Easy Butter Chicken

5 from 124 votes

A simplified version of the popular Indian dish, this Easy Butter Chicken recipe has a creamy tomato sauce, all cooked in one pan in less than half an hour!

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This easy butter chicken recipe is full of authentic Indian flavors. This is a healthy chicken curry recipe that is quick to make and perfect for a weeknight meal. The curry sauce is mild in spice but big in flavor! This is the best butter chicken recipe!

Final dish for the easy butter chicken plates with rice and cilantro

Do you remember the first time you heard of butter chicken (which is known in India as Murgh Makhani)? I literally just pictured chicken swimming in butter… But then I actually tasted it at a restaurant. It was like a party in my mouth!

Quick Indian butter chicken recipe

Authentic butter chicken is a labor of love. It requires the chicken to be marinated in advance, has more authentic Indian spices than I can probably pronounce, and takes at least an hour to make. I only allot myself 30 minutes for most recipes. So I took a shortcut and made this [still absolutely amazingly tasting] authentic Indian dish. Don’t be scared by the list of ingredients. 7 of them are just the spices and all the rest are simple easy-to-find items.

I promise you all the flavor of traditional butter chicken is still there (thanks to my amazing Indian spice collection!) And I promise you the chicken will come out juicy, tender and unbelievably tasty! Also, the best part is that even though it’s a butter chicken recipe, there’s really only 1 tablespoon of butter in the recipe.

How to Make Easy Butter Chicken

To start, cook the onions with the butter and olive oil. It’s a great idea to finely dice the onions if you can. This helps the onions blends in well with the sauce. When the onions soften, I add some grated ginger and minced garlic.

Large skillet with minced onions, garlic and ginger cooked in butter and olive oil

You know by now this is all happening in one pan, right? So into the pan goes literally everything else! There’s chicken breast, tomato paste, red curry paste and tons of colorful Indian spices.

In the large skillet with the onions, garlic and ginger, I added chicken, tomato paste, curry paste and spices.

Once I add the coconut milk to that mixture, it transforms the dish to a beautiful orangey color that’s basically like a velvety butter bath bursting with flavor. Allow it simmer though for 20 minutes. You want the chicken to cook completely and the sauce to thicken.

Easy butter chicken after 20 minutes of cooking in the skillet

Tips for making butter chicken

  • Be liberal with the spices. Like a lot of Indian recipes, this one is a heavily spiced dish. When you break down the ingredients, you’ll realize that all the flavor comes from the combination of warm smokey spices. Use my recipe below as a guide but feel free to add more and substitute the spices you don’t have with more of the ones you do have.
  • Use fresh ginger and fresh garlic. Yes, we are throwing in a ton of spices in the dish. And it’s tempting to throw in more dried spices like ginger and garlic. But it’s important that you use the fresh versions. They add a ton more flavor to the dish than their dry counterparts.
  • Customize it with vegetables. The chicken is the star of the dish, but you can certainly bulk this up with any other vegetables like carrots, cauliflower or peas to add more servings of vegetables.
  • Substitute the butter if you prefer. You don’t need butter to make this recipe? Nope. This recipe gets all its richness and “buttery” taste from the from cream, or in my case, the coconut milk. So if you’re not a fan of butter, try olive oil or any other cooking oil.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala?

Butter chicken and chicken tikka masala look very similar, but chicken tikka has a more complex taste with more added spices and butter chicken has a milder and sweeter curry sauce or gravy. Butter chicken originates from India, whereas chicken tikka masala is actually a British dish.

Is butter chicken sauce spicy?

Despite the various spices used in this gravy, it is a very mild dish, the spices add flavor to the curry rather than heat. This is a great family meal that the kids will love, and if you are not a fan of spicy food this dish will be for you!

How many calories are in butter chicken?

If you order butter chicken in a restaurant, you are likely looking at around 500 calories, sometimes more, per serving, but my lightened up version is less than 300 calories yet still as tasty! Feel free to add extra veggies in as well for an even healthier dish!

