Indian Butter Chicken

Some days are just meant for comfort food. And in my world, comfort food is a giant pot of Indian food with perfectly cooked Jasmine rice. Today’s recipe happens to be Indian butter chicken, which I will probably be eating for the next 4 meals and I’m overjoyed about it.

It’s packed with spices, which make the entire house smell INCREDIBLE. And some heat – and I’m talking generous (if I’m not sweating just a little, it’s not hot enough). But of course, that’s customizable.

Indian Butter Chicken on a white plate

How to make Indian butter chicken marinade

The first step is to make the marinade. It involves a heap of plain yogurt (not Greek), fresh lemon juice, garam masala, cumin, smoked paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and crushed red peppers flakes (or cayenne will do) plus the chicken thighs or breasts.

They hang out in there for about an hour so the chicken becomes infused with all that spice goodness. But of course, if you’re running short on time, you can shorten the marinating time and cut right to the chase.

How to make your own garam masala

To make your own garam masala, mix together:

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Bonus points if you have whole pods of the coriander, cardamom and cloves and you toast and grind them yourself. But, that’s kinda boujee and not totally necessary to make this dish completely delicious.

You can make several batches and store it in a spice jar for several months. You can use the garam masala in several amazing dishes: Chickpea Coconut Curry, Instant Pot Coconut Chicken and Curry Coconut Cauliflower Soup. YUM!

Indian Butter Chicken on a white plate

How to braise the Indian butter chicken

Once the chicken has chilled in the yogurt and spices for a bit, it’s time to cook. As I usually do, start by sauteing the onion, garlic and ginger in butter until the onions are soft and delicate. Then, stir in the next round of spices (the spices are what make this dish so freaking special) and tomato paste. This, my friends, is where the magic happens.

Adding these ingredients right into the butter while sauteing releases their oils and brings out the best in them. This is how we create depth of flavor and again, make the house smell glorious.

Then, the chicken with marinade go in as well as a can of petite diced tomatoes – or you can use fire roasted for even more flavor – and coconut milk and braise the chicken until it’s fork-tender and shreddy.

How to make fluffy Jasmine rice

When it’s ready to serve, spoon the chicken and lots of the sauce over fluffy Jasmine rice. I make the rice either in the Instant Pot or on the stove.

To make it in the Instant Pot, put 1 cup Jasmine rice, 1 1/4 cups water and a generous pinch of salt in the pot – give it a stir. Set it on seal and cook on the rice setting for 4 minutes. Let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then press cancel and release the steam. Fluff with a fork and serve.

To make it on the stove, place 1 cup rice, 2 1/4 cups water and a generous pinch of salt in a large saucepan. Stir and bring to a low simmer. Let cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water has absorbed. Remove from the heat and place a lid on the pan for a few minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Indian butter chicken in a white pot

And that’s it, my friends. Perfect Indian butter chicken and fluffy Jasmine rice.


Indian Butter Chicken

Indian Butter Chicken on a white plate

An Indian-inspired braised chicken dish with coconut milk, ginger, tomatoes and spices.

  • Author: Julie Andrews
  • Prep Time: 10-15 mins
  • Cook Time: 25-30 mins
  • Total Time: 35-50 mins
  • Yield: Serves 8 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Indian




  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • Zest and juice of ½ medium lemon (about 1 ½ Tbsp.)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala*
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken thighs or breast, cube

Butter Chicken:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup canned full fat coconut milk or cream
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

For serving:

  • 2 cups cooked Jasmine or basmati rice
  • Chopped fresh cilantro


  1. In a medium glass bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon and spices until combined. Stir in cubed chicken. Marinate for 1 hour or overnight (if you want to cook right away, you can).
  2. In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, heat butter to medium heat. Once melted, add onion and saute 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add ginger and garlic and saute 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in spices, through cinnamon. Stir in ground almonds (if using). Add chicken and yogurt mixture and stir to combine, bringing to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Bring to a simmer again, then cover with the lid and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in coconut milk or cream, allow to cook 2-3 more minutes, then stir in cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  3. Serve with Jasmine or basmati rice and top with cilantro.


Cooking Tip: Garam masala is a mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, and/or peppercorns.


  • Serving Size: 1/8 of recipe
  • Calories: 334
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Sodium: 310mg
  • Fat: 13g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 1g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 21g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 31g
  • Cholesterol: 83mg

Keywords: chicken, indian, butter chicken, garam masala, coconut milk, braised chicken

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