This butter chicken recipe has become a family favorite. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you it's better than what most Indian restaurants serve. I use a SECRET INGREDIENT that's essential to deliver that quintessential Indian flavor.
If you're a butter chicken fan, you'll want to bookmark this recipe. You won't be disappointed.
I love it when we develop one of these recipes that tastes better than what restaurants serve, especially when it's a dish we love.
The cost savings are huge.
For example, this recipe makes 6 servings at a total cost of about $15.
Can you imagine what the cost of 6 servings at a restaurant would be? Easily a $100 or more. That's not even considering the drinks, taxes, tip...
And the kicker is, this recipe is better!
We have a funny saying each time we perfect an amazing, restaurant-inspired recipe:
"Well, you ruined
[insert restaurant name here]
We'll never be eating there again."
And don't go thinking that butter chicken is too complicated or difficult to make. It's not!
I'll show you how to prepare everything in advance (mise en place), so that when it's "go-time", everything is ready and at your fingertips.
And it comes together fast: from prepping to eating in about an hour.
I know, I know, this is all fine and dandy, but...
What is that secret ingredient?
Have you ever noticed when you're eating Indian food that there is a unique, subtle flavor in the background? It's hard to put your finger on what it is...until now.
What you are tasting is a spice called Asafetida.
What is asafetida?
Asafetida (also spelled asafoetida) is known for its funky, umami-packed flavors and strong aroma.
The spice is a resin extracted from ferula root, a relative of celery and carrot.
This spice is critical to the distinctive, complex flavor of many Indian dishes.
If you've ever tried to replicate your favorite Indian dishes and just felt like it was missing something, that something was most likely asafetida.
So yeah...you need to get your hands on this spice if you want to take your Indian dishes to the next level.
What Asafetida is NOT
Many folks think this is a salt or something similar to MSG (monosodium glutamate)...NOPE!
It contains no sodium whatsoever.
Can I omit asafetida from this recipe?
Yes, the butter chicken will still taste great because of the amazing spices and rich sauce—but it would be even better and more authentic with the asafetida.
TIP: store your asafetida in an airtight container. You don't want its pungent aroma to spread into your other spices.
Want more info on asafetida? Read this post from Bon Appétit.
Ingredients needed for butter chicken
|Chicken Thighs||Asafetida||Tomato Paste|
|Plain Yogurt||Garam Masala||Chicken Stock|
|Thai chilies||Turmeric||Heavy Cream|
How to make butter chicken
First, prep the chicken
This recipe uses 1 ½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 in total). Boneless, skinless breasts will also work, but thighs are best in terms of overall flavor and juiciness.
Place the chicken on a cooling rack placed inside a foil lined baking sheet (this makes for easy clean up).
Salt both sides of the chicken with 1.5 teaspoon kosher salt.
If you have the time, let the chicken dry brine uncovered in your fridge for 2 hours up to overnight.
Once salted, add them to a large bowl with a ½ cup of plain yogurt.
Use tongs or some cheap disposable gloves to work the yogurt around each piece of chicken until fully coated.
If you have time, you can let the chicken marinate in the fridge, covered, up to 24 hours.
Next, place the yogurt-coated chicken back onto the cooling rack.
Let them rest at room temperature until you're ready to cook, which will be in about 15 minutes.
The yogurt helps the chicken to get a nice char during the cook. If you can marinate it for a few hours first, it also tenderizes the meat!
Prep the ingredients for the sauce
Making the butter chicken sauce involves a lot of ingredients that you add at different times. Don't worry: we've got your back.
Here's our set-up (I numbered the bowls below for easy reference):
# 1 - Butter (5 Tbsp, divided)
# 2 - Onion and chili
One diced yellow onion and one finely minced fresh red Thai hot chili.
This is not a spicy dish, but the chili adds great flavor with just a hint of heat. Feel free to omit the chili if you prefer.
#3 - Fresh ginger & garlic, finely minced (4 teaspoon each)
#4 - Main spice mix
|1 Tbsp||Garam Masala|
|2 tsp||Fenugreek Leaves|
|1 tsp||Coriander, ground|
|½ tsp||Asafetida (that secret Ingredient!)|
|½ tsp||Cumin, ground|
|½ tsp||Black Pepper, fine|
#5 - Liquid mixture
|¾ Cup||Chicken Broth|
|6 ounces||Tomato Paste|
|1 tsp||Salt, kosher|
#6 - Heavy Cream (1 Cup)
This is also called "double cream," particularly in the UK.
#7 - Chopped cilantro (4 Tbsp)
If you hate cilantro, substitute flat-leaf parsley.
Next, cook the chicken
Once your ingredients are all prepped, it's time to cook the chicken.
Turn your broiler to high and place the tray of yogurt-covered chicken on the second from highest rack.
Cooking yogurt marinated chicken under a hot broiler is the best way to replicate cooking in a tandoor oven.
In about 8-10 minutes, you will notice a nice char appearing on the chicken. Thank you yogurt!
Once you get the char you are looking for, flip the chicken to broil the other side.
Continue to cook this other side until the thickest part of the chicken reads 170º F on an instant read thermometer.
This will take another 8 - 10 minutes.
Once cooked, remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest at room temperature until the butter chicken sauce is ready.
Make the butter chicken sauce
First, place a large Dutch oven (or your favorite, heavy-bottomed pot) on your stove top.
