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Indian Butter Chicken Recipe (Sous Vide or Regular)

The star of this scrumptious Indian Butter Chicken recipe 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 Dehli, India. It is similar to chicken tikka masala, but a bit milder and sweeter tasting.

If you’ve never tried Indian food, this recipe may be a great one to start with. It’s easy and delicious. You can even use leftover or store-bought chicken if you like.

Serve the butter chicken over hot Basmati rice with Naan (Indian bread) for dunking. Try our easy naan recipe if you want a homemade version. Or, to keep the calories lower, serve it over cauliflower ‘rice’.

Indian Butter Chicken Recipe – the parts

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. 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).

Indian 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.

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.

The cooking method for the chicken, however, 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 veggies
  • 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 stick 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.

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.

Other Indian recipes you might like:

How to make this Indian butter chicken recipe

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

 

 

butter chicken in pan
Add cubed chicken (and baby spinach if desired). Warm in sauce. Garnish with cilantro or parsley.
butter chicken over rice in bowl
butter chicken over rice in bowl p1
butter chicken over rice in bowl 1
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4.79 from 33 votes

Indian Butter Chicken Recipe (Sous Vide or Regular)

The star of this scrumptious Indian Butter Chicken recipe 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 lb (0.56kg) chicken breasts, boneless skinless
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt + 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tsp curry powder

Sauce

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

Seasonings for Sauce

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or more to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp 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 skillet on Medium. 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 basmati rice with Naan bread for dipping.

Notes

  1. Cooking options for chicken:  The timing for the recipe is under 30 minutes if you bake or use a pre-cooked chicken. 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 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 to 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 veggies
  • 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.
 
Nutrition values are estimates. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Indian Butter Chicken Recipe (Sous Vide or Regular)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 402 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Cholesterol 136mg45%
Sodium 1137mg49%
Potassium 1124mg32%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 35g70%
Vitamin A 3201IU64%
Vitamin C 19mg23%
Calcium 119mg12%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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This Indian Butter Chicken recipe, originally published in 2017, has been updated with new information and images.

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