Butter Chicken- Better Than Takeaway

I have tried cooking Butter Chicken so many ways… there are numerous recipes out there for one of the most popular curries across the world.  From the founder of the dish, Kundan Lal of the iconic Moti Mahal in Delhi, to chefs and home cooks, there are many twists and turns but I always come back to this version, my version of garam masala (without the overpowering notes of black cardamom) and the humble Fiji masala.  To me there is nothing better than aromatic, golden chicken pieces with slightly burnt edges, smeared in a creamy orange hued sauce – lots of sauce that can be scooped with rice or dunked into with naan or roti – any flat bread, really.

It’s a dish that tempts you dip your fingers and lick every drop of the creamy, slighty spicy, slightly sweet, luscious sauce.

Now, most good things take time and this dish is no different.  The hard work really is in the prep.   I like to start this dish the night before.   If you are short on time however, try and marinate the chicken pieces for at least 2 hours.

I only ever use skinless chicken thighs.  The meat goes through a double cooking process, firstly being grilled until the edges catch and become charred  and then secondly, dunked in the creamy tomatoey sauce.  Using dark meat (thighs) just ensures succulent, tender pieces of chicken.

Once the chicken is marinated, you are free to pre make the sauce and keep it in the fridge till you are ready to use the next day or cook everything the next day; as you wish.   I use both options, depending on how busy I am and both works really well.

For a dish that was made by “chance”, by mixing leftover Tandoori chicken in a tomato, cream and butter gravy; it sure has won many many hearts across the globe, from young children and even those who tread cautiously around other Indian dishes.

Butter Chicken

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 6 People


Chicken Marinade

  • 800 g boneless and skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 11/2 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs minced ginger
  • 2 tspn Fiji garam masala
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • 1 tspn ground cumin
  • 1 tspn chili powder
  • 1 tspn salt


  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 green cardamom
  • 11/2 Tbs garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbs Fiji masala
  • 400 g crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2  tspn red chili powder 
  • 2 Tbs water
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup of cream 
  • 11/2 Tbs honey


  • Combine chicken with all of the ingredients for the chicken marinade; mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • On high heat grill chicken until the edges have charred slightly.  Set aside
  • Heat butter and oil together. Fry the onions for approx. 6 minutes with a pinch of salt until the onions start to brown.  Stir and scrape up any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan
  • Add garlic, ginger and cardamom.  Sauté for 1 minute until fragrant, then add masala and cook for a further 30 seconds until fragrant, all the while stirring.
  • Add crushed tomatoes,chili powder and salt. Cook on med-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and changes colour slightly.
  • Remove from heat.   Add the cooked tomato mixture along with water into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Using a large sieve, strain the tomato puree, using the back of a spoon to push as much of the puree through.  Discard any solids
  • On medium low heat, add the strained sauce back into the pan. Pour the cream, add honey and the chicken with any juices back into the pan and cook for an additional 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and bubbling.  Taste and adjust salt and honey as desired.


serve with rice or any flat bread
Hint:   Substitute cream with evaporated milk for a lighter, healthier version.
             To make a vegetarian version, substitute the chicken with mushrooms.
             Use any leftovers as a pie filling.
Optional:  Add ½ tspn of kasoori methi
You can buy Fiji masala  and Fiji garam masala from:    www.talesofindia.com.au