What is butter chicken?
Butter chicken is one of the most internationally famous Indian dishes. It is basically morsels of chicken, usually kebabs, that are then simmered in a tomato and cream based gravy. Butter chicken is obviously made with a lot of butter. The high dairy content in this dish makes it a very rich dish suited for special occasions. If you want to make a homestyle butter chicken then you can directly add boneless, uncooked chicken to the gravy and slow-cook it.
Now there are different versions of a restaurant-style butter chicken. The one I am sharing today is what you would get in a North Indian restaurant. For the meat, I use chicken drumsticks to make tandoori first, because that’s how it is traditionally done, but you can use boneless chicken, too. I do not use onions in the sauce because that overpowers the butter, but some recipes do.
How to make butter chicken?
- You can make butter chicken with either tandoori chicken or a quick kebab that you can make with boneless chicken in 30 minutes. Follow the chicken tandoori recipe in the recipe card for detailed instruction. To make a quick boneless kebab, use boneless chicken thighs. Cut them into bite-size pieces and marinate with yogurt, chili powder, salt, coriander powder, turmeric powder (optional), black pepper powder, garlic and ginger paste, garam masala powder, chaat masala powder, dried fenugreek, lime juice, oil, and cheese (optional). You can also add some red food color. Marinate the chicken for 45 minutes and then broil at high setting for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Green tip: Instead of using metal sheet pans and lining them with aluminum foils or parchment paper, use a ceramic or oven-proof glass tray.
- Blanch tomatoes, peel and make into a puree.
- Heat butter in a pan, add cardamoms, bay leaf, garlic, green chilies. Once they start to splutter, add pureed tomatoes and tomato paste. Adjust salt and cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes.
- Add fresh cream, honey, and dried fenugreek. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat.
Restaurant-Style Butter Chicken
For the sauce
- 8 medium tomatoes
- 3 tbsp butter/oil
- 2-3 cardamoms
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 8-10 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 green chili chopped
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- a few drops of orange food color optional
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- salt to taste
- 1 tsp honey/sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh cream
- 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves crushed
For the chicken
- For this recipe, the chicken needs to be cooked separately like a tandoori before adding it to the sauce. You can cook the tandoori chicken with bones in the sauce, but I like butter chicken boneless, so I separate the meat from the bones before adding it to the sauce. If you want to use boneless chicken for the recipe, instead of going through the trouble of making tandoori chicken, then just make the yogurt marinade (which is the second tandoori chicken marinade), marinate the chicken pieces, and broil for 16-20 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Here is a video:
For the Sauce
- Broil the tomatoes at the highest temperature possible for 10-12 minutes, or until the skin starts to split and blister. Let them cool down. Then peel the skins. Alternately, you can immerse the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or hold them over an open gas flame to peel the skin. But charring the tomatoes a little gives it a much better taste.
- Puree the tomatoes using a little water.
- Heat butter over medium heat in a non-stick pan.
- Add cardamom and bay leaves and wait until they start spluttering (30 secs).
- Add garlic and chopped green chilies and saute for 30 more seconds.
- Add the tomato puree and tomato paste and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until the butter/oil has separated (13-15 mins).
- Add chili powder, salt and sugar/honey, and food color; give it a stir and let simmer for 2 more minutes.
- Add the tandoori chicken pieces and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
- Reduce heat, add cream and dried fenugreek and let simmer for 2-3 more minutes.
- Adjust seasoning before removing from heat.
- Garnish with a drizzle of fresh cream and cilantro/coriander leaves (optional).
- Serve with naan, pita, or rice.