Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala: Everything You NEED TO KNOW!


Don’t you just love Indian food? Thanks to the plethora of unique herbs and spices, there are so many things going on in one bite! If you’re like us Indian food lovers, then you probably had (and enjoyed) butter chicken and tikka masala.

Hold up… Are those two dishes aren’t the same? Isn’t tikka masala translated into butter chicken?

No, there is a difference between butter chicken and tikka masala!

Read on for the ultimate comparison guide on butter chicken vs tikka masala!

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani, was created by Kundan Lal Gujral in 1948. The creation of butter chicken is truly an interesting one! (*)

Gujral operated a legendary Delhi-based restaurant called Moti Mahal. He was looking for a way to use their supply of tandoori chicken, which is also something he created.

To prevent all the already-cooked chicken from during out, Gujral slowly stewed it all in a gravy of aromatic spices, tomatoes, and of course, its namesake, butter!

Butter chicken is created by marinating chicken chunks in a flavorful blend of garlic, ginger, and curry spices.

It will then be cooked in a rich, creamy tomato sauce with butter!

Fun fact:

  • Butter chicken is often considered the national dish of India and has been ranked as one of the most popular dishes in the world.
  • According to a study conducted by TripAdvisor, it was rated as the number one dish in India and the fifth most popular dish worldwide.
  • In Canada, a survey found that butter chicken is the number one Indian food people order when dining out.
  • In Australia, it’s a popular menu item across Indian restaurants and is commonly referred to as “Murgh Makhani.”

Learn more: What does butter chicken taste like?

What is Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken tikka masala spreads its grace throughout the world because of its intense flavor! (*)

This is made of boneless chicken chunks marinated in yogurt, garam masala, garlic, ginger, and cumin.

The chunks are then roasted in an oven and served with a creamy curry sauce colored with tomato paste, paprika, turmeric, or food dye.

The word tikka is actually Persian, translating to bits or pieces.

Masala is a spice blend of ground spices popularly used in Indian cuisine.

  • Fun fact: Surprisingly, some people say that chicken tikka masala isn’t actually a traditional Indian dish! Chicken tikka masala’s origins are a tad confusing, but it’s said to be a true British national dish invented in the UK back in the 1960s. We can thank Ali Ahmed Aslam, a Bangladeshi chef from Glasgow, Scotland.
  • In India, Tikka Masala is also very popular, with curries accounting for roughly 70% of all dishes sold in restaurants.

Think of it as the quintessential British dish or an Indian version of American pizza with a unique blend of spices.

Learn more: What Does Tikka Masala Taste Like? What Gives It Its Flavor?

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala: The 4 Main Differences!

As we researched and tasted-tested the dishes, it w as challenging to find a notable difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala. That said, some things make the cooked chicken dishes unique from one another.

1. Cooking Method

With butter chicken, the chicken chunks are typically pan-fried. But for tender chicken tikka masala, the chicken chunks are often skewered then cooked in a tandoor. Furthermore, you can make butter chicken with the bones left in, while chicken tikka masala is usually boneless.

While they are made of similar ingredients, the amount is different.

Butter chicken has less tomato intensity, while chicken tikka masala is heavy on the tomato without much creaminess.

Butter chicken is defined as a creamy blend of spices and tomato sauce, while chicken tikka masala has a creamy onion sauce and tomato gravy.

2. Texture

Given the fact that butter chicken is stewed in butter, tomatoes, and spices, it has a creamier texture than chicken tikka masala. The former is also served with less sauce.

3. Color

Butter chicken usually takes on a lighter color than chicken tikka masala. The former is orange to brown as the butter fades the red color from the creamy tomato paste.

Chicken tikka masala is darker and red because of the tomato intensity.

4. Taste

It’s tough finding flavor differences between the two, but we can say that butter chicken has a milder flavor than chicken tikka masala.

Furthermore, butter chicken has a more buttery flavor, whereas chicken tikka masala is more intense, tasting much spicier!

