Healthy butter chicken is a delicious Indian dish with tender chicken pieces swimming in an amazing, creamy tomato curry sauce that’s packed with spices and flavor. This easy recipe is ready in 30 minutes!
What a weekend we had!
J had a soccer game (and scored three goals), M had her first sleepover and also her horseback riding lessons. We had a friend over for a play date and my husband and I had a dinner and symphony date night out on the town. And that was all just on Friday and Saturday!
Sunday was full of grocery shopping, cooking, recipe testing and bike rides. J, who is 5, just got the hang of riding his bike without training wheels and wanted to practice, practice and practice some more. It was also so gorgeous outside that we all wanted to be out. ☀️
So while I'm a bit wiped out, I'm also feeling revived and refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead. And I'm so excited to share today's new recipe with you at last!
You guys know I love my curry dishes, especially when they’re quick, easy and on the healthier side.
I’ve shared my quick chicken curry, 20-minute coconut chicken curry and my quick and easy vegetarian curry.
Today, I’m so excited to share one of my favorite easy Indian recipes: healthy butter chicken!
I’m so in love with this dish. The aroma, the spices, the sauce, the simmering deliciousness that bubbles away and has you drooling as you wait to dive in.
It’s a classic for a reason!
First things first though.
What is butter chicken?
Butter chicken is an Indian dish of chicken in a mildly spiced tomato sauce.
It’s also called murgh makhani or chicken makhani.
Funny enough, it’s not uncommon to not actually use butter in the sauce for this butter chicken recipe.
And it's not needed. My version uses no butter, is made without any cream and you don’t miss it one bit.
(The creaminess comes from the Greek yogurt. 👍)
It’s got such a rich, creamy tomato sauce that’s begging to be spooned greedily over all of the chicken and rice on your plate.
In fact, this is slightly embarrassing, but I have actually put the sauce in a bowl and spooned it up all by itself.
See, I was doing my vegetarian month and was making this dinner for the rest of my family. So I couldn’t have the chicken. But that didn’t stop me from missing out on the sauce!
And once you smell it and taste it, you’ll know just what I mean!
Seriously scrumptious! 😍
I've also got this Instant Pot butter chicken recipe if you want to check out that version. Or try slow cooker butter chicken for a hands-off meal.
Plus, it’s really easy to make and takes just 30 minutes! (Plus some time for marinating the chicken, if you can swing it. See below.)
Dinner winner right here!
Notes on making healthy butter chicken:
- I think this tastes best when you let the chicken marinate for at least 45 minutes to an hour. If you’ve only got 30 minutes, that’s good too. If you don’t have time to marinate it at all, just mix it all together first and then start cooking. It’ll still taste great!
- Garam masala is a tasty blend of ground spices often used in Indian cooking. If you don’t have any, you can substitute curry powder.
- Like it spicy? 🌶 You can increase the amount of cayenne up to ½ teaspoon.
Oh, and I never have an issue with curdling, but milk and yogurt can curdle if it heats too quickly, or if it comes to a boil.
You may want to lower your heat or briefly remove the pan from the stove when you add the Greek yogurt in this recipe to help prevent curdling.
As for serving, we love this over steamed brown or basmati rice. You could also use cauliflower rice for a low-carb option.
I love this with peas and sometimes mix them right in with the chicken and sauce to warm them and get them all coated in the sauce. So yummy!
You could also use steamed broccoli or asparagus as a veggie side to round out this meal.
Last question to tackle, in case you have leftovers.
Can you freeze butter chicken?
Yes. I'm on team you can freeze most things, but this does freeze well. You can freeze it for up to 5-6 months in a freezer-safe ziptop bag or container.
Also, I think the sauce helps keep the chicken from drying out while reheating. You can reheat it in a pan on the stove or in the microwave.
I hope you give this a try soon - I think you’ll fall in love!
P.S. Check out all of my other 30-minute chicken recipes for more quick and easy dinner inspiration.
Easy, healthy butter chicken
Healthy butter chicken is a delicious Indian dish with tender chicken pieces swimming in an amazing, creamy tomato curry sauce!
For the marinated chicken:
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (I use non-fat)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons garam masala (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoons black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I use non-fat)
- ½ cup water
- Place the cut pieces of chicken in a bowl or tiptop plastic bag. Combine all of the marinate ingredients in a bowl and stir well. (It will be very thick.) Pour the marinate ingredients over the chicken and stir to coat all of the chicken. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours (see notes).
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil.
- Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the marinated chicken (along with all of the marinade) to the pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the yogurt and water, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, enough to maintain a steady simmer. Let cook for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and sauce is thickened.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper (it may not need any).
- Serve the chicken hot with extra sauce spooned over top.
I think this tastes best when you let the chicken marinate for at least 45 minutes to an hour. If you’ve only got 30 minutes, that’s good too. If you don’t have time to marinate it at all, just mix it all together first and then start cooking. It’ll still taste great!
