Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala – 9 Similarities and Differences to Know

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When it comes to comparing butter chicken vs tikka masala, know that there are key differences between the two that shouldn’t be ignored. In this post, we’ll delve into all of the ways that chicken tikka masala and butter chicken differ so that you’ll be able to tell the difference between each by the end of this post.

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Butter Chicken Vs Tikka Masala – 9 Similarities And Differences To Know

Table of Contents

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken is an Indian dish that originated in, you guessed it, India. Unlike chicken tikka masala’s origins (which we will get to in a minute) butter chicken is exclusively Indian, though Westerners tend to love it as well.

Butter chicken is considered a curry and has a curry base. Like many curries, it can be made differently, and thus, the ingredients often vary. Nevertheless, most butter chicken recipes feature chicken, curry sauce (made from curry powder or curry powder substitutes), and a wide range of spices, including ginger, garlic, crushed tomatoes, and butter (or heavy cream).

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala

What is Chicken Tikka Masala?

As mentioned, tikka masala is known as an Indian dish, but it isn’t exactly Indian. Though you will most certainly find this exotic dish on an Indian restaurant menu, it actually is thought to have originated in Britain.

Despite tikka masala’s mysterious origins, this remains one of America’s favorite Indian curries. This Indian curry dish, like butter chicken, is also made with curry, but features a few differing spices. Specifically, chicken tikka masala includes chili powder in its list of ingredients.

This, along with a few other spices can give chicken tikka a spicier kick, despite its base being tomatoes and cream or butter.

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala

What’s the Difference Between Butter Chicken and Tikka?

In a nutshell, chicken tikka masala tends to be spicier and has more kick than butter chicken.

Because of the butter in butter chicken, it is often characterized by mellow, sweet, and subtle flavors. Still, both dishes feature tender chicken and a yummy tomato curry base that makes them both popular Indian dishes.

Butter Chicken Vs Tikka Masala: Key Differences

As previously mentioned, butter chicken is best for those with a preference for subtlety. Eat butter chicken if you aren’t really into a lot of kick and spice. If, on the other hand, you really like spices to be noticeably spicy, then you may opt for chicken tikka masala instead.

Also, note that both of these Indian dishes have a specific spice blend that will be used to give each its own unique flavor. But don’t worry. Later in this post, we’ll break down these two Indian recipes to reveal exactly what goes into each!

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala: Comparison Chart (9 Similarities and Differences!)

To make things even simpler, we’ve provided you with a quick chart to help you better conceptualize the difference between butter chicken vs tikka masala.

Tikka MasalaButter Chicken Both Tikka and Butter Chicken
SpicySubtle flavorContain tomatoes
Contains chili powderSlightly sweetContains onion
May contain chili powder– but not alwaysContains garlic
Contains ginger

Remember that though the ingredients of each popular dish are similar, the ingredients are often used differently and at different ratios. Thus, the flavor profile is much different. Nevertheless, people from all over love these famous curry dishes of Indian cuisine.

And we can totally understand why!

Is Chicken Tikka Masala or Butter Chicken Better?

When choosing between chicken tikka masala and butter chicken, know that everyone will have their own opinion about which is better.

For those that like a little heat, tikka masala is likely to be the better choice. For those who prefer a milder flavor, butter chicken will be the way to go.

Which Is Healthier Butter Chicken or Tikka Masala

There is no clear winner in terms of health when it comes to butter chicken and tikka masala. Because both utilize butter or ghee and heavy cream, you can expect to gain extra weight if you consume these regularly enough.

Having said that, both of these dishes tend to be high in protein and low in sugar. To effectively cut the calorie and fat content, you’d need to replace your butter, ghee, or cream in the recipe with something else.

You may try something plant-based or even low-fat yogurt, but be careful when doing so. This may change the consistency and overall flavor of the classic Indian version of chicken dishes like these.

Best Butter Chicken Recipe


For the chicken marinade

  • 28 oz boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder (or 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

For the sauce

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder (or 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 14 oz crushed red tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjustable)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kasoori methi (you may also use dried fenugreek)


  1. Combine the chicken and all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Make sure the skilled is large. Once hot, add in your chicken pieces, working in batches. Fry the chicken until they are born on each side. Set them aside and keep them warm.
  3. In the same pan, heat the butter. Fry the chopped onions until they are fragrant and turn transparent. Be sure also to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan at this point.
  4. Next, add your ginger and garlic, coriander, cumin, and garam masala. Cook for about 20 seconds while stirring.
  5. Add your crushed tomatoes, chili powder, and some salt. Allow this to cook out for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally.
  6. Once the mixture becomes thick, remove it from the heat and place it in a blender. Blend the mixture until it is smooth. You may add up to ¼ cups of water if needed to help the sauce incorporate.
  7. Once pureed, add the sauce back into your large skillet. Stir in your cream, sugar, and kasoori methi. Add the chicken with the juice into the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked through.
  8. Serve with fresh naan. Enjoy!
Butter Chicken Vs Tikka Masala – 9 Similarities And Differences To Know

Best Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

For the chicken marinade:

  • 1.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kasoori methi
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1½ cups chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (less if desired)
  • ¼ cup tomato puree
  • 2 cups hot water (more if required)
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Garnish With

  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons coriander leaves


  • Cut your chicken into 1-inch pieces.
  • Add all of the ingredients for the chicken marinade to a mixing bowl along with the chicken.
  • Cover with cling wrap and marinate overnight. If you are low on time, consider marinating for at least 1-3 hours.
  • Once the chicken has marinated, it’s time to make the sauce. Heat your oil in a pan. Add your onions and season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Saute your onions until fragrant and brown (do not burn).
  • Add ginger garlic paste. Continue to saute for 1 minute.
  • Reduce heat to low. Add chili powder, coriander, garam masala, and cumin. Stir quickly.
  • Pour your tomato puree into the pan and cook on medium high until the sauce becomes thick.
  • While the sauce cooks, you’ll want to fry up your chicken. Using another skillet, place 1 tbsp of oil into the pan. Place your marinated chicken in piece by piece, ensuring that you aren’t crowding the pan. Cook on medium high heat until cooked through.
  • Once your sauce has thickened, add your cream and sugar along with your cooked chicken. Continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the chicken becomes tender.
  • Garnish with more cream and coriander leaves if so desired.
Butter Chicken Vs Tikka Masala – 9 Similarities And Differences To Know

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala: Similar But Different!

When it comes to dishes cooked in curry sauce, it’s easy to get confused as to which is which. Know that butter chicken tends to be milder than chicken tikka masala, but that both of these two dishes are insanely delicious.

To know which you’d prefer, try giving each a taste. Who knows, you may end up loving both! Until next time!


What is the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala?

Despite these two dishes being concocted with similar spices, chicken tikka masala is said to have a lot more “punch” than its mild competitor, butter chicken. Both are crafted with chunks of chicken in a rich creamy tomato sauce, but you may see butter chicken served with whole pieces of chicken rather than small bits as in chicken tikka.

Is butter chicken the same as curry?

Yes, butter chicken is a type of curry, but it isn’t the only one.

What does butter chicken taste like?

You can expect butter chicken Indian food to taste savory, rich, and also a bit sweet. In addition, you can expect the spices common in the curry to shine through, making it a truly unique and delectable dining experience!

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind CooksDream.com, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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