Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala: Unraveling the Delicious Mystery

butter chicken vs tikka masala

When it comes to Indian cuisine, two dishes reign supreme – Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala. These chicken delicacies have become household names worldwide, with each boasting a unique blend of spicesflavors, and textures that has made them a favorite among foodies and curry enthusiasts alike.

While both dishes share some similarities, the question remains: what makes them different, and which one is the winner? In this article, we’ll explore the main differences between Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala and help you decide which one best suits your taste buds.

Key Takeaways

  • Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are two of the most popular Indian chicken dishes globally.
  • The main difference between these dishes lies in their sauces’ flavor, with Butter Chicken having a creamy tomato sauce and Tikka Masala having a tangy tomato-based sauce.
  • Both Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are rich in flavor and calories, but lighter versions can be made to make them healthier.
  • Butter Chicken originated at Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi, India, while Tikka Masala is said to have been created by Kundan Lal Gujral, an Indian chef.
  • Whether you prefer the creamy indulgence of Butter Chicken or the tangy spice of Tikka Masala, these dishes showcase the rich flavors and culinary traditions of North Indian cuisine.

Exploring Indian Cuisine: A Gastronomic Adventure

Indian cuisine is a diverse and flavorful experience that has taken the world by storm. From robust curries to succulent tandoori meats, Indian dishes offer a range of complex flavors and aromas that tantalize your taste buds. If you’re looking for some delicious, spice-infused meals, then Indian cuisine is the way to go.

Popular Indian Dishes

Indian cuisine is rich with a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes that cater to diverse palates. Chicken dishes are particularly popular, with numerous variations of chicken curries, tandoori chicken, and biryanis available.

Indian Chicken DishesRegion of OriginIngredients
Butter ChickenNorth IndiaChicken, Tomato, Butter, Cream
Tikka MasalaUnited Kingdom (origin disputed)Chicken TikkaTomato SauceSpices
Chicken BiryaniHyderabad, South IndiaBasmati Rice, Chicken, Saffron, Spices

Other popular Indian dishes include samosas, dosas, and paneer dishes, all of which feature distinct flavors and ingredients.

North Indian Dishes

North Indian cuisine is renowned for its flavorful and aromatic dishes. The region’s cuisine is characterized by the use of robust spices, rich gravies, and hearty bread like naan and roti. Some of the most popular North Indian dishes include:

  • Butter Chicken
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Chana Masala
  • Rogan Josh

North Indian cuisine is a must-try for anyone looking to explore the flavors of India.

The Origins of Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala

Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are two of the most popular Indian dishes in the world. Both dishes have interesting origin stories that make them even more special.

The origins of Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, can be traced back to the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi, India. The legendary dish was created in the 1950s by the restaurant’s founders, Kundan Lal Gujral and his partners.

Gujral was a Punjabi Hindu from the Peshawar region who had moved to India after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. He modified the traditional Punjabi dish of tandoori chicken, which is a marinated chicken dish cooked in a tandoor oven, and added a creamy tomato sauce to create Butter Chicken.

“We had a lot of tandoori chicken leftover from the tandoor that hadn’t sold that day. We did not want to throw it away as it was expensive, so we thought of making a tomato gravy and putting the chicken in it,” said Gujral in an interview with The Times of India.

Tikka Masala, on the other hand, has a disputed origin story. Some claim it was created in India, while others believe it was invented in the UK.

According to one popular story, Tikka Masala was created by a Bangladeshi chef in Glasgow, Scotland named Ali Ahmed Aslam. Aslam claims to have improvised the dish at his restaurant, Shish Mahal, in the early 1970s by adding a tomato-based sauce to grilled chicken tikka.

Regardless of its disputed origins, Tikka Masala has become a beloved staple of Indian cuisine and is enjoyed by people all over the world.

Butter Chicken: Creamy and Irresistible

Butter Chicken, also known as Chicken Makhani or Murgh Makhani, is a mouthwatering North Indian dish that is a favorite around the world. Known for its creamy and decadent sauce, butter chicken is a staple at Indian restaurants and at home.

The dish is made by marinating the chicken in a yogurt-based sauce with a blend of herbs and spices such as cumin, coriander, and garam masala. This marinade helps tenderize the chicken and infuse it with flavor. The chicken is then grilled or baked before being added to the creamy tomato-based sauce.

Chicken tikkaMarinate chicken in yogurt and spices, then grill or bake
Butter, cream, and tomatoSauté butter, add tomato sauce, then add heavy cream to create a smooth and creamy sauce
Spices, garlic, and gingerSauté and add to the tomato sauce for added flavor
Naan breadServe hot with naan bread to soak up every last bit of sauce

The result is a creamy, flavorful, and indulgent dish that is best enjoyed with naan bread or basmati rice.

Butter chicken is a great option for those who prefer a milder and creamier chicken curry. However, it’s not the healthiest option due to its heavy cream content. To lighten it up, you can use low-fat cream or substitute it altogether with coconut milk.

