How to Make Butter Chicken

A few days ago I asked one of our language tutors if Indian food is hard to make. She assured me that it was easy, although I only slightly believed her. “Of course it’s easy for you, ” I thought, “You’ve been making it your whole life.” I asked her if Butter Chicken, a normal gravy dish we order when we go to Indian restaurants, was easy. Again, she assured me it would be very easy. The next week I came to class with a notebook in hand ready to write down the recipe for Butter Chicken. We first listed out all the ingredients. Only a few were new to me – like haldi (turmeric) and garlic/ginger paste. She slowly walked us through, in Hindi, the steps. We took time to write the recipe down, learning new words as we went. A couple days later I pumped myself up and went into the kitchen determined to emerge with some version of Butter Chicken. Whether or not it was going to taste good was totally up in the air. Either way, I was going to face Indian food head on. I’m pleased to announce that not only did I successfully make Butter Chicken, but that it was some of the best tasting Butter Chicken both Adam and I have ever had! I was shocked! Adam ate two whole plates full. It was possibly one of the most satisfying cooking experiences of my life. Oh…and my language tutor was right. It’s so easy! IMG_7955 Butter Chicken is a two part recipe. You first have to marinade the chicken pieces of at least an hour in the fridge. The second part is the gravy (or curry). The marinade is simple – plain yogurt, chili powder, garlic/ginger paste and some salt IMG_7959 Mix it all in a bowl IMG_7962 Add the chicken and put it in the fridge. My tutor suggested at least an hour for the chicken to marinade. I had a lot of things to do the afternoon we made this, so I made it around lunch time and it sat in the fridge all day! IMG_7964 The curry is made up of butter, tomato puree, some more garlic/ginger paste, salt, haldi (turmeric), meat masala, chili powder, cream and more yogurt. Start with butter. A lot of butter. IMG_8008 Once it has melted, add tomato puree. IMG_8015 Season with all the dry ingredients next – garlic/ginger paste (ok…not dry), salt, haldi (turmeric), meat masala and chili powder. Once that’s combined add in the chicken. IMG_8020 Mix it all together and then add more yogurt and some cream. IMG_8023You can top it with some cilantro and more cream. In the end, you’re going for this color… IMG_8027 It can be served with rice or some sort of flat bread. We had it with roti – a traditional Indian flat bread that looks a lot like a tortilla. Which brings me to the making of the roti. I’m not good at it. I’ve tired and I stink. The dough is made of this flour called Atta (probably normal flour is fine) and water. You kneed it together, form it into a nice, round ball, roll it out and then cook it on the stove. Sounds easy, right? Nope. So to ensure that we would actually be able to have Butter Chicken with roti on this particular evening, I had some help with the roti. 🙂 IMG_7965Yup…that’s us squatted on the ground kneading the dough.

IMG_7974 IMG_7986 IMG_7998

She would cook it on both sides for awhile in the pan but the real action happened straight on the flames!


Hope your Butter Chicken endeavors are as fun and successful as ours!

Butter Chicken

Chicken Marinade

2-3 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

2 spoonfuls of plain yogurt

2 tsp of garlic/ginger paste

pinch of salt

pinch of chili powder


2 Tbs (ish) of butter

1/2 a can of tomato puree (more if the color doesn’t look right)

2 tsp of garlic/ginger paste

pinch of haldi (turmeric)

pinch of salt

1 tsp of meat masala

1 tsp of chili powder

1 spoonful of plain yogurt

1-1/2 Tbs of cream

cilantro (for topping)

Cube chicken breasts. Mix together yogurt, garlic/ginger paste, salt and chili powder in a bowl. Add chicken to the marinade. Put in fridge for at least an hour. In a pan over low heat, melt butter. Add tomato puree. When mixed together add garlic/ginger paste, haldi, salt, meat masala and chili powder. When you see oil beginning to rise to the top, add in chicken. After about 5-10 minutes, mix in plain yogurt and cream. Keep on heat until chicken is cooked through. Add chopped cilantro on top (optional).

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kat says:

    I love this! Your photos are gorgeous, like a cook book. Thank you so much! How do we make ginger/garlic paste or meat masala? Thanks!

    1. Adam says:

      Yeah, ginger garlic paste and meat masala are really common off the shelf items in India that I’m not sure are super available in the US. I do know that you can get ginger paste and garlic paste in wal mart. You could probably buy both and mix them together. The meat masala’s a little trickier though. Just from the little bit I put on my finger to taste, I remember that it seemed pretty basic. It reminded me of just regular poultry seasoning. I would suggest maybe getting poultry seasoning and adding garm masala (which I’ve found at HEB before) to it. Or if you can’t find that just a little bit of yellow curray.

      Hope that helps! Good luck finding all the ingredients!

    2. Adam says:

      PS- it’s called MDH Mutton Masala if you happen to find an Indian import grocery store or something like that. (MDH is the brand.)

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