhere in between) is the best time to start this recipe for dinner. To start, cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs up into bite size pieces. A sharp Japanese chef’s knife will make quick work of this.

Once the chicken is diced, prepare the marinade and toss with the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for the desired amount of time and then continue with the recipe instructions.

Ingredient Recommendations


I recommend using store brand, Greek whole milk plain yogurt. However, any other yogurt variation is not recommended. If you recently made Homemade Chicken Shawarma, this helps use up any of the remaining yogurt from that recipe. If you haven’t made Homemade Chicken Shawarma yet, you will have enough leftover yogurt and should give it a try!

Lemon Juice

I usually use bottled lemon juice (or lemon juice concentrate). Freshly squeezed lemon juice is an alternate option.

Garam Masala

Originating from India, Garam Masala is a blend of spices. This spice blend typically includes cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. This pre-packaged blend is in most grocery store spice sections.

Cayenne Pepper

Chili powder can be used as a one-to-one alternative to cayenne pepper. Though cayenne pepper is best.


I recommend using bottled minced ginger. Grating or mincing fresh ginger is a great option also. A ¼ teaspoon ground ginger is a substitute in a pinch.

Tomato Sauce

Not to be confused with pasta sauce, this recipe calls for a small 8 ounce jar of tomato sauce. Store brand tomato sauce will do just fine. Canned tomato sauce is often alongside the canned, crushed and diced tomatoes in the grocery store.

Basmati Rice

I use store brand basmati rice. I occasionally use long grain white rice as a substitute. Generally, I do not recommend any instant rice.


Naan or pita bread is an excellent pairing with this dish. However, considering this dish is gluten-free, it’s important to note that off-the-shelf naan and pita bread are not gluten-free. For gluten sensitivity, there are a few options here:

  • if only some of the servings need to be gluten-free, handle and serve the naan or pita bread completely separate from the rest of the dish
  • omit altogether
  • make homemade gluten-free naan or pita bread

Finishing Touches

Serve Butter Chicken over basmati rice in a warmed dish. A wide shallow bowl is a great option for this meal. Garnish with dried or fresh cilantro.

If serving with naan or pita bread, first warm the bread briefly in a skillet on the stovetop. Then either slice the bread in half or tear the bread roughly into quarters and use it to soak up the delicious sauce!


After serving 2 people, we end up with 2 to 4 servings of leftovers.

Leftovers should be used within a few days. Store chicken with sauce separate from rice. These easy, delicious and flavorful butter chicken leftovers are good for lunch or dinner. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove top (sauce with chicken only).


Butter Chicken

Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Marinating Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 45 minutes
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 people



  • 1/2 c Greek whole milk plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated or minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed


  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 c tomato sauce
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • cilantro


  • 2 c water
  • 1 c basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp kosher salt


  • Combine the Marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours (max 24 hours).
  • Once chicken is marinated and ready to cook, prepare the Curry. Start by heating the butter over high heat in a large fry pan. Take the chicken out of the Marinade but do not wipe or shake off the Marinade from the chicken (and do not use or discard the Marinade left in the bowl into the fry pan, set aside for later).
  • Remove the pieces of chicken (and any Marinade on the chicken cubes) from the Marinade and place chicken in the fry pan. (NOTE: Do not use or discard Marinade in the bowl. Set aside for use in the next step.) Cook chicken for 3 minutes or until chicken is white all over.
  • Add the tomato sauce, cream, sugar and salt. Also add any remaining Marinade. Turn down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt to taste.
  • While the chicken cooks, start the rice. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the rice, butter and salt and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork when ready to serve.
  • Serve the chicken over the rice and top with cilantro.

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