Home Articles Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala (What’s the Difference?)

Butter Chicken vs. Tikka Masala (What’s the Difference?)

When it comes to butter chicken vs. tikka masala, which is the better option?

Butter chicken and tikka masala are often compared to one another.

It can be hard for indecisive individuals to choose between the two. 

On the one hand, there’s the beloved butter chicken with its smooth, creamy tomato sauce and lusciously spiced marinated chicken. 

butter chicken

On the other, we have tikka masala, a stew-like dish featuring tomato goodness with chunks of onion.

It also has a hint of sweetness from the addition of honey or sugar. 

It’s a difficult decision. So, let’s get into discussing the main differences and sharing the best recipes for both.

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken, or murgh makhani, is an Indian dish that has been making mouths water for centuries. 

It’s a creamy, rich curry featuring succulent chicken simmered in a tomato-based sauce and finished with butter and spices. 

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just getting started in the kitchen, this delicious dish is sure to make your tastebuds happy. 

This dish isn’t just a tasty treat either.

It has a mix of spices and herbs, including cumin, coriander, garam masala, ginger, garlic, and fenugreek leaves.

Butter chicken is packed with antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. 

It’s also low in carbs and fat compared to many other popular curry dishes. So eat up! 

Tikka masala served with rice and naan on a bowl.

What is Tikka Masala?

Tikka Masala is a dish that you won’t soon forget! 

This tantalizingly delicious Indian classic combines luscious, creamy tomato sauce and fragrant spices to create an unforgettable experience. 

The dish originates from Punjab, India.

Locals developed it as a way to add flavor to their meals while still preserving the health benefits of the ingredients. 

The combination of tomatoes and spices in tikka masala creates a unique flavor profile.

It’s no wonder that this tasty concoction has become one of the most popular dishes worldwide!

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala (What’s the Difference?)

These two dishes may seem the same on a menu, but they are actually quite different.

Butter chicken and tikka masala both come from India and feature a creamy sauce with plenty of spices. 

However, the real difference lies in how the meat is cooked before it’s added to the sauce. 

Butter chicken starts out with marinated chunks of chicken that are then grilled or roasted over an open flame. 

This gives them a smoky, charred flavor that contrasts nicely with the mildly spiced gravy.

The sauce is made of cream, tomatoes, butter, garlic, and ginger. Or, you can also slow cook it.

Tikka masala also has smoky undertones thanks to its ingredients.

It contains diced pieces of boneless chicken cooked in ghee or normal butter.

There’s also a spicy sauce made with cream, garlic, ginger, and spices. 

But unlike butter chicken, the chunks of chicken in tikka masala are first cooked on the grill.

It’s then transferred to a large skillet and cooked further with other ingredients. 

This creates a more succulent piece of meat that’s often served on skewers. 

So while they may look similar on paper, butter chicken and tikka masala have different textures and flavors to offer.

Whether you’re feeling like something smoky or something tender, these two dishes can satisfy any Indian food craving!

Close up of tikka masala served on a plate, garnished with chopped parsley.

Which Dish is Better?

Ah yes, the age-old debate: butter chicken vs. tikka masala. Which is better? Who can say for sure? 

Well, maybe I can. After all, that’s why you’re here! So let’s dive right in and get to the bottom of this delicious conundrum. 

First, I want to say that, in terms of taste, both are equally delicious.

But since the taste slightly differs, let’s break it down and see what suits your flavor profile better.

When it comes to butter chicken, it really stands out for its creamy texture and rich flavor.

The dish is made with chunks of chicken marinated in a savory yogurt sauce and cooked in a buttery tomato gravy. 

Some versions are spicier than others.

But most recipes rely on herbs like garam masala or other spices like cumin and coriander to add flavor without too much heat. 

On the other hand, tikka masala is known for its fiery taste and bold spices. 

This dish originated in India as a way to make chicken curry even more flavorful.

The flavor comes from a blend of chili or cayenne, coriander, cumin, cardamom, and garam masala.

Usually served with rice or naan bread, tikka masala’s intense flavors can really stand out on their own.

So which one should you choose? 

Well, if you’re looking for something subtle and mild, then butter chicken might be your best bet.

Its creamy sauce makes it perfect for pairing with meats or vegetables. 

But if you’re looking for something a bit more daring and spicy, then tikka masala is definitely the way to go.

Its bold spices will really liven up any meal!

Best Butter Chicken Recipe



Prep time


Cooking time







This easy recipe for authentic butter chicken is guaranteed to please!


  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 4 large skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 can tomato paste – 6 ounces

  • 1 tablespoon curry paste

  • 2 teaspoons curry powder

  • 2 teaspoons tandoori masala

  • 1 teaspoon garam masala

  • 15 green cardamom pods

  • 1 can coconut milk – 14 ounces

  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

  • salt to taste


  • Grab a large skillet, add the butter and vegetable oil, and heat it over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken, garlic, and onion to the butter-oil mixture. Cook them until the onion becomes softer and more translucent in color – it usually takes about 10 minutes on medium heat.
  • Once that’s done, add the tomato paste, curry paste, curry powder, tandoori masala, and garam masala. Mix it well and be sure to get rid of any clumps to avoid a bad texture.
  • Grab a slow cooker.
  • Transfer the mixture from the skillet to the slow cooker and add cardamom pods, coconut milk, and yogurt.
  • Add salt according to taste.
  • You have two options – either cook it on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. It’s important that the chicken is tender and that the sauce has thickened to a desired consistency.
  • Once it’s cooked, remove the cardamom pods from the dish, and start serving.
Best Butter Chicken Recipe

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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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