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

Butter Chicken

Both butter chicken and tikka masala are tasty and similar-looking dishes. However, if you tried both of these dishes, you most likely notice that they don’t taste quite the same.

The main difference between these two dishes is the texture. Butter chicken is more creamy compared to tikka masala. At the same time, you will feel the taste of tomatoes stronger in tikka masala compared to butter chicken.

But let’s look at these two dishes more in-depth and see which one you might prefer best!

Butter Chicken vs Tikka Masala: Comparison Chart

Features Butter Chicken  Tikka Masala
Ingredients  Chicken, cream, yogurt, tomato paste, onion, ginger, garlic, cumin, pepper, butter, turmeric, and garam masala. Chicken, cream, yogurt, tomato paste, onion, ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and garam masala.
Flavor  Stronger butter flavor Dstronger tomato and curry flavor
Cooking time  40 minutes 40 minutes
Origin  India  India and UK

Is Chicken Tikka Masala or Butter Chicken Better?

Which dish you prefer best from tikka masala and butter chicken will be up to you since this is a subjective matter. However, chances are that if you like one of them, you will most certainly like the other ones too since they are fairly similar.

If you want to taste a creamy curry flavor that is not too intense, you will likely appreciate the butter chicken better.

However, if you prefer to taste the flavor of tomato paste and a less creamy texture, you might want to go for the tikka masala. 

Why is it Called Butter Chicken?

Chicken Tikka Masala

Butter chicken is an Indian dish that got its name mainly thanks to the butter used as the key ingredient in the recipe.

The story says that Kundan Lal Gujral, the Indian who helped to invent the tandoori chicken dish, noticed that the pieces of chicken tend to dry really fast.

To prevent this drying-out risk, Lal Gujral created a sauce that is similar to the gravy to keep the chicken moist and tender for a longer time.

This sauce included tomatoes, butter, yogurt but also other spices. And mixed with the tandoori chicken it created one of the most famous Indian dishes that we call nowadays butter chicken.

Is There a Difference Between Chicken Tikka and Chicken Tikka Masala?

If you are not familiar with Indian cuisine and its main dishes, it can be really easy to confuse chicken tikka with chicken tikka masala.

These dishes are similar but also different. The main difference between chicken tikka and chicken tikka masala is that chicken tikka is cooked in a tandoor, while tikka masala comes with a delicious curry sauce as well.

Also, chicken tikka can be served as an appetizer. It tastes amazing with other vegetables or side dishes while chicken tikka masala is the main dish and a lot more filling.

We also have to note that chicken tikka is made without tomatoes or onions while chicken tikka masala includes all these ingredients and others as well.

These dishes are also connected because without a delicious chicken tikka, there can be no chicken tikka masala.

Is Butter Chicken the Same as Curry?

Curry is the main ingredient in butter chicken but it is not the same as curry.

There is another Indian dish similar to butter chicken that is called curry chicken but it doesn’t contain butter and other ingredients we can find in the butter chicken.

You will notice that butter chicken includes curry. But you will also add other ingredients such as tomatoes, yogurt, onion, garlic, and of course, butter.

Curry chicken by itself is a dish with less moisture and without the gravy and buttery taste that you find in the butter chicken.

Is Butter Chicken Authentic Indian?

Butter chicken is originated in India, even if nowadays, this dish is successfully cooked all over the world. The origins of this delicious dish are date back to 1948.

The traditional recipe remained unchanged since, even if some people added new ingredients to it. And there is no need to change the recipe as it is perfect just the way it is!

Butter chicken was first cooked in Northern India by Kundan Lal Gujral. It is locally known as murgh makhani which means chicken with butter.

Even today, when you can eat butter chicken in other countries. However, you will find that the best taste remains the one in the Indian dish.

You will notice the difference between the butter chicken made in India and the same dish made in other parts of the world.

Critics claim that the Indian version of this dish remains the tastiest. So, if you want to enjoy the best result you want to follow the Indian recipe over other ones that might be altered.

Does Chicken Tikka Masala Come From India?

When it comes to chicken tikka masala, its origins remain a topic open for debate. Some people claim this dish comes from India, while others think it comes from the United Kingdom.

The story says that chicken tikka masala was first made in the 1960s, is a British restaurant but by an Indian chef. Allegedly, a customer complained about the chicken tikka being too dry and lacking the flavor he expected from it.

The Indian chef went back to the kitchen and put together a sauce with tomatoes, yogurt, and a mix of spices and mixed it with the chicken tikka.

When the customer tried the chicken tikka with the new sauce, he was more than pleased and he returned several times to enjoy this dish at the same restaurant. The word spread fast and chicken tikka masala became one of the most popular dishes in the UK.

Cooking Differences Between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala

Cooking these meals will take you fairly the same amount of time as long as you marinate the chicken beforehand.

If you don’t have the time to marinate your chicken, make sure to add at least 20 more minutes to your cooking time as this is the time you need to let it sit for in order to get the flavor of the marinade ingredients.

You will notice that the key difference between butter chicken and chicken tikka masala is the way the chicken is cooked. Chicken tikka masala is often a drier dish since the chicken is cooked in a tandoor.

At the same time, butter chicken is bringing you a more soft moist texture not only thanks to the added butter but also because the chicken is cooked in a pan on the stove. Or over a fire.

These are the traditional manners of preparing butter chicken or chicken tikka masala. However, if you want to make these dishes at home, feel free to improvise with different methods and see how you like it best.

There are many versions of butter chicken and chicken tikka masala worldwide. However, as long as you obtain a dish that you like to eat, you can’t go wrong.

Plus, not everyone has the same taste. Thus, you will naturally have to adapt the cooking style to your kitchen and the means you have available.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, both butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are in great competition when it comes to which one tastes better.

At the end of the day, it comes down to each person’s preferences as both dishes are absolutely delicious when they are cooked the right way.

Now that you are aware of the differences as well as the similarities between these two dishes, you can go ahead and give them a try to see which one satisfies your taste better!

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