Tikka Makhani (Butter chicken) – GF,NSF,CF,EF

What’s the difference between Chicken Tikka Masala and Tikka Makhani (Butter Chicken)?

Chicken thigh on tahdig with butter sauce
Butter Chicken Thigh over tahdig (bone-in)

When researching the recipe for this dish, I found that the recipes are often interchangeable. I dug deeper and found that masala is spicier and uses white meat and makhani includes butter and dark meat. Mmmm. Give me the dark meat any day!

Many recipes call for a full can of coconut milk or heavy cream. But some called for chicken stock. I decided to go lighter and use my chicken bone broth and just add a little nut milk at the end. If I had a leftover partial can of coconut milk, I could have also used that.

Butter Chicken Thighs over tahdig (deboned and chopped)
Butter Chicken Thighs over tahdig (deboned and chopped)

The key to making this (or any spicy) dish is balance. You have to taste and see if the spicy, sweet, salty, sour, savory tastes are all in balance. If any one flavor sticks out too much, you know you have to adjust to seasonings until all the elements harmonize together.

My Garam Masala Blend

  • 2 tsp each: coriander, cinnamon, garlic, ginger
  • 1/4 tsp each: cardamon, clove, cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Customize your own indian spice blend!
Customize your own indian spice blend!

The beauty of garam masala is that the spice blend is as unique as the person doing the cooking! You can make your own custom blend and keep it on hand. Some blend recipes I researched called for fennel seeds, turmeric and cayenne pepper. I didn’t have the two former spices on hand and I don’t like cayenne pepper. I referenced The Flavor Bible to find traditional indian flavorings.

If you decide to create your own garam masala, you might want to consider those spices as well.

4.8 from 5 reviews
Tikka Makhani (Butter chicken) - GF,NSF,CF,EF
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
  • 4 chicken thighs, skinless & bone-in
  • 1.5 Tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsps sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsps tomato paste
  • 1½ cups chicken stock or bone broth
  • 1 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • ½ cup nut milk or coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsps unsalted butter or coconut oil
  1. Rub half of the garam masala blend and the sea salt on the skinless chicken thighs. Refrigerate covered for one hour unto overnight.
  2. Bake the chicken for 30 minutes at 400°F.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium hot skillet. When the oil is warm add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until soft (about 3-5 minutes), stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.
  4. Add the remaining half of the garam masala blend to the pan and stir the spices in the oil until fragrant.
  5. Add the tomato paste into the pan and stir until paste is lightly caramelized.
  6. Add chicken stock, nut milk, and chicken thighs. If at any point the mixture is boiling or bubbling turn the heat down to low.
  7. Cook until the chicken is heated through.
  8. Add butter at the last minute to finish the sauce. Taste the sauce to make seasoning adjustments. Add sugar, salt, and pepper as needed to balance the flavor.
  9. Serve over rice, quinoa, or noodles.
Cooking the thighs on the bone makes them more flavorful. You can cut the meat off the bone and rough chop before you add back to the sauce, if you like. You can also stretch the meat to make 6 portions this way.


Individual Tahdig Shells

Individual tahdig shell
Individual tahdig shell

For this presentation, I make individual brown rice tahdigs using small pie plates. I wanted them to be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Instead of cooking them on the stove as you do with the larger version, I baked them in the oven. Bake 10 minutes at 450°F. Rotate, then 20 minutes at 300°F.


  • Make the shell thicker than you think it should be as it will shrink in the oven.
  • Let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Then, remove from the pie plate carefully while still warm. Otherwise, they stick!

Savoring Saturdays Full Time Mama

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35 Responses to Tikka Makhani (Butter chicken) – GF,NSF,CF,EF

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