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Easy New Zealand Style Butter Chicken

Oct 29, 2022 | 9 comments

This super easy, DELICIOUS New Zealand style butter chicken recipe takes just 20 minutes to make. It uses store cupboard staples – including a secret, very Kiwi ingredient you may be surprised to see!

White plate with rice and butter chicken with bowl of butter chicken in the background and garlic naan.

There’s something SO comforting about a bowl of creamy, fragrant butter chicken. It’s New Zealand’s favourite takeaway dish for a reason!

I’m talking about a creamy, mild sauce stuffed with juicy chicken thigh pieces. It’s just so addictive and truly so easy to make.

I love serving this butter chicken with steamed white rice and garlic naan for a proper takeaway experience. Get everything ready for the curry while your rice is cooking, then cook the butter chicken once it’s ready – it only takes 10 minutes!


You’ll be able to find all the ingredients for this butter chicken easily at the store – and I bet you’ll already have that secret ingredient in your cupboard!

Ingredients for butter chicken laid out on a grey marble background and labelled.
  • Chicken thighs. I prefer chicken thighs here because they’re super juicy – but you could use chicken breast if you prefer. Use skin-on or skinless, it’s up to you!
  • Cream. Use a single or double cream – or your favourite dairy-free alternative. I’ve made this with oat cream and it worked wonderfully, so any other dairy-free cream should work well too.
  • Tomato paste. This is what gives the butter chicken that gorgeous bright colour and the tomatoey flavour. I love using Mutti tomato puree, but just go for what you can find.
  • Tomato sauce. Aka. ketchup. And here’s that secret ingredient! Every Kiwi household will have a bottle of this tomato sauce. It works here because it provides sweetness and acidity to the curry, all in one convenient bottle. I know it might sound strange, but I promise it works.
  • The spices. We’re using a mix of ground nutmeg, garam masala, cumin and turmeric along with a little salt. All should be easy to find – but you could also use a curry powder if that’s what you have to hand.

How to make it

Start by chopping your chicken thighs into large chunks – I normally go for about 3cm pieces. Get them in a bowl and add the ground spices and salt. Give the spices a good toss through the chicken so the chunks are coated well.

PRO TIP: You can marinate the chicken in the spices for up to 24 hours in the fridge to intensify the flavour if you’d like.

Get a large pan with high sides over medium heat, then add your butter. Let it melt, then go in with your chicken thighs. Try to spread them out onto one layer so that they brown evenly. Cook for a few minutes (don’t touch them in this time – you want that lovely brown char from the pan). Flip, then cook for another couple of minutes until they’re nicely browned.

At this point, add your crushed garlic and stir it through the chicken. Then add your tomato paste and secret ingredient tomato sauce. Give them a stir through the chicken so that all the pieces are coated well.

Turn the heat down to low then pour in your cream. PRO TIP: Turn the heat down here to stop the cream from curdling when it hits the hot pan – this can happen when the cream has an abrupt temperature change. Don’t worry if it does split, it’ll still taste delicious.

Give the cream a mix through the chicken and bring the curry to a simmer. Simmer, stirring it for about 5 minutes, then you’re good to go.

Got a question?

Can I use chicken breast rather than thigh?

You can – because this curry cooks quickly you shouldn’t suffer with dry chicken breasts (which can dry out when cooked for too long). I prefer chicken thighs here for the juicy flavour and they’re also cheaper, but breast will definitely work too.

Can I use a dairy-free cream?

Yes! I’ve made this using oat cream before and it was totally fine, so it should work with a dairy-free cream alternative.

Can I make it ahead of time?

You sure can. Like most curries, this butter chicken actually gets better with time. The flavours have more time to marry and really penetrate into the chicken. It will last 4 days in the fridge, stored in an airtight container. Just reheat it on the stovetop over low heat for a few minutes (you can add a tiny bit of water – start with 1 tablespoon – if it’s looking quite thick, but it will get runnier as it heats up) or pop it in the microwave at 1-minute intervals, stirring as you go.

What can I serve the butter chicken with?

The classic takeaway pairing is steamed white rice and naan – try my recipe for easy, soft, garlic flatbreads if you’d like to have a go at making it yourself! I also LOVE using leftovers in pies – you can follow my recipe for New Zealand style mince and cheese pies for instructions on cook-time etc.

Can I freeze butter chicken?

Yes, you can – store it in an airtight container or zip-lock bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can easily defrost it on the stovetop or in the microwave when you’re ready.

Can I use a different meat with the sauce?

Sure! I actually love this as a vegetarian curry with paneer or halloumi, or I like to mix it with roasted cauliflower and chickpeas.

In the UK? Shop this recipe on the Cherrypick app

Cherrypick banner.