Close up of the final dish for the easy butter chicken plates with rice and cilantro

That, my friends, is the whole recipe. It’s the fast and convenient recipe for us butter chicken lovers that have 30 minutes to get dinner ready on the table. By the way, while that is simmering for 20 minutes, it’s the perfect time to make rice to go along with this meal. You can also serve it with naan, quinoa, or brown rice. But long grain white rice or basmati rice is the best. It’s the way it’s served traditionally.

For more Indian inspired recipes:

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Easy Butter Chicken recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

Easy Butter Chicken

A simplified version of the popular Indian dish, this Easy Butter Chicken recipe has a creamy tomato sauce, all cooked in one pan in less than half an hour!
5 from 124 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Calories 289
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion small diced
  • 2 teaspoon ginger grated
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts cut into ¾-inch chunks
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 3 oz red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon curry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
  • Hot cooked rice and/or naan for serving
  • Cilantro for serving

Instructions

  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they become soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the chicken breast to the skillet with the cooked onions. Add the tomato paste, red curry paste and the Indian spices to the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken until it’s well coated with the onions, tomato and curry pastes and spices. 
  • Pour the coconut milk over the chicken mixture and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then set the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Serve over white rice and/or naan, and garnish with cilantro, if desired

Notes

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge.
Make Ahead: If you want to prepare some of the dish ahead of time. You can saute the onions, garlic and ginger with the butter and olive oil. Then transfer the onion mixture to a bowl, add all the ingredients on top of it and stir to combine. You can do this up to one day in advance. When ready to cook, just put everything in a pan, bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. 
Sourcing: You can find most of the spices at major grocery stores. Garam masala may not be as widely available, but you can find at Indian specialty stores.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. If you can’t find garam masala, you can make your own blend. Here’s are two popular substitutions: 1 part cumin plus ¼ part allspice. Or any combination of: Coriander, Cumin, Black Peppercorns, Cardamom, Cloves, Nutmeg.
Nutrition Label: Please note the nutrition label does not include the rice or naan. Please note that the nutrition label provided is an estimate based on an online nutrition calculator. It will vary based on the specific ingredients you use. This information should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 289kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 26g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Cholesterol: 76mg, Sodium: 530mg, Potassium: 665mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 2085IU, Vitamin C: 6.4mg, Calcium: 39mg, Iron: 2.8mg

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Final dish for the easy butter chicken plates with rice and cilantro

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Comments

  1. This was first time trying an Indian dish by recipe. Butter Chicken is my absolute favorite at any restaurant. This dish tasted SO authentic to me, I told all my friends and family about it! It was SO DELICIOUS. I didn’t have any cilantro for the garnish and didn’t have Naan either. I just served it over Basmati rice and it was to die for. GREAT RECIPE

  2. My fiancee and I just made this and it was amazing! It was simple to put together and SO flavorful. I always count on your recipes to be spot on with the flavors!

  3. I tried this recipe and I have to say it’s amazing!!! I might have put too much red curry but I still liked it even thought it was really spicy 😂

  4. Delicious.. I substituted turmeric for mustard seeds, curry powder for red curry and tomato sauce for tomato paste as I didn’t have them at the time. Still turned out very yummy. Chicken breast was tender. Will definitely make it again. Thank you for an amazing recipe!!

  5. This was really good and so much flavor! We put it over rice. I omitted the butter and still worked out great! Will put it in rotation for sure!

  6. Just made this for dinner tonight. Had some tomato paste and coconut milk I’ve wanted to use for a while. I didn’t have the red curry paste, so I added a little more garam masala powder.

    Mine didn’t look like your tasty looking picture, but still good. I’m not super fond of coconut in savory applications, but this tasted closer to butter chicken than any previous attempts I’ve tried making, so I guess I should be more open minded, heh~

    Would there be a suitable substitute for red curry paste?

    1. I’m glad it was still good! It’s definitely an acquired taste, but I love that you gave it a try! I haven’t tried this with a substitute for red curry paste, but I do know that it’s possible to make it at home too!

  7. Didn’t have chicken breast in the house so went with thigh and drumstick (skinned), omitted the butter and added a touch of lemon zest. Worked beautifully.

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