The Washington Post

Simple Butter Chicken

Simple Butter Chicken 6.000

Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Amanda Soto/The Washington Post

Feb 6, 2019

This rich, fragrant curry is one of the most iconic Indian dishes, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make at home. Canned tomato sauce is a base ingredient, which is enriched with butter and cream and infused with the almost licorice-like flavor of fenugreek.

One of the best parts of this dish is the sauce, so be sure to serve it with rice or naan — or both — to sop it all up.

You'll need several metal or bamboo skewers. If using the latter, soak them in water for 30 minutes.

Click here to see step-by-step photos for this recipe.

Make Ahead: The chicken needs to marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator, and up to overnight. The sauce can be made separately and refrigerated for a day or two. Leftovers reheat well in the microwave.

Where to Buy: Dried fenugreek leaves are available at Indian markets (look for kasoori methi), as well as some spice shops, such as Bazaar Spices in Washington, and via online purveyors. If you find fresh or frozen leaves, use double the amount called for in the recipe. The curry is still quite good without them, but a teaspoon or two of maple syrup added at the end of cooking can impart some of the same flavor and round out the overall balance of the curry.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6 servings

  • For the chicken
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of excess fat), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (spice blend)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (from about 3 cloves)
  • One 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • For the sauce
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 15 ounces canned plain tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup dried fenugreek leaves, soaked in a bowl of water for 15 minutes and skimmed off the top (see headnote)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin


For the chicken: Combine the chicken pieces with the lime juice, cayenne pepper, paprika, garam masala, salt, yogurt, garlic and ginger in a mixing bowl until evenly coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight.

Position a rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set an ovenproof wire rack inside it. (Or use a broiler pan.)

Thread the marinated chicken pieces onto the skewers and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Broil for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice, until the chicken is just cooked through. You should see a little bit of browning on the edges.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it melts (without browning), pour in the tomato sauce. Stir in the fenugreek leaves, cayenne pepper, sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high; cook just long enough so the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the butter starts to separate from the sauce, pooling on the surface.

Carefully slide the chicken off the skewers into the sauce, along with any accumulated juices. Stir in the cream and cumin, then cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, so the chicken absorbs some of the rich flavors in the sauce.

Uncover the pan and add the remaining tablespoon of butter; once it has melted, stir it into the sauce. Serve right away.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from recipes by restaurateur Monish Gujral and from "660 Curries," by Raghavan Iyer (Workman, 2008).

Tested by Becky Krystal.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 460

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 38g 58%

Saturated Fat: 17g 85%

Cholesterol: 175mg 58%

Sodium: 890mg 37%

Total Carbohydrates: 10g 3%

Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%

Sugar: 6g

Protein: 21g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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