Behind the Seasoning: Butter Chicken
Butter chicken is a favorite when it comes to Indian cuisine. If you’ve ever wondered how to recreate this tasty dish at home, you are in luck. Read along to find out all of the details of butter chicken and what makes it such a favorite dish.
What is Butter Chicken?
Also known as murgh makhani, Butter Chicken is a rich, luxurious curry with a flavor and texture that mirrors the creamy marble walls and jaw-dropping grandeur of India’s Taj Mahal — the literal spice capital of the world. No traditional tandoor oven is needed; preparing this majestic dish takes minutes and will make any meal a masterpiece.
What is butter chicken called in America?
Butter chicken is actually the American name for the signature Indian dish. The true name of the dish is murgh makhani, which translates to buttery chicken, hence the common nickname.
What spices and seasoning are in butter chicken seasoning?
The rich butter chicken spice blend allows complex flavors to develop, even without cooking in a tandoor oven. It may seem like there are a whole lot of ingredients that go into butter chicken, but they are all necessary to create a rich and delicate flavor. Our meal starter spice mix combines salt, sugar, onion, and garlic with a blend of turmeric and other spices.
Leading the charge to butter chicken greatness is Garam Masala, a traditional Indian spice blend of citrusy coriander, black pepper, earthy cumin, floral cardamom, and a suite of sweet spices. Paired with umami-rich tomato, savory garlic and onion, golden turmeric, and zingy ginger, this blend couldn’t be butter–I mean better.
What is in butter chicken?
Once you have the spices taken care of (which is super simple with our Spice & Easy Butter Chicken), it only takes a few more ingredients to create the signature flavor of the Indian dish. Obviously, as the name indicates, you’ll need butter for the velvety sauce. The other key ingredients in butter chicken are chicken, heavy cream, and tomatoes.
What Does Butter Chicken Taste like?
Butter chicken is a great introduction to Indian-style cuisine, as the flavor profile is mild and welcoming. However, don’t be surprised if your butter chicken looks different from your favorite takeout butter chicken. What do butter chicken flavors taste like? Well, the blend of spices and ingredients can be very different depending on who is making it or where it is from, which we quickly learned when ordering Butter Chicken at different restaurants.
Ranging from rich red and tomato-forward to sunny yellow and lightly sweet, every version of butter chicken we tried when creating the perfect spice mix was unique and delicious. So, we set out to create a balanced blend that captured the essence of butter chicken while also giving it a Savory Spice twist that would impress even the most critical of critics (aka all 5-year-old children and my mom). We landed on a blend that tends to be tangy, slightly sweet, and features warming notes.
When the blend combines with heavy cream, diced tomatoes, and butter, the sauce turns creamy and rich with the traditional Indian flavors running throughout each piece of chicken. Each bite highlights a different note, making this dish earthy from the tomatoes, savory from the garlic and onions, and zingy from the citrusy coriander and ginger.
Is butter chicken sweet or spicy?
Butter chicken tends to sway towards the sweeter side, so there is no need to worry about enjoying the dish if spice isn’t your thing. There are no chiles in the spice mix, making the blend more flavorful in spice than hot. The addition of heavy cream in the recipe also cuts out any major heat that the spice mix would bring to the plate. As with any dish, if you prefer a little more spice, you can always add chiles or hot sauce to your plate.
What Can Be Substituted for Butter Chicken Spice?
If you are making a big batch of butter chicken and find your Spice & Easy stash running low, there is no need to panic. While they won’t be the exact same flavor, many of our spices can be used in a pinch. Look for spices that have similar flavor profiles like Garam Masala and turmeric.
Our Tikka Masala Spice & Easy and multiple curry varieties are like cousins to butter chicken. While the tikka masala blend doesn’t have as many warming notes and instead skews a little peppery, it shares the sweet flavor profile and the creamy sauce. Curry, on the other hand, can add more heat than butter chicken, which is considered a mild dish. The Venn diagram of flavor profiles between the two has many overlapping spices but can differ immensely depending on the spice level you are looking for.
