2 Chefs Share Their Indian Butter Chicken Recipe

Creamy and flavorful, Indian Butter Chicken is a must for any Indian food lover. An extremely popular dish in most American Indian restaurants, this combination of tender chicken and rich sauce is equally delicious with basmati rice or Indian naan. While butter chicken can take a long time to prepare, the results are deliciously satisfying and perfect for leftovers.

To help us navigate this classic dish, The Manual enlisted the help of Maneet Chauhan, Food Network star and restaurateur Gaurav Anand. With their expert advice, Butter Chicken can be a great addition to anyone’s dinner repertoire.

Butter Chicken vs. Chicken Tikka Masala

Due to the similarities between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala – both dishes feature chicken in a tomato and cream sauce – the two are often confused. However, the two dishes are different, each with its own story and flavor. Butter chicken (murgh makhani) was created in the late 1940s by chef Kundan Lal Gujral to use tandoori chicken. With an emphasis on cream and chicken cooked in the tandoor, butter chicken is essentially a dish from northern India, a region well known for its use of rich dairy-based sauces. In comparison, chicken tikka masala is said to have been invented by a Bangladeshi chief in Scotland in the 1970s. Now, chicken tikka masala is all over Britain, becoming one of the most popular dishes in the country.

Compared head to head, butter chicken is generally spicier, with a richer buttery flavor than chicken tikka masala. Generally, chicken tikka masala is made with deboned white meat versus the shredded dark meat of butter chicken (although this may depend on individual recipes). The key to a good butter chicken, besides the spice mix, is the chicken itself. The chicken should be properly marinated and cooked (preferably grilled in a tandoor oven) before being simmered with the sauce.

Butter Chicken Recipe

Moti Mahal Delux restaurant butter chicken topped with cream and chopped coriander in a metal bowl on a metal plate.
Moti Mahal Delux Butter Chicken.

the The butter chicken recipe comes from Gaurav Anand, chef and restaurateur in New York. Named “Best Caterer” in New York by NY Magazine in 2021, Anand owns the restaurants Moti Mahal Delux, Bhatti Indian Grill and Awadh. Hailing from New Delhi, Anand is a passionate voice for Indian cuisine in America.

This butter chicken recipe is complex, including two distinct marinating steps for the chicken. For the sauce, Anand emphasizes the importance of the mixture. “It’s very important to stir the sauce for the full 2 ​​minutes after cooking to release all the flavors,” Anand said. “After mixing the sauce, be sure to strain it over a saucepan to get a smooth sauce. Then add the butter, cream and chicken.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total duration: 2.5 hours

Yield: 3-4 servings


For the first chicken marinade:

  • 1.5 lb chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
  • Mustard or vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

For the second chicken marinade:

  • 0.5 cup of yogurt
  • 0.5 tsp rock salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • .5 tsp dry fenugreek
  • .5 teaspoon ground cumin

For the butter chicken sauce:

  • 4 teaspoons butter or Amul oil
  • Whole spice mix: 1 bay leaf, some black cardamom, 4 green cardamom pods, 3 dried red chillies
  • 3 large onions, peeled and chopped
  • 9 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 8 to 10 fresh green chilies, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon jeera powder red chilli powder
  • 2 teaspoons of King King spice mix
  • .5 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 3.5 tablespoons butter
  • .25 cup fresh cream
  • Fresh coriander


  1. For the chicken: marinate the chicken with the first marinade for 30 minutes and set aside.
  2. Combine the second marinade ingredients in a bowl and rub the chicken pieces; let stand at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit; place the marinated chicken on a baking sheet lined with foil; brush with oil, broil for 9 minutes – make sure the chicken comes out moist and tender.
  4. For the sauce: put the oil in a frying pan and heat it up. Add the whole spice mix and sauté for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the onions and sauté until golden.
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook for a good 20 minutes; then add the ghee and all the spices and with salt to taste.
  7. Transfer this mixture to a blender and blend for 2 minutes – you will see that the color of the sauce has changed. Strain the blended sauce over a saucepan until you have the perfect color and texture and all the masala residue is left in the sieve.
  8. Cook this sauce over medium heat, add the chicken, add the butter and heavy cream. Cook, stirring, until ingredients are incorporated and sauce thickens.
  9. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Coconut Butter Chicken

Maneet Chauhan cooks on Guy's Ranch Kitchen on Food Network.
Maneet Chauhan on Guy’s Ranch Kitchen (Food Network). maneetchauhan/Instagram

Native American chef and foodie TV personality, Maneet Chauhan is a frequent judge on Chopped and winner of the 2021 Food Network Tournament of Champions. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chauhan is an experienced chef and one of America’s most sought-after authorities on Indian cuisine. This Chauhan recipe replaces the standard cream with coconut milk, giving the dish a different flavor profile.

Preparation time: 25 minutes + 1 to 2 hours of marinade

Total duration: 2 hours

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 2 tablespoons butter/olive oil
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces (or your favorite protein, for vegetarians/vegans, cubed cauliflower or tofu can be used)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can of tomato puree (14 oz)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons tandoori masala
  • 3 tablespoons of fenugreek leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves


  1. Marinate the chicken (or a substitute) in yogurt, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and 2 teaspoons of tandoori masala. Let sit for at least an hour for the best flavor.
  2. Cook the chicken on a greased baking sheet or cook it in a sauté pan. Set aside.
  3. Heat some butter or olive oil (if you want a vegan recipe), add the onions and sauté until golden. Stir in tomato puree, garam masala, fenugreek, remaining tandoori masala and turmeric until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in coconut milk until heated through, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the chicken and cook together for a few minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

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