Garam masala is a tasty blend of ground spices often used in Indian cooking. If you don’t have any, you can substitute curry powder.
Like it spicy? You can increase the amount of cayenne up to ½ teaspoon.
I never have an issue with curdling but milk and yogurt can curdle if they come to a boil or heat too quickly. You may want to remove your pan from the heat when you add the yogurt in this recipe to help prevent curdling.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 327Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 130mgSodium: 486mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 6gProtein: 51g
This was fantastic! I love butter chicken but usually buy the premade sauce. I was intimidated to make this from scratch, but it was easy and delicious. Definitely a do-over.
Oh I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed it Denise! Thanks so much for sharing! 😊
Hi! Really loved this and will make again. One question - mine turned out a bit more yellow than red. Has this ever happened to you and any advice? I checked carefully that I had added enough tomato paste...
The color can vary depending on the spices you use (some brands are darker than others, as well as how fresh they are changing the color slightly) and the Greek yogurt can dilute the colors a bit, so those factors may have been the reason for a lighter color. Hope that helps!
Hi can I substitute yogurt with sour cream and I haven’t got turmeric does that matter?
Hi Rachelle! Yes, you can definitely use sour cream instead of Greek yogurt. And while the turmeric adds some flavor, I'm sure it'll be fine without it if you don't have any. Would love to hear if you try it!
Tried it with sour cream and it was really lovely I managed to add turmeric so worked out well can recommend it as a substitute for yoghurt
First time cooking butter chicken from scratch and this was the best most flavoursome butter chicken I've ever eatten.
I did change up the bulk ingredients a little. Only used half the amount of chicken and made up the bulk with eggplant and sweet potato
I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed it Matt! And I love the addition of the veggies - yum! Thanks for sharing 😊
This was delicious! I made it in the crock pot only because I needed to prep everything in the morning. About an hour before we ate I grilled the onions and then added those and the sauce to the chicken mixture. It was perfect and super easy. I think it will become a staple around here.
I'm so happy to hear you all loved it Jessica! And great to know it worked so well in the crock pot. Thanks so much for sharing! 😊
When simmering I left my lid on and it produced more liquid was I not supposed to be the lid on?
Hi Joyce! Yes, this wasn't meant to be covered with a lid. That would have kept the steam in and added extra liquid, instead of having it cook off a bit and thicken. Hope that helps!
Hey ! Thanks for the recipe, I am really not familiar with cup measurement 🙁
Could you please tell me more or less how much a cup measures in grams? Thanks a lot
Hi Hanna! I just Googled and found this article, which might be helpful for you: https://www.allrecipes.com/article/cup-to-gram-conversions/
I made this recipe exactly as it is listed and it was way way too sweet for us so I added one cup of chicken broth, doubled the yogurt, double of the lime ( we didn’t have lemon so. Used lime) double the tomato paste,double the cayenne, and added 1/2 an avacado cubed and it was amazing! However I would recommend 1/2 the brown sugar or 1/4 the brown sugar with the recipe as written. Also I served it with white rice made in the rice cooker - very very good- we love Indian food but are trying to eat healthier and loved this recipe Except 1/4 the brown sugar
I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed this Stephanie! 😊 The recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons of brown sugar total (for 2 pounds of chicken) but you can certainly reduce that if needed.
Hi - I'd really love to try this but am unfamiliar with some of the terminology i.e. 'yield'. Can I just double check how many people this recipe serves? Thank you ☺
Hi! So the yield is 6 servings, which means that it serves 6 people. Hope that helps and hope you enjoy it! 😊
Can I leave the chicken to marinate overnight? up to 24 hours? Thanks!
Hi there! Yes, I think overnight and up to 24 hours would be OK if you leave the chicken breasts whole to marinate and cut them afterwards. That's the upper limit of marinade time. (It's closer to 8-12 hours for smaller cut pieces of chicken.) Hope that helps!
Why is it not recommended to cut and marinate the chicken for 24 hours?
The acidity in the marinade, mainly from the lemon juice, could start to act on and cook the smaller pieces of chicken and break down the proteins, which leads to mushy meat.
Thank you so much for this recipe, and especially for the extra little notes! I’m just learning how to cook and cooking causes me a lot of anxiety and I always avoid it, but your instructions made it really easy for me (especially with the way you gave a heads up about things that could go wrong - not many people do that). I can’t thank you enough and I‘m so glad I found your website! 🙂
Also the recipe came out perfect. I left out some of the spices, used fresh tomato instead of sauce and made it very chilli though 😛
Oh, I'm so happy to hear it was helpful - I do try hard to make sure my recipes are approachable for the home cook, which is exactly what I am myself! And I'm glad that you loved this recipe! 😊
I have tried so many butter chicken recipes. This by far the stand out. The Depth of flavour yum yum!
I substituted sour cream & chicken thighs, and let the whole lot marinade for the afternoon before tea. Thank you for this recipe definately one i want to cook fir famiky & friends.
