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Stovetop Butter Chicken

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


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

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


  • 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
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 2 tsp Garam masala
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • 2 tsp sugar, optional
  • 2.5 lb Boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 2" cubes
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon juice
  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  • Fresh cilantro for serving
  • Basmati rice for serving


  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, turmeric and sugar. 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

Join the discussion below.

  • Carol

    I love all your recipes but I need to limit dairy in my diet. Can I substitute full fat coconut milk for heavy cream and oat "butter" in this recipe.

    We haven't tested those exact substitutes, coconut milk shouldn't cause a problem. We aren't positive if oat "butter" will change the thickness of the sauce. We'd love to hear how it turns out if you give it a try.

  • 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.

  • Vincent Lamendola

    I made this the first time followed the directions to a T my family loved it. I will be definitely making it again.

    Thanks Vincent, so happy to hear the family loved it!

  • Valerie G.

    This butter chicken was excellent and sooooo easy. I replaced the cinnamon with 1/2 tsp coriander and added 1 can of lentils (drained) for extra protein and everyone loved it.
    This recipe is a keeper. 5 ⭐️

    Thanks Valerie, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Steven

    Wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of this dish. I added fresh green beans and mushrooms towards right before the heavy cream to get some veggies in. Thanks much!

    Thanks Steven, we are so glad you loved it!

  • wendy yoga

    I love butter chicken and never thought I would be able to make it at home. I am so pleased with the end result. I didn't have a few items that were needed but I made it without the garam masala.
    To whomever posted this recipe, merci beaucoup,
    Thank you very much!

    Thanks Wendy, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Jj


    Thanks Jj! We are so happy you love this recipe!