What is the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala?
Butter chicken and tikka masala often get confused for the same dish. While the two Indian dishes look similar and even have some similarities in flavor, because both have tomato and some of the same spices, the ingredients that go into the dishes aren’t exactly the same. Butter chicken tends to be sweeter, aromatic, and slightly tangy. The dish also tends to be creamier than tikka masala.
Tikka masala, on the other hand, often has chiles, adding more spice and peppery notes. The chicken is also cooked and marinated in yogurt and half and half, creating tangier pieces of chicken. Our Spice & Easy Tikka Masala spice mix does all the work in creating a spice mix perfect for a batch of tikka masala.
Where and How to Buy Butter Chicken Seasoning Mix
Many local markets and specialty stores sell butter chicken spice packets or premade sauce in a jar. If you find it difficult to locate either, head to the spice section of your market and buy everything you need for the blend.
Not to brag, but our Butter Chicken Spice & Easy mix checks off everything you will need to make a luscious and creamy chicken dish. If you prefer to check out the Spice & Easy mix in person, head to our store locator feature to see where you can find it in a store near you.
What is Butter Chicken Seasoning Used For?
Don’t let the name fool you! While the main purpose of the butter chicken Spice & Easy blend is to make the signature dish, the spice blend can be repurposed in other ways. Mango Butter Chicken is another way to change up your classic butter chicken. The addition of sweet mangoes with acidic tomatoes and nutty coconut milk lends a tropical twist to this dish.
The spice mix is excellent on other proteins like fish, tofu, or steak. The blend can also be used similarly to curry powder. Try sprinkling on eggs for an Indian-style breakfast or on top of roasted vegetables for a side dish full of flavor.
What is butter chicken sauce made out of?
Surprisingly, butter chicken sauce isn’t all that complicated to make. You marinate the chicken in a mix of heavy cream and spices for about 20 minutes before cooking. While the chicken cooks, the remaining ingredients (butter, tomatoes, heavy cream, and spices) get simmered together to create a sauce. Since the dish can vary, don’t be surprised to find fresh onions, ginger, and garlic in other recipes for butter chicken.
How To Make Butter Chicken
You don’t need to be an expert chef in Indian cuisine to whip up a delicious meal that makes butter chicken the star. Our Spice & Easy pack does all the hard work, bringing all the flavor to the plate in just a few simple steps. If you are smart, you’ll double this recipe so you will have leftovers you can eat all week long. The full directions for our Butter Chicken can be found here under More Information or right on the Spice & Easy package.
Love curry but want to skip the dairy? Use coconut milk and ghee, coconut oil, or vegan butter instead. Want to save a chicken and try chickpeas or a meat substitute instead? Go for it! Paneer, tofu, cauliflower, or potatoes are also great vegetarian options. And for a tropical twist, swap out the canned tomatoes for canned mangoes. The swap-ortunities are endless!
What to Serve with Butter Chicken
Butter chicken is rich, so it doesn’t take much to make it a complete meal. These are some of our favorite dishes to serve alongside butter chicken.
- Pillowy Garlic Naan - Would an Indian meal be complete without a batch of naan? This is an excellent way to sop up all the extra sauce from the butter chicken.
- Saffron Rice - Butter chicken is almost always served alongside rice, so it only makes sense to pair it with this saffron rice dish.
- Indian Gujarati Slaw - With the rich sauce of butter chicken, it helps to have an acidic side dish. The spice profile of this slaw makes it a great balance of flavors.
- Apple Cranberry Yellow Curry Chutney - Don’t hesitate to put apples alongside a savory dish. This is an excellent condiment for many main dishes.
- Fruit Masala Lassi - This spin on a traditional Indian yogurt drink makes a refreshing addition or the perfect sweet and creamy dessert.