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Stovetop Butter Chicken

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 25 min
  • Calories: 389
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: 389

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
  • Calories 389
  • Protein 42 g
  • Carbohydrates 11 g
  • Total Fat 18 g
  • Dietary Fiber 2 g
  • Cholesterol 159 mg
  • sodium 850 mg
  • Total Sugars 5 g

Stovetop Butter Chicken

Questions & Reviews

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  • 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!

  • Julianne Morse

    I need to squeeze some veggies in somewhere so what kind of veggies would taste good with this, either in it or as a side?

    Roasted cauliflower or broccoli would be nice on the side. Hope you enjoy Julianne!

  • Che

    Mine is a tad too salty how can I remedy this?

    Hi Che, you can cut back on the salt. The recipe calls for 1.5 teaspoon salt. Feel free to use either a half teaspoon or 1 teaspoon depending on your taste.

  • Melanie Penner

    How can I make this spicier and hotter?

    Hi Melanie, butter chicken isn't traditionally a spicy dish but if you want to add a little heat you could try adding in a bit of cayenne pepper. Hope you enjoy!

  • Darcie Helsten

    On this recipe, I wonder if you meant to call for 8oz of tomato sauce rather than tomato paste. I added only 6oz of tomato paste and it was quite sour in the end. I had to add some brown sugar to balance it. I also used full fat coconut milk, but I would think that would have helped sweeten it.
    Thank you
    Darcie

    Sorry to hear this wasn't a win for you. It is tomato paste but if it wasn't sweet enough for you adding the brown sugar was a good choice.

  • Jude Fisher

    Fabulous! I questioned 8 oz. of tomato paste initially, but it was absolutely perfect. Thanks so much. It’s a winner at our houses,

    Thanks Jude! So glad you all loved it!

  • Terry Chase

    Wow! This is GOOD! It also allowed me to use spices I’ve had unopened on the shelf for ages. I can’t even remember why I originally bought garam masala, but was thrilled to finally get to use it. Saying that it takes a half hour, though, is unrealistic. It took me 15 minutes just to assemble all the ingredients. Add in the time to prep the chicken by slightly freezing it, and I got it from scratch onto the dinner table in 2 hours. Worth every minute!. My husband is still raving about this meal.

    Thanks Terry, so happy you loved it!

  • Yvonne Oneill

    Lovely and creamy but l found its bit to salty would do again but with little salt.other then that very injoy able

    Thanks Yvonne, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Karen Hughes

    Absolutely delicious. I did reduce the salt though and caramelise the onions for 10 mins . Fabulous will cook again

    Thanks Karen, so glad you loved it!

  • John Rigdon

    Loved this recipe, except I forgot to add the coconut cream at the end. I'll try the leftovers with cream tomorrow. I added some chopped zucchini and asparagus at the end. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

    Thanks John, so happy you loved it!