Easy Butter Chicken

4.99 from 412 votes

A quick and easy version of the popular Indian dish, Butter Chicken, cooked in a creamy tomato sauce in just one pan!

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This Easy Butter Chicken is, well, easy! So, if you’ve been putting off making butter chicken at home, you no longer have to wait! It’s an easier, faster version of the traditional Indian dish, making it a perfect weeknight dinner or make-ahead meal. Served with fluffy basmati rice to soak up every last bit of the creamy, buttery sauce, there’s not much better than this simple butter chicken recipe!

Easy Butter Chicken over rice in a bowl with a piece of torn flatbread on the side and another serving nearby.
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Authentic butter chicken, known in India as “Murgh Makhani,” 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 absolutely amazing tasting version of homemade butter chicken. 

I promise you that all of the flavor of traditional butter chicken is still there, thanks to the amazing collection of spices! Don’t be scared by the list of ingredients; seven of them are just spices, and all the rest are simple, easy-to-find items. 

With the combination of warm, smoky spices in this butter chicken, coconut milk is a natural companion. It mellows and rounds out the flavors while also creating a velvety sauce that coats each tender bite of chicken. It’s so good!

Recipe At a Glance

Cuisine Inspiration: Indian
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Gluten-free with dairy-free option
Key Flavor: Warmly spiced and buttery
Skill Level: Beginner

Summary

  • Authentic-tasting recipe in under an hour: Traditional butter chicken recipes take much longer, but I promise you the combination of spices and one-pan prep make a fantastic, flavorful, and fast butter chicken recipe that rivals the original!  
  • Family friendly: An array of spices make this chicken curry so aromatic and delicious–but overall, it’s a very mild curry that’s extremely family friendly.
  • Less butter: Restaurant-style butter chicken can contain a large amount of butter, but this healthy butter chicken recipe only calls for a tablespoon–and that’s all it needs!
  • Terrific meal-prep recipe: Make this healthy butter chicken ahead of time and refrigerate in divided containers with rice for delicious make-ahead lunches or dinners.

Ingredients to Make Butter Chicken

Ingredients for recipe in individual bowls and before prepping: garlic cloves, ginger, curry powder, coconut milk, yellow onion, oil, tomato paste, red curry paste, spice blend, butter, and chicken breasts.
  • Chicken: I recommend boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, cut into ¾-inch chunks. 
  • Butter: Salted or unsalted butter will both work.
  • Olive oil: Introduces some healthy fats and helps with sautéing the aromatics and blooming the spices. 
  • Onion, ginger, and garlic: It might be tempting to use dried versions of these ingredients, but I highly recommend you use fresh, which will add much more flavor to the dish than dry will.
  • Garam masala: If you can’t find garam masala spice blend, you can make your own blend with one part cumin plus ¼ part allspice. You can also use any combination of coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, and/or nutmeg. 
  • Chili powder, mustard seeds, ground coriander, and curry powder: An array of spices brings so much flavor to this easy butter chicken recipe. 
  • Tomato paste: Adds an umami note and contributes to the gorgeous orange hue.
  • Red curry paste: Thai red curry paste is very easy to find in most grocery stores and adds so much flavor. I recommend a mild red curry paste unless you prefer your butter chicken spicy. 
  • Coconut milk: For the creamiest butter chicken, coconut milk that is full fat works best. 
  • Salt & pepper: To enhance all of the delicious flavors; adjust to your liking.
  • Make it dairy-free: Yes, butter chicken without butter can still taste amazing! If dairy is not a part of your diet, swap in more olive oil for a dairy-free version.
  • Add veggies: The chicken is the star of the dish, but you can bulk this up with any other vegetables like carrots, cauliflower or peas.
  • Omit the cilantro: If you don’t care for the taste of cilantro and coriander, it’s fine to leave them out of this recipe. If you’d still like a pretty green garnish, parsley works well as a substitute. 
  • Change out the chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are also delicious in this homemade butter chicken recipe.

