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Butter Chicken

Posted by in Step-by-Step Recipes

Note: By popular demand, we’re featuring this recipe again. Great reports across the board!

I originally loved the looks of this recipe, submitted by Tasty Kitchen member lillieknits, because I knew I had almost all the ingredients in my kitchen (important, since I don’t live around the corner from a grocery store)…and because the sauce contained both tomatoes and cream. Yum. My favorite.

But after I made it…oh, boy. Was I a believer. Definitely delicious and flavorful, but also extremely easy to throw together. It’s a great addition to any dinner rotation!


You need these spices…AND ground coriander, which I didn’t have in my pantry.


Chop up several cloves of garlic.


And throw everything in a mixing bowl! Chicken breasts, garlic, all the spices…and the juice of a whole lime. Cover the bowl and stick it in the fridge for several hours, just to let everything meet and fall in love.


After marinating the chicken, dice up a whole onion.


Heat 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter in a large skillet.


Let the onions cook for several minutes…


…Until they’re golden brown and translucent.


Next, Add the chicken breasts to the pan. I sort of scooted the onions over so the chicken would go right against the pan.


Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes, then flip it to the other side.


Pour in the tomato sauce…


And the diced tomatoes. Now cover the pan and cook it for 30 minutes.


Right before serving, pour in the cream. Of course.


Try to pour it all around the edges of the pan to make it easy to stir together.


Come on. This is absolutely too much for me. And you should smell it!


Just slowly stir around the chicken—you could even remove the chicken for a minute or two to make it easy to stir.


When it’s all combined, throw in a bunch of chopped cilantro.


Stir it to combine, and make sure the sauce heats back up.


And that’s it!


The recipe says to serve it over Basmati rice, but I didn’t have any…so I just used plain white rice.


The Verdict: It was splendid! The tomato/cream mixture combined with the spices…oh, man. I loved it. (FYI: According to Erika, Butter Chicken is also known as “Chicken Makhani”.)

Here’s the printable recipe:

Butter Chicken

Thank you for sharing, lilliekits!


Comments are closed for this recipe.

Deb on 2.11.2010

I made this for dinner tonight and it was a huge hit. I used six huge chicken breasts (from Costco) and ended up having to double the lime/spice mixture to have enough to coat all the chicken. I didn’t double the garlic though.

Because the chicken was so plump, I butterflied it before cooking. I should have done that before marinating, but the breasts were frozen at that point.

I left out the cilantro because I hate the chemical taste of it, but I did use all the other spices. I ended up only adding half a pint of whipping cream because it looked like enough.

Everyone loved it and we have a ton of leftovers. Can’t wait for dinner tomorrow night!

Thanks so much, Ree! What an easy and impressive dish!

Chris L on 2.11.2010

I made this last night and it was very good. I love Indian food, but my husband claims not to. Well, he loved it.
We will be having this again. It would be great to serve to company.

Cindy K on 2.11.2010

I made this today and it was delicious! It may not be the ‘traditional’ butter chicken recipe, but it tasted just as good, (if not better) then the Butter Chicken at our favorite Indian Restaurant. So good!

Gale on 2.11.2010

I have to reinforce what only a very very few have stated above…the dish looks appetizing but it is not the authentic recipe, infact it doesn’t even come close to the REAL Butter Chicken which is a lot more complex. The authentic, traditional recipe has (apart from the spices mentioned) dried fenugreek leaves and cashew nut paste prepared with heavy cream(very very important). And it is a 2-stage process; Stage 1 = Tandoori chicken, Stage 2 = the rest of the recipe. There are variations of course, but for my curry base I use raw onion puree which is actually fried along with whole black cardamoms, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and peppercorns (purists prefer to fry the whole spices before frying the onion paste), ginger and garlic paste. I use a lot less tomatoes, and I puree them myself. I do not like the taste of store-brought tomato puree for this recipe.

And no matter what they say Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala are synonymous. The recipes are almost identical and they essentially have the same roots!!

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tacgreen on 2.11.2010

I made this for dinner last night and it was goooooooood!! Thanks for sharing! :)

Christine in Columbia on 2.11.2010

I agree with Linda. Its crazy that people get in a huff about a chicken recipe. It is chicken with a sauce that starts with butter……..tada Butter Chicken. Sounds like a yummy dish to me!!