Then place all your portioned out ingredient bowls on the counter next to your stove for easy access. Here is our mise en place, all ready to go:
Begin by softening the onion and pepper (bowls # 1 & # 2)
Melt 3 (of the 5) tablespoons of the butter in the Dutch oven and add the bowl of chopped onion and minced Thai pepper.
Saute over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, stirring frequently.
Add the ginger & garlic (bowl #3)
Let the ginger and garlic cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
Add the spice mix (bowl #4)
Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently, to bloom the spices and fully coat all the vegetables in the pan.
Add the liquid mixture (bowl #5)
Add the water and broth mixture and whisk until everything is thoroughly combined and there are no lumps from the tomato paste.
Bring this to a bubbling simmer.
Add the heavy cream (bowl #6)
Once the pot achieves a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and add the heavy cream.
Whisk to thoroughly combine.
Blend the sauce
With the pot still off the heat, blend the sauce for 30 seconds or until you get the consistency you want. Always be careful blending hot liquids!
NOTE: you can make the sauce in advance and simply refrigerate until you're ready to finish the dish, up to 3 days.
Add butter and cilantro
Return the pot of sauce back to the stove top and set the burner to medium-low, bringing the sauce to a slow simmer.
Add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, mix to combine.
Add the chicken
Remove the rested chicken to a cutting board and chop in into ~¾ inch (bite size) pieces.
Now add the chopped chicken to the butter chicken sauce.
Simmer the sauce for a minimum of 5 minutes to fully warm through the chicken.
And finally, serve!
To finish it off, add a sprinkling of chopped cilantro (and/or sliced scallions) over the top.
More awesome recipes
- Reverse Seared Ribeye
- Filet Mignon Steak with Compound Herb Butter
- Date Night Prime Rib Roast
- Beef Tenderloin with Peppercorn Sauce
That's all there is to it! Yes, a few more ingredients are involved here, but with a few prep steps in advance, you can have this on the table even on a busy weeknight!
Stay safe. Stay well.
- 1.5 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- ½ C whole plain yogurt
- 2 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 Thai red chili, minced (optional)
- 5 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided)
- 4 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 4 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoon fenugreek leaves
- 1 teaspoon coriander, ground
- ½ teaspoon asafetida
- ½ teaspoon cumin, ground
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, fine ground
- ¾ C chicken broth
- ¾ C water
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 C heavy whipping cream
- 4 teaspoon cilantro, chopped
- scallions, sliced (for garnish, optional)
PREP & COOK THE CHICKEN
- Adjust your oven rack to the second highest level and pre-heat your oven's broiler to high.
- Use 1 ½ teaspoon of salt to cover both sides of the chicken thighs; place on a wire rack set inside a foil-lined baking sheet. (See recipe note #1)
- Add the salted chicken to a large bowl with the yogurt and mix to thoroughly coat the chicken. (See recipe note #2)
- Place the yogurt coated chicken back onto the cooling rack.
- Place the pan of chicken in the oven and broil on high for about 8-12 minutes or until a nice char has formed.
- Remove the pan and flip the chicken. Broil the other side until the thickest part of the chicken registers 170º F, 6-10 additional minutes.
- Remove and rest the chicken until the sauce is ready. (See recipe note #3)
MAKE THE SAUCE
- Group the ingredients into bowls as follows. Bowl 1: butter; Bowl 2: onion and Thai chili; Bowl 3: ginger and garlic; Bowl 4: Garam Masala, turmeric, fenugreek leaves, coriander, asafetida, cumin, black pepper; Bowl 5: chicken broth, water, tomato paste, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt; Bowl 6: heavy cream; Bowl 7: chopped cilantro.
- In a large Dutch oven, add 3 tablespoon of the butter (Bowl 1), onion and Thai pepper (Bowl 2). Saute on medium high until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic (Bowl 3) and saute an additional minute, stirring frequently.
- Add garam masala, turmeric, fenugreek leaves, coriander, asafetida, cumin, and black pepper (Bowl 4). Stir frequently to fully coat the veggies and cook an additional minute.
- Add water, chicken broth, tomato paste, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt (Bowl 5). Whisk thoroughly until there are no lumps from the tomato paste.
- Once the sauce begins to simmer, remove from the heat add the heavy whipping cream (Bowl 6) and stir.
- Blend the mixture for 30 seconds, or until smooth (see recipe note #4)
- Return the blended sauce back to the pan, if necessary, and add the remaining 2 tablespoon of butter (Bowl 1) and 2 tablespoon of cilantro (Bowl 7). Bring the sauce back to a slow simmer on medium-low temperature.
- While the sauce is coming to a simmer, chop the cooked chicken into ¾ inch pieces and add them to the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the chicken to fully warm through.
- Serve with basmati rice (or jasmine rice) and warm naan bread; garnish with the remaining cilantro and sliced scallions (if using).
- OPTIONAL: You can allow the salted chicken to dry brine for at least 2 hours (up to overnight) in the fridge, uncovered.
- OPTIONAL: You can allow the chicken to marinate in the yogurt for up to 8 hours in the fridge, covered.
- Rest the chicken a minimum of 10 minutes and up to an hour at room temperature.
- WORK AHEAD: you can make the sauce in advance and refrigerate up to 3 days.
Substitution: if you don't like cilantro, use flat-leaf parsley.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 570Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 227mgSodium: 816mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gSugar: 10gProtein: 38g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!