This is a streamlined version of everybody’s favourite butter chicken, designed to make right now! So easy it’s unbelievable – just put everything in a pan then pop it in the oven. All the flavour, with a fraction of the effort. This is a one-pot meal game-changer!
Dear readers – Before jumping into today’s recipe, just a quick thank you for all the lovely messages of support and congratulations on the new food bank kitchen for RecipeTin Meals. Today was the teams’ first day cooking in the new kitchen – all the space was a luxury! We are so excited about the possibilities, the ability to increase the number of meals we make and people we can help. Here are some snaps from today. – N x ❤️
Butter chicken – in just a few steps!
Butter Chicken has been one of my most popular recipes from the moment I published it. Readers tell me they love it because it tastes “totally legit” yet you can get everything from regular grocery stores and it’s very straight forward.
Well, your Butter Chicken loving life is about to get even better because here’s a one-pan baked version that’s even easier! It’s one of those “dump and bake” recipes. I hate that phrase because I feel like it undermines the recipe. But that’s exactly what this recipe is. You put everything in a baking dish – curry slathered chicken and the sauce – then you put it in the oven.
The end result tastes just as good as regular Butter Chicken. Some would say better, because whole chicken thighs are juicier than bite size pieces!
Ingredients in butter chicken
The ingredients in this one-pan baked version of Butter Chicken are the same as the original Butter Chicken, though quantities are different for a couple of items which is explained below.
CHICKEN AND MARINADE (BUT NO MARINATING REQUIRED!)
I will continue to call this the butter chicken marinade even though you don’t need to marinade for this baked version! Why? Because the chicken is baking in the sauce for 45 minutes during which time enough flavour infusion happens. But, you can marinade overnight if you’d like, to get even more flavour into the flesh!
Chicken – The best chicken to use for this one-pan baked version is bone-in chicken thighs. This is because they remain juicy for the 45 minute bake time required for the sauce to thicken and develop flavour. We remove the skin (it’s easy, just peel it off) to prevent the sauce from getting too greasy.
Other chicken options – Drumsticks (excellent), boneless thighs (not as good but will work), breast (bite size chunks, my least preferred). I’ve included directions for each of these in the recipe notes.
Yoghurt – This is what makes the spices stick to the surface of the chicken. Use any plain yogurt. Not sweetened and certainly not flavoured! Full fat is best, though low fat will work too.
Lemon juice – For a touch of tang. Apple cider vinegar will also work (or other mild clear vinegar – white wine vinegar etc).
Ginger and garlic – Fresh, finely grated so you don’t have lumps in the sauce. Using paste out of a jar is not the same – it’s sour and the flavour is nowhere near as good!
Chilli powder – Pure & spicy, not the US tex-mex chili blend. Else, use cayenne pepper. Butter chicken isn’t spicy, we only use 1/2 teaspoon for a fair amount of sauce. But if you’re concerned, leave it out.
Garam masala – An Indian curry spice mix widely available at regular grocery stores these days. Doesn’t cost any more than regular spices!
Other spices – Turmeric and cumin powder.
Salt – My original Butter Chicken recipe doesn’t need salt in the marinade because it’s seared then simmered in the sauce. Because we plonk-and-bake in this recipe, salt in the marinade is needed else the surface of the chicken is a bit bland.
Butter chicken CURRY sauce
Butter chicken curry sauce doesn’t call for many ingredients because the curry flavour comes from the chicken marinade.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is commonly used in Indian cooking, for intense buttery flavour. Kept in the pantry not fridge. Sold at regular grocery stores, or make your own, or just use butter.
Tomato passata – Pureed, strained pure tomatoes, sometimes labelled “tomato puree” in the US (here’s a photo of Mutti brand sold at Walmart). It’s readily available in Australian supermarkets nowadays, alongside pasta sauces. Passata is excellent for making thick, smooth sauces. More on tomato passata here.
Cream – Thickened / heavy cream is best because it is thicker than regular cream. But regular cream will work too and if your sauce is a bit thinner than ideal at the end, just pop the pan back in the oven with just sauce in it for a few minutes (it thickens quickly).
