Quick and Easy Butter Chicken

Today’s recipe is a homemade version of our favorite kind of Indian takeout – butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani – a creamy, tender dish with a tomato-based cream sauce and a kick of heat.

Butter Chicken / FoodLovesWriting.com

When you Google the term, there are 58 million results (84,000 if you use quotation marks), so, we realize, it’s not like the Internet world needs another version; but then, I suppose you could make the same argument about food blog (2 billion results and counting), and, here we are, still doing that.

Tim and I attended a workshop about work this weekend, I don’t mean it was for work, but rather, literally, it was about work as a concept in itself, and while we confronted, mostly, the philosophies behind our day jobs and why we do them and how they are, in small ways, mimicking the One who brings order out of chaos and beauty out of dust, we also thought about the work we do that isn’t paid for (or paid for by much).

Butter Chicken / FoodLovesWriting.com

Cleaning the kitchen. Vacuuming the house. Organizing the bathroom pantry. Repairing the car. Updating the blog. There could be a million (or, okay, 2 billion) other people doing the same thing, but it’s still meaningful.

It’s fulfilling right in our soul – because “whenever we bring order out of chaos, whenever we draw out creative potential, whenever we elaborate and ‘unfold’ creation beyond where it was when we found it, we are following God’s pattern of creative cultural development.'” (Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor)

Butter Chicken / FoodLovesWriting.com

What’s great about butter chicken is that it’s basically gateway Indian food: There’s nothing terribly unusual about it, nothing besides the spices, perhaps, but even those (ginger? garlic? turmeric? chili powder?) aren’t all that strange.

Butter Chicken / FoodLovesWriting.com

It’s spicy, sure, but you control the heat: We tend to take an “add as we go” approach to dishes like these, adding a little hot factor at a time until we get it where we like. With that in mind, the recipe below is a guide, based on what we did, but you should feel free to adjust to your tastes.

Top down view of a quick and easy butter chicken dish in a cast iron pan.

This recipe is lightly adapted from The Iron You, where it was adapted from Mike’s friend Namrata, who adapted it from her mom, which, if nothing else, reminds me that the passing on of recipes is often a lot like the childhood game Telephone. Tender, spicy, and creamy, this dish pairs nicely with cooked grains like the tricolored quinoa we used and/or pitas or naan, either of which help scoop up all the extra sauce.

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Top view of Quick and Easy Butter Chicken in a large skillet on a rustic white washed wooden surface.

Quick and Easy Butter Chicken

  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 2 to 4 servings 1x


This butter chicken recipe, also known as murgh makhani is a creamy, tender dish with a tomato-based cream sauce and a kick of heat. Full of tomato and onion flavors and spiced up with everything in the cabinet, it’s a nice change to your ordinary bland flare.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium (533 g) onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (from about a 1-inch piece of ginger root)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated garlic (from about 2 minced garlic cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons strained tomatoes
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons full-fat yogurt
  • 1 pound of boneless chicken thighs, cubed
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Cooked rice or quinoa, for serving


  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the pan is hot, add all the chopped onions; it will be a huge mound, and you might think, woah, that’s a lot of onions, but it’s okay.
  2. Let this mixture cook 5 to 6 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent. Stir in grated gingerminced garlic, and all the spices (coriander, chili powder, turmericcayenne, salt); let this mixture sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until spices are fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes, cook another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring while mixture cooks, until everything is well incorporated and mixed together. Remove pan from heat.
  4. Transfer this mixture carefully to a Vitamix or food processor and pureé until smooth. Return to pan, turn heat to low, and add milk and chicken, stir together, and cover the pan. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until meat is cooked through.
  5. Once meat is cooked through, remove lid, lower heat, add yogurt, and let cook, uncovered, for another 10 minutes, until liquids reduce and meat softens.
  6. Taste and adjust for salt. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve with rice or quinoa (or your favorite grain).


Nutritional information does not include rice or quinoa.

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: quick, easy, butter chicken, Indian, spiced

What about you? Did you love this recipe as much as we did? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and please rate this recipe!

P.S. If you liked this recipe, you might also like many of our other Indian dishes, such as:

Photos by Shanna Mallon, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on January 19th, 2014. Last updated: December 29, 2019 at 0:49 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

38 thoughts on “Quick and Easy Butter Chicken”

  1. I’ve heard about butter chicken many times but have never made it! I have no idea why. I guess it’s just because we usually stick to chana masala when we make Indian food because it’s comfortable and easy. 🙂

    Thanks for the encouragement about the value of everyday work and life. It can be so easy to forget the purpose in it all, especially when you think about the big picture.

