Difference between tikka masala vs butter chicken

Chicken Tikka Masala vs Butter Chicken are two of the most well-known recipes. Both are delicious meals made up of tender chicken pieces and an incredibly creamy sauce. While these two recipes are similar, they also have notable distinctions.


This article will walk you through how to order the different kinds of chicken tikka masala and give you suggestions on what to order at some of the best Indian restaurants in town.

What Is Tikka Masala?

chicken tikka masala

Tikka masala, a popular Indian dish in India and abroad, is made with chicken tikka—pieces of chicken marinated in spices (including chili powder, cumin, coriander), grilled or broiled—that are then stewed in a creamy tomato-based sauce. 

While it's often thought that tikka masala originated in Britain, it has its roots in Northern India, where it was created to use up leftover pieces of chicken after preparing Tandoori chicken.

What Is Butter Chicken?

butter chicken

Tikka masala became popular in America as butter chicken after Indian restaurants began serving it with a side of white rice instead of basmati. The dish doesn't always include chicken, but it's called chicken-tikka or chicken-curry when it does. Tikka means pieces in Hindi, referring to all the large chunks of boneless meat found in butter chicken.

Tikka Masala vs Butter Chicken : Differences

Though chicken tikka masala and butter chicken seem similar in both name and presentation, they're quite different and there is always a competition between tikka masala vs butter chicken. Butter chicken is not chicken tikka masala. They are two completely different dishes altogether.

While both are creamy curries with chicken as their main ingredient, butter chicken typically has more cream added to it than its spicy cuisine. Where tikka masala tends to be on the spicier side, a classic recipe for butter chicken calls for milder spices like ginger and garlic and can include ingredients like cashews for texture.

Factors of differences


To understand the difference between tikka masala vs butter chicken, one must first understand the variations between tikka and butter chicken. Chicken tikka can be made either in a spicy or mild version, and both versions are red. On the other hand, the butter chicken is white and contains cream or milk (hence, the butter) as an ingredient to get that creamy texture.


Butter chicken is mildly spiced, whereas tikka masala has more of a kick. Chicken in tikka masala sauce tends to be more tender and juicy than butter chicken due to its marinade-containing yogurt. Butter chicken also tends to have a creamier texture. Both are tasty in their own right—it just depends on what you're craving! Try mixing them up if you want an exciting twist on your taste buds.


Butter chicken tends to be creamier and sweeter than chicken curry, with heavier spices. On the other hand, Tikka masala tends to focus more on heat and spice. The two dishes often use similar ingredients: tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and different types of chilies—but they're not quite interchangeable. 


While there are different variations of chicken-curry, chicken-tikka, and chicken-tikka masala in India, they revolve around a similar idea. Chicken is a protein source in an Indian curry dish.

Tikka refers to grilled or roasted pieces of meat that are either marinated in yogurt or spiced water before being cooked on skewers. Masala refers to a sauce made with cream, yogurt, or tomatoes; or a mixture of spices used to flavor food.

But, Butter Chicken is usually made with breast meat, whereas Tikka Masala can use any type of chicken. In Butter Chicken, for example, the chicken is usually shredded. Prepared using the tandoor, this dish is cut into nugget-sized pieces.


One way to tell whether a dish is a chicken-tikka masala or chicken tikka butter masala is to look at its spiciness. Chicken-tikka masalas tend to be quite spicy, whereas chicken-tikka butter is not as spicy. Also, since there's no cream in these curries, they don't have that rich buttery taste that comes with those dishes.

Micronutrients in Each Dish

The main ingredient of chicken-tikka masala—chicken—is a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, and iron. The chicken itself doesn't provide much in terms of micronutrients. Rather it's prepared with other ingredients that add a lot of important vitamins and minerals to your meal.

For example, chicken-tikka masala is often served with naan (which contains thiamine), spinach (iron), tomatoes (vitamin C), and onions (vitamin C). Butter chicken tends to be served with garlic naan (thiamine) or rice pilaf (zinc). So when you order chicken-tikka masala or butter chicken, you're getting a nutrient boost from those delicious sides!

Which Dish Is Healthier?

However, when it comes to health, it's hard to beat chicken. Both of these dishes have a lot of saturated fat—but in general, chicken dishes will be better for you than those made with other meats.

Chicken tikka masala has more protein and less fat (7 grams) than chicken curry (4 grams) because chicken curry contains ghee or oil, whereas chicken-tikka masala does not. And that probably explains why people like it so much!


One key ingredient of the butter chicken sauce is butter, while chicken tikka masala main ingredients rely on tomatoes. But you don't want to mix the two up. The first dish includes tomatoes. Indeed, both dishes have ingredients in common like ginger, pepper, garlic, masala, garam, tomato paste, onion, cream, yogurt, and chicken.

For example, tikka masala usually has more tomatoes and spices, whereas other cuisines may contain more butter, cumin, and spices.


Tikka Masala is a curry dish served in a brown or spicy red sauce that originated in South Asia. On the other hand, butter chicken has a creamy tomato-based sauce with shredded chicken or cubes of chicken breast pieces. It originates from Punjabi cuisine but is popular across India.

Both Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken are the best Indian dishes to try and are common Indian dishes that go well with naan (Indian flatbread). However, there are differences in both preparation methods and taste.

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