Indian Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice

Indian, Main Dish, Poultry, Quick Meals, Rice | 62 comments

A few years ago I had not even heard of Indian Butter Chicken. Was I living on some other planet? It kind of seems that must have been the case.I had this dish for the very first time, our last night living in college town. My aunt and uncle made it for us and after a week of packing and cleaning with a 2 month old baby, I thought that it was the best thing I had ever eaten.



The next morning we headed out to Albuquerque, our home for the past 4 years. Eric was done with his Master’s degree and we were ready to move on to a job and a real life. I love our life here in Albuquerque. I am so grateful we are employed, and have been consistently since leaving college town, but I remember that last night and this meal so well because there were so many emotions going on. I was sad to leave my comfort zone and sad to leave family members I love behind. Add to that a mix of post-pregnancy hormones and you’ve really got something going on.



I have often made Indian Butter Chicken since that night. It’s still a favorite of ours, proving that it wasn’t my sleep-deprived-stressed-out-post-pregnancy perception about this dish being one of the best things I’d eaten.I’ve never had authentic Indian restaurant Butter Chicken so I can’t compare it to that, but I do know I love this recipe. I love the people who taught it to me and I miss them all the time.

Indian Butter Chicken
with Basmati Rice
adapted from Sunset

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  • 1 onion (1/2 lb.), peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter
  • 2 cups basmati rice, uncooked
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook rice according to package instructions.

In a large saute pan, combine onion, ginger, chili, and oil. Stir often over medium-high heat until onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, garam masala, chili powder, cardamom, and coriander. Saute for an additional 2 minutes.

Scrape mixture into a blender or food processor; add tomato paste and chicken broth. Whirl until very smooth. Pour mixture back into pan, add half and half or cream and crushed bay leaves, and bring to a gentle boil over high heat (mixture is inclined to spatter). Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until reduced to 3 cups, about 5-7 minutes. Pour sauce into a bowl. Rinse and dry pan.

Pat the chicken dry. Mix chicken with salt and pepper. Set pan over high heat; add 1 tablespoon butter and the chicken. Stir until chicken is no longer pink on the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sauce and simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until chicken is no longer pink in the center (cut to test), 3 to 4 minutes. Cut remaining 3 tablespoons butter into chunks and stir into sauce until melted.

Spoon chicken and sauce onto rice. Squeeze lime juice over portions and garnish with cilantro.

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    MeetaK - February 19, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    awesome katie. i always enjoy a good butter chicken. funny thing is in my family it was never made at home but rather a dish we enjoyed at restaurants. i broke that tradition LOL and make it often at home. there's a nice recipe on my blog too, which you might enjoy.


  • 2
    Tasty Eats At Home - February 19, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

    I don't think I've ever had butter chicken too. I've had something similar though – I'm totally in love with the flavor combos here.


  • 3
    Cate - February 19, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    This looks SO yummy…I love Indian food, tomato cream sauces, Basmati rice, and basically every other ingredient in this recipe. Must try it soon!


  • 4
    Kate @ Savour Fare - February 19, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

    OK, I've never heard of Indian butter chicken (is it the same thing as Chicken Korma? It looks kind of like Tikka Masala. And it looks fantastic.)Definitely going on my list.:)


  • 5
    Vanillastrawberryspringfields - February 19, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

    OH i love butter chicken and make it many a times for many a party and am asked to make it too for friends and yeah i too love it with basmati rice or plain rotis with loads of onion ,lemon salad and indian dahi….Love ur pics so so so much…love ur set of measuring spoons ,can i ask ya from where u got 'em or what brand they are…very neat and cute too!!!!


  • 6
    marla {family fresh cooking} - February 19, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

    There is nothing here that I wouldn't like. Butter, what more do you have to say? I have never had this dish in a restaurant either. From the sound of it, the homemade one is probably a lot better. Gosh, this must have been extra tasty with sleepless nights and a newborn. I was soooo hungry back then!!


  • 7
    Memória - February 19, 2010 @ 9:33 pm

    I've been wanting to make butter chicken for the longest time. I find it interesting that you didn't use fenugreek leaves and cashew paste, which are usually requisite ingredients in this dish (I had to make a special trip to get those ingredients, so I remember that all too well haha). Anyway, your dish looks amazing. I love the dish you used for the photos.


