Butter chicken done right can be an incredible curry. Rich. Creamy. Well-spiced. Just really tasty. Big, big tastes.
Done poorly, it tastes like a can of Campbells cream of tomato soup with a little garam masala. Like curried tomato soup with chicken. Who wants that?
Butter chicken does not have to be bland
I don’t know why people think condensed soup and garam masala is Indian. Or butter chicken. Or even worth eating.
I just don’t get it. And yet there are lots of recipes out there that claim butter chicken is just that.
If that’s your thing it’s easy. Literally. Can of tomato soup. A teaspoon of garam masala. A little extra sugar. Some boneless, skinless chicken.
And a whack of cream and butter. Cook it up all together. Add the cream and butter at the end. Done.
I’m not saying that’s wrong. Not judging. But I am thinking it. Be sure of that. If you want to make curry for 6 year olds, that’s how you do it.
Unless the 6 year old is Indian. Then they want something tasty. And soup with garam masala doesn’t cut it. Trust me. I was 6 once…
Murgh makhani is why this recipe works
It’s when you start looking for murgh makhani that you start to see what it’s really about. Murgh makhani is the Indian name for butter chicken.
And it’s good. Really good. Goodbye canned soup. Hello flavour. Hello murgh makhani.
This murgh makhani is done restaurant style. Like they do in restaurants. Not like people say tastes like something close.
And then tells you to open a can of soup. Or add a ton of pureed tomatoes. Or a gallon of cream.
Restaurant style with extra flavour
This is restaurant technique. Real restaurant technique. And the results are as good or better than you can get in a restaurant.
I’m not even that fussed on this dish in a lot of Indian restaurants. It’s kind of close to the soup version.
This is butter chicken like it should be served. Comes with flavour. Comes with heat. Murgh makhani really. For when flavour matters.
I know I rant a lot about how boring Indian restaurants have become. How they all serve the same 20 dishes. No variety. No representation of what a billion people call dinner.
This is a different rant. I know they have butter chicken on the menu. Let’s make them make good butter chicken.
Next time you are out at an Indian restaurant demand better. Say you want murgh makhani like they make in India.
Tandoori seasoned chicken
- 10 oz boneless, skinless chicken - thighs or breasts. 3 thighs or one large breast
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp tandoori masala - available in Indian grocery stores
- 1 1/2 tsp indian restaurant spice mix - recipe link below
- 3/4 tsp tandoori masala
- 1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder - or more to taste
- 1 tsp kasoor methi - dried fenugreek leaves
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/3 tsp table salt
- 2 tbsp onion finely diced
- 1 green chili cut into strips plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp garlic ginger paste - recipe link in notes
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste diluted with 3 tbsp water
- 15 oz curry base - recipe link in notes
- 1 tbsp almond flour
- 2 tsp sugar - jaggery is a nice touch if you can get it
- 2-3 tbsp heavy cream
- 2 tbsp butter (optional)
Do your prep.
- Make the spice mix.
- Dilute the tomato paste with enough water to get to the consistency of passata.
- Have everything ready to go. Onions chopped. Chilies cut. Garlic ginger paste standing by. Curry base pre-heated. Ingredients at hand. Be ready. It's going to go fast from here.
Cook the tandoori seasoned chicken
- Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces
- Heat your frying pan (don't use non-stick) briefly over medium low heat. Add the oil and then 1 tsp tandoori masala.
- Add the chicken and fry until it's all evenly coloured and partially cooked. This takes about 5 minutes. Don't worry. It will finish cooking in the curry.
- Remove the chicken and set aside. Return the pan with the now seasoned oil to the stove over medium low heat.
Make the butter chicken
- Add the onion and cook until well softened.
- Turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic ginger paste and the green chili and cook, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
- Turn down the heat and add the spice mix. This is the critical step. Stir it constantly for 30 seconds. If it starts to darken lift the pan off the heat. You want the spice mix to cook in the oil but not burn.
