Does Butter Chicken Actually Taste Buttery?

image of taste of butter chicken

Butter chicken is a classic Indian dish that you can find on any Indian restaurant menu across the world. It is also easy to make at home for your family.

However, if you have never tasted it before, you may be hesitant to order it. So, what does butter chicken taste like?

Short Answer: 

Butter chicken is creamy with a sweet flavor and a mild spice level.

It can be intimidating to be presented with a menu full of interesting Indian dishes without knowing what to expect from the taste. But today, we are going to help you solve this problem.

In this article, we are going to let you know what ingredients go into making butter chicken and what it tastes like.

Without further ado, let’s get tasting!

What is Butter Chicken Made Of?

image of rice and butter chicken

When you taste a curry it would be easy to presume that it is very complicated with many exotic ingredients.

But that is not the case, butter chicken, as with all curries, mainly relies on simple ingredients and spices combined perfectly to give them their flavor.

To really get down to the answer of what butter chicken tastes like, we need to know what ingredients go into making it. [*]

It is not all about the chicken but rather about the special blend of spices that makes this dish special.

The ingredients that go into butter chicken are:

Ghee

The ingredient that gives butter chicken its name is ghee, a clarified butter.

This is a common ingredient used in many Indian dishes. It is the first ingredient added to the hot pan when you start making the sauce.

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs or Breasts

The main protein is always chicken. This is a subtly flavored protein that works very well with the spices and the marinade.

The cut depends on your personal preference. Boneless and skinless cuts make eating the curry easier and less messy. 

However, we recommend using thighs as this is a more flavorful cut that works well with strong spices.

Marinade

The marinade serves two purposes: to flavor the meat and to tenderize it.

The marinade consists of yogurt, minced garlic, minced ginger, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, red chili, powder, and salt.

The spices are the same as those that will form part of the sauce and serve to flavor the chicken.

The yogurt is acidic, and this means it is able to tenderize the chicken by permeating the surface. This will make the flavor run the whole way through the meat.

We like to let our chicken marinate for a few hours, but it’s even better if you can marinate overnight to really get those flavors in there.

Vegetables

After adding the ghee, the next ingredient for the curry sauce is the vegetables.

We love that using such simple vegetables as a base can create so much flavor down the line.

The vegetables in butter chicken are onions, crushed tomatoes, garlic, and ginger.

The garlic and ginger are aromatics that are there purely for flavor. The crushed tomatoes will form the base of the sauce and add sweetness.

Spice Mix

The main ingredient responsible for the butter chicken flavor is the spice mix.

These are all spices that you should already have in your spice rack. Each curry requires specific quantities to get the flavor perfect for each variation.

The butter chicken spice mix is cumin, garam masala, coriander, and red chili powder.

Turmeric is what gives butter chicken its pale yellow color.

You can always choose to increase or decrease the amount of red chili powder to change the spice level to suit your tastes.

Heavy Cream

This is what gives butter chicken is distinctive creaminess. 

It will not only change the texture but also add the sweetness that butter chicken is known for.

We enjoy using heavy cream because it gives the curry that distinctive creaminess and makes it taste a little bit sweet.

However, you can swap it for evaporated milk or coconut milk if you want a healthier option.

What is the taste of butter chicken?

Butter chicken has a sweet and mildly spicy flavor that is very creamy.

The main elements that go into the butter chicken flavor are the spices, the tomato base, and the heavy cream.

We think it has the perfect balance of savory, sweet, creamy, and spicy.

If you love curries but you have a low heat tolerance, then we recommend butter chicken as an excellent mild option.

Butter chicken is one of our favorite curries to order, and it is very easy to make at home for yourself.

We suggest stocking your spice rack with a large range of spices so you can make the perfect blend and make this delicious dish for yourself.

Butter chicken is best served with rice or naan, so the flavor can really be showcased.

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

If you’re anything like us, you can easily get confused by all of the varieties of curries available. Don’t worry; we’ve been there.

Butter chicken and tikka masala are two very popular curries that often get confused with one another, but there are some ways to tell their flavors apart.

One of the differences that we find interesting is their origin. Butter chicken is a traditional Indian dish from Amritsar[*], while tikka masala was created in the UK.

They use many of the same spices, but it is the quantities and level of heat that make them taste different.

Tikka masala is red in color, while butter chicken is pale yellow.

But today, we are focused on flavor, so how do their flavors compare?

Butter chicken is overall sweeter and creamier, while tikka masala is more robust and spicy.

Learn more: Butter chicken vs tikka masala

FAQ

Is butter chicken meant to be sweet?

Yes, one of the signature flavor notes of butter chicken is sweetness.

This is a natural sweetness that is achieved without using any added sugar. It comes predominantly from the tomatoes, cream, and butter used to make the dish.

However, some recipes call for a small amount of added sugar

Why do they call it butter chicken?

The name ‘butter chicken’ comes from the ingredients used in the dish.

Butter chicken is a traditional northern Indian dish that originated in Amritsar. The dish uses butter to stay true to its Punjabi roots.

The butter is usually ghee, which is a clarified butter favored by Indian cooks.

Butter is also used as a garnish to finish off the curry.

What is traditionally served with butter chicken?

Two traditional accompaniments for butter chicken are lemon rice and onion bhajis.

They can also be served with Peshwari naan and cucumber raita to cut through the richness.

Conclusion

So, after exploring the world of butter chicken, what have we learned about it?

  • Butter chicken has a creamy and slightly sweet flavor.
  • This curry is only mildly spicy.
  • The flavor comes down to the quality of the spice mix.

We hope this has encouraged you to give butter chicken a try the next time you get a takeaway and experience this delicious dish for yourself.

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