Butter Chicken Masala - Its’ creamy and rich and packed with aromatic spices and flavors. The tomato gravy with butter helps to soften the chicken and make it ultra tender just like we like it.
The best part is that entire recipe is cooked in One Pot and comes together in minutes. Serve it with naan bread or rice with plenty of fresh herbs.
The ultimate comfort food at it's finest.
This dish consists of two main steps - the butter chicken and the creamy sauce recipe. First, we marinate the chicken overnight (preferably but you can also get away with just 2 hours of marinating it!) and then cook it in rich tomato gravy.
It's a traditional North Indian dish and also goes by the name Chicken makhani or Murgh makhani. Which means velvety smooth in English. It is believed to be originated from a restaurant recipe where they used leftover tandoori chicken for this recipe.
Just like my Chicken With Vegetables, Tuscan Chicken and this Creamy Chickpea Cauliflower Curry we like to make dinner as easily as possible and making everything in one pot is what we choose during busy weeknights.
All you need to do here in addition is to cook a side portion of rice, or even mashed potatoes (a must try!) and warm up some naan to serve this delicious butter chicken masala with. Winner, winner chicken dinner!
There is a skip-to-recipe button in the top left corner along with a clickable table of contents list (just below) that will quickly take you to the part you are more interested in. Enjoy!
You'll find even more of my curry recipes down below this post.
My few comments on the ingredients + don't forget to read the Tips section!
The full recipe and ingredients can be found in the recipe card below this post.
I wanted to keep this chicken curry recipe as easy as possible, especially for newbies who are trying something different for the first time. In this case, I didn’t use tomatoes or cashew nuts like most of the recipes do. You can add those along with the onions step.
I used tomato puree instead, which is more convenient, however, if you don’t want to use processed food, of course, use fresh.
But don’t skip the tomato paste, it adds wonderful flavor. (Make sure it is of very high quality, I’ve tested so many and can assure you that not every tomato paste is the same.)
- Garam Masala - one of the main things that make this chicken a butter chicken masala is this rich blend of aromatic spices. Garam Masala is a staple in Indian kitchens. It makes the dish smokier, richer, and more aromatic. It is traditionally made out of bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds, nutmeg, and coriander seeds. You can make your own or buy a good quality store-bought. You can definitely use a little bit more than the recipe stated if you're going for a store-bought option as these tend to be less flavorful.
PRO TIP - if making your own garam masala, don’t forget to toast all the ingredients for half a minute in a pan, believe me, this helps the spices to open up and become extra aromatic. Then use a grinder to turn the spices into powder. Use as much as this recipe states and store the leftovers in an airtight container.
- Ginger garlic - in most of the traditional recipes, a homemade ginger garlic paste is a must. It helps with a creamy texture and of course spicy flavor. You can make it your own by using equal parts of fresh garlic cloves and ginger root, adding a little oil, and salt. Blend in a food processor until paste-like texture. Use 1-2 tablespoons depending on personal preference. In the instructions, I added the amount for adding ginger and garlic separately.
- Chicken - chicken breast or chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are preferred as they are juicy and have fewer chances to dry out. Cut the chicken into strips or cubes or as you like it. Chicken strips tend to hold in the sauce better.
- Yogurt - full-fat greek yogurt is the key to getting creamy tender chicken. It keeps the chicken more moist and juicy, whatever chicken part you are using the yogurt will make it better!
- Butter - which makes this dish so much creamier. You can use ghee instead and it will give a richer flavor but make it less creamy. The difference is small but still noticeable.
- Tomato paste and puree- add substance and acidity to the sauce. I find that using canned is more convenient and honestly more sweeter and flavorful than using fresh. It will course depend on where your fresh tomatoes are coming from.
- Full fat coconut milk - I like to use coconut milk but if you don’t like the flavor you can use more traditional, full-fat heavy cream for a richer and dense creamy flavor.
- Honey - I also added a little honey here to make the sauce even richer and intensify other flavors. For an alterative, you could use maple syrup or brown sugar. Or leave it out completely.
This is a very popular Indian curry recipe which has numerous varieties but today I’m going to show you my favorite (and in my opinion easiest) version where you don’t have to have ‘’rare’’ ingredients like fenugreek (only found in Indian grocery store) to be able to make this dish.
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add all the marinade ingredients and mix until the chicken is coated. Marinate for at least 2 hours but for juicier and softer chicken preferably overnight.
That seems like a long time, but trust me all the marinade ingredients will have plenty of time to do their job in maximizing the flavor and texture of chicken.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and sear the chicken for 3 minutes on both sides.
Pour in the leftover marinade in the end. Set aside.
Traditionally, the chicken is made in tandoor (a large cylindrical oven made out of clay or metal and filled with hot coals or wood fire) but you can broil it in the oven for 1 minute to mimic the same flavor. I skipped this step and just used my stovetop for this. Yes, there is a difference and a less smoky ‘’grilled’’ flavor but also very delicious.
Wipe the skillet clean and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted add onion and cook until it starts to get golden brown.
Then add in spices, garlic, ginger (or add ginger garlic paste if using), and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds-1 minute until the spices open up.
Stir in tomato paste, tomato puree, stock, and honey. Take it to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced.
Return the chicken and simmer in the sauce for another 5-10 minutes over low heat.
Lastly, stir in coconut milk, and 1 tablespoon of butter and cook for 1-2 minutes. Don’t boil the coconut cream.
Taste for seasoning again. If the sauce seems to be too thick for you, add more stock or warm water to thin it out. The sauce will also thicken even more once cooled.
