Butter chicken is a savory and easy one-pot curry flavored with all my favorite spices. It's naturally gluten-free and can be dairy-free with coconut cream and vegan butter.
This is a very easy version -- prepare it in about the same amount of time as it will take you to make side dishes to go with it.
A simple curry
Butter chicken is about as basic as a curry can be without using purchased curry powder. I can buy all the seasonings for this recipe - cumin, garam masala, paprika and chili powder - at any market.
Butter chicken is similar to chicken tikka masala except that butter chicken is usually milder. Also, usually for tikka masala the chicken is marinated before cooking.
When I first made this curry, I was surprised at how little butter there actually is in the recipe - I figured from the name there must be lots! You need just enough, combined with oil, to saute the onions, garlic and ginger.
Steps in making butter chicken
This meal starts by sauteing onions, then garlic and ginger, in oil and butter. Ghee is the best substitute for butter if you cook lactose-free, and if you need it to be dairy-free, choose vegan butter. If you'd prefer to use all oil, I believe that olive oil would add a pleasant flavor.
Once the vegetables are tender, stir-fry the spices to flavor the oil (which flavors the whole dish). Then add the tomato paste or tomatoes, followed by the chicken.
Be careful to cook the chicken until it is nearly done, but not so quickly that it toughens. The last step is to stir in the coconut milk and simmer it so that the chicken finishes cooking and you get a wonderful, tasty sauce.
Serving ideas for butter chicken
We enjoy butter chicken with my cumin-spiced potatoes, rice or quinoa. It's also great with my Instant Pot swiss chard saag and sliced fresh tomatoes.
If you have a chance to make this recipe, please share on social media, and leave me a comment so that I know how it went!
Other dishes you may enjoy
Spinach and Coconut Three-Bean Curry
Shop One-Pot Butter Chicken
Links to products for purchase are affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you. This helps me with the costs of blogging, and I thank you! You can find my ‘shop’ page here.
One-Pot Butter Chicken
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 tablespoons butter ghee or vegan butter
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger finely minced or grated see note
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 3 ounces one half of a small can tomato paste OR 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
- 1 ½ pounds about 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 cup coconut milk or more, up to a whole 14-ounce can
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil, butter or ghee, and onions and cook onions down slowly until lightly golden, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add ginger and garlic and let cook for 30 seconds, just until fragrant.
- Stir in the spices until they coat the onions and are well mixed with the oil or butter.
- Add the tomato paste or tomatoes and mix thoroughly. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chicken chunks and cook gently until the chicken is mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. We usually add more coconut milk, up to the whole can, because we enjoy the sauce. You also may find you need to add more coconut milk if you used tomato paste than if you added chopped tomatoes.
- Serve the butter chicken garnished with cilantro and accompanied by rice, saag, and some fresh sliced vegetables.
Please pin for later!
I love curry and I love butter chicken. I also love one pot recipes because there is less washing up - win win! Thanks for sharing your recipe, I will bookmark to try soon.
Thank you, Alex, I find myself making curries often, so I'm right there with you, and the one-pot means I can make it often.
As a mom of two, I love one-pot meals especially ones as flavorful as this dish. This butter chicken is so simple to make and so comforting to enjoy!
Hi Maria, yes I remember when mine were little how great it was to find quick and simple recipes. Hope you like it as much as we do.
This one-pot dish is so flavorful! It's also a beautiful dish to serve. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks so much for the bonus comment and rating! I love the reddish brown color of this curry too. It tastes impressive but is so easy.
Now I know what I want to have for dinner today! I absolutely love butter chicken and I love that this is so simple to make too!
Hi, Stine Mari, we've really enjoyed this since it's so simple to make, even when we were a bit short on ingredients recently. I hope it turns out great for you and thanks for the rating!
Taleen | Just As Tasty
This looks incredible! I love butter chicken and have yet to try to make curry at home, so I appreciate the how easy this is!
Taleen, if you haven't made curry at home, this should be a good one to start with. And you can play around with the spices to make it the way you like.