Tikka Masala: A Tangy and Spicy Delight

When it comes to popular Indian dishes, Tikka Masala is a top contender. This flavorful dish features grilled chicken tikka cooked in a tomato-based sauce with a blend of aromatic spices. The dish is known for its bold, slightly tangy taste with a hint of heat from chili pepper and ginger.

Tikka Masala is often served with rice and is a popular choice at Indian restaurants. The dish’s tomato sauce is what gives it its signature tangy flavor, and the spices used in the dish are what give it its kick. Popular spices in the dish include chili powdercumin, and coriander.

The Texture of Tikka Masala

Tikka Masala has a medium-thick texture, making it a perfect companion for rice or naan bread. The tomato-based sauce gives the dish a satisfying, hearty feel while the spices add depth and complexity to the overall flavor profile.

Chicken Tikka Masala vs. Tandoori Chicken

Many people often confuse Tikka Masala with Tandoori Chicken due to their similar appearance, but they are actually quite different. Tandoori Chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices and traditionally cooked in a tandoor, or clay oven. The chicken has a smoky flavor and is often served with a side of mint chutney.

On the other hand, Tikka Masala features the grilled chicken tikka cooked in a tomato-based sauce with a blend of aromatic spices. The primary difference between the two is the sauce. Tandoori Chicken is served dry or with a side of sauce, while Tikka Masala is served in a tomato-based sauce.

Why Tikka Masala is a Popular Choice

There are several reasons why Tikka Masala is a beloved Indian dish. The flavors are bold and dynamic, with a perfect balance of tangy and spicy. The dish pairs well with rice or naan bread and is a versatile option for both lunch and dinner. Additionally, the dish is widely available at Indian restaurants, making it a go-to choice for those looking to explore Indian cuisine.

Uncovering the Flavor Differences

When it comes to Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala, the main difference is in their sauces. Butter Chicken has a smooth texture with a creamy tomato sauce and a slightly sweet taste. The sauce is made from a blend of tomato pastecoconut milk, cream, and butter. The garlic flavor is mild, creating a perfect balance of flavors.

Tikka Masala, on the other hand, features a tangy tomato-based sauce with a spicier kick. The tomato sauce is prepared with a blend of chili powdercumin, and garam masala. The garlic and ginger are used generously, while the tomato flavor is more pronounced.

In essence, the creamy tomato sauce of Butter Chicken creates a milder, sweeter taste, while the tangy tomato sauce of Tikka Masala offers a bolder, spicier flavor.

“Butter Chicken has a creamy tomato sauce and a slightly sweet taste, while Tikka Masala features a tangy tomato-based sauce with a spicier kick.”

The yogurt-based marinade used in the preparation of Butter Chicken adds to its mild flavor. It balances the creaminess of the tomato sauce, creating a rich yet subtle taste.

However, both dishes share some common ingredients such as chili powder, ginger, and garlic, which add to their depth of flavor.

It’s worth noting that while the flavor differences between Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are significant, both dishes are enjoyed by Indian cuisine lovers everywhere.

A Closer Look at Ingredients and Cooking Methods

When it comes to Indian curries, the right blend of spices can make all the difference. Both Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala share some common ingredients like chicken meat, ginger, and garlic, but they differ in their cooking methods and spice blends.

Butter Chicken is known for its creamy texture and indulgent flavors. Here’s a breakdown of its main ingredients:

Chicken1 lb
Yogurt-based marinade1 cup
Butter1/2 cup
Tomato puree1 can
Heavy cream1/2 cup
Spice blend (cumin, garam masala, coriander)1 tbsp each
Salt and pepperTo taste

To make the dish, the chicken pieces are marinated in a yogurt-based sauce, then grilled or cooked in a tandoor oven. The buttery tomato sauce is made by sautéing onion, garlic, and ginger in butter, then adding tomato puree, spices, and cream. The cooked chicken is then added to the gravy and simmered until the flavors meld together in perfect harmony.

In contrast, Tikka Masala incorporates a wider range of spices and vegetables in its gravy. Here’s what goes into this tangy and spicy dish:

Chicken tikka1 lb
Tomato sauce1 can
Onion1 large
Ginger and garlic paste1 tbsp each
Spice blend (cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, chili powder, garam masala)1 tsp each
Heavy cream or coconut milk1/2 cup
Salt and pepperTo taste
Vegetables (optional)Bell peppers, onions, or tomatoes

To start, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices, then grilled or broiled until tender and juicy. The tomato-based sauce is made by sautéing onions, ginger, and garlic, then adding spices and tomato sauce. Heavy cream or coconut milk is added to give it a creamy textureVegetables like bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes can also be added to the curry for extra flavor and nutrition.

With their distinct combinations of spices, sauces, and cooking methods, Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are both delicious examples of North Indian cuisine. Which one will you try next?

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala: A Caloric Comparison

While both Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are popular Indian dishes, they are known for being rich due to their creamy sauces. As a result, they tend to have a higher caloric count compared to other Indian curries.

