Butter Chicken is a creamy, buttery chicken dish made with tender, boneless, chicken breasts, rich butter and sour cream, and warm spices like ginger, cumin, and coriander. It’s a rich, creamy dish that packs just enough heat
I don’t know about you, but I cook a lot of chicken. It’s one of my staple proteins, and I use it often. I love chicken because it’s super versatile, and it’s so cheap. With beef prices as high as I’ve ever seen them and pork not far behind, I find myself cooking with chicken more and more.
I’m fine with that because you can use chicken in so many dishes. From soups and dips to simple recipes like roasted chicken with veggies and game day grub like wings, chicken is so good in so many things.
This classic butter chicken is a perfect example of that! The tender, juicy chicken breasts pair so perfectly with the rich, creamy, and slightly sauce butter and sour cream sauce. It’s a family favorite that I make often, and my family still asks for it when I’ve gone too long without whipping it up. It’s such a family favorite, that I want to share it with you today.
Classic Butter Chicken
Classic butter chicken is, well, a classic. This delicious curry and cream dish was created in the 1950s by Kundan Lala Jaggi, the founder of the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi.
It was a completely accidental creation – as most great dishes are. Basically, the dish was a happy accident resulting from mixing curry with leftover chicken in a tomato gravy that contained butter and cream.
Like all good dishes, this one spread far beyond the borders of its home country, and today, people all over the world make this delicious recipe.
Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala
Many people confuse butter chicken with Tikka Masala, and I can see why. Both are rich and creamy, and both have tomatoes. However, they are not the same.
While similar butter chicken and Tikka Marsala do have some differences, the main one being how much tomato is in the sauce. Classic butter chicken is creamier with less tomato in the sauce, while Tikka Marsala, conversely, has more tomato and less cream.
They are both amazing dishes that are easy to make and heavy on flavor. One of the best things about either of these dishes in my opinion is that if you misjudge the ratio, the dish isn’t ruined. If you add too much cream to your Tikka Masala, you’ve made butter chicken. If you add too much tomato to your butter chicken, you’ve made Tikka Marsala. In either case, you win!
Classic Butter Chicken Tips
Before we dive into this recipe, there are a few tips I want to share with you. These tips are as straightforward as the recipe, but they are important, so let’s go over them now before you start cooking. Remember the old TV commercial: the more you know.
Chicken Thighs Make This Dish
Most people love to use chicken breasts whenever possible due to their lower fat content than thighs, but with this recipe, you can use the thighs, which is truly how classic butter chicken is made.
While using breasts will still give you a flavorful dish, the moist, tenderness of chicken thighs are king when it comes to this recipe. And let’s face it, with so much butter and sour cream in this recipe already, there’s really no need to substitute chicken breasts for less fat. With a recipe like this, it won’t matter that much in the long run.
Don’t Overcook Your Chicken
The chicken will do the majority of their cooking in the classic butter chicken sauce, so when you cook the bite-size pieces in the skillet, don’t overdo it.
We cook the chicken in the skillet first to get a golden, crispy outside. The goal is not to cook it through. If you cook your chicken in the skillet for too long, you’ll end up with tough chicken. So cook until just golden brown, and then remove immediately.
Let the Marinade do its Thing
Don’t rush the marinade process. The minimum amount of time to marinate the chicken for this classic butter chicken is about a half-hour. That is so fast. Don’t try to shortcut by simply putting the marinade on the outside of the chicken and jumping straight to cooking it.
Give it the full 30 minutes. If you have more time, marinating the chicken for a few hours or even overnight is even better! The more it marinades, the more tender and flavorful it will be.
Ingredients to make Butter Chicken
- Skinless chicken breasts, boneless, or thighs
- Vegetable oil
- Onion, diced
- Ginger, ground
- Garlic, minced
- Garam Masala
- Chili Powder
- Cinnamon stick
- Chicken broth
- Crushed tomatoes
- Heavy cream
- Lemon juice
- Sour Cream
How to make Butter Chicken
Step 1: Prep
In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, garam masala, and cumin. Stir to mix well. Cut chicken breast into bite-size pieces and place into marinade bowl. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Cooking the Chicken
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add marinated chicken pieces to skillet and cook until brown on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
Step 3: Making the Sauce
In the same skillet, melt butter and add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. Add spices and cinnamon stick to onions and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add cooked chicken, chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, and sugar to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add in heavy cream, stir and cook an additional 4-5 minutes.
Remove cinnamon stick and remove from heat. Serve over rice and enjoy.
Try This Delicious Butter Chicken Today
We hope that you and your family love this recipe.
Looking For More Chicken Recipes?
- Pecan Crusted Chicken Strips
- Southwest Chicken Wraps
- Bang Bang Chicken
- and here’s a delicious Chicken Carbonara from Great Grub, Delicious Treats
- 2 pounds chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, ground
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 14 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- For the marinade:
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1½ tablespoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 cup sour cream
- In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, garam masala, and cumin. Stir to mix well.
- Cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and place into the marinade bowl.
- Cover marinated chicken and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (Overnight would be ideal.)
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add marinated chicken pieces to skillet and cook until brown on both sides.
- Remove cooked chicken and set aside.
- In the same skillet, melt butter and add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are done and translucent in color.
- Add spices and cinnamon stick to onions and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Add cooked chicken, chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, and sugar to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Next, add in heavy cream, stir, and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick.
- Serve over rice and enjoy.