This Easy Butter Chicken is all made in one skillet and is a healthier version of the restaurant favorite! The chicken is extra tender thanks to the spiced yogurt marinade, and the creamy tomato sauce is so good you’ll want to eat it with a spoon.
I’m particularly drawn to the combination of different spices. It’s amazing to me the way they can take a recipe to the next level. Indian cuisine uses some incredibly flavorful, colorful and delicious spices. Those spices vary from warm and earthy in flavor, like garam masala and cumin, to vibrant and peppery like turmeric. This is by no means an authentic version of Butter Chicken, but it does use many of the same spices and cooking techniques. The result is an easy butter chicken that’s approachable, full of flavor, and it’s a slightly healthier version as far as butter chicken goes.
Butter chicken, also referred to as murgh makhani, originated in northern India. It was a recipe that was stumbled upon by two owners of a restaurant in Delhi, India. They took leftover tandoori chicken and combined it with a tomato gravy that included lots of butter and cream. It’s a similar dish to chicken tikka masala.
Greek yogurt and yogurt in general, contain both calcium and lactic acid. Together they are able to break down the proteins in chicken and meat leaving you with a tender and moist result. The lactic acid in Greek yogurt makes this type of marinade gentler compared to acid-based marinades. Marinades with an acid base, such as citrus or vinegar, can leave meat either tough or mushy if not used properly.
If you are using Greek yogurt for a marinade versus regular yogurt, you’ll want to thin it slightly with water, some sort of fresh citrus juice such as lemon or a little olive oil. This will allow the yogurt to properly coat and absorb into the chicken. Since regular yogurt is thinner, you wouldn’t need to do this step.
When using Greek yogurt as a marinade, you’ll want to use a 1/2 cup per pound of meat. You can use full fat, 2%, or nonfat. My personal preference is to use 2% or full fat. You can add as many spices or fresh herbs as you’d like to the yogurt marinade to give it plenty of flavor.
Easy Butter Chicken
- 20 minutes
- 20 minutes
- 1 hour 30 minutes
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup plain 2% or full fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or water
2 cloves of garlic, grated (1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste (I used about 3/4 - 1 teaspoon of salt)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup half and half or cream, room temperature
1/2 cup plain 2% or full fat Greek yogurt, room temperature
- In a large bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade and then add in the diced chicken. Stir everything together until the chicken is thoroughly coated in the yogurt marinade. Let the chicken marinate for 30-60 minutes.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or additional butter) in a large skillet. Add in the chicken leaving the excess marinade sticking to it. Sauté until it's cooked through and then remove it from the skillet and onto a plate.
- Over medium heat, add the butter to the skillet. When the butter is melted add in the diced onion, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes, and then pour in the tomato sauce. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes so that it thicken slightly.
- Slowly pour in the half and half or cream stirring the sauce as you pour. If using half and half, be sure the sauce isn't boiling, or you'll run the risk of it splitting.
- Add the chicken back into the skillet and remove it from the heat. Off the heat, add in the Greek yogurt. Stir everything together until the chicken is coated and you can't see any white streaks from the yogurt. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over white or brown rice.