Sugar – Just 1 1/2 teaspoons, to achieve the right flavour tone in the sauce.
How to make One-pan Baked Butter Chicken
As I said from the outset – put everything in the pan and shove it in the oven!!! OK, OK, there’s one or two minor little details to add to that. 🙂
Coat chicken – Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl then toss to coat the chicken.
Mix the sauce ingredients in a baking pan.
Place the chicken in. Scrape out all the residual marinade and dab onto the skin. Don’t waste any of it, that’s all butter chicken flavour!
Bake for 45 minutes at 200°C / 400°F (180°C fan-forced), basting at the 30 minutes and 40 minute mark. We need a slightly hot oven to get good colour on the chicken and reduce the sauce.
Basting – Basting just means spooning sauce over the chicken. After the 2nd baste at the 40 minute mark, I like to put the chicken back in so it browns nicely.
Done! When you pull it out of the oven, the surface of the chicken should be golden and the sauce will have transformed from the unremarkable looking pink watery mixture you mixed up at the beginning into your favourite butter chicken sauce!
SAUCE THICKNESS TROUBLE-SHOOTING
The rate at which the sauce will thicken and darken in colour will differ depending on variables including the accuracy and heat distribution of your oven, the pan you use (and how it conducts/retains heat) and the juiciness of your chicken (frozen-thawed chicken can be more watery inside, and some economical chicken can be pumped up with brine which also means more water comes out when it cooks).
But tweaking at the end is so easy. Just take the chicken out – it needs to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving anyway – then pop the pan with the sauce back into the oven. It will thicken quickly, so keep an eye on it.
Serving baked butter chicken
While the chicken is in the oven, steam some basmati rice to serve it with. Place a juicy piece of chicken on top then smother with a generous amount of sauce (I never skimp on sauce, so there is plenty!).
For a splash of fresh green colour, add some coriander/cilantro leaves (whole or chopped). Then dive in. To make everyone even happier, add naan for mopping the bowl clean. If you’re yet to try homemade naan, it needs to be pushed to the top of your list!! The dough doesn’t requiring kneading. It’s extremely straightforward.
Love to know what you think if you try this Baked Butter Chicken. Oh, and did I mention the option to assemble tonight to pop into the oven tomorrow? The ultimate meal-prep. – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
One-pan Baked Butter Chicken
- 1.2 kg/ 2.4lb (6 pieces) bone-in chicken thighs , skin removed (Note 1)
Butter chicken marinade:
- 1/2 cup plain yoghurt , full fat
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp ginger , finely grated
- 2 cloves garlic , finely grated or crushed
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp garam masala (Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder (pure, not US blend) or cayenne pepper powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cooking salt / kosher salt
Butter chicken curry sauce:
- 2 tbsp/ 30g melted ghee or butter (Note 3)
- 1 cup tomato passata (US: tomato puree) (Note 4)
- 3/4 cup heavy / thickened cream (or regular cream, or coconut milk)
- 1 1/2 tsp white sugar
- 3/4 tsp cooking salt / kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F (180°C fan-forced).
- Coat chicken – Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then add the chicken and toss to coat.
- Optional marinade – overnight. (Note 5)
- Assemble – Mix Sauce ingredients in a 23 x 33cm / 9 x 13" baking dish. Place chicken in, smooth side up. Scrape residual marinade out of bowl and dab onto chicken surface.
- Bake 45 minutes, basting with sauce at the 30 minute and 40 minute mark. The sauce will change from pink to orangey-red (Note 6 for sauce thickening).
- Drumsticks will also works, use a bit more.
- Boneless thighs – get the sauce going first for around 20 min then add the chicken and bake for a further 15 – 20 min until just cooked through.
- Breast – personally don’t recommend, flavour result won’t be the same (it’s so lean!). But if you insist, here’s how I’d do it! Cut ~650g/1.3lb into big bite size pieces, cook per boneless thighs above (I’d spray the chicken).
Life of Dozer
I wasn’t at RTM today. I was back in the office, schlepping away on the computer writing up today’s post. I want to tell you here’s Dozer, consoling me because I’m feeling left out. But actually, he just wants that treat on the table. 😂