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what's the difference between "butter chicken"

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and chicken tikka masala, except for