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Butter Chicken Vs Chicken Tikka Masala: A Guide On Their Differences

In this post, we will discuss butter chicken vs chicken tikka masala. The two are popular Indian dishes, but they differ in a variety of ways. They are both flavorful, but they have different origins and manner of preparation can also vary.

What’s In A Name?

Indian cuisine is one of the most delicious in the world, which is attributed to the use of distinct herbs and spices that make their food flavorful. It can also be confusing, which makes it important to know the meaning behind their names.

In Indian cuisine, butter chicken is traditionally known as murgh makhani. It is one of their many curry-based dishes. It is popularly served all over the world, although there are variations in flavors and preparation depending on the specific region where it will be eaten.

On the other hand, while chicken tikka masala is also a curry dish, it has some differences from butter chicken. The grilled chicken is smothered in tomato-based sauce. When eaten alongside a slice of bread, it tastes like an Indian version of pizza.​

A Look Back In History

To fully understand how the two dishes are different, you should know their origin. Also, it is important to note that while these two are staples in Indian restaurants in the world, it is surprising to know that one of them did not really come from India or at least, as claimed by other people.

Butter chicken is believed to have been first served in Moti Mahal, which used to be one of the most popular restaurants in Delhi, specifically in Punjab. It was one of the dishes that can make excellent use of chicken leftovers by giving it a bold flavor.

According to certain historical account, butter chicken was first introduced in the 16th century during the Mughal empire. It is one of the best examples of Punjabi cuisine that has appealed to the members of the royalty because of its distinct qualities that are common in Punjabi cuisine.

When butter chicken was first introduced, it used leftover chicken tandoori, which provided a good way to make sure that it does not go to waste. It was smothered with a creamy sauce to make it more flavorful and give it a new twist.

On the other hand, chicken tikka masala is not actually from India, although it is inspired by the flavors of Indian cuisine. There were some accounts of how it was first introduced in the 1970s in Glasgow. In fact, an official from the European Union even proposed for a Protected Designation of Origin to formally recognize that the dish is of British origin.

There were claims that chicken tikka masala was first introduced by Ahmed Aslam Ali at Shish Mahal, a restaurant in Glasgow. One day, a customer ordered tikka masala but complained of its dryness. They added a special sauce that is asserted to be the beginning of chicken tikka masala.

Some Indian chefs, however, were quick to counter the claims that chicken tikka masala is British cuisine. They note that it is also Punjabi, just like butter chicken. It is believed that it could have been an accidental discovery and improvised to suit changing palates.

There is still great debate with regards to the origin of chicken tikka masala while butter chicken is more accurate in terms of its history. Well, who cares? When you tasted these dishes, all you want to do is savor the flavor and not be confused with its origin!​

Flavors And Ingredients Used

Butter chicken and chicken tikka masala may look like they are the same because of their sauce, but when you taste them, it will not take long before you realize that they actually have different flavor profiles, which result from the differences in the ingredients used.

Butter chicken tends to have a slightly sweet flavor, which results from the use of butter. On the other hand, chicken tikka masala has a spicy flavor, which is because of the use of different types of spices to release its full flavor.

Obviously, these two dishes make use of chicken as the main ingredient. However, the difference is that in butter chicken, typically, you will use chicken with bones. In the case of chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, it is probably boneless.​ The ingredients can be found at any Indian grocery store.

Way Of Cooking

There are also key differences in the way these two delicious dishes are prepared. In the case of chicken tikka masala, you have to marinate the boneless chicken and after a few hours, it will be cooked in a rich gravy.

In the case of butter chicken, on the other hand, you also need to marinate it, but the ingredients used will be different. When it is cooked, the sauce is creamy and tomato-based. Also, generous amounts of butter will be added, which will result in a distinct flavor.


From our discussions above about butter chicken vs chicken tikka masala, we hope that you have been enlightened about the differences between the two dishes. In a nutshell, here are the key differences between the two:

  • Butter chicken is from Punjabi in India. The origin of chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, is still subject to debate. Some assert that it is from Glasgow, while others contest that it has Punjabi origin.
  • Butter chicken tastes sweet, which is because of the use of butter. Chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, is spicy since it uses traditional spices for optimal flavor.
  • Butter chicken is usually cooked using chicken with bone. Meanwhile, in chicken tikka masala, it is boneless.


Did you enjoy reading this guide? Is there any difference between the two that you would like to add? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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