- Turn the heat up to medium high. This is important. The heat is what drives Indian restaurant flavour. Maillard reaction magic. You have to love food science! As you become more comfortable with this technique try pushing it. Add the diluted tomato paste and stir until bubbles form (the oil will likely separate). This takes around 30 seconds to one minute depending on the heat.
- Add 3 oz of curry base. Stir until bubbles form (little craters really), around 30 seconds. Think lively boil. Watch the edges of the pan. The curry can stick here. Sticking is OK. Just scrape it back into the base. Burning is bad.
- Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
- Add the rest of the curry base and let cook until the bubbles form.
- Turn the heat down to low. Add the chicken, almond flour and sugar. Stir and simmer until the chicken is just done. This takes about another 5-6 minutes depending on how much you pre-cooked the chicken. Sneak a peek if you need to. Cut into a piece to see if it's done.
- Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don't add water.
- Remove from heat. Add the cream and butter if using.
- Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and green chili if you like. Serve.
91 thoughts on “butter chicken – indian restaurant style”
A fellow Glebeite here who found your recipes in recent columns in The Glebe Report. I finally made the base over the weekend and the Butter Chicken this evening. You are amazing; thank you for sharing the knowledge and for all your hard work and passion. This is the start of a wonderful journey through your recipes and I look forward to using them for upcoming dinner parties. With gratitude!
Hello neighbour! Delighted to hear you are enjoying the recipes. Hope you find you to make.
FYI I shop a lot at Thana on Bank north of James and the restaurant I talk about in the eggplant curry – baingan masala restaurant style post is Light of India.
This is one of my favourites but just noticed that I have been differing slightly from the recipe. I see that this recipe only calls for 1 tsp of Garlic/Ginger paste. Up until now i have been using 1 tbsp of the paste as most of the other recipes call for 1 tbsp. Don’t get me wrong still tastes fantastic but just wanted to check that the tsp wasn’t a typo.
Not a typo but nothing wrong with a little extra garlic/ginger paste either!
Hi, it is me again….cannot get enough! So glad you share this with us, thank you very much! I have made it for a couple of friends, they always want more… 🤗
You are very, very welcome! Delighted your friends like it too:-)
Wauw, just wauw…. best butter chicken ever. I am so glad i found your website. 🥰
I’m glad you found it too!
I have been making this for a couple of years now. I have managed to triple the quantity by using a very large pan, worked well.
I pre made a large quantity of spice mix that I pull out when I do this.
One change i make is I marinate the chicken in tandoori masala marinade.
Delighted to hear it’s made your regular rotation!
Firstly, thank you for sharing your recipes with us!! I just discovered you yesterday and made your restaurant tikka masala and it was INSANELY good and so authentic.
I need your help if possible! I live in the states but am English and really miss my local Indian’ restaurant’s butter chicken. The thing is, it was a two sauce meal– the butter chicken sauce and then a white/yellowy thick sauce. I assume its some kind of butter and cream sauce but I emailed the restaurant and never got a reply. Many restaurants in the UK use this two sauce version.
Please help me if you can. I miss that sauce so much.
Glad to hear you enjoyed the chicken tikka masala and hope you find lots of recipes you enjoy here.
I’m Canadian Bengali and while I have eaten a lot of Indian in the UK over the years I haven’t bumped into the sauce you describe. The drizzle of heavy cream I am familiar with but “thick/yellow” I just don’t know. Sorry. I really do wish I could help…
I’d like to make this dish but i don’t have the curry base.
Can i go with the nearly restaurant technic? (Microwaving and pureeing the onions with oil and water)
I haven’t tried adapting this recipe for nearly restaurant but I think it would work. You will need to double everything to scale though. 2 cups of the nearly onions is not the same as 2 cups of curry base.
Excellent instructions! The video helps tons. I’ve made this 3 times now and it is a huge hit here. Once I invested the time and effort into making the base, spices and garlic paste, I find it super easy to make quickly on a weeknight. (Making the rice takes longer) My picky son LOVEs it! Thank you thank you thank you! x
Delighted you and your picky son enjoyed it and that the video was helpful! It’s a bit of work up front but once you get going it becomes quick and easy.
