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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.

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

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

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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

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.
heavy cream being added to 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!

stovetop butter chicken in a large pot
butter chicken in white pot with a wooden spoon and cilantro

Tools You’ll Need

More Quick, Easy Indian Inspired Comfort Food

butter chicken in a large white Dutch oven garnished with cilantro
Butter chicken in a bowl with rice and butter chicken garnished with cilantro

Just a Gosh Darn Easy Butter Chicken Recipe

This comforting stovetop version of everyone’s Indian dish only takes 40 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 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated yellow onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • ¾ cup chicken stock
  • 8 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemon)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Fresh cilantro, for serving
  • 6 cups cooked basmati rice, for serving

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened and the garlic and ginger are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

  2. Stir in the butter, chicken stock, tomato paste, cinnamon, salt, cumin, garam masala and turmeric until combined. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then stir in the chicken until coated. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

  3. Stir in the lemon juice and heavy cream. Return to a simmer and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more.

  4. Divide the rice between 6 bowls. Serve the butter chicken over the rice and sprinkle with 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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  • Jamie Sue

    Why must we use salted butter, could I use unsalted butter instead?

    Sure, if it needs a little more salt just add some at the end. Hope you enjoy!

  • 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.

  • Kat

    very nice. i turned to low temp and cooked it longer then added yoghurt instead of cream at the end. Also tried it again with Coconut Cream and full cardamon pods....was delish. Thanks for the recipe.

    Thanks Kat, we are so happy you loved it!

  • Aubrie

    This recipe was FANTASTIC! A hit in my family and such an affordable meal. Thank you!!!

    Thanks Aubrie, we are so glad you loved them!

  • Mina

    It's me again - scoured this site for another recipe to try after having fallen in love w/the chicken shawarma sheet pan recipe here. This time I tried this Stovetop Butter Chicken. It's always been a favorite of mine to order when I see it on the menu at Indian restaurants. What was enticing about this recipe versus others I've seen is that this was more simple and it was simple to make for sure. I ran out of butter - just had the right amount that the recipe called for but I wish I had more to add. Next time, I'll make sure to have plenty of butter on hand. I also used ground ginger because I didn't have fresh one so I don't know if that would make a difference. Personally, I felt like it was missing something...I can't quite put my finger on it - I looked up other butter chicken recipes and it had other spices. Still a great recipe but may add other Indian spices (cardamom? star anise? idk.) and also MORE butter for sure! I wanted it creamier. My 2 year old son, to my surprise, actually LOVED IT! He would point to have more! So just with that, this was a winner for me. Thank you again! Can't wait to try more.

    Hi Mina, I wish you had more butter on hand too : ) I will look into possibly adding more the next time I make it! There are different spiced used in other recipes and it tis really fun to play around with them. We try to keep our recipes on the slightly simple side with ingredients that most people would have on hand. Thanks for your feedback.

  • Norvilė

    It turned out a bit watery but I love this recipe :D

    Thanks Norvilé, happy you enjoyed it!

  • Kim

    Very very good. Thank you this is definitely a keeper.

    Thanks Kim, we are so happy you loved it!