How to Make this Easy Butter Chicken

  1. Cook the onions in the butter and olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened.
  2. Add the spices and cook until fragrant, then add the chicken, tomato paste, red curry paste, salt, and pepper. 
  3. Stir until the chicken is completely coated with the onion, spices, tomato paste, and red curry paste. 
  4. Pour the coconut milk over the chicken and spices.
  5. Stir until creamy and the spices are well-distributed.
  6. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
6 image collage making recipe in a large skillet: 1- onions after sauteeing with garlic and ginger added, 2- after spices added with chicken pieces and pastes added to pan, 3- after coating chicken with seasonings and pastes, 4- coconut milk added, 5- after stirring together, 6- after cooking until deepened in color.

Tips for Making the Best Homemade 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, smoky 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.
  • Finely dice the onions. This helps the onions blend in with the sauce for a more uniform result. 
  • Get the rice going before you start the chicken. Let it sit for about 10 minutes after cooking, then remove the lid, fluff it with a fork, and put the lid back on to keep it warm. It will be perfectly cooked and ready to serve when your easy butter chicken is done.
  • Serve with fresh naan or flatbread. Homemade butter chicken is even better with warm, buttery flatbread to soak up every last bit of sauce!
Easy butter chicken in skillet garnished with an extra drizzle of coconut milk, fresh cilantro, and a side of naan and rice nearby.

What to Serve With This Simple Butter Chicken Recipe

How to Store & Reheat Easy Butter Chicken

Store leftover butter chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To reheat, place leftovers in a pan on the stove and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Butter chicken with coconut milk can also be reheated in the microwave.

How Long Will Easy Butter Chicken Last in the Fridge?

Leftovers keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Can I Freeze Butter Chicken with Coconut Milk?

To freeze this simple butter chicken recipe, let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container. Transfer to the refrigerator and freeze for up to three months. To reheat, let thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then warm gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.

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. One tip to keep the heat level low is to make sure that your chili powder and curry powder are milder versions. 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!

Why is butter chicken orange?

Butter chicken is orange because of the tomato paste and the colorful spices that are in the recipe.

Close up of the final dish for the easy butter chicken plates with rice and cilantro and a spoon dipped in.

No need for hours of prep time when making homemade butter chicken! Instead, this easy butter chicken recipe gives you tender chicken swimming in a warmly spiced sauce in well under an hour. It has far less butter than traditional recipes, too! This wildly flavorful and healthy butter chicken is sure to become a must-have in your dinnertime rotation.

More Indian Inspired Recipes:

If you try this feel good Easy Butter Chicken recipe or any other recipe on Feel Good Foodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. We would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots, share it on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!

This Easy Butter Chicken recipe was originally published on September 23, 2018 and is now updated with new photography and step by step collages and instructions to help better make the recipe, which has not changed.

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Easy Butter Chicken

A quick and easy version of the popular Indian dish, Butter Chicken, cooked in a creamy tomato sauce in just one pan!
5 from 412 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Calories 235
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
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Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion small diced
  • 2 teaspoon ginger grated
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon curry
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts cut into ¾-inch chunks
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 ounces red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 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 garam masala, chili powder, mustard seeds, coriander and curry and toast the spices until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken, tomato paste, red curry paste, salt and pepper and stir until the chicken is 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 uncovered 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.
* Please note the nutrition label does not include the rice or naan.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup, Calories: 235kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 76mg, Sodium: 565mg, Potassium: 575mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 1992IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 36mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine Indian
Course: Entree

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Comments

  1. Dana Ibrahim Battle says:

    I made this for my young family and it was a little spicy for you daughter to taste. Not for us. We loved it!!!! I also made other dishes to have my daughter taste her heritage. We live a state away from my Palestinian mother and when I call her for recipes, well let’s just say that she doesn’t using the same measurements as others. “A pinch of this and a handful of that.” Because of your recipes I’m able to give my daughter a similar food experience to what I grew up with. And my husband appreciates that great tasting food. Thank you

    1. Yumna says:

      So happy to hear!

  2. Gail Fenton says:

    This looks delicious and I plan to make it, just checking when you say red curry paste, I”m assuming you mean Thai red curry, such as Thai Kitchen? thanks!

    1. Yumna says:

      Yes, that is what I used since it’s easy to find.

      1. Gail Fenton says:

        I made this – it turned out amazing and has made it to my regular roation. Thank you! Finally a butter chicken recipe that works!

  3. umair says:

    To make delicious butter chicken: marinate chicken, use ghee, roast it, blend a tomato-nut-cream mixture, season with garam masala and fenugreek, and finish with butter and cream. Serve with naan or rice.

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