An easy weeknight meal, this Indian butter chicken is warmly spiced – but not spicy – with a sauce that just neeeeeds to be soaked up by hot rice and fresh naan.
This time of year, deep in the throes of January, I’m alllll about warm and cozy meals.
And sure, it may be 50° F outside on a freak day here – or maybe that’s your regular winter weather? But I’m still craving winter food!
This Indian butter chicken hits all the marks. It’s quick to make on a weeknight and it’s a warmly spiced and oh so comforting meal.
I paired this a while back with some fluffy white basmati rice – I need to get my life-changing rice recipe out to you soon! – and some easy homemade naan.
And about that naan! You’re probably all like: “Homemade naan on a weeknight?! No way!”
Yes way!! I made the dough and froze a bunch of dough balls on the weekend for a quick thaw, roll, and cook during the week. Sometimes I really surprise myself.
How to Make Butter Chicken
For this Indian butter chicken recipe, you’ll make a quick spiced tomato sauce with onions, garlic, ginger, jalapeño, and a slew of Indian spices. After the sauce has cooked down and has given the spices a chance to meld into it, you’ll nestle the chicken into the sauce.
There, it will simmer for about 15 minutes and soak up all of the flavors of the silky spiced sauce. This is a quick and ingenious way to cook chicken, isn’t it?!
Why Is Butter Chicken Called Butter Chicken?
Right before serving, you’ll add some butter to the sauce. And really, it’s not as much butter as you think it would be, given the name of the recipe! Only 3 tablespoons!
This is just enough butter to add another level of flavor to an already outstandingly delicious meal. I liken it to the effect the butter has on our favorite 3 ingredient tomato sauce.
And if it isn’t already obvious, butter chicken is called butter chicken because you add butter to the tomato sauce. It’s also the main difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala.
Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala
Seriously, we couldn’t get enough of this recipe and just like my chicken tikka masala, this new-to-us Indian meal will go right into our regular rotation!
But you may be wondering what the difference is between butter chicken and tikka masala since they look so similar. Well, the main difference is that the cream and butter in the butter chicken sauce make it a more luscious and rich sauce than tikka masala, which tends to taste more tomato-y.
What to Serve with Indian Butter Chicken
We serve this butter chicken with homemade naan bread or garlic butter naan bread and hot rice. Both were the perfect solution to soak up all of that butter sauce. Cilantro lime rice would also be amazing with this chicken!
- 1 tbsp olive or canola oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- ½-inch nub fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño, seeded, and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cardamom
- ½ tsp coriander
- 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
- 1 ¾ cups chicken broth
- ½ cup half-and-half
- 1 ½ pounds (about 2-3) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch chunks
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- Hot cooked rice and naan for serving
- Chopped fresh cilantro for extra garnish
- Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, and jalapeño to the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Stir in the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a blender and allow to cool for 5 minutes and then add the tomato paste and broth. Blend until smooth.
- Pour the sauce back into the pan, stir in the half-and-half, and nestle the chicken in the sauce; simmer on low heat for 12-15 minutes - the chicken should be cooked through and the sauce slightly thickened. Stir in the pepper, salt, and butter. After the butter has melted, serve the chicken and sauce over hot rice with some cilantro sprinkled atop and naan on the side for sauce scooping.
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