Two Kooks » COOKING METHODS » Sous Vide Recipes » Indian Butter Chicken (Sous Vide or Regular)

Indian Butter Chicken (Sous Vide or Regular)

The star of this scrumptious Indian Butter Chicken is a rich, creamy, Indian-spiced sauce with tomatoes, onions, garlic, cream and butter. You can cook the chicken with any method including sous vide.

Butter chicken was invented by chance in 1947 in a restaurant in Delhi, India. It is similar to chicken tikka masala, but a bit milder and sweeter tasting.

If you are trying Indian food for the first time, this easy recipe may be a great recipe to start with. It’s delicious. You can even use leftover or store-bought chicken if you like.

What to serve with butter chicken

Serve the butter chicken over jasmine rice or any white rice. Your local Indian restaurant would definitely serve it with Naan (Indian bread) for dunking. Here’s an easy and good recipe for naan bread from Two Kooks if you want a homemade version. Pita bread would be work too.

Make this a low carb butter chicken meal by serving it over cauliflower ‘rice’ (the butter chicken is actually fairly low carb to begin with – only 9 net carbs per serving).

Other good sides are green beans and regular or baby cauliflower.

3 key parts to the recipe

Spices

If you don’t cook with Indian spices regularly, you can buy small quantities to start at a local Bulk food store if you have one near you. Your local grocery store may carry the spices as well. Here’s a basic 101 article on Indian spices.

Both Tandoori Masala and Garam Masala create the exotic flavors, but in a pinch, curry powder can be substituted. Or, create your own blend if you like (see substitutes below).

Butter chicken sauce

Divine! Sort of like a tomato gravy enriched with butter and cream. Many recipes use a lot of butter and cream with the onions, garlic and spices. This recipe uses them more modestly, but the the creaminess and flavors still shine through. You can even use a little less butter if you want (2 tablespoons instead of 3).

If you want a velvety smooth sauce, you will have to strain out the finely diced onion (or use other options offered in the recipe). I don’t bother.

Chicken

I started out thinking this Indian butter chicken recipe would make a great sous vide recipe and it does. The chicken is tender and juicy and wonderful bathed in the creamy tomato sauce. And you have complete control over doneness.

You can use any kind of chicken – boneless chicken breast, boneless thighs. Or even bone-in chicken.

The cooking method for the chicken is flexible since the star of the dish is the sauce. Baked, broiled and grilled work well or feel free to use store-bought rotisserie chicken for a shortcut. You will find several cooking options in the recipe.

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are a number of variations and substitutions you can try.

  • Flavors
    • Add a 1/2 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger while cooking the onions (several recipes used ginger)
    • If you like some sweetness in your butter chicken, add a tablespoon of brown sugar.
    • Increase the cayenne pepper or add chili flakes if you like more heat
  • Add-in
    • Add 2-3 cups roughly chopped fresh baby spinach for great color and extra nutrition.
  • Sauce: The sauce looks a bit grainy because of the minced onion (texture is not affected). If you don’t like the look, you can
    • chop the onion instead of mincing it,
    • blend the sauce with a handheld immersion blender before adding the cream
    • quarter the onion, boil in water until soft, then puree in a blender or processor, or
    • strain the sauce before adding the chicken
  • Substitutes
    • For a dairy-free version: Instead of cream and butter, use 1/2-1 cup coconut milk – and a butter substitute.
    • For a vegetarian version, try a ‘plant based chicken’, vegetables or tofu.
    • To make 1 teaspoon of garam masala, combine: 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon crumbled bay leaves.
    • Substitute Tandoori or Garam Masala with curry powder.

Step by step

chicken breasts, broth, curry powder, Garam masala, Tandoori masala, garlic onion, tomato sauce butter, cream parsley
Ingredients: chicken breast, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, butter, cream, Indian spices, oil, salt, cayenne pepper, parsley or cilantro
cooked chicken on cutting board
Cut cooked chicken into bite size pieces.
sauteed onions with tomato sauce and spices in pan
To make the butter chicken sauce: Sauté minced onions and garlic. Add tomato sauce, cream and spices. Stir.
butter chicken in pan
Add cubed chicken (and baby spinach if desired). Warm chicken in sauce. Garnish with cilantro or parsley.
butter chicken over rice in bowl p1

Shortcuts

  • Mince onions by pulsing them in a food processor
  • Use store bought chicken instead of cooking your own.