You can easily order all your ingredients through the all-in-one meal planning app, Cherrypick. Just head to the app, add the ingredients you need to your basket, check out and then your ingredients will be delivered to your door by Sainsbury’s. Easy peasy!

Watch how to make it

Do you have my free Fakeaway Favourites e-book?

Fakeaway Favourites book cover superimposed over a bowl of colourful salad.

It’s filled with my absolute favourite takeaway dishes you can make at home!

From a quick pad thai and saag paneer, to Korean fried chicken, beef rendang and chicken satay, you’ll love exploring the book.

Like this recipe? Here are some more fakeaways you might enjoy!

If you make this butter chicken, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear how you get on.

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White plate with rice and butter chicken with bowl of butter chicken in the background and garlic naan.

Easy New Zealand Style Butter Chicken

  • Author: Kate Alexandra
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


This super easy, New Zealand style butter chicken recipe takes just 15 minutes to make and is so delicious. It uses store cupboard staples – including a secret, very Kiwi ingredient you may be surprised to see!

I love serving this butter chicken with steamed white rice and garlic naan for a proper takeaway experience. Get everything ready for the curry while your rice is cooking, then cook the butter chicken once it’s ready – it only takes 10 minutes!


Units Scale

For the butter chicken –

  • 1lb/500g chicken thighs, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup cream (use single or double cream, or your favourite dairy-free alternative)
  • 6 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato sauce (ketchup)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the rice –

  • 1 cup long grain, white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Make the rice. Add 1 cup of rice to a small pot along with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 cups of water. Set the pot over medium heat. Once the top of the water is looking a little foamy and starting to bubble, turn the heat to low and put the lid on your pot. If your pot doesn’t have a lid, use a wooden board or a plate. Leave it there with the lid on, undisturbed, for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, turn the heat off and remove the pan from the stovetop. Let it sit for another 10 minutes, then fluff up the rice with a fork and get ready to serve.
  2. Mix the chicken and spices. In a large bowl, toss the sliced chicken thighs with a teaspoon each of nutmeg, turmeric, cumin, garam masala and ½ teaspoon of salt so the pieces are coated evenly.
  3. Cook the chicken. Set a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the butter and let it melt. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, until the chicken is starting to brown. Add the crushed garlic cloves. Cook, stirring through the chicken, for another minute.
  4. Add the tomato paste and tomato sauce. At this point, add the 6 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce, and stir them through the chicken for a few minutes to intensify the flavour.
  5. Add the cream, simmer and serve. Turn the heat to low, then add the cream, and stir it through the chicken. PRO TIP: If you do this when the pan is too hot, the cream may split, so that’s why we’re reducing the temperature first. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Give it a taste, and add more salt if you think it needs it. Remove the pan from the heat, and serve with the rice and garlic naan for a proper Indian takeaway experience!


INGREDIENT NOTES: I like using chicken thighs because I find them juicier than chicken breasts, but you can use breasts if you like.

STORAGE INSTRUCTIONS: The butter chicken will keep well for 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge (and will actually get even better as the flavours continue to develop!). Reheat it on the stove over low heat – add a little water if the sauce looks too thick but keep in mind that it will loosen up as it heats – or in the microwave at 1-minute intervals, stirring as you go. It also freezes really well. I like either storing it in a zip lock bag (I find this fits in my small freezer a lot easier) or an airtight container. Just defrost in the microwave or on the stovetop when you’re ready.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve with store-bought naan or why not give my easy, soft garlic flatbreads, 2-ingredient dough cheese naan or garlic naan a go? They’re all super easy and make a fab addition to the curry.

SHOP THE INGREDIENTS ON CHERRYPICK: You can easily shop all the ingredients you need for this butter chicken through Cherrypick, a wonderful all-in-one meal planning app. Just add the ingredients to your shopping cart and then Sainsbury’s will deliver them straight to your door.

  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Category: fakeaways
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: indian


  • Serving Size: 1 bowl
  • Calories: 550
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Sodium: 1062.2mg
  • Fat: 26.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 14.9g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 9.9g
  • Trans Fat: 0.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 45.2g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 30.2g
  • Cholesterol: 178.3mg

Keywords: butter chicken, chicken curry, easy chicken curry


I’m Kate, the creator behind Dished. I love creating flavour packed, simple (ish) recipes for you, designed for every day and special occasions.





This e-book includes my absolute favourite fakeaway recipes (popular takeaway dishes you can make at home!)

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  1. Will

    Just like you get from a takeaway!! So good

  2. Callum

    So good and really easy to whip up.

  3. Jared

    So tasty and easy to make on a cold London night! A kiwi classic!

  4. Sam

    Looks so delish!

  5. Amanda

    Yum! Dish enjoyed by all the family.


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