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


Indian food is an exciting culinary experience that has lots of stories, traditions, and tastes. One of the most loved dishes from India is Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken, which are famous not only in India but around the world. However, many people get confused between these two dishes because they appear similar at first. My aim is to help you understand the unique characteristics of these two iconic Indian dishes.

chicken tikka masala vs butter chicken

Difference Between Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken

Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken are two popular dishes in Indian cuisine. Both dishes are made with chicken pieces cooked in a creamy, tomato-based sauce. The difference between the two lies in their flavor profiles and preparation method.

CategoryChicken Tikka MasalaButter Chicken
OriginBritish-influenced Indian dishNorth Indian cuisine
MarinadeYogurt and spice marinadeYogurt and aromatic spices
Cooking MethodTandoor or grillTandoor or grill
SauceRich, creamy tomato-basedCreamy tomato-butter base
Flavor ProfileTangy, slightly spicyMild, buttery with sweetness
ColorVibrant red-orangeRich orange
PairingNaan or basmati riceNaan, roti, or rice
Regional VariationsVaries with ingredientsSlight preparation differences
PopularityPopular globallyBeloved in Indian cuisine

What is Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish of marinated and broiled chunks of chicken in a creamy, spice-infused tomato sauce. The chicken is typically marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices, then cooked in a tandoor (traditional clay oven) before being added to the sauce.

The sauce for Chicken Tikka Masala is usually made from tomatoes, cream, and various spices such as cumin, coriander, and turmeric.

Recipe: Chicken Tikka Masala

Here are two recipes for traditional Chicken Tikka Masala:

  1. Cafe Delites’ Chicken Tikka Masala
  2.’s Chicken Tikka Masala


  • Chicken breasts
  • Yogurt
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Various spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, etc.)
  • Tomatoes
  • Cream

Tips and Tricks

Marinating the chicken for a longer time will result in more flavor. If you don’t have a tandoor, broiling the chicken in an oven can give a similar result.

See Also: Sesame Chicken vs Orange Chicken vs General Tso

What is Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is a dish of chicken in a mildly spiced tomato sauce. The chicken is traditionally cooked in a tandoor before being served in the sauce, which is made from butter, tomatoes, and various spices.

Butter Chicken tends to be milder than Chicken Tikka Masala, with a buttery, creamy flavor.

Recipe: Butter Chicken

Here are two recipes for traditional Butter Chicken:

  1. Traditional Butter Chicken from Chili Pepper Madness
  2. Butter Chicken from RecipeTinEats

Ingredients needed:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Yogurt
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Various spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, etc.)
  • Butter
  • Tomatoes
  • Cream

Tips and Tricks

To enhance the flavor of the dish, use a good quality butter and fresh tomatoes.Clear

Chicken Recipe: Broasted Chicken Recipe

Origins and History

Chicken Tikka Masala is a dish with contested origins. Some say it was created by Punjabi immigrants in Glasgow, Scotland, while others argue it was born in the kitchens of North India. Regardless of its birthplace, the dish has become a global favorite.

On the other hand, Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, was definitely born in Delhi, India. Created by Kundan Lal Gujral, the founder of Moti Mahal restaurant, it has been a staple dish of North Indian cuisine since the 1950s.

Despite their common ingredients like chicken, tomatoes, and cream, their geographical and cultural origins set them apart.

Ingredients and Cooking Method

Chicken Tikka Masala uses boneless chicken pieces that are marinated in yogurt and a blend of spices before being grilled to perfection. The sauce comprises tomatoes, cream, onions, and a mix of spices including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala.

The cooking process begins with marinating the chicken before grilling it. The sauce is then prepared separately by sautéing onions and tomatoes with spices and then blending them into a smooth paste. The grilled chicken is added to the sauce and simmered until done.

Butter Chicken also involves marinating chicken pieces but in a more elaborate mixture of yogurt and spices including fenugreek leaves and mustard oil. The sauce has a buttery base (hence the name ‘Butter Chicken’) with tomatoes, cream, onions, and an array of spices.

The chicken for Butter Chicken is traditionally cooked in a tandoor (clay oven) before being simmered in the sauce made from butter, tomatoes, cream, and spices. Both dishes may seem similar but the difference lies in their taste profile brought about by their unique combination of spices.

See Also: Indian Recipes

Taste and Appearance

Chicken Tikka Masala has a vibrant orange hue with a rich and creamy texture. It offers a balanced flavor profile with smoky grilled chicken chunks immersed in a tangy tomato-based sauce.

On the flip side, Butter Chicken has a slightly milder taste with a rich buttery flavor dominating the tangy tomato base. It has a deep orange-red color with a velvety texture that exudes decadence.

Nutritional Values

Chicken Tikka Masala is high in protein due to its generous use of grilled chicken. It also contains vitamins from tomatoes and spices but can also be high in fat due to the addition of cream.

Butter Chicken also boasts high protein content but tends to be higher in fat due to its liberal use of butter and cream. It’s rich in vitamins from tomatoes and spices as well.

While both dishes are not considered ‘light’, they can be part of a balanced diet when enjoyed in moderation.

Pairings and Serving Suggestions

Chicken Tikka Masala pairs well with naan bread or basmati rice to soak up its tangy and creamy sauce. It’s often garnished with fresh cilantro for an added burst of flavor.

Butter Chicken is typically served with naan or rice as well but can also be enjoyed with Indian breads like roti or paratha. A side of pickles or yogurt-based raita complements its rich flavors wonderfully.

Which is healthier butter chicken or tikka masala?

Chicken Tikka Masala is generally healthier because it contains less butter and cream compared to Butter Chicken. This results in fewer calories and less saturated fat. Both dishes have nutritious ingredients like tomatoes and spices, but the lower fat content makes Tikka Masala a healthier choice overall.


Although they may appear similar on face value, Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken each have distinct flavors brought about by their unique combinations of ingredients and cooking methods. Whether you prefer the smoky tanginess of Chicken Tikka Masala or the rich buttery decadence of Butter Chicken depends entirely on your personal palate preference.

As a foodie who loves trying different types of cuisine, I encourage you to try both dishes to truly appreciate their unique qualities!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken spicy?

Both dishes can be adjusted for spice levels according to individual preference.

Can these dishes be made vegetarian?

Yes! Substitute chicken with paneer (Indian cottage cheese), tofu or vegetables for vegetarian versions.

What does tikka masala curry taste like?

No, Butter Masala and Butter Chicken are not the same. While both are creamy, tomato-based Indian dishes, Butter Chicken is specifically made with chicken, while Butter Masala can be paired with various main ingredients.

What does tikka masala curry taste like?

Tikka Masala Curry is a savory dish with a hint of sweetness and a tangy edge, characterized by its rich, creamy texture. It has a robust blend of spices, offering a warm, aromatic flavor with a mild smokiness.

Chicken Tikka Masala vs Butter Chicken

5 from 2 votes
Recipe by Laura Ritterman


  • Chicken tikka masala

  • Butter Chicken


  • Choose your favorite recipe
  • Gather the ingredients needed to make the recipe
  • Serve and enjoy

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