Delicious, just wondering if you have any naan recipes?
Glad you enjoyed it. I’m still working on a foolproof naan recipe that doesn’t require a gas stove I’m afraid…
So tasty!!! As are all your recipes !
Than you so much for saying! I’m delighted you are enjoying the recipes.
I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to replicate restaurant-style butter chicken for years. This recipe does it! The flavors in this recipe were distinct and delicious compared to the many other recipes I’ve tried. This is the second recipe from Glebe Kitchen I’ve tried that has been wonderful. I’m fast becoming a believer.
Glad you liked it. I’m working on a hotel version of butter chicken right now (it is literally on the stove as I type this).
Hope you find lots more inspiration here!!!
Just had the butter chicken (slightly increased the Kashmiri and chillies). Tasted superb.
Last week was Rao’s Meatballs following the recipe to the letter. Fantastic meal and now addicted to the San Marzano tomatoes which is unfortunate as they are about 3x normal tinned tomatoes. Each meatball at 3″ diameter weighed in at circa 8oz – so moist and tasty. Definitely making them again.
Glad you liked it. I pushed the spice in the butter chicken about as far as I thought I could get away with in the recipe but a little more suits my palate better as well.
Those meatballs are one of my wife’s favourite thing ever:-)
I know we’re going back a few years on this post – but after 3 YEARS of trying to replicate butter chicken at home, Glebekitchen has cracked the secret for me.
The prep? Insane. You have to WANT this dish to be right. No just passable or “sort of like”.
Correct as an Indian Chicken Mahkni dish.
The payoff? A pantry stocked with already mixed Indian seasonings, a freezer stocked with curry base and an endless amount of opportunity (thanks Glebe for continuing to share 😋)
This was my first attempt with Geleb but will absolutely be back.
Ha! It is a lot of prep. But you have enough for a bunch of curries now and once you hit your groove it’s easy. And addictive:-). Delighted to hear the secret is cracked!
Wow. I found out about your website because of the Montreal smoked meat. I’ve made this 4 times now and everyone loves it. My neighbors are hooked. I figured I’d try something else from your website so I started reading about Indian style curry and this recipe. It’s been two weeks of planning and ingredient gathering but wow was it worth it. I need to work on the techniques but I have a pretty good idea now what I need to achieve. Thank you very much for the detailed instructions and videos. I have curry base for days so I will be trying something else very soon.
Come for the smoked meat. Stay for the butter chicken. Love it! It is a a fair bit of of work a lot to get your head around but once you’ve done it two or three times it becomes easy.
I’ll be making this for my family with 3 smaller kids who don’t handle heat very well. Can you make a recommendation on how to turn this into a milder version?
Easy enough to do. Leave out the green chili and the kashmiri chili powder. Make sure your tandoori marinade isn’t too spicy. Have them taste that. If it’s still too much add the optional butter. Butter tends to blunt/soften all the flavours – which is why I don’t typically add it myself…
Thank you!! advice noted
well I took on quite a challenge and tried a dinner for 8 using your recipes….I made veg samosas (not your recipe)with your mint cilantro chutney and my own tamarind chutney…then the fun began…lamb vindaloo restaurant style (perfection Romain) Eggplant curry hotel style ( i couldn’t get the peanuts quite smooth enough would be my criteria… but tasted awesome) I used Prawns for the Hariyali….very good option..thanks for the advice…butter chicken (this particular time i made it, my thoughts were it was too tomatoey…and not enough spice (I think I want to use serrano instead of jalapeño as we don’t get jalwa pepper here) but I’m still such a newby and have no deep instinct about this food, the first time I made it with less tomato paste as i was using 2x concentrate and i thought maybe i should use less…this time i used 1 for 1 and I felt it was too much..but still very delicious thank you, then ceylon chicken curry…lacked the fresh curry leaves because here in Mexico they don’t exist sadly…all in all every dish you created on this website has been an overwhelming hit..thank you…I was literally spent by the time I doubled each of those recipes but as people gobbled up the food that was reason alone to be happy….have another 11 items being shipped to mexico to add more to the menu…man, my kitchen was a mess …a good mess…keep all those recipes coming…now I’m interested in learning a more in-depth knowledge about how indian spices are related and what does what..for now I can only follow and hope you never take this blog down..again, thank you …any more words of advice and I’m all ears.