Love any and all one-pot recipes! This one looks amazing, can't wait to try!
Sondra, I'm also always on the lookout for one-pot meals, and hope you'll enjoy this one.
I love butter chicken and I also love one pot meals. Who doesn't love saving time on dishes? This recipe turned out great, I will be making it again.
Hi Wendy, I'm so happy to hear it! It's great to find a dish that has so much flavor yet relatively few ingredients for when you're short on time. Thanks for the comment!
Wow, this recipe looks so tasty! I have to add it to my rotation of Indian meals to try making! I love how simple it looks!
Hi Joyce, it's so great to have a recipe like this that is so quick to put together that you can eat it often. Enjoy!
I love creamy curries with coconut milk. This butter chicken looks right up my street! I also love how easy it sounds! On my to make list!
Jacqueline, I'm with you - I enjoy the blend of coconut milk and Indian curry spices so much I am always looking for more recipes with that combo, like this one.
Love all the warm spices you used to flavor this delicious butter chicken! I love the use of coconut milk, making it even healthier and yummier!
Gail, I agree - I think coconut milk makes just about any recipe better, and I use it whenever possible.
Glad to have this recipe since my family always orders butter chicken, now I can make it at home.
Thanks, Jere, it was actually new to me and I had never tried it at a restaurant, so it was a pleasant surprise to find it so good!
My family absolutely loves this dish. I make it very often, thank you for sharing the recipe.
Thanks for the comment, Alexis, my family loves it too!
I’m a big fan of butter chicken. It’s comfort food at its best. This recipe calls for one pot, even better.
I'm with you, Shana, my dream recipes are those that can be made in one pot!
I can imagine how great this butter chicken would be with a nice hearty piece of bread- maybe naan or pita!
Hi Marta, you are so right, when I was researching the recipe I saw lots of people serving it with naan. One of these days I'll perfect gluten-free naan and then I'll be one of them!
Loving this one pot chicken dish. The flavors sounds amazing. Can't wait to serve this with some flatbread. Yum!
Hello Kushigalu, I agree this butter chicken would be perfect with flatbread - that's next of my list of GF recipes to perfect!
Amy Liu Dong
I love this cream curry recipe, to be honest, seeing this makes me hungry! YUM!
Thanks, Amy, it tastes and smells as good as it looks.
Straightforward and simple ingredients. I love this recipe. Perfect for any day of the week!
Ali, thanks, I know you can find butter chicken recipes with additional ingredients but we are thrilled with this simple one.
Nothing beats butter chicken! I love that this version is one pot, it's a perfect weeknight meal that the whole family loves.
Thanks, Emily - I know how busy families appreciate quick meals like this - my daughter-in-law tells me!
One-pot curries save sp much time and definitely worth making for busy days. Most of my Indian recipes are one pot. This butter chicken looks so creamy and perfect to indulge in with some rice.
Hello Sapana and thank you for your kind words. I know that your curries are phenomenal!!
The creaminess of this butter chicken is incredible! I can't believe you managed to make such a difficult-seeming recipe look so easy to make!
Alena, thank you so much. I have to give credit to the coconut milk for that creaminess - I'd probably use that for the butter chicken even if I could use cream!
Julie @ Running in a Skirt
This is such a great recipe for Butter Chicken! Love the flavors and how it's made it one pot. So tasty.
Hi Julie, it's one of the easiest curries I've ever made and, though I'd love to try recipes with more ingredients too, this is a win for how quick it is.
Butter chicken is one of my favorite recipes. Your version of one-pot butter chicken looks easy and delicious.
Thank you, Lathi, since I know you make a fabulous butter chicken, I appreciate the compliment.
Living in Dubai for several years meant that I could have my fill of butter chicken as often as I desired from so many places from mom and pop shops to posher settings. Having moved back west, Indian food is sooo expensive. Thanks for this recipe.
Thanks, Kari. It sounds like great fun to have eaten butter chicken in so many places in Dubai! And yes, it's nice to have a simple and inexpensive version to work with.