Oh I'm so happy to hear you loved it Laura! Thanks so much for sharing! 😊
Hi! I’ve been looking for a high protein, low fat, low carb recipe and this is exactly what I need! The only thing I can’t really use is added sugar. Is that sweetness crucial to the balance of flavors? I don’t use any artificial sweeteners, I really try to avoid any sugar beyond what I naturally eat in fruit. Any suggestions? Or do you think it would be okay without the added sugar?
Hi Danielle! I think you would be fine to skip the sugar. It helps balance the acidity from the lemon juice and tomato paste, but I'm sure this would be fine without it. Would love to hear what you think!
What about adding some carrot for sweetness?
Hi there, I have made this before and it turned out great, but I was wondering what I would need to do to have more sauce? say double but not lose any of the flavor itself?
I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed this! I hear ya, the sauce is pretty fantastic so yes to more of that! I'd say you'd probably need to double the marinade ingredients and then also increase the Greek yogurt and water to get more sauce without losing any of that great flavor. I hope that helps and let me know how it goes!
This looks great! I love traditional butter chicken and can't wait to try a lightened version. I am thinking of trying this in my new Instant Pot. Do you have any experience with the Instant Pot or recommendations for adapting? I'll check back in and update on how it went!
Hi Alex! I haven't made this particular recipe in the Instant Pot, so I'm not sure what the timing would be. I think you'd want to use the saute mode to soften the onions and garlic and then add the chicken and mix everything together. You could then seal the pot and cook on high pressure for maybe 5-6 minutes? You'd need to check and make sure everything got cooked through. You may also need more liquid to ensure there's no burn notice. And I think cooking it that way would probably take longer since you'd have to wait for the pot to come to pressure, cook and then release. Would love to hear if you try it though!
Hi Alex, was wondering the same thing. How did it turn out?
While this was a tasty chicken CURRY recipe, it was NOT butter chicken. It was missing something. The tomato paste was too little and proportions off with the spices. Still, was tasty overall
Can I use pre cooked chicken... ie a rotisserie from the store?
Hi Kim! I don't think that would give you the same flavor, since we're marinating the chicken before cooking it in this recipe and that won't work with the cooked rotisserie chicken. You could certainly try it - just adding the cooked chicken at the end once the sauce is thickened - it just might not be as flavorful.
Hello! I am going to make this tonight but just checking if anyone has tried freezing the meal? Thank you 🙂
Hi Mali! I hope you enjoyed it! I have a section on freezing any leftovers in the post agove. Here's the info: ... This does freeze well. You can freeze it for up to 5-6 months in a freezer-safe ziptop bag or container.
Also, I think the sauce helps keep the chicken from drying out while reheating. You can reheat it in a pan on the stove or in the microwave.
Hope that helps!
Oh my!! This was amazing. Trying to learn to make my food from scratch so I can control what is in them. Was nervous to try out Butterchicken but this was so good. Will definitely make this one frequently during those cold winter evenings!
Oh I'm so happy to hear you loved it Lizanne! Thanks so much for sharing!
Just made this as written and loved it! I think I’ll try chicken thighs next time!
I'm so happy to hear you loved it Liz! Thanks for sharing! And yes, it is great with chicken thighs, too 😊
Can you cook the same recipe in a slow cooker?
Hi Georgina! I haven't tried it that way, so I'm not sure what adjustments might be needed. Off the top of my head, I'd probably use less water so it doesn't end up too liquidy. Not sure what else might need to be tweaked, but would love to hear if you try it!
Do you think I could use paneer/quorn chicken instead of the chicken as I am a vegetarian?
Hi, I haven't tried that substitution but if the paneer or quorn was able to marinate and take on those flavors, it might work. You may also need to adjust the cooking time. Would love to hear if you try it!
I come for the recipes, not the essay on how your day went before you decided yo cook the recipe. Just give us the goddamn recipe!
I included a few short paragraphs about "how my day went" and the rest of the post is information all about this recipe, including helpful hints and substitutions. Scrolling to the recipe card, which takes less than 5 seconds total, is always an option. Hope this week treats you better, Bob!
Lord, Bob. How do use. Go elsewhere then! No one forced you to come to this page or use the recipe.
What I meant to say, Bob, is that your comment was very rude.
This is a fantastic curry!! Thanks so much for sharing this. One question: do you have any tips to thicken the sauce a bit? I'm wary about extending the cooking time (to reduce the sauce more) in case the chicken gets dried out. Is there something I could add to the sauce instead?
I'm so happy you loved it Susannah! Agreed on not extending the cooking time (by too much at least)... I think a cornstarch slurry would help. I'd say mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl then add that to the pan to thicken the sauce. It just needs to cook for a couple of minutes to thicken and to cook the raw cornstarch flavor out so add it before the chicken is done if your sauce isn't thickening enough on its own. Hope that helps!