Whether you love Indian food or you are just curious about these two popular dishes, we are going to dissect both for you so that you can make an informed decision next time you are at an Indian restaurant and think, “hmmm what is the difference between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala?” 

What is the difference between Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken?

When it comes to Indian cuisine, two dishes that often get confused are butter chicken and tikka masala. While both feature succulent pieces of chicken in rich, flavorful sauces, the main difference lies in their composition. Butter chicken is a cream-based dish, with a velvety smooth texture and a slightly sweet taste, while tikka masala gets its signature tanginess from a tomato-based sauce infused with a blend of spices. So, whether you’re in the mood for something silky and indulgent or bold and zesty, butter chicken and tikka masala have something unique to offer your taste buds.

That’s the short answer, anyway! 

First, let’s dive into Chicken Tikka Masala.

What is Chicken Tikka Masala? And what does it taste like?

The basics of the dish are simple- roasted chicken, chopped, and marinated in a sauce of yogurt, tomato, and spices. The color comes from the blend of spices – turmeric, black pepper, coriander, cumin, and cardamom. The roasted chicken gives the dish a chargrilled flavor, while the yogurt/tomato gravy gives a comforting, creamy texture. It is a little spicy- but on the lesser spicy end compared to other dishes you can find on an Indian restaurant menu. Even though it is a mild curry, it doesn’t mean it lacks flavor. Because it is tomato based, with earthy spices, the dish has a hint of sweetness, followed by a mild kick of heat. 

Did you know? 

Chicken tikka is an Indian dish, but the popular version – Chicken Tikka Masala – had a slight change due to the British. The British people tend to love their meat served in gravy, so the masala sauce (tomato gravy) was added to the original version of the Indian dish. And it stuck! So while Butter Chicken truly is a northern Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala was created in the UK in the 1970s. 

How do I make traditional Chicken Tikka Masala?

Even though there is a lengthy ingredient list, the preparation isn’t as difficult as it may look. I’ve compiled two delicious recipes for you to make at home! Grab the ingredients listed below, and get to cooking. 

1. Cafe Delites’ Chicken Tikka Masala 

2. Delish.com’s Chicken Tikka Masala 

Ingredients needed: 

  • garlic cloves
  • fresh ginger 
  • ground garam masala, coriander, turmeric, and cumin
  • tomato paste
  • salt/pepper
  • whole-milk yogurt
  • skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • vegetable oil or ghee
  • yellow onion
  • fresh red chiles or crushed red pepper flakes
  • tomato puree
  • heavy cream
  • fresh cilantro 
  • steamed basmati rice
  • naan

Tips and Tricks 

  • How to make it healthier

Chicken Tikka Masala does offer a good amount of protein because of the chicken, but the calories quickly add up with the oil and the heavy cream. If you want to save a few calories, consider having a side of vegetables rather than naan bread. You’re getting a good amount of carbs from the rice, so taking out the additional carbs from the naan will reduce overall calorie intake. 

If you are looking for a light tikka masala recipe my healthy tofu tikka masala is a great place to start.

  • How to make it quicker

While you won’t get the same traditional flavor, you can choose to make the dish with pre-cooked chicken. Make the yogurt marinade and let the pre-cooked chicken marinade in it overnight in the fridge. When you’re ready to make the meal, simmer the marinade/chicken on the stove for 20-30 minutes until it’s thick and fully heated through. It’s a great option if you want a satisfying meal in under 30 minutes with very little clean up! 

  • How to make it with a twist 

Use coconut milk instead of heavy cream. Not only will it give it a slightly different (good!) flavor, but you’ll save calories as well. 

What is Butter Chicken? And what does it taste like?

Just the name of the dish should alert you to the fact that this is the least healthier version of the two dishes. Butter Chicken is the most popular Indian dish ordered in restaurants. Like Chicken Tikka Masala, chunks of chicken are simmered in a yogurt and tomato sauce. It is creamy, tangy, and buttery of course. 

There are three main differences between the two. Butter Chicken is much more creamy and rich due to the addition of a generous amount of butter. The Butter Chicken sauce is pureed until smooth, while Chicken Tikka Masala keeps the tomatoes and onions in chunks to add more texture to the sauce. And, Butter Chicken is much less spicy than Chicken Tikka Masala. 

Did You Know? 

If you love curry, but can’t take the heat in most Indian dishes, Butter Chicken is the perfect solution. It’s full of the classic spices, but even with the chili powder included, it stays mild. The addition of the butter and cream help mellow the heat. 

How do I make traditional Butter Chicken? 

Again, I’ve got two straightforward recipes for you to try- both with ingredients you can find at your local grocery store. 

Traditional Butter Chicken from Chili Pepper Madness

Ingredients needed: 

  • boneless chicken thighs 
  • fresh garlic and ginger
  • garam masala, turmeric, cumin, red chili powder 
  • salt/pepper
  • plain yogurt
  • lemon juice
  • butter 
  • onion 
  • red pepper 
  • spicy red chili flakes 
  • tomatoes fresh or canned
  • heavy cream
  • steamed rice
  • naan 

Butter Chicken from RecipeTinEats

Tips and Tricks 

  • How to make it healthier

While I know we don’t eat Butter Chicken for health- it’s definitely a splurge type of meal – if you do want to incorporate it more, consider making it a bit healthier. You can do that by using non-fat greek yogurt instead of full-fat yogurt. It’ll decrease the calories, but increase the protein! You can also serve it over cauliflower rice instead of white rice. This will save carbs for the warm, fresh naan bread. 

  • How to make it quicker

The chicken needs to marinade for at least 30 minutes. Go ahead and let the chicken marinade overnight, so it saves you prep and cooking time when you’re ready to make the meal. 

  • How to make it with a twist 

Spice it up! Traditionally, Butter Chicken is not spicy. But any curry can take a little heat, so go ahead and throw in a few jalapenos or serrano peppers for some extra spice. 

Need something lighter? 

Check out these lightened-up dishes.

5 from 1 vote

Tofu Tikka Masala

Servings: 4 people
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
cooked tofu tikka masala
Tofu Tikka Masala is a versatile and nutritious meal. When combined with flavorful spices and creamy tomato-based sauce, it creates a delicious and healthy vegan twist


For the Tofu Tikka:

  • 1 block (16 ounces) extra firm Tofu
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ lemon, freshly squeezed

For the Masala:

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 large Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Himalayan salt and black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • ½ cup tomoto sauce


  • ½ cup coconut yogurt


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Drain the tofu and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut the tofu into cubes.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the garam masala, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, salt, and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the tofu cubes to the bowl and toss to coat them with the spice mixture. Let it marinate for about 30 minutes.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tofu cubes on the sheet. Lightly spray tofu cubes with cooking oil and toss to coat.
  • Bake the tofu for 20 minutes, or until crispy on the outside.
  • In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the minced garlic and grated ginger to the skillet and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the remaining masala ingredients to the skillet and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Add the coconut yogurt to the skillet and stir well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
  • Add the baked tofu to the skillet and stir gently to coat it with the sauce. Cook for another 1 minute to heat the tofu through.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, lemon slices, and chili peppers; serve hot with steamed rice or naan bread. Enjoy!


Serving: 234gCalories: 291kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 15.4gFat: 18.8gFiber: 5.9gSugar: 9g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Tried this recipe?Mention @drizzlemeskinny or tag #drizzlemeskinny!

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About Drizzle Me Skinny

Kate founded DrizzleMeSkinny in 2014. Since then she has shared nearly 1000 weight watchers friendly recipes with DrizzleMeSkinny's over 500,000 social media followers.

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