Wow. That is one epic dinner party! I would have been excited to be at that table.
When I’m cooking butter chicken for myself I am heavier handed on the spice. It is a pretty mild curry and I spiced this one up as much as I thought I could get away with. Double the kashmiri chili powder and go from there I would say.
And I won’t take the blog down. Don’t worry about that:-)
I honestly don’t know how, you get ALL your dishes so authentic. I go to India every year (well not last year!) and as you know I have done many of your dishes now, and yet again it’s absolutely delicious. I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to do the (English style tikka masala – for the kids) so I decided to give this a go, and I can tell you, I thought I was sitting in Goa eating my butter chicken. I was going to add the cream and butter so the kids would like it. Well after tasting it sod the kids it’s all mine!! Thank you once again Romain.
Haha. What a great comment. Thank you for putting a smile on my face. As always – delighted you liked it!
Would it be possible to adjust this recipe to a slow cooker / crockpot version?
I’m afraid not. It relies on high heat to fry the curry base as do all the restaurant style curries here on glebekitchen. Sorry I can’t be more help…
Is the tandoori masala a dry mix or is it a paste?
Tandoori masala is a mixture of dry spices. Try to get one that isn’t all salt.
hi this recipe is for 2 i see , too make it for 4 is it just a matter of doubling the quantities as it never taste’s the same when i do that .
BTW love your curries
From an ingredient perspective yes. From a technique perspective no and I suspect that’s why it never works as well for you. Unless you have a very large pan (high surface area) and a stove that can drive it you won’t be able to get the curry base to fry as hard as it should. And that frying is critical to the development of the flavours in restaurant style curries. I do double recipes on very rare occasions with a 12 inch skillet and a 20K BTU burner running flat out and it’s still not quite as good. Usually I just do the recipe twice (or make two different curries for variety).
Any thoughts on butter chicken with hotel style gravy?
The hotel style gravy is a pretty highly flavoured gravy for delicate curries. I have a makhani gravy on the list. Once I get that one out, I will do butter chicken, dal makhani and start doing recipes that cross over (use two gravies together).
Man! I’ve tried just about every recipe on the internet for this dish, and it was always disappointing, I’ve pretty much given up on making it at home. I’ve known about Indian restaurant technique for a while but never felt like taking it on, it just seemed so fussy. And frankly, it is. But after this one, I’m a convert! I just bought myself one of these: Souper Cubes freezer trays.
Can’t wait to try the more adventurous curries you have here. I will say, though, that brands really matter. I ordered the Tandoori Masala that you use, and it’s nothing like the ones available locally. If I had tried it with those, it would not have been a success. I’m so glad I found this website and gave it a go. Thanks so much Romain!
You are very, very welcome. I’m glad you jumped in!
Indian restaurant style is a lot of work to get started but once you get going and have the curry base and other bits made it gets way easier.
Sorry I overwrote your Souper Cube link. I can’t maintain all the external links and when they move/go away it causes problems. But it’s a great idea. 1 cup freezer trays (like for ice cubes for those that have no idea) would be super handy.
Having tried this at home, I cooked it, together with your Bombay Potatoes, for the British Superbike medical team … 16 people (tripled the recipe and made it three times). It was cooked a few days beforehand and frozen, then reheated and served on a campsite – and despite that mistreatment, still tasted fantastic. Lots of people wanted to know the recipe, so you’ll have some more followers of your website from the UK. Thank you.
Thank you Heike! Great to hear it worked out and delighted to have more followers. Greatly appreciated!
Hi, just discovered your site and made the curry base and palak without the cheese yesterday, came out great. And want to make this today. I got a box of tandoori masala at my local Indian store. For your recipe do I just use it as a powder or do I mix it with yogurt as it says on the box to make a paste?
