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

Written By Ollie Cartwright


Both are known for their rich flavours and use of spices, but they offer distinct taste experiences so what are the things that make butter chicken different (and similar) to tandoori chicken?

Tandoori chicken next to butter chicken with labels

Butter Chicken is a creamy, tomato-based dish, while Tandoori Chicken is a spicy, yoghurt-marinated dish cooked in a tandoor. The main difference lies in their cooking methods and sauces.

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is a dish originating from India. It typically consists of chicken cooked in a mildly spiced tomato sauce enriched with butter, cream, and a blend of spices like garam masala and turmeric.

The dish is known for its smooth, rich texture and a balance of sweet and tangy flavours. It’s often served with rice or naan bread.

What is Tandoori Chicken?

Tandoori Chicken is a popular Indian dish named after the ‘tandoor’, a cylindrical clay oven in which it is cooked.

The chicken is marinated in a mixture of yoghurt and a blend of spices, including cayenne pepper, garam masala, and garlic, giving it a distinctive red colour and spicy flavour.

The high heat of the tandoor imparts a smoky taste to the chicken, which is often served with slices of lemon and onions.

Similarities Between Butter Chicken and Tandoori Chicken

Although, just from looking at them, there are clear differences you may be surprised to hear there are some things that make these two alike:

  • Indian Origin: Both dishes have their roots in Indian cuisine and are popular in Indian restaurants worldwide.
  • Spices Used: Each uses a blend of Indian spices, including garam masala, garlic, and ginger, contributing to their aromatic flavours.
  • Protein Base: Chicken is the primary protein in both dishes, although the cut and preparation of the chicken may vary.
  • Serving Style: They are commonly served with Indian bread like naan or rice, making them staple dishes in Indian-themed meals.

Differences Between Butter Chicken and Tandoori Chicken

Of course, there are plenty of things that separate these two popular Indian dishes. Here are the 5 main differences between butter chicken and tandoori chicken:

  • Cooking Method: Butter Chicken is cooked in a creamy tomato sauce on a stovetop, while Tandoori Chicken is grilled in a tandoor oven.
  • Sauce: Butter Chicken features a rich, creamy tomato-based sauce, whereas Tandoori Chicken is typically served dry or with a side of chutney.
  • Spice Level: Tandoori Chicken often has a spicier taste due to the marinade, while Butter Chicken is milder and balanced with cream.
  • Texture: The texture of Butter Chicken is generally smooth and creamy, while Tandoori Chicken is more about the charred and smoky texture.
  • Dairy Content: Butter Chicken includes butter and cream, contributing to its richness, unlike Tandoori Chicken, which uses yoghurt primarily for marination.
Is Butter Chicken Hotter Than Tandoori Chicken?

Butter chicken is generally milder than tandoori chicken. Butter chicken typically has a creamy, tomato-based sauce with mild spices, while tandoori chicken, marinated in yoghurt and spices and cooked in a tandoor, can be spicier. However, spice levels can vary based on the recipe.

Butter Chicken vs Tandoori Chicken: Which Wins?

You’ve probably already got a favourite, so it’s time to let us know which one. Do you prefer a wet butter chicken or a dry tandoori chicken?

Do You Prefer Butter Chicken or Tandoori Chicken?

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