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Stovetop Butter Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  25 min
  • Calories: 307
homemade butter chicken recipe in a bowl served with rice and naan

The most fragrant, creamy tomato sauce envelops tender pieces of chicken in this super easy, stovetop butter chicken recipe.

Indian Comfort Food at it’s Simple, Cozy Best

Butter chicken is a modern Indian dish, originating—according to Madhur Jaffrey (and we always defer to her!)—at the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi in the 1950s. But in just a few decades, it has fast become a globally beloved dish. After one bite of the generously spiced, savory tomato-cream sauce and the tender chicken that’s cooked in it, it’s not hard to understand why butter chicken has had such a stratospheric rise from kitchen experiment to absolute staple. We’re crazy for this dish. We’ve even adapted the recipe to be made in a slow-cooker. But today, we’re focused on an equally simple way of making this dish—say hello to your beloved butter chicken, cooked quickly and easily in a skillet on the stovetop! The whole thing takes under 30 minutes to make, and (of course) only requires you to dirty one pan.

stovetop butter chicken ingredients on a counter. Heavy cream, onion, lemon juice, garam masala, chicken stock
onions, garlic, ginger cooking in a pot with olive oil
onion, ginger, garlic, butter, cinnamon, cumin, garam masala and tomato paste being stored in a soup pot with a spoon
raw chicken being added to butter chicken sauce in a large white pot.

Easy Butter Chicken Ingredients

Two of the ingredients for Indian butter chicken are probably pretty easy to guess, right? Butter—yes, butter chicken has butter in it—and chicken! But what else? Unlike many Indian recipes, butter chicken can be made quite authentically without having to hunt down any special spices! While we love an excuse to try cooking with new herbs and spices, we also love being able to easily recreate our favorite restaurant recipes at home, and butter chicken has a really approachable ingredients list for those of us who are new to making Indian food at home. Here’s everything you’ll need to make our creamy butter chicken recipe:

  • Olive oil

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Yellow onions

  • Chicken stock

  • Tomato paste

  • Cinnamon

  • Cumin

  • Garam masala

  • Turmeric

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast

  • Lemon juice

  • Heavy cream

homemade butter chicken simmering in a large white pot.
heavy cream being added to butter chicken in a large white pot
stovetop butter chicken in a large pot
homemade butter chicken in a large white pot

How to Make Butter Chicken on the Stovetop

Grab yourself about 30 minutes and your favorite skillet, and get ready to make the best butter chicken ever! We mention this tip a lot, but it’s a good one—it’ll be easier to cut that chicken into cubes if it’s just a bit frozen. So, if you can remember to pop the chicken breasts into the freezer about an hour before you start cooking, yay! If not, no biggie. Oh! And one more thing! If you’d like to make this butter chicken recipe dairy-free—or are simply looking to cut back on animal fats—you can swap coconut oil for the butter and full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream and still get a delicious version of butter chicken. Whether you use heavy cream or coconut milk, here’s how easy it is to make our stovetop butter chicken:

  1. Sauté onions, garlic and ginger for a few minutes.

  2. Stir in butter, stock, tomato paste, all of the spices—the flavorful base of the butter chicken sauce!—followed by all of the chicken pieces.

  3. Pop a lid on the pan and simmer until the chicken is done.

  4. Stir in lemon juice and heavy cream, and simmer on low for just a few minutes to let everything cohere.

  5. You’re done! We love this with plain, steamed basmati rice, and serve some warm naan on the side if you’ve got it!

butter chicken in a large pot

Tools You’ll Need

More Quick, Easy One-Pan Chicken Breast Recipes

homemade butter chicken recipe in a bowl served with rice and naan
homemade butter chicken recipe in a bowl served with rice and naan

Just a Gosh Darn Easy Butter Chicken Recipe

Who isn’t crazy about butter chicken? Fragrant, warmly spicy, ultra-creamy tomato sauce enveloping tender pieces of chicken—this comforting stovetop version of everyone’s Indian takeout fave only takes 30 minutes, and is guaranteed to yield pure weeknight dinner bliss. If you make it, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Stovetop Butter Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  25 min
  • Calories: 307

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Grated yellow onion, from one small onion
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp Grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 3/4 cup Chicken stock
  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 2 tsp Garam masala
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 2.5 lb Boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 2" cubes
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon juice
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  • Fresh cilantro for serving
  • Basmati rice for serving

Method

  1. In a large skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onions, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and garlic and ginger are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add in butter, chicken stock, tomato paste, cinnamon, salt, cumin, garam masala and turmeric. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  3. Stir in chicken and stir until coated. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Stir in lemon juice and heavy cream. Return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  5. Serve butter chicken over basmati rice topped with fresh cilantro.

Note: To make this dish dairy free use coconut oil in place of butter and full fat coconut milk in place of heavy cream.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories307
  • Protein41 g
  • Carbohydrates13 g
  • Total Fat12 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol132 mg
  • sodium241 mg
  • Total Sugars6 g

Stovetop Butter Chicken

Questions & Reviews

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  • E.

    Hi, I’d love to make this for a group, approximately 30 people. Do you have any ideas how that would work best? Is there any way I could do it in a large roasting pan in the oven??

    We've never tested in the oven, so I'm not sure how that would work. I would just get a few large pots out and cook it on the stove in large batches.

  • Megan h

    Hi! Could I sub half n half for the heavy cream? Thanks!

    We haven't tested it but it should be fine!

  • June

    Hi! was thinking of making this with boneless, skinless, chicken thighs instead of breasts... what do you think?

    Sure! Sounds yummy.

  • Joan

    I was not able to find an 8 oz. size tomato paste can, but added 2 oz of a tube tomato paste. What brand of tomato paste do you use that is the 8 oz size?

    There are a lot of brands (hunt's, Kroger, simple truth organic) that come in cans of 6 or 12 oz so you will have a little left over. SO whatever makes more financial sense we either get 2 cans that are 6 oz or one that is 12oz.

  • dan

    Weight ounces or volume ounces for the tomato paste? Normally I'd guess volume, but my tomato paste jar has weight ounces written on it...

    Weight ounces. Like an 8 oz can. Hope you enjoy Dan!

  • Cheyenne

    I loved this recipe! I made it last night and couldn't get enough of the flavorful sauce!

    Thanks Cheyenne, so glad you loved it!

  • Elizabeth

    This is delicious! I've made it several times now. I don't eat dairy so I subbed the cream with a cashew cream that I make.

    Thanks Elizabeth we are so happy you love it! Love to hear the dairy free sub works!

  • Jen

    This is a great recipe. I made it as-written this evening. It was so good we’re going to have it tomorrow night too, but with coconut oil/milk, instead of butter/heavy cream, just to taste the difference.

    Thanks Jen, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Julie Thompson

    I've been trying to duplicate the chicken tikka masala or butter chicken I get in restaurants for years and this is the closest I've come to a rich sauce with depth of flavor that doesn't just take like tomato sauce with Indian spices. So excited to have found this and it will be in our regular rotation. Bonus that it's so quick and easy!

    Thanks Julie, we are so happy that you love it!

  • Han

    Fantastic. I've probably tried at least ten different butter chicken recipes and this one is by far my favourite. I did add a pinch of brown sugar to balance. Delish!

    Thanks Han! We are so glad that you love it so much!