Butter Chicken vs Chicken Korma: What’s the Difference?

Written By Acacia Crossley


Butter Chicken and Chicken Korma are two popular dishes in Indian cuisine, beloved for their rich flavours and creamy textures. Originating from different regions in India, these dishes have gained worldwide popularity, but what makes them different dishes?

Chicken korma and butter chicken side by side with labels for comparison

Butter Chicken is known for its tomato-based, creamy sauce with a hint of butter and fenugreek, while Chicken Korma features a milder, yoghurt or cream-based sauce with a blend of aromatic spices. The main differences lie in their flavour profiles and origins.

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is a North Indian dish originating from Delhi.

It’s characterized by its rich, creamy tomato sauce, seasoned with Indian spices, butter, and often finished with a touch of cream or fenugreek. This dish typically features grilled or roasted chicken pieces, which are then simmered in the sauce.

Who Invented Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken was invented in the 1950s by Kundan Lal Gujral, a chef and owner of the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi, India. It was created as a way to use leftover tandoori chicken, by cooking it in a rich, creamy tomato sauce.

What is Chicken Korma?

Chicken Korma is a dish with Mughlai origins, known for its creamy, subtly spiced flavour profile.

It’s made with yoghurt or cream, a blend of aromatic spices like cardamom and cinnamon, and sometimes ground nuts or coconut.

The chicken in Korma is usually braised, resulting in a tender texture, and the sauce is generally milder compared to Butter Chicken.

What Does Chicken Korma Taste Like?

Chicken Korma is mildly spiced compared to other Indian curries, often sweetened with ingredients like coconut or almond. The sauce is typically thick and smooth, with a subtle blend of spice and sweetness

Similarities Between Butter Chicken and Chicken Korma

Although they have different names and come from different parts of India, there are some things that makes these dishes similar:

  • Creaminess: Both dishes are known for their creamy, rich sauces, making them popular choices for those who enjoy milder, less spicy Indian cuisine.
  • Spices: Each dish uses a blend of traditional Indian spices, though the specific spices and their quantities may vary.
  • Popularity: Butter Chicken and Chicken Korma are both highly popular in Indian cuisine, often featured on restaurant menus around the world.

Differences Between Butter Chicken and Chicken Korma

Of course, they are different dishes, and that means they have things that make them different. Here are the main differences between butter chicken and korma:

  • Sauce Base: Butter Chicken uses a tomato-based sauce enriched with cream or butter, while Chicken Korma’s sauce is primarily yoghurt or cream-based, often including ground nuts or coconut.
  • Flavour Intensity: Butter Chicken typically has a more robust, slightly tangy flavour due to the tomatoes and spices, whereas Chicken Korma is milder and more subtly spiced.
  • Preparation of Chicken: In Butter Chicken, the chicken is often grilled or roasted before being added to the sauce, giving it a distinct flavour. In contrast, Chicken Korma usually involves braising the chicken in the sauce, resulting in a different texture and flavour absorption.
  • Regional Origin: Butter Chicken hails from North India, specifically Delhi, while Chicken Korma has Mughlai roots, which is a cuisine developed in the Indian subcontinent by the imperial kitchens of the Mughal Empire.
Is Butter Chicken Hotter Than Chicken Korma?

Butter chicken is generally milder than korma. While both dishes are creamy and rich, korma often incorporates more spices, which can make it slightly hotter. However, the heat level in both dishes can vary depending on the recipe and personal preference for spice levels.

Butter Chicken vs Chicken Korma: Which Wins?

You’re presented with two dishes, one contains butter chicken and the other contains chicken korma. Which are you opting for?

Do You Prefer Butter Chicken or Chicken Korma?

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