A single serving of chicken curry generally contains around 300-400 calories, with some variations higher or lower depending on the recipe and serving size. A serving of Butter Chicken typically has around 360 calories, while Chicken Tikka Masala can go up to 430 calories per serving.

However, it is possible to make lighter versions of these dishes by using healthier substitutions or opting for grilled chicken tikka instead of the creamy sauce. For example, replacing heavy cream with coconut milk or yogurt can significantly lower the calorie count while still maintaining the dish’s flavor and texture.

Indian DishCalories per serving
Butter Chicken360
Chicken Tikka Masala430
Chicken Curry300-400

So, if you’re counting calories but still want to enjoy the delicious flavors of Indian cuisine, don’t be afraid to experiment with lighter versions of Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala or try some other popular Indian dishes that may have lower caloric counts.

The Battle of Popular Indian Dishes

Indian cuisine is known for its vibrant flavors and rich taste, making it a popular choice for food lovers around the world. When it comes to popular Indian dishes, Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are two heavyweights that have captured the hearts and taste buds of many.

Both dishes have found their way onto the menus of countless Indian restaurants globally and are often the topic of the chicken curry debate. While some swear by the creamy indulgence of Butter Chicken, others crave the tangy spice of Tikka Masala.

Popular Dish or Popular Dishes?

It’s worth noting that these are not the only popular dishes in the world of Indian cuisine. India is home to a diverse range of dishes with unique flavors, cooking methods, and ingredients. However, Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala have become household names, representing the best of North Indian cuisine.

Exploring the Flavors and Varieties

One of the reasons why Indian cuisine is so popular is the wide variety of flavors and textures available. Both Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala offer distinctive tastes and blends of spices that make them unique.

Butter Chicken features a creamy sauce with a smooth texture and a slightly sweet taste, while Tikka Masala offers a tangy tomato-based sauce with a spicier kick from chili powder, tomato paste, and other aromatic spices.

Both dishes can be enjoyed with rice or bread and are often paired with yogurt-based sauces and chutneys.

Popular Indian Restaurants and North Indian Dishes

Indian restaurants worldwide offer a wide range of Indian dishes, catering to different palates and tastes. North Indian dishes are especially popular, and many Indian restaurants serve Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala alongside other North Indian delicacies like Naan bread, Tandoori Chicken, and Biryani.

Indian cuisine owes its unique flavors to the use of local spices, herbs, and ingredients that vary from region to region. The blend of spices used in Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala is part of what makes them so flavorful and delicious.

Final Thoughts

Whether you prefer the creamy indulgence of Butter Chicken or the tangy spice of Tikka Masala, there’s no denying that both dishes are incredibly popular around the world. Indian cuisine offers a vast range of dishes that cater to different preferences and tastes, making it a favorite among food lovers worldwide.

So, the next time you visit an Indian restaurant, take a moment to explore the variety of flavors available and try something new. Who knows? You might just discover your new favorite dish.


When it comes to the Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala debate, there is no clear winner. Both dishes offer a delightful blend of flavors, spices, and textures that make them beloved staples of North Indian cuisine.

Butter Chicken has a smooth and creamy texture, while Tikka Masala has a tangy and slightly spicy taste. The creamy sauce of Butter Chicken is made with heavy cream and tomato, while the tomato-based sauce of Tikka Masala is bolstered by a blend of aromatic spices and chili powder.

While these dishes may be on the richer side due to their creamy sauces, it’s possible to enjoy them in moderation or opt for healthier substitutions like grilled chicken tikka. Ultimately, the choice between Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala comes down to personal preference and taste.

So, the next time you find yourself craving some delicious Indian food, don’t be afraid to try both and discover your own favorite dish. Whether you’re at an Indian restaurant or cooking at home, Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala offer a mouthwatering adventure into the bold and flavorful world of Indian cuisine.


What is the main difference between Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala?

The main difference lies in the sauces. Butter Chicken has a creamy tomato sauce while Tikka Masala features a tangy tomato-based sauce with a spicier kick.

Where did Butter Chicken originate from?

Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, originated in the kitchens of Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi, India.

Who created Tikka Masala?

Tikka Masala is said to have been created by Indian chef Kundan Lal Gujral.

What are the key ingredients in Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken is made with a blend of butter, cream, tomatoes, and tender chicken marinated in a yogurt-based sauce.

What are the flavors of Tikka Masala?

Tikka Masala has bold and slightly tangy flavors with a hint of heat from chili pepper and ginger, thanks to its tomato-based sauce and aromatic spices.

Which dish is milder, Butter Chicken or Tikka Masala?

Butter Chicken is known for its milder and creamier flavor, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a less spicy option.

Can I make lighter versions of Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala?

Yes, it is possible to make lighter versions by using healthier substitutions or opting for grilled chicken tikka instead of the creamy sauce.

Are Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala popular Indian dishes?

Yes, both Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala are extremely popular Indian dishes enjoyed worldwide, showcasing the rich flavors of North Indian cuisine.

Which dish should I try at an Indian restaurant?

It ultimately comes down to personal preference. We recommend trying both Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala to discover your new favorite Indian dish.

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