Awesome! Just use the spice as described in the recipe. No yoghurt required.
Just made this first time. Surprise! My entire fussy family loved it. “Don’t change ANYTHING.”
Dear Mr. Gobsmacked,
Delighted you liked it.
Another excellent recipe from Glebe Kitchen, Romain. I made this last night and was very impressed! It also fits in well with my low carb way of eating. So I can happily add the optional butter….. and more ☺️ Thankyou ??
If I could figure out a way around the onions I would be the keto king:-)
Glad you liked it!
OMG! Your recipes have changed my life! The last few days I have closely followed your instructions and made the curry base, spice mix and garlic/ginger paste and turned my house into a curry shop. I’ve gotten to know my local Indian spice shop owners and navigated my way around their wonderful store. Tonight I made your buttered chicken recipe in the only non stick pan I had. I followed your wonderful instructions and I can’t believe I have real “Buttered Chicken”. I have longed for this flavor for years. Thank you! Your recipes are the BEST. Off to make your Bombay potato recipe next…
Awesome! Thank you so much for saying so.
I hope you like the Bombay potatoes as much. I’m a big potato lover so that one is one of my favourites.
Isn’t getting to know your way around Indian shops fun? A bit of a mystery at first but lots of fun things to discover.
Yes, I have to admit I was a bit intimidated at first. The fresh produce is so interesting, and I just love the music…it makes me want to learn Hindi. Cooking is so much more than just eating, it’s about learning a whole new culture. Thank you again for your attention to detail in your wonderful recipes. I’m hooked.
As usual a fantastic curry..I couldn’t find almond flour so I blitzed almond flakes in my nutribullet..it is my favourite so far..I have been making my own chapatti and though they taste great they aren’t puffing up throughout..only in parts ..what am I doing wrong?..oh and I spend so much time in my local Asian shop he’s been giving me free Samosas..half a stone I have put on in 6mths 🙂 ..do you have a recipe for them haha..
Love that you are getting free samosas! That’s awesome. And I’m very happy to hear you like the bitter chicken. Thank you!
Chapatis are all about feel. Just keep trying. Maybe vary your heat a bit. If they are mostly puffing up you are doing well.
Samosas and chapatis are both on the to do list.
I have checked out quite a few of your recipes and haven’t seen Ghee in the ingredients. Any reason in particular apart from the high calorie count ?
I’m not worried about calories. Oil or ghee – it’s lots of calories either way. It’s a flavour thing for me. As much as I love the buttery taste, I find that ghee blunts the flavour of most curries. Every now and then I’ll make something with ghee but mostly I am just a spice junkie…
Thank you so much for this robust site on Indian restaurant style cooking! I made the butter chicken recipe following your instructions and it was totally amazing! The results are as good or better than the Indian restaurants I have been to in the area. I now have a large pot of curry base in the refrigerator and am planning to make korma and madras curries in the next couple of days.
Your recipes have exceeded my expectations for making Indian foods at home and I really can’t thank you enough!
One question I have is about the best approach for pre-cooking the chicken (or meat). Do you recommend pre-cooking it to 165 degrees or something more like 140 degrees? Also, is it okay to precook a large batch of chicken and put in the fridge for a day or two? If so, do I need to pre-heat it before adding, or just heat it in the curry?
Thank you for saying. I’m glad you like it.
Good for you for asking about internal temperatures. I would go for somewhere around 140-150F or so for the chicken tikka in the first step (where you first fry the chicken) and then take it to your target (165-170F) when you simmer the chicken in the curry.
You certainly can pre-cook the chicken and store it in the fridge for a day. I do find the taste of cooked chicken deteriorates pretty quickly so I don’t think I would push it past one day though. Again, just make sure you take the chicken to your final target temperature when cooking the curry.
Stupid question maybe, but I see oz used, when is it ounces (weight) and when is it fluid ounces ? Or do you always use it as weight?
Not stupid at all. Solids are weighed, liquids are fluid.