You can drizzle the butter chicken masala with more coconut cream, top with dried fenugreek, and serve hot.
I do like to add my share of lime or lemon juice right before serving. (Totally Optional and is not the authentic way but I love it)
Serve over basmati rice or cauliflower rice, fresh cilantro, and with crusty bread or naan.
- Instead of tomato puree, you can use fresh and cook them along with onions and garlic. With an immersion blender, break down the mixture into fine (or with some chunks) puree, and strain it into the same pan before returning the chicken.
- Coconut cream can be subbed with heavy cream with more fat content. Do not boil the cream you really need just 1 or 2 minutes to simmer it on low heat.
- Chicken thighs over chicken breasts - thighs give juicier results.
- You only need to sear the chicken in the beginning, not cook it until the end. It will continue to cook when added to the sauce.
Tomato paste and sauce matter. A good quality one will make quite a difference. Use classical Italian brands whenever possible.
- Can add a pinch of cayenne for some smoky and spicy kick.
- Flavor and texture - the sauce is thick, and very rich in flavor and seasonings. I only add a little salt in the beginning and this is usually enough until the end. The dish is very mildly spicy unless you add a pinch of cayenne, chili powder, or red pepper flakes. Ginger and garlic do give some spiciness but combined with other ingredients the overall flavor is well-balanced.
- Cashews - if you have some on hand, these add extra creaminess and lusciousness to the dish. And are quite popular in the traditional methods of making butter chicken masala. You’ll need to add these along with the tomato puree step and simmer until the nuts are softened. Then, blend until the sauce and nuts are very smooth.
Freezing And Storing Instructions
As usual fresh is ALWAYS best in terms of freshness, nutrition and of course, flavor. But if you need to store the leftovers or even freeze this keep the butter chicken masala in an airtight container (glass preferably and refrigerate for 1-2 days, max.
For freezing, cool the cooked dish completely. Place it into an airtight container, plastic zip-top bag, or freezable glass bowl. Freeze for 2-3 months. Thaw in the fridge and reheat on the stovetop adding more cream and stock as needed.
Butter chicken is packed with aromatic spices, cream, and tomato sauce. It is very rich in flavor, sweet, and a little spicy if you make it that way.
It is mildly spicy (the spice comes from garam masala ginger and garlic and red chile powder if using). I added honey in my version as I find it helps to balance the savory flavor and intensify the flavor of the spices even further.
Essentially, they are two very similar dishes. The butter chicken is creamier and juicier chicken whereas chicken tikka masala is thicker and spicier.
Easy Curry Recipes
All One-Pot recipes.
For more Indian Food inspiration try these recipes next:
- Potato Pumpkin and Spinach In Coconut Curry Sauce
- Thai Red Pumpkin Curry
- Creamy Vegan Chickpea Cauliflower Curry
- Slow Cooker Massaman Beef Curry
- Vegetarian Thai Red Curry
- One Pot Curry Coconut Noodles
More One Pot Chicken Recipes
I hope you'll enjoy this one pot butter chicken masala recipe, please leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo of your food and tag me on Instagram @theyummy_bowl. I love seeing your creations!
Thank you for reading,
Butter Chicken Masala With Coconut Milk
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs (thighs juicier and softer)
- ½ cup full-fat greek yogurt or any plain unsweetened yogurt
- 1 teaspoon garlic (minced or paste)
- 1 teaspoon ginger (minced or paste)
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Butter Chicken Masala
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon liquid honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee (see notes)
- 1 ½ cups red onion or brown onion (finely diced)
- 1 teaspoon garlic cloves (minced or paste)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger root (minced or paste)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon dried coriander or ground coriander
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 cup tomato puree (thicker tomato sauce, plain)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¾ cup low sodium or unsalted chicken broth
- ½ cup coconut milk
- Kashmiri red chili powder (optional if you want to make it the traditional way and spicy)
- Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add all the marinade ingredients and mix until the chicken is coated. Marinate for at least 2 hours and a more juicier and softer chicken preferably overnight. That seems like a long time, but trust me all the marinade ingredients will have plenty of time to do their job in maximizing the flavor and texture of chicken.
- In a large nonstick skillet add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and sear the chicken for 3 minutes on both sides.
- Pour in the leftover marinade in the end. Set aside.
- Traditionally, the chicken is made in tandoor (a large cylindrical oven made out of clay or metal and filled with hot coals or wood fire) but you can broil it in the oven for 1 minute to mimic the same flavor. I skipped this step and just used my stovetop for this. Yes, there is the difference and a less smoky ‘’grilled’’ flavor but also very delicious.
- Wipe the skillet clean and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted add onion and cook until it starts to get golden brown.
- Then add in spices, garlic, ginger (or add ginger garlic paste if using), and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds-1 minute until the spices open up.
- Stir in tomato paste, tomato puree, stock, and honey. Take it to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced.
- Return the chicken and simmer in the sauce for another 5-10 minutes over low heat.
- Lastly, stir in coconut milk, and 1 tablespoon of butter and cook for 1-2 minutes. Don’t boil the coconut cream. Taste for seasoning again. If the sauce seems to be too thick for you, add more stock or warm water to thin it out. The sauce will also thicken even more once cooled.
- You can drizzle the chicken tikka masala with more coconut cream, top with dried fenugreek, and serve hot.
- I do like to add my share of lemon or lime juice right before serving. (Totally Optional and is not the authentic way but I love it)
- Serve over basmati rice, fresh cilantro, and with crusty bread or naan.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)
Julia | The Yummy Bowl
Seriously the best butter chicken masala.