The main difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala is the level of creaminess; butter chicken is a lot creamier, while chicken tikka masala focuses on tomatoes and other spices, giving it its earthy and spicy flavor profile. Although these two dishes have almost similar ingredients, they differ in more ways than you expected.
Read on to learn the key differences between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala, some quick facts about both dishes, and a simple recipe at the end of the article.
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Butter Chicken vs. Chicken Tikka Masala
Butter chicken is an Indian dish that originated in Delhi. Small pieces of chicken are marinated with spices, ginger, and garlic. They are then cooked until tender in a creamy, mildly spiced tomato-based sauce.
Butter chicken is a creamier curry with less tomato intensity than tikka masala.
Common ingredients: Chicken, yogurt, cream, onion, tomato paste, garam masala, ginger, garlic, pepper, cumin, turmeric, butter.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken tikka masala is an English invention and is made in a similar way to butter chicken. Tikka masala tends to have more tomato intensity and doesn’t have the same level of creaminess.
Common ingredients: chicken, yogurt, cream, onion, tomato paste, garam masala, onion, garlic, ginger, chili pepper.
Which is best?
These are both very similar Indian dishes. If you enjoy a creamy curry that doesn’t have an intense flavor, then butter chicken is your best option. For a stronger tomato hit with a little less creaminess, go for chicken tikka.
My personal opinion is that butter chicken is one of the best meals invented. It’s a deliciously creamy, mild dish. Include naan bread for scooping up the sauce and fluffy basmati rice for the perfect meal.
Chicken Curry Quick Facts
- Butter chicken is also known as Murgh Makhani.
- The first version of butter chicken came from Northern India back in 1948.
- Chicken that is marinated with spices and yogurt, then cooked in a tandoor, is called tandoori chicken.
How to Make Butter Chicken
- 1 pound chicken thighs
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 can chopped tomatoes 14 oz can
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 3 tsp coriander
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp lard
- rice to serve with
- Slice the chicken into one-inch cubes and set aside.
- Add yogurt, chili, coriander, cumin, garam masala, and garlic to a bowl. Mix until combined.
- Spoon the chicken into the marinade and coat thoroughly. Cover the bowl with plastic film and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
- Add oil and lard to a skillet on med-high heat until melted. Add onion and fry until soft (2 to 3 minutes).
- Scoop chicken into the skillet and cook until browned.
- Pour stock and tomato into the pan and cook until the liquid begins to boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for ten minutes.
- Stir the cream into the chicken and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately with your rice of choice. Basmati is an excellent option for eating with curry.
Butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are both Indian curries that combine tender chicken pieces with a creamy tomato-based sauce. They’re very similar dishes that could easily be mistaken for the other. Some restaurant chefs would even be confused explaining how they differ. The critical difference is that butter chicken tends to have a higher level of creaminess, while tikka masala has more tomato intensity.
Do you have a preference between these two curries? Let us know in the comments below.
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