How to Make Butter Chicken at Home?

How to Make Butter Chicken at Home

Butter chicken, or murgh makhani, is among the most popular Indian dishes worldwide. This creamy, tomato-based chicken curry gets rich flavor from plenty of warming spices, tangy tomatoes, smooth butter, and cream. Making butter chicken from scratch may sound intimidating, but follow this easy recipe, and you’ll have restaurant-quality butter chicken on the table in no time.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • 1 1⁄2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1⁄4 cup tomato paste
  • 1⁄4 cup cream or coconut milk
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Prep the Chicken

The first step is to prep the chicken. Place the chicken pieces in a bowl. Add the yogurt, garlic paste, ginger paste, garam masala, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, and salt. Mix well so the chicken is fully coated in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. The longer you marinate, the more flavorful the dish will be.

Cook the Onion and Tomato Sauce

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until softened and starting to brown. Pour the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1⁄2 cup of water. Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes so the flavors meld.

Simmer the Chicken

Next, add the marinated chicken and any excess marinade to the pan. Gently stir to coat the chicken in the sauce. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and tender.

Finish with Butter and Cream

Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the remaining one tablespoon of butter and the cream or coconut milk. This gives the dish a rich, silky texture.

Garnish and Serve

Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve butter chicken hot with plenty of the sauce spooned over basmati rice or naan bread. Enjoy this flavorful Indian curry!

Cooking Tips for Perfect Butter Chicken

Cooking Tips for Perfect Butter Chicken

Follow these simple tips and tricks for your best batch of homemade butter chicken yet:

1. Marinate the Chicken

Letting the chicken marinate is crucial for infusing it with lots of flavor. The longer you marinate (at least 30 minutes or overnight), the tastier the dish will be.

2. Sear the Onions

Take the time to brown the onions properly. Caramelized onions add complexity, sweetness and take the sauce to the next level.

3. Simmer Low and Slow

Be patient and let the chicken simmer gently once added to the sauce so that it can become very tender. High heat will toughen the meat.

4. Finish with Butter and Cream

For the signature rich, silky texture, stir in butter and cream at the end. Coconut milk can be subbed for dairy-free.

5. Adjust Spices to Taste

Spice levels can vary between batches. Taste and adjust cayenne, garam masala, or salt to your preferences.

Choosing the Right Chicken for Butter Chicken

Not all chicken is created equal regarding the butter chicken texture you want. Here are the best cuts to use:

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are the ideal cut for butter chicken. They stay juicy and tender even with extended simmering.

Bone-In Chicken Thighs

For deeper flavor, use bone-in thighs, deboned and skinned yourself. The bones impart extra richness during cooking.

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

Breasts work but require extra care not to overcook. Cut in 1-inch pieces; don’t simmer longer than 10-12 minutes.

Chicken Legs or Wings

Legs and wings also work well since the fat and skin keep them moist. Remove skin/bones, then simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Whole Cut Up Chicken

For extra richness and flavor, use a whole chicken cut-up. Simmer for 30 mins, then remove from bones before adding butter and cream.

Tools You’ll Need to Make Butter Chicken

Having the right kitchen tools makes cooking any dish more accessible and enjoyable. Here’s the critical equipment for butter chicken success:

Large Skillet or Pot

You’ll need a 12-inch skillet or medium pot to fit all the chicken and have room for simmering the sauce.

Wooden Spatula

A wooden spatula protects your cookware and is ideal for gently stirring and incorporating the chicken into the sauce.

Instant-Read Thermometer

Take the guesswork out of doneness by using an instant-read thermometer. Chicken is safely cooked at 165°F internally.

Immersion Blender

Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce slightly before serving for extra smoothness.

Rice Cooker or Steamer

Cook fluffy basmati rice or steamed naan bread alongside the curry. Having rice ready makes serving easy.

5 Simple Variations for Customizing Your Butter Chicken

While traditional Indian butter chicken is hard to beat, a few simple tweaks can give this classic new personality:

Coconut Butter Chicken

Use coconut milk instead of dairy cream for a dairy-free version with a tropical vibe.

Spicy Butter Chicken

Add an extra pinch of cayenne or a chopped chili pepper when simmering to reduce the heat.

Tandoori Butter Chicken

Marinate the chicken in tandoori seasoning instead of the yogurt-spice marinade for a smoky twist.

Butter Chicken with Veggies

For extra nutrition, stir in cauliflower, peas, or other quick-cooking veggies in the last 5 minutes.

Butter Chicken Pizza

Top pizza dough with butter chicken sauce, mozzarella, and fresh cilantro for an Indian fusion pie.

5 Excellent Side Dishes to Serve with Butter Chicken

Butter chicken’s creamy, spicy sauce begs to be sopped up. Round out your Indian feast with these delicious sides:

Basmati Rice

Fluffy basmati rice is the classic side, perfect for soaking up every last drop of sauce.

Naan Bread

Warm, soft naan is ideal for dipping and scooping the butter chicken. Garlic naan takes it over the top.


Cool, creamy yogurt raita cools the palate between bites of rich curry.


A simple salad of sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion balances the meal.


What Indian feast is complete without crispy vegetable samosas? The textures pair perfectly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Making Butter Chicken

1. What type of yogurt should I use?

Plain full-fat yogurt works best. Avoid Greek or nonfat yogurt, which can make the dish too thick or watery.

2. Can I use chicken breasts instead of thighs?

Yes, you can substitute boneless, skinless breasts. Cut them into 1-inch pieces and reduce simmering to 10-12 minutes.

3. Do I need to marinate the chicken?

Marinating is highly recommended for moist, flavorful chicken that absorbs the spices. But in a pinch, you can skip it and increase the spices.

4. Can I prepare the sauce ahead of time?

Absolutely! Prepare the onion-tomato sauce up to 2 days in advance. Then add chicken and simmer before serving.

5. Is butter chicken spicy?

It has a gentle warmth from spices like cayenne and paprika, but it isn’t overly spicy. Add more cayenne if you like extra heat.


Butter chicken is a delightful Indian curry perfect for a weeknight dinner or special occasion meal. The magic is in the balanced, creamy tomato-spice sauce that smothers juicy, tender chicken. Hopefully, this easy recipe has demystified the process so you can enjoy homemade butter chicken anytime. Don’t forget the naan and raita to complete your Indian feast. Once you master this restaurant favorite, you’ll never need to rely on takeout butter chicken again!

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