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Butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani or chicken makhani, combines tender chicken thighs with a rich, creamy, beautifully-spiced tomato curry. This indulgent, flavorful dish is one I’ve been making for years – my Pakistani father-in-law absolutely loves it!

Zoomed out photo of butter chicken in a creamy red-orange sauce plated next to white rice and naan.

What Makes This Recipe So Good

  • Indian butter chicken is a simple recipe, taking pieces of juicy chicken thighs and simmering them in a tomatoey curry, with flavors of garam masala, sweet paprika, coriander, ginger, chili powder, cinnamon, and cardamom. A little yogurt and heavy cream are added at the end, making the gravy delectably thick and creamy.
  • If you’re new to homemade Indian food, this is a great recipe to start with. It’s SO easy to make, and really doesn’t take much time at all. Plus all the cooking takes place in one skillet (or wok), so clean up’s easy, too. Pair it with fluffy basmati rice and warm naan to sop up any extra curry you might be left with, and you’ve got a satisfying new way to serve a weeknight chicken dinner.
  • This dish shares a lot of similarities with chicken tikka masala, but butter chicken tends to be much more mild. That makes it a great option for small kids or anyone who’s heat-sensitive. You’re welcome to add as much or as little chili powder as needed to make the curry as hot (or mild) as you like!

Chef’s Tips

  • Traditional butter chicken recipes begin by marinating the chicken overnight in a blend of yogurt and spices, to tenderize the meat. After that, the chicken is typically grilled in a tandoor before being simmered in the buttery curry. Obviously, we’ve left out the marinating and grilling steps, to keep things fairly quick. That means this version isn’t a fully authentic murgh makhani, but it’s a fairly close alternative!
  • Be careful not to overcook the chicken pieces. While chicken thighs hold up against sustained heat a little better than chicken breasts, you can still overdo it. You don’t want dry or rubbery butter chicken, though. Gauge the temperature with an internal meat thermometer. The food safe internal temperature for dark meat chicken is around 170° Fahrenheit, but you don’t want the chicken to reach that temperature until after you’ve simmered it in the yogurt and cream for 5 minutes.
  • This recipe may just be even more delicious as leftovers. As the sauce rests and chills, the flavors deepen and become even more vibrant. If you’ve got the time, you might consider making the curry in advance. Transfer it to an airtight container and let it cool completely, then cover it and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, cook the chicken and simmer the gravy until warmed through.
Overhead view of butter chicken in a large wok on a white countertop.

More Indian-Inspired Recipes You’ll Love

Recipe By: Cheryl Malik
5 from 6 votes

Butter Chicken

Prep 15 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Total 55 minutes
Rich, creamy, and deliciously indulgent, this recipe swaths pieces of juicy chicken thighs in a perfectly-spiced tomato sauce. Serve with basmati rice and naan for a simple, hearty meal.
4 servings


  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Large wok or similar large skillet
  • Slotted spoon
  • Large plate
  • internal meat thermometer


For the Butter Chicken

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil or refined coconut oil, or ghee
  • ¼ cup butter or ghee
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 6 cardamom pods bruised with flat side of knife
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar or honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar
  • cup full-fat plain yogurt at (or close to) room temperature
  • ½ cup heavy cream or half and half, at (or close to) room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Serving Suggestions (All Optional but Recommended)

  • finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup steamed basmati rice
  • fresh naan


  • Place chicken thighs on cutting board. Use sharp knife to cut chicken into small, evenly-sized pieces, then spread pieces out in single layer. Liberally sprinkle salt over chicken pieces, then flip chicken over and salt other side. Set cutting board aside.
  • Heat wok over medium-high heat. Once skillet is very hot, add peanut oil and swirl wok to distribute oil evenly. Continue heating wok until oil is hot and shimmery.
  • When oil is ready, add half of chicken pieces to wok. Cook chicken, stirring frequently, approximately 4 minutes or until lightly browned.
    Salted chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces and piled into a wok to stir fry.
  • Transfer browned chicken to large plate and set aside, then repeat process with remaining uncooked chicken.
  • Once all chicken has been cooked, discard remaining oil. Return wok to stovetop and reduce heat to medium-low.
  • Add butter to wok and let melt completely, swirling wok occasionally to distribute melted butter evenly.
  • When butter is completely melted (but not browned or bubbling), add garam masala, sweet paprika, coriander, ginger, chili powder, cinnamon stick, and bruised cardamom pods to wok. Simmer spices, stirring constantly, approximately 1 minute or until just fragrant.
  • Return chicken pieces to wok and stir to coat chicken in spices.
  • Add tomato sauce and sugar to wok. Stir well to fully incorporate ingredients, then simmer mixture 10 to 15 minutes, until chicken reaches internal temperature of 160° to 163° Fahrenheit.
    Chicken thighs with spiced butter, tomato sauce, and a wooden spoon in a large wok.
  • Once chicken reaches desired temperature, remove wok from heat. Let mixture cool slightly, then add yogurt, heavy cream, and lemon juice. Gently stir until ingredients are fully incorporated into tomato sauce.
  • Return wok to heat. Simmer 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened and chicken is cooked through. Taste sauce and add salt if desired.
    Indian butter chicken in a large wok on a neutral background.
  • Divide butter chicken into preferred portions and plate with basmati rice and fresh naan. Garnish chicken with chopped cilantro if desired and serve immediately.
  • Heat Level: I don’t personally consider this to be a “hot” dish. The yogurt and heavy cream help balance the spices out nicely, and serving it with naan and rice will help cut down on any heat even more. Still, if you’re very sensitive to heat, you can cut the chili powder down to ⅛ teaspoon or omit it entirely.
  • Make it Whole30/Paleo: See my recipe for Whole30 butter chicken.

Approximate Information for One Serving

Serving Size: 1servingCalories: 629calProtein: 48gFat: 40gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 282mgSodium: 761mgPotassium: 703mgTotal Carbs: 21gFiber: 4gSugar: 10gNet Carbs: 17gVitamin A: 1397IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 92mgIron: 3mg
Nutrition Disclaimers
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.

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    1. Hi Camille! We haven’t tried dairy free alternatives in this recipe, so we can’t say for sure. Let us know if you try it!

    1. Thanks for the review, Vanessa. We haven’t tested that out yet, but be sure to let us know if you try it! I’ve made coconut milk swaps to recipes like this before so I’m sure it would be perfectly fine!

  1. What modifications are needed to make Thisbe in an instant pot? Love This recipe, but hoping to change up how to get this cooked.5 stars

  2. This is an AMAZING recipe! I grew up in Pakistan and wanted something not too overpowering but still accurate to show my boyfriend (who hails from Florida) a taste of Butter Chicken. This is absolutely perfect and we make it at least once a week. Thank you!! (Also, the baby pictures are SO adorable!!!)5 stars

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! My husband’s family is from Pakistan as well, and he and his father both love it! Thank you for coming back to let me know 🙂5 stars

  3. This may be my favorite recipe and photos ou have done! I think you could give any Indian place in America a run for their money. It sounds like someone like myself could attempt this recipe. Any grammatical errors? 😉5 stars

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