Butter Chicken vs Pasanda: What’s the Difference?

Written By Ollie Cartwright


Butter Chicken and Pasanda are both celebrated dishes in Indian cuisine, each boasting its own unique blend of spices and cooking techniques. But, how do you set these two popular curries apart?

Pasanda and Butter Chicken side by side for comparison with labels

Butter Chicken, known for its creamy tomato sauce, is a North Indian delight, while Pasanda, featuring a milder, nutty flavour, hails from the Mughal era. Their main differences lie in ingredients and flavour intensity.

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken, or Murgh Makhani, is a popular dish from North India. It consists of tender chicken pieces cooked in a creamy tomato sauce.

This dish stands out for its rich blend of spices, including garam masala, ginger, and garlic, coupled with butter and cream, giving it a distinctive, luxurious taste.

Originally from Delhi, Butter Chicken has become a staple in Indian restaurants globally.

What is Pasanda?

Pasanda is a traditional Mughal dish, known for its creamy, mild flavor. It typically features thin slices of meat, usually lamb or chicken, marinated in a blend of yogurt and spices, then cooked in a sauce made with cream, nuts, and spices like cardamom and cinnamon.

This dish is less spicy than many Indian curries, offering a subtler, nuttier taste profile.

Similarities Between Butter Chicken vs Pasanda

You might be surprised to hear that there are some things that make Butter Chicken and Pasanda similar:

  • Creamy Consistency: Both dishes feature a rich, creamy sauce, making them popular choices for those who enjoy less spicy, more velvety curries.
  • Use of Dairy: Cream, butter, and yoghurt are essential in both recipes, contributing to their smooth texture and rich taste.
  • Accompaniments: Traditionally, both are served with Indian bread like naan or rice, making them versatile for different types of meals.

Differences Between Butter Chicken and Pasanda

Of course, there are plenty of reasons why Butter Chicken and Pasanda are not alike. Here are the 4 mains differences:

  • Base Sauce: Butter Chicken uses a tomato-based sauce enriched with cream, while Pasanda uses a creamy sauce made with nuts and yoghurt.
  • Spice Intensity: Butter Chicken is generally spicier, incorporating a blend of hot spices. In contrast, Pasanda is milder, with a focus on aromatic, rather than hot, spices.
  • Texture of Meat: In Butter Chicken, the chicken is typically roasted or grilled before being added to the sauce, whereas in Pasanda, the meat is marinated and then cooked in the sauce, leading to a softer texture.
  • Regional Origin: Butter Chicken originates from North India, specifically Delhi, while Pasanda has roots in the Mughal era, reflecting a more Central Asian influence.
Is Butter Chicken Hotter Than Pasanda?

Butter chicken is typically milder than pasanda. Butter chicken often has a creamy, tomato-based sauce with gentle spices, while pasanda, although also mild, can have a bit more heat due to its use of peppercorns and chillies.

Butter Chicken vs Pasanda: Which Wins?

If you had to pick one to order next time you have an Indian, which of these two would you put your vote behind?

Do You Prefer Butter Chicken or Pasanda?

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