A truly decadent dish, this Indian butter chicken recipe is a magic combo of butter, tomatoes, yogurt, cream and spices. Guaranteed to make you reach out for more! Both stovetop and instant pot recipes included.
Ah, butter chicken. Who has not heard of butter chicken? It brings to mind a dhaba (a small, rustic eatery) on a long, winding highway in North India: a pit stop for travel weary people digging into strictly no-frills but excellent meals under the shade of a massive, leafy tree. Butter chicken with crisp tandoori rotis happens to be a hot favourite.
Now, this is not exactly light or everyday fare as you already probably know (butter + cream!) but it’s one that will astonish your taste buds. The tomatoes and cream come together to make a silky smooth gravy that's a little tangy, very creamy and out-of-this-world delicious. In one word: addictive.
Besides, pure butter and cream are, anyday, better than the trans fats (think store-bought cookies and cakes) we put into our bodies. Remember, this is real, whole food we're cooking, minus any artificial ingredients. So if you’re somewhat of a health freak like me, ignore that little nagging voice in your head and indulge. Just don't make a habit of it;-) Have butter chicken with any Indian bread like naan and a salad. It pairs well with rice too, so go ahead and spoon some of it on a plateful of hot, steaming rice.
I infintely prefer my homemade butter chicken over the ready-to-eat dinners available in most supermarkets. For one, they've got loads of preservative and colour. The one or two brands that I tried turned out to be extremely spicy and oily. And ultimately, what really got to me was that the gravy had a too-sharp edge which I immediately detested. I love the milder version I make in my own kitchen.
At least I know exactly what goes into it and I can control the spice and ingredients. In this version, for example, I've not gone overboard with anything. For starters, there is no oil, only butter. The cream is within reason too (3 tablespoons, not the whole tetrapack). The food colour is barely there (a pinch) since the dark red tomato paste does its job pretty well. And yet, the taste is not compromised at all as you will discover when you make it.
My Indian butter chicken recipe is a true weekend special and worth all the effort in my book!
How to make butter chicken
- Marinate the chicken.
- Bake it in the oven until half done.
- Make the sauce on the stovetop or in the instant pot and add the baked chicken.
Let's have a look at each of these steps.
Step 1 - Marinate the chicken
Whisk together yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, chickpea flour, minced green chillies, Kashmiri chilli powder, coriander powder, garam masala, lime juice, a pinch of orange food colour and salt in a large baking dish. Add the chicken, mix well and cover the dish with cling foil. Keep in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
Step 2 - Bake the chicken
Preheat your oven to 400 F and keep the marinated chicken in the middle rack for 35-40 minutes. The chicken will just start getting browned at 40 minutes.
Step 3 - Make the sauce and add the chicken
Stovetop - Heat the butter in a large saucepan and add whole spices. When they sizzle, add the onion puree and ginger garlic paste and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, Kashmiri chilli powder, salt and sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add ½ to 1 cup water if the sauce becomes too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
Once the sauce is done, add the baked chicken (liquid, scrapings and all) and cook for another 15 minutes. Finally, add the cream, stir and serve.
Instant Pot - Switch on your instant pot to sauté and wait for the display to show HOT. Add the butter and whole spices. When the spices sizzle, add the onion puree and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, Kashmiri chilli powder, salt and sugar. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add ½ to 1 cup water if the sauce becomes too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the pot. Cancel sauté.
Once the sauce is done, add the baked chicken (liquid, scrapings and all) and secure the lid. Make sure the steam release handle is on 'sealing' and press the pressure cooking button. Adjust to high and set the timer to 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, let the chicken rest for 10 minutes, then release pressure by turning the steam release handle to 'venting'. Finally, open the pot, add the cream, stir and serve.
Other chicken curries you might like
Best side dishes for butter chicken
Chicken is fantastic with some basic bread or plain rice, but if you want to move away from the same old and do things differently, try some new side dishes to go with it. Here are a few recipes that complement it perfectly:
- Whole Wheat Naan - Soft, pillowy and healthy naan bread made with whole wheat flour or atta.
- Cumin Rice - Basmati rice flavored with cumin and other whole spices.
- Dal Makhani - Buttery, curried lentils and kidney beans.
- Bombay Potatoes - Crispy and spicy baby potatoes with soft insides.
These are just a few possibilities. Find a lot more recipes for what to serve with chicken curry in this post: 20+ Best Side Dishes for Chicken Curry. You'll never run out of ideas for interesting sides!
Easy Indian Butter Chicken Recipe
- 6-quart Instant Pot Duo OR a saucepan
- Baking dish
For the marinade
- 2 lbs chicken bone-in, cut into 12 pieces
- 5 tablespoon yogurt lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoon chickpea flour (besan)
- 2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- ½ jalapeno pepper minced
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 key lime squeezed
- a pinch of orange food colour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
For the sauce
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 1 black cardamom
- 4 cloves
- 10 peppercorns
- 2 green cardamom
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- 2 cups tomato puree
- 1 medium-sized onion pureed
- 2 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon fresh cream
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a baking dish and add the chicken. Wrap with cling foil and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Place the baking dish in the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking in the oven, prepare the sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan and add whole spices.
- When the spices start to sizzle, stir in the onion puree and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato puree, Kashmiri chilli powder, salt and sugar. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Check once and add half cup water if the tomato gravy is too thick.
- Add the baked chicken along with any scrapings and liquid from the baking dish. Cook for 15 minutes more.
- Stir in the cream and serve hot with naan or rice.
Instant Pot Instructions
- Switch on your instant pot to sauté and wait for the display to show HOT. Add the butter and whole spices.
- When the spices sizzle, add the onion puree and ginger-garlic paste. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, Kashmiri chilli powder, salt and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Keep adding splashes of water if the sauce becomes too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the pot. After 15 minutes, add 1 cup water and cancel sauté. Deglaze the pot.
- Add the baked chicken (liquid, scrapings and all) and secure the lid. Make sure the steam release handle is on 'sealing' and press the pressure cooking button. Adjust to 'high' and set the timer to 5 minutes.
- When the timer beeps, let the chicken rest for 10 minutes, then release pressure by turning the steam release handle to 'venting'. Finally, open the pot, add the cream, stir and serve hot with naan or rice.
- I am a huge fan of homemade, wholewheat rotis, but butter chicken calls for heavier breads like naan and tandoori roti. The humble roti just won’t do in this case, so go for the naan! Here's a whole wheat naan recipe from the blog.
- If you don't have Kashmiri chilli, add any red chilli powder you do have like cayenne. Reduce the quantity though as the former is mild compared to other varieties.
- You can add pureed tomatoes instead of the store-bought tomato paste if you so wish. Choose the reddest tomatoes you can find for a pleasing rich-coloured gravy and whiz in a blender. Six medium sized ones will do.