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Lisa on 2.10.2010

I just finished eating this. It was so dang yummy!! Every kid in the house scarfed it up, and I am licking the dishes. I loved this recipe. I’m eating leftovers for lunch tomorrow, maybe breakfast too.

Kathy on 2.10.2010

Wow this looks and sound delicious. The blend of everything is amazing. I am looking forward to making it this weekend.

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bmayer on 2.10.2010

You had me until the cilantro….yuck. I would just use parsley and be done with it.

rghawki on 2.10.2010

I prepared this dish last night. My husband and I loved it! It’s a new favorite. I made Indian Corn Rice to go with it and it was delicious. We are going to have left over Butter Chicken tonight, can’t wait!

holly O'Neill West on 2.10.2010

I made this last night, with a few modifications:

1) Since I didn’t have time to marinate overnight, I chopped the chicken into small chunks, added the marinade, and let it sit for about an hour.

2) I didn’t have lime so I used lemon.

3) I couldn’t find the ground coriander so I omitted it.

4) I didn’t have tomato sauce so I pureed my diced tomatoes.

5) I used half & half.

It turned out delicious. I will definitely be making this again.

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austinfamily1997 on 2.10.2010

Made this for dinner last night minus the cardamom ( none in my pantry or at my local kroger ) it was still fabulous!! It will definitely be a new dish in our dinner rotation and I will be searching for some cardamom for the next go around so we can enjoy the true indian flare of this dish!!

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sprucehill on 2.10.2010

Oh this looks delicious! I need to get busy!

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LDuff on 2.10.2010

Does any think you can subsitute Coconut Milk for the whipping cream??

ann on 2.10.2010

looks and sounds great, but where is the recipe? how much chicken? how much of the spices? how much sauce, how much diced tomatoes, how much cream?

Vicky on 2.10.2010

I followed this recipe and it came out absolutely divine!
If you are interested in this dish, instead of tearing up the name, its origin and ingredients, people should just cook it up, enjoy yourselves and be happy instead of sounding so miserable…. Try to look at it as “Ree’s Butter Chicken”.

Sarah T on 2.10.2010

I have to say that Butter Chicken is NOT the same as Chicken Makhani. The latter has a much sweeter sauce, generally made with condensed milk as well as cream, and also with coconut and ground almonds. They are both available as separate dishes from our local (and very good) Indian restaurant.
Butter Chicken is the one dish I order most often!

Gail K. on 2.10.2010

@Judith Herrman: Ree is not using a cast iron skillet. It is a dark non-stick skillet that she is using.

That is correct that you don’t want to cook tomatoes or anything with a lot of acid in cast iron as the acid reacts with the iron.

Pam on 2.10.2010

Yum! We had butter chicken for Thanksgiving dinner in India!

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Ree | The Pioneer Woman on 2.10.2010

Judith, yes—I cook tomato-based sauces in my iron skillet all the time. In this case, however, the pan was a big nonstick Scanpan I’ve been using lately. I’m likin’ it!

I think there’s no question there are probably more authentic recipes for Butter Chicken that have more ingredients or steps. This is just one variation of the dish—and an easy one at that! One of the easiest dinners I’ve ever thrown together.

And the leftovers were yummmmmmy. ;)

kate on 2.10.2010

Hello from Northern Ireland – I am new to your blog and first have to say a big thank you! Your recipes are delish. I have one question about this recipe – when you say “tomato sauce” do you mean a can of creamed tomatoes or do you mean something similar to ketchup? I would hate to get this lovely looking meal wrong. Thanks!

Anita Turner on 2.10.2010

I make a similar dish very often, and always use plain yogurt instead of cream. I cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Sometimes I add chopped carrots or sweet potatoes to cook in the sauce. The last time I made it I added sliced cabbage with the carrot. Very nice with mango chutney served as a condiment, also nice to include sliced bananas sprinkled with dissected/flake coconut to top the dish.

Julie on 2.10.2010

I made this tonight for dinner. It was so yummy and easy to make. It was a big hit with the family too. Not too spicy – just right. We decided it was a “keeper”. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

joy on 2.9.2010

I this sort of butter chicken in the crockpot sometimes and its perfect and waiting for me when I get home.