    • I know what you mean. The idea that our daily work can be a gift in itself, one that reflects our Creator, is huge for me.

  2. I initially popped on over because I wanted to tell you and Tim how much I have been enjoying your photos lately – if they are all taken with that new lens of yours, it was certainly a worthy investment. The shots look absolutely dreamy!

    As for ‘work’, whether it is meaningful, whether we enjoy it, whether it is actual paid work, I have been thinking about this a lot these last few days. Especially since coming across an article in Slate (http://slate.me/1fFPSqR) on that very topic and how elitist a notion it is to ‘love what you do’. Even if I don’t agree 100% with everything the author says (seemingly assuming that one cannot enjoy manual labor or the idea that turning your passion into a job is the be-all-end-all – plenty of creatives say that turning their passion into a job killed said passion), it is a great read.

    • Aw, thanks, Sophia! We are loving the new camera, as well as Lightroom, which I kind of feel like I waited waaaay too long to jump in and buy. : ) Also, I saw that same article! I didn’t agree with everything either, but I think there are definitely some nuggets of truth in there. Still thinking about them.

  3. This is what my boyfriend nearly always orders when we have Indian but I usually find it to heavy and creamy for me – love the idea of the yoghurt in this to lighten it up without losing any of that sense of luxury. Lovely.

  4. I’ve been waiting for this and didn’t even know it. Will make this week – thank you! It’s the perfect warming dish for cold winter. And yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately, too – quality over quantity.

  5. hey shanna! I’ve never made butter chicken before but I think it’s gonna be on my menu soon! plus, i loved that you paired it with quinoa! (this is one of the rare occasions that i see u mention quinoa, and it’s an ingredient I love so much! )

    sending love,

    • I don’t know, Dixya! I’ve never cooked with tofu … but I did just google Tofu Makhani and find a bunch of options. Good luck!

  6. I’ll have to make this for my husband! It looks delicious! His favorite meal that I make is PW’s chicken tikka masala, and we’d love to branch out into other dishes in that genre.

  7. I only tried butter chicken for the first time about 6 months ago (I’ve never been a big fan of Indian fare so I’ve avoided it, stupidly), but now I love it. So awesome that you posted this recipe, I’m really looking forward to making it at home! Thanks Shannon =)


    • I totally understand, Ashley-Marie, I was not on the Indian food train for most of my life… but once you realize how good it can be, there’s no going back. : )

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever had butter chicken, but I keep seeing it pop up on the internet and I keep pinning it, filing it away in my brain as a “recipe to make VERY soon.” Yours has now been added to the list!

  9. I made this tonight for dinner, and it was marvelous! We paired it with brown basmati rice with peas and homemade mango margaritas (a la our favorite Indian restaurant in town). Delicious! I am so happy to have this recipe for when a craving for an Indian meal hits. Thank you!

      • I love that your mom posts on your blog. I also wanted to drop by to say I’m making this again for us this week AND for a friend of mine who just had a baby. It’s just the type of exciting, nourishing, easy to reheat meal I think I’d want. You are my favorite.

  10. Wow! Made this tonight and it really blew us away – great complexity of flavors for such a simply made meal. It’s on the rotation now for sure. So impressed.
    I used chicken breasts, but tenderized/smashed them beforehand, used non-fat yogurt and a mix of half & half and water for the milk. It was the best Indian food I’ve made so far.
    Thank you!

  11. I’m new to cooking Indian. Love to eat it, new to cooking it myself. In the body of the recipe it calls for 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Yet in the directions there is no call for the cayenne but for cardamon. Was that an auto correct error such that the ingredients should read 1/2 tsp cardamon (ground I assume?)rather than the cayenne? Is the chili powder the same as called for in a southwestern chili recipe? Please clarify. Thank you.

    • Diedre, Yes! It should have said cayenne in the directions, so I just went and changed it now. Thanks for letting us know! And the chili powder is a type of spice they sell in the store. It’s labeled as “chili powder” right with all the other spices and stuff. I’m not sure what you mean by the chili powder in a Southwestern chili… if it’s like a package of spices, then no. If it’s the jar of chili powder, yes! : ) Hope that helps.

  12. Shanna, just dropping in to say that I’m going to give this recipe a go next week (plan ahead, much?!). I had butter chicken with a friend at an indian joint in our hood last week, and thought… “butter chicken is totally gateway indian food! Didn’t Shanna say that??” And here I see that you did… I’m determined to make Chase into an indian food lover with this! Wish me luck 🙂


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