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Butter Chicken VS Tikka Masala: What’s The Difference?

Quick Answer

To provide you with the quick and fast answer to your question, tikka masala differs from traditional butter chicken, because it contains less cream. As a result, the sauce in a tikka masala is far less thick and creamy. As well as this, butter chicken will traditionally contain less tomatoes, resulting in a less intense flavor. 

If you’re a lover of all things Indian, and have sampled either butter chicken or tikka masala, you might have found that both of these dishes taste quite similar to one another. 

Whether you’ve eaten them at your local takeout, or at an Indian restaurant, you might be inclined to try to replicate these classic meals. 

But first of all, you want to know, what exactly is the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala? 

Butter Chicken VS Tikka Masala: What’s The Difference?

If you’ve found yourself pondering this question, don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered.

Simply keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the difference between butter chicken and tikka masala.

What Does Butter Chicken Taste Like? 

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to try butter chicken before, we can attempt to describe it here for you. 

Butter chicken is a dish which originally comes from Delhi, in India.

It is one of the most popular curries in existence, and consists of chicken which has been marinated in various items, such as ginger, garlic, and a whole host of other spices. 

It has an incredibly rich, tomato based sauce, which helps to tenderize the chicken meat. Along with the chicken, the dish also contains turmeric, butter, pepper, garam masala, onion, cream, and yogurt. 

It’s a mild to moderately spicy dish, and is suitable for those who don’t like to have their curries too hot. 

What Does Chicken Tikka Masala Taste Like? 

Chicken tikka masala is another curry based dish, but interestingly, it doesn’t actually originate from India.

Instead, it has been inspired by Indian cuisine, and was invented in England, where it is still incredibly popular today. 

Although butter chicken has an intense tomato based flavor, chicken tikka masala is even richer, and tomatoes make up the entirety of the base.

Less cream is added into the mixture, and in some cases, isn’t even added at all. 

In chicken tikka masala, you will find ginger, garlic, garam masala, yogurt, ginger, chili pepper, and onion. 

Like butter chicken, it is a fairly mild curry, and is a great option for those who don’t enjoy eating meals which are too hot. 

Which Curry Dish Tastes The Best? 

It is difficult to say which curry dish tastes better, because it’s all subjective. What might be somebody’s preference may differ from others. 

If you like dishes that have a zingy, tomato based sauce that tastes incredibly fresh, then we’d recommend that you go for a chicken tikka masala.

It’s also healthier than butter chicken, so this may be something you might want to take into consideration. 

If, on the other hand, you prefer foods which are rich and luxurious, with heavy cream based sauces, then we’d recommend that you go with a butter chicken. 

Butter chicken is also slightly less spicy than chicken tikka masala. This is because of the heavy cream which is added into the mix. 

Both of these dishes go incredibly well with basmati rice, along with some garlic naan bread to dip in to. 

Which Dish Is Healthier? 

Like we touched on briefly before, chicken tikka masala tends to be slightly healthier than butter chicken. Both of these dishes however, have a lot of saturated fats, which aren’t good when eaten in excess. 

Despite this, the fact that they’re made from chicken meat is a plus, as it’s far better for you than others out there. 

Because chicken tikka masala is less traditional than butter chicken, it is usually made with regular cooking oil.

Butter chicken, on the other hand, is made with ghee, which is a traditional Indian cooking butter. As a result, chicken tikka masala tends to have less bad fats added into the mix. 

What Kind Of Chicken Meat Is Used? 

What Kind Of Chicken Meat Is Used? 

Another difference between chicken tikka masala and butter chicken, is that the latter uses breast meat, whereas tikka can incorporate any part of the chicken meat. 

‘Tikka’, also means that the meat has been marinated first on a skewer, with water and spices. As a result, the chicken that you’ll find in your tikka masala will usually be in largeish chunks. 

Butter chicken, on the other hand, will be shredded before being added into the curry mixture, so the texture of both of these dishes are quite dissimilar too. 

Are They Different Colors? 

Those of you who have witnessed chicken tikka masala will know that it’s quite reddish in appearance. This is because of the tomato based sauce that surrounds it.

The dish will also appear more red, based on the level of spice in the dish. The spicier it is, the redder it will be. 

Butter chicken, on the other hand, because of the large amounts of cream and yogurt which are added to the mix, will have more of a light brown appearance. This is what gives it the signature creamy texture. 

More Differences In Taste 

When you first try butter chicken, you will notice that it has an incredibly mild taste. This makes it an excellent beginner curry for those who aren’t accustomed to spicier dishes. 

Chicken tikka masala on the other hand, has a far more robust flavor. It will also taste a bit juicier than butter chicken because of the marinade used on the meat. 

Finally, butter chicken will also taste far sweeter than chicken tikka masala due to the cream. 

You can mix both of these dishes up if you like, and try customizing a few different recipes to fit in with your personal preferences. 

Final Thoughts

Although on the surface, chicken tikka masala and butter chicken might appear to taste quite similar, there are some key differences.

For example, butter chicken uses heavy cream in its sauce to give it its signature texture. 

Chicken tikka masala, on the other hand, does not add any cream to the mix, and relies on the tomato based sauce to give the dish its moisture. 

Jess Smith