  • 8
    David - February 20, 2010 @ 12:45 am

    Looks very tasty, I haven't made Indian food in awhile, might be the nudge I need!


  • 9
    Andrea - February 20, 2010 @ 3:18 am

    This looks great! Thanks for sharing. I just found your blog… I love it! I will check back often. I also like your photos! I'll try this recipe and I'll be sure to check back with you after I make it. Thanks!


  • 10
    Jessie - February 20, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    wonderful dish! I'm normally not crazy about Indian food but this looks delicious!


  • 11
    keli.h - February 20, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    that looks so delicious!! i love that your recipes are recipes that i could actually see myself making. and not totally screwing up. ;)


  • 12
    Su-yin - February 20, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

    This looks amazing, definitely something I'm going to make. I just discovered your blog through twitter and #FF, and am loving it already! Gorgeous photography. :)


  • 13
    Chau - February 20, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

    I tried this today for lunch! we both liked it. I didn't have garam masala or cardamom so I just kinda winged it. Very soupy because i used skim milk instead of cream and didn't really simmer down for thickness. Otherwise, we had it with brown rice and asparagus on the side. Very yummy flavorful meal.


  • 14
    Georgia.Pellegrini - February 20, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

    This is my favorite indian dish but I have always been too scared to try it myself, lest it loose its authenticity. But this looks perfect!


  • 15
    my spatula - February 21, 2010 @ 3:30 am

    this looks so amazing. i'm such a huge fan of indian food…and this looks as good as it gets.


  • 16
    Kevin - February 21, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    That looks really good!


  • 17
    Colleen - February 21, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

    this was so good – thanks for sharing. I subbed in plain fat free yogurt for the cream, so I kept the thickness and flavour without the extra calories and fat.


  • 18
    James - February 23, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

    Sounds authentic as far as I can tell. thanks for sharing- full fat and all. (much tastier IMO)


  • 19
    Megan - February 24, 2010 @ 1:00 am

    This sounds so delicious and hearty-what a perfect meal to make during these chilly winter nights!


  • 20
    Leesh - February 25, 2010 @ 2:46 am

    Talk about a hit! After making a few Indian dishes last week, I was feeling a bit discouraged at my ability to dip my feet into the cuisine, but you've given me new hope for which I am grateful. Just had to give you a shout out here and on my blog!


  • 21
    Keep it cookin - February 25, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

    This is an amazing recipe… I have never heard of it before. I made it and reviewed it on my blog, I also linked back to you. Your pictures are amazing and inspiring.


  • 22
    HoneyB - March 09, 2010 @ 1:29 am

    What I would give to have Grumpy be willing to eat Indian food! This looks soooo good!


  • 23
    Sippity Sup - March 09, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

    This looks wonderful, for some (dumb) reason I only eat Indian at restaurants. But the blogosphere is teaching me I can do Indian at home! GREG


  • 24
    Soma - March 16, 2010 @ 3:12 am

    One awesome recipe for sure! Try using fenugreek seeds and Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) while making this for an authentic flavor.


  • 25
    Rachel - March 27, 2010 @ 12:07 am

    I LOVE Indian Butter Chicken! NOM.Thank you for reminding!


  • 26
    Kylee - September 05, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

    OMG – just made this today. Needed a tasty make ahead dinner for the husband this week, and decided to make him a batch of this.

    I doubled up on the chilli powder, and dumped a PILE of cilantro in at the end – so so so so good.

    It was supposed to be in the fridge….. for the husband….. but I tasted it, and we ate it for lunch!

    GREAT recipe. Thanks for posting!!!!


  • 27
    Shannon - September 29, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

    Is the final product spicy? I’d love to make this (hubby & I LOVE butter chicken) but the girls don’t handle a lot of spice well. Thanks!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — September 29th, 2010 @ 8:57 PM

      I am sensitive to spice and I don’t consider this spicy. It just tastes rich with flavor, if that makes sense. If you are concerned you could take out the jalapeno without side affect to the flavor of the dish. I’ve made it without before when I didn’t have it.