Make Ahead

  • Sous vide
    • The chicken can stay in the sous vide bath for up to 4 hours without overcooking.
    • You can also plunge the sealed bag with the chicken into ice water to cool it down, then keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. 
  • Both the sauce and chicken (or the full dish) can be made ahead then gently warmed on the stove before serving.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • You can also freeze it for up to 2-3 months.

Love Indian cuisine?

Here are a few other Indian recipes you might like:

More sous vide chicken and turkey recipes

butter chicken over rice in bowl 1
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4.83 from 46 votes

Indian Butter Chicken (Sous Vide or Regular)

The star of this scrumptious Indian Butter Chicken is a rich, creamy, Indian-spiced sauce with tomatoes, onions, garlic, cream and butter. You can cook the chicken with any method including Sous Vide.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pound (0.56kg) chicken breasts, boneless skinless
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, minced (or pulse until very fine in processor; drain liquid if needed)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced (3 garlic cloves)
  • 1 3/4 cup tomato sauce (15 oz) (or Marinara sauce)
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream or light cream (I use 10% cream)
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped optional

Seasonings for Sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon Tandoori Masala (or curry powder)
  • GARNISH: chopped parsley or cilantro

Instructions

  • MAKE CHICKEN: Mix together olive oil, salt, pepper and curry powder. Rub mixture over chicken breasts. To cook Sous vide: Heat water in sous vide machine to 145F (63C). Vacuum seal the chicken breasts. Or place in a ziploc bag, submerge into water until just the top edge of bag is above water, then seal the bag. Cook sous vide for 1 1/2 hours (maximum 4 hours). See Note 1 to bake, grill or use a shortcut.
  • MAKE SAUCE: While chicken is cooking, melt butter in large pan on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook 5-7 minutes until onions are soft. Add tomato sauce, cream and seasonings for sauce. Mix to combine. Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • FINISH DISH: Stir chicken into sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro if desired. Serve over hot white rice like basmati or jasmine rice with Naan bread for dipping.

Notes

Cooking options for boneless chicken breast:  The timing for the recipe is under 30 minutes if you bake or use a pre-cooked chicken. You can also sauté chicken pieces on the stove top if you like. Sous Vide will take longer (but the chicken is deliciously moist and tender). 
  • Bake option: Preheat oven to 400F (204C). Bake chicken for 10-15 minutes or until instant thermometer reads 160F.
  • Grill option: Heat grill to medium high. Grill for 3-5 minutes per side depending on thickness.
  • Shortcut option: Buy a cooked rotisserie chicken, remove from bones and cut into bite size pieces. If chicken has just been cooked, let it rest for 10 minutes, then cut into bite size pieces.
Substitutes
  • For a dairy-free version: Instead of cream, use 1/2-1 cup full-fat coconut milk – and margarine
  • For a vegetarian version, try a chicken substitute, vegetables or tofu
  • To make 1 teaspoon of garam masala, combine: 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon crumbled bay leaves.
  • Substitute Tandoori or Garam Masala with curry powder.
Variations
  • Flavors:
    • Add a 1/2 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger while cooking the onions (several recipes used ginger)
    • If you like some sweetness in your butter chicken, add a tablespoon of brown sugar.
    • Increase the cayenne pepper or add chili flakes if you like more heat
  • Add-in
    • Add 2-3 cups roughly chopped fresh baby spinach for great color and extra nutrtion.
  • Sauce texture: The sauce looks a bit grainy because of the minced onion (texture is not affected). If you don’t like the look, you can
    • chop the onion instead of mincing it,
    • blend the sauce with a handheld immersion stick blender before adding the cream, or
    • quarter the onion, boil in water until soft, then puree in a blender or processor.
    • strain the sauce before adding the chicken
Make Ahead
  • Sous vide
    • The chicken can stay in the sous vide bath for up to 4 hours without overcooking.
    • You can also plunge the sealed bag with the chicken into ice water to cool it down, then keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. 
  • Both the sauce and chicken (or the full dish) can be made ahead then gently warmed on the stove before serving.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • You can also freeze it for up to 2 months.
 
Nutrition values are estimates. 

Nutrition

Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 1137mg | Potassium: 1124mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 3201IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 119mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This Indian Butter Chicken recipe, originally published in 2017, has been updated with new information and images.

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this recipe for my family for the first time. They are all definitely food critics and won’t hesitate to criticize my cooking. All commented this is a restaurant worthy recipe. I added the sugar and ginger for a slightly upscale flavor. Was awesome. Better than any Butter Chicken I’ve had in the past. Great recipe.