Will try making it this weekend. I will, however, use about 2 kg of bone-in chicken instead. Should I make four times as much of everything else in the recipe then, or will that be too much? Since I have so much more meat than you have in the recipe, I think I need to up everything… but I don’t know exactly how much.
Tricky. This is a recipe that is designed to make 300g of chicken worth of curry. The technique is all about doing the way a restaurant does it. If you want to make 2kg of bone-in chicken I think the best way to approach this is to make 4 batches in a row and keep them warm until service.
I hate to do this but I don’t think this is the right recipe for you if you want to make all 2kg of chicken at once. I really don’t think it will work out well for you and I would rather send you elsewhere than have you fail…
Just made this, it smelt too strong when I added spices but turned out perfectly! Will be trying some of the other recipes soon. I can imagine that once I’ve done a bit of bulk prep these recipes will actually be super easy to put together.
Glad you liked it. Now that you have all the prep done you are set up to really start cranking out the curries quickly!
This sounds and looks superb. I have been looking for a really good butter chicken recipe and I know I’ve found it. Thank you.
You are very welcome. Hope you like it!
Very good recipe. The curry base is time consuming to make but worth the effort. I have made this twice. Second time was better as I took more time to camarelize the tomato paste and curry base. Only substitution I made was replacing the ground almonds by cashew paste.
Timing is everything when you cook in the restaurant style. Great to hear you are comfortable enough to go for the caramelization. It really makes a difference. Hope you try a few other of the restaurant curries here.
Cashew paste is an ingredient you will never see in any of my recipes sadly. I am quite allergic to cashews and pistachios for some strange reason. No other nuts I am aware of…
This is the second recipe of yours I have tried (bombay aloo was the other), I echo the above remark about your recipes requiring abit more work, i enjoy that also.
Love the curry sauce recipe I was always unsure of the spices to add this recipe has solved that problem. I’m prepped and ready to get this Butter Chicken made, sure it’ll be as good as the potatoes.
Glad it’s working out for you. I know my recipes are a bit more demanding than some but I find you get out what you put in. It’s always flavour first around here:-)
I have not bought Butter Chicken since I found this recipe! It is SO GOOD and it’s a perfect weekday meal as it is quick and easy to put together after a long day at work. I followed all the instructions and have everything premade so it’s a simple cook and serve. Thank you for sharing your delicious recipes!!
Yes! So glad you get it. Thank you for that! No reason you can’t make this any weeknight. You just need to be ready.
I am obsessed with your Indian recipes! One question… why do you use oil instead of ghee?
That’s great to hear. Thank you for saying.
I find ghee blunts the flavour of the curries more than I would like. Adds a nice richness sometimes though. It’s really a tradeoff. I guess I fall on the side of oil.
Superb! Our children loved it.
Great to hear. Your children have taste:-)
I was looking for a good butter chicken recipe that I could trust and I ended up here. Your recipe looks like a little more work than most of the ones I have seen which is what I like. The recipe is nicely detailed and proves you know what you are talking about. Thank you for sharing and love your blog!
Thanks Andrew! It is work to make the curry base and learn the techniques but it does open up a whole world of restaurant style Indian cooking.
Made this the other night for dinner along with all the auxiliary condiments this calls for and it was fantastic.. Now that I have bags of curry base in the freezer, I’ll have to try some of your other recipes that call for it.. Here in the US, what type of green chili do you recommend to use? Thanks for this lesson.
That’s awesome. For green chilies I get (in Canada) green finger hot chilies. They are available at pretty much any Indian grocer. You could substitute jalapeño for any dish that calls for green chilies. They are quite a bit thicker walled though so maybe smaller pieces?
Great recipe,Romain! Love a good Butter Chicken!
It’s a grown-up take on a classic.
Looks fantastic, I’ll have to try. Thank you. The curry base is not included in the ingredients list. Looks like there is a total of 9 oz. of curry base needed here?
Apologies. I somehow left out the curry base in the ingredients. I’ve corrected it now. You need 15 oz curry base in all. The recipe link is in the notes. You can find it here as well.
The best butter chicken that I have ever tried…full stop!
Thank you! Full stop:-)