  • 28
    BethG - September 30, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    I have a bag of cardamom pods from the first (& only) time I made Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken). The recipe called for threading the pods together for ease of removal post-cooking. It also used plain yogurt instead of cream. I have a taste for butter chicken again now! Yum!!!


  • 29
    MelissaK - December 14, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

    This recipe looks fabulous! I can’t wait to try it out, as I’ve been on a huge Indian kick lately! Quick question, the little spice jars in the first photo are adorable – I’ve been searching unsuccessfully to find something like this. Would you mind sharing your source? Thanks! :)


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — December 14th, 2010 @ 6:14 PM

      Got them at Cost Plus World Market. Enjoy! :)

  • 30
    Katie - December 24, 2010 @ 7:20 am

    I’ve been dying to try this, but where on earth can I find the garam masala and cardamom?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — December 24th, 2010 @ 8:30 AM

      I’ve purchased both at my regular grocery store. I shop at Smith’s (Kroger). It was in the McCormick section of the spice isle.

  • 31
    Mrs. Jen B - January 21, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    Ohh looks fabulous! And although it is very much like tikka masala, there are enough subtle differences in seasoning/texture that would make for a different taste. Plus, well…butter. ‘Nuff said. I know my husband will want to try this!


  • 32
    Nicole - February 09, 2011 @ 6:29 pm

    The ingredient list is almost identical to my Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, but with half the effort. I will definitely keep this one in mind for weeknights.


  • 33
    Janet - February 09, 2011 @ 6:40 pm

    This sounds fab! I’ve never had it before, but after seeing your drool worthy photos, it’s a recipe soon to grace my table. Thanks!


  • 34
    Sara{OneTribeGourmet} - February 09, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

    Wow, this butter chicken dish looks absolutely scrumptious!!! Love the pics too!


  • 35
    Alecia - February 11, 2011 @ 9:14 am

    This was a delicious recipe and loved by my hubby. It’s in the rotation!!


  • 36
    Jane C. - February 15, 2011 @ 3:29 am

    Used StumbleUpon and ‘liked’ your entry on Butter Chicken + Basmati rice! (link: http://www.goodlifeeats.com/2010/02/indian-butter-chicken-with-basmati-rice.html)


  • 37
    Michelle M. - February 25, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

    This was so delicious! I cooked it last week and my husband is already asking when we’ll have it again. Thanks!


  • 38
    Vanessa - March 29, 2011 @ 7:54 am

    Hmmm… i have had this before and didn’t know that it was called Indian Butter Chicken. I had a neighbor who was Indian and she would always knock on my door for random stuff like an egg, a cup of sugar, etc. So one day, she comes knocking at my door for this tasty chicken meal that my husband and I devoured. Just looking at the recipe reminded me of the flavors that were in the dish my neighbor brought to me. :) I can’t wait to try this!!! :)


  • 39
    Stacey - May 24, 2011 @ 7:33 am

    Thanks so much for the great recipe! I have never had this before, so I decided to make it last night for dinner. I was a little hesitant as my husband is not terribly adventurous and I do have 1 picky child. But everybody was happy and ate it! Next time I will have to try making the bread to go with it!


  • 40
    New Orleans Honey - June 09, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

    I had never heard of your blog till Jamie(my baking addiction) mentioned it. I am so glad to find another recipe /food blog. The pics make it all the better. Thanks for this recipe my granddaughter is getting ready to move into her first house and needs lots of fast ,easy recipes.And best yet, her boyfriend is Indian.I will be checking in regularly.do you have any crockpot recipes.She goes to school and works 2 jobs. Time to cook is short.Thank you.


  • 41
    Hilary @ KatrinkaJane - January 09, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    Thanks for this! We’ve made it in the crockpot (courtesy of crockpot365.blogspot.com) but never “normally”. Reminds me to make it again! :D
    Albuquerque? Have you ever eaten at Monroe’s, on Osuna or Lomas? My aunt Kathy and uncle Miguel own them! My grandparents and other aunt and uncle are out there too. :)


  • 42
    Willow - January 13, 2012 @ 8:43 am

    May I ask, did you make it in the same pan that you display it in? I’ve seen these pans at Cost Plus and wondered how they worked because they look almost too pretty to cook in.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — January 13th, 2012 @ 8:47 AM

      The pan is from Cost Plus, but I did not prepare it in the pan just served it in the pan. They are small, about the size of a soup bowl.