You get more of a kick from chicken tikka masala as all the other spices work together and complement one another to release unique flavors.

You can even taste a mildly sweet flavor from butter chicken since the butter would cut some of the intensity of the other spices.

4. Health

If you’re watching your calories, we highly recommend going for chicken tikka masala instead.

Butter chicken may be a feast to the tastebuds, but there are a lot of calories and fat in there since it’s made of butter and creamy tomato gravy! 140 grams of butter chicken has about 438 calories, 28 grams of total fat, 12-14 grams of saturated fat, and 30 grams of protein.

Chicken tikka masala is a bit healthier and contains around 136 calories per serving.

It primarily consists of garam masala cooked in tomato sauce.

Is Butter Chicken The Same As Tikka Masala?

While we tackled the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala, let’s discuss the similarities between the two dishes!

Butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are popular dishes originating from Indian cuisine, particularly in Northern India (though we may need to do deeper research on where chicken tikka masala actually came from).

Now, they are popular worldwide, especially across South Asia!

These two dishes are readily available to order in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Chicken tikka masala and butter chicken have similar components.

The main ingredients include chicken, yogurt, tomato paste, garam masala, onion, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cumin, butter, and cream.

The significant difference between butter chicken and tikka masala is how much each ingredient is used.

Both these dishes are amazing with naan bread. Similarly, they are served on a plate with roti, rice, or naan bread.

Which Is Healthier Butter Chicken Or Tikka Masala?

We can’t say which is better because there really isn’t a better dish for everyone!

It all boils down to what your tastebuds love.

We recommend butter chicken if you want a more buttery and creamier dish. But if you want more spice, then go for chicken tikka masala.

Our advice? Try both of them and make a verdict!

You might even love both equally.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve delved into the differences between chicken tikka masala vs butter chicken, do you have any other questions? We answer them below!

Can I make butter chicken?

Yes, you can!

Here is a simple recipe to follow:
  • 1 pound of sliced chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili pepper powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • One teaspoon of garam masala
  • One teaspoon of turmeric
  • Two teaspoons of ground cumin
  • Three teaspoons of ground coriander
  • Two minced garlic cloves
  • One tablespoon of minced ginger
  • One tablespoon of butter, ghee, or lard
  • One tablespoon of canola oil
  • One large diced onion
  • 14 ounces of chopped canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
How to cook:
  1. Slice your chicken into one-inch cubes, then set aside.
  2. Combine the yogurt, salt, chili pepper powder, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and coriander in a bowl, mixing well. Then, add your chicken to the mix, ensuring every chunk is coated.
  3. Cover your chicken chunks with a plastic film, letting it refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
  4. Heat a frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, and once hot, add the chicken chunks in small batches. Don’t crowd the pan and fry the chunks until brown on each side, setting them aside afterward.
  5. Add your chosen fat to the pan, throwing in the onions. Let them cook for five minutes, then add garlic and ginger. Add turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala. Let that cook for about half a minute until fragrant, stirring frequently.
  6. Pour your canned tomatoes, chili powder, and salt. Let that simmer for 15 minutes or so as you stir occasionally. By then, the sauce should thicken and turn a deep brown color.
  7. When the sauce cools, pour it into your blender, letting it puree until smooth. If needed, add a bit of water (only up to a quarter cup).
  8. Pour the sauce back into your pan or skillet, adding the chicken chunks as well. Let that simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until the chicken has cooked thoroughly. Stir in heavy cream and let it cook for another 10 minutes.
  9. Serve your dish, and enjoy!

Wrapping It Up

While Butter Chicken Vs Tikka Masala may seem the same, they have many different features that many admire.

One particular difference is their flavor profiles, with one Indian dish tasting creamier and richer, while the other has an unmistakable kick and tomato intensity. Regardless, both of them are must-tries!

Let us know what you think of the dishes and if you have made them yourself.


Up Next: Butter Chicken vs Chicken Curry: What’s the Difference?

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