Kris on 2.9.2010

I use tomatoes in my skillet all the time, as suggested by my kids pediatrician. It does leach iron into the sauce, which is actually good if your kids or you are iron deficient.

elena on 2.9.2010

You just made my day! I love butter chicken! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Kapur on 2.9.2010

I still swear by Pastor Ryan’s Chicken Tikka Masala. PDub…you’re telling me this is just as good? Okay…I’m going to have a recipe face-off this weekend!

trish on 2.9.2010

Where’s the fenugreek leaves and the garam masala? This is not what I’d call butter chicken either…

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Mama Pie on 2.9.2010

Judy: Tomato sauce can be cooked in a cast iron skillet. A reaction is only going to occur if you introduce a second type of metal to the party and the contact would have to occur for a very long time.

Alton Brown demonstrated this by filling a cast iron skillet with tomato sauce and topping it with aluminum foil. After a week in the fridge, the acid had almost completely eaten through the aluminum foil.

I hope this answers your question.

Tara on 2.9.2010

I was skeptical when I put in the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, but when I put in the cream it really came right together. Yummo. I like the building spice.

Theresa in Alberta on 2.9.2010

wait a second! this is WAY too easy,,,even I can cook this!!

Lindsey on 2.9.2010

I can’t wait to try it!!!

Rhonda in ND on 2.9.2010

Oh yummy! I can not wait to try this.

savannah on 2.9.2010

i think i’ll be making this for valentine’s day! idc what you call it, it sounds yummy!

Indian Gal on 2.9.2010


This looks yummy. However, I have to say that it’s not really ‘authentic.’ I guess it’s more of a westernized version of the original.

Nice try though!

Linda on 2.9.2010

I think what we have here is a simple chicken recipe, that should be just that. We really don’t have to tear it to pieces because of semantics, do we? Let’s just enjoy, I know I’m going to. YUM!

Heather Kaufman on 2.9.2010

Thanks for adding the alternate term “chicken makhani” I never like ordering “butter chicken” when we’re in a restaurant. Just makes me feel like a fatty! (but at home I of course use your recipes and wouldn’t dare substitute the butter!)

jessica pw on 2.9.2010

my husband’s favorite indian dish is butter chicken. i’ve tried before to make it but never turns out as good. hopefully this easy recipe will be the magic one

Dave G -- Six Degrees of Preparation on 2.9.2010

I think what you have here is essentially a chicken “korma,” a rich Indian meat stew. Regardless of what you call it, it tastes magnificent!

Amrish on 2.9.2010

I agree with puzzlehouse. This is definitely NOT butter chicken. You’re missing a whole lot of spices and the process is different as well. You should be starting with tandoori chicken and then go from there.

This looks like a delicious dish, but please do not entitle it as Butter Chicken. Then we will start getting a bunch of people making what they think is butter chicken.

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missjen3 on 2.9.2010

Wow! That looks so good. I have the pickiest of picky eaters in my house and I truly think they will all love this dish.
I am ALWAYS looking for new and exciting ways to make great chicken dishes and I really cannot wait to try this one! Thanks!!

Candace on 2.9.2010

I’ve actually seen this recipe before – but without the use of butter! I think the one I saw used oil. Crazy, I know – so I’m glad you added the most important ingredient. I think I’ll try it soon but I’ll replace the heavy cream with some coconut milk (Thai Kitchen coconut milk is probably as thick as heavy cream).

Marisa on 2.9.2010

I don’t have all the spices but could I substitute Garam Masala? Mine looks like it’s only missing the cayenne, but I don’t know if the proportions would be right.


Mama Bear on 2.9.2010

One of my absolute favorite Indian dishes — all you need is some naan!

Angela on 2.9.2010

NYC is about to get hit with a foot of snow (that’s like 3 feet to us!). I think tonight, I’ll make enough Butter Chicken to last ’til Spring!! This looks soooo yummy.

aparna on 2.9.2010

My dad makes AWESOME Indian chicken curry dishes. I should snag a few and post them!

angelfood on 2.9.2010

Oh My Gosh… This sounds so delicious. I’ll be trying it soon!

Diane Palmer on 2.9.2010

I recently bought your cookbook after seeing you on the Bonnie Hunt show and I love it. This recipe looks really good and I will definately try it.

Miki B on 2.9.2010

you had me when you added the cream, YUM! Adding this to my menu this week, thanks!

Elizabeth on 2.9.2010

I do something similar, though Iuse a few more spices and to change it up I use coconut milk instead of the heavy cream.. sooo yummy!