  • 43
    Jennifer - February 16, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

    Thanks for your recipe. I marinated my chicken in yogurt w/ginger & garlic for a couple of hours first; and subbed cumin, coriander, and extra spices for the chili powder. Oh and an extra jalepeno & cardomom because we love them. Otherwise, I stayed pretty true to your recipe (a marvel for me). Very good, and pretty easy and quick. Kids said I’m a great Indian cook ;) . Thanks again for sharing and for the beautiful site!


  • 44
    Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) - February 25, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

    I make a similar recipe to yours. One of the differences is that I add ground up cashews to the dish at the end to thicken it up. I cannot wait to try your version. Indian Butter Chicken is one of my favorite meals ever!


  • 45
    Mother of a 5 year old - May 27, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

    I made this today. I am Indian and I must say this is THE best butter chicken recipe out there. It was DELICIOUS! I made very small modifications but generally stuck to the instructions. It’s as good as the restaurants. I have been looking for a good BC recipe for some time and I finally found it. My picky daughter just LOVED IT and thanked me a couple of times for making a “really tasty” dinner. Its ironic how I found the best BC recipe from a non-Indian website! LOL! Thank You!!


  • 46
    Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy - September 28, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

    I make this, but with yoghurt instead of cream :)


  • 47
    rose - October 07, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

    Made this tonight and it turned out great! Thanks!


  • 48
    Brittany - January 14, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

    I’m SURE this has got to be AMAZING because I tried making this just now with about 1/3 of the ingredients and it is SO GOOD! I don’t know if I’ve been able to actually make something that tasted so good. I tried to stick to the recipe and use the amounts listed. I mostly just didn’t have all the spices and, unfortunetly, no cream available. -still yummy. I hope to make it with EVERYTHING sometime!!


  • 49
    Yumi LaMarr - January 26, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

    I just made this for dinner and we loved it! My husband could not stop “mmmm”ing throughout the entire meal! Neither of us have had it before but we will definitely be having it regularly now. Thanks for the recipe! I’m excited to see what other amazing recipes you share on the blog. By the way, I don’t know if you’ll remember me from Houston… Does Bankhead ring a bell? :)


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — January 28th, 2014 @ 10:54 AM

      Yumi! Of course I remember your family. :) It is good to hear from you and I’m glad you liked the recipe.

  • 50
    Rachel Devitt - April 15, 2014 @ 5:34 pm

    Hi Katie,

    This looks amazing and hope to be able to make it!
    I have a question though; is this recipe able to be made without using cream and tomato paste? I am allergic to dairy and have an intolerance to tomatoes, do you think coconut milk would work as an alternative to the cream? and is tomato paste necessary?

    Hope to hear a reply! Thanks :)


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — April 15th, 2014 @ 5:43 PM

      I can’t say that I’ve ever tried to make this with those limitations. Are there any non-dairy cream alternatives? I don’t think the taste of coconut milk would do well even if it was unsweetened. If you could find something thick like heavy cream but without a taste that would distract from the recipe then that would help but I don’t know about leaving the tomato paste out. Sorry I’m not more help with this. Let me know if you try anything and how it works.

  • 51
    Valerie Dennis - June 23, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

    ABSOLUTELY wonderful. I saw this and thought hey, this might help get us out of a rut. OMG did it ever. I am so glad I doubled this. Thank you for sharing.



  • 52
    flora - September 20, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

    Looks wonderful. For how many people is this recipe?


  • 53
    Katie - July 01, 2015 @ 6:52 pm

    You may not read this since this is an older post but I’ve now made this at least 4 or 5 times and we LOVE it! It’s become a total staple in our house. Thanks for this recipe!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie Goodman replied: — July 3rd, 2015 @ 11:05 AM

      So glad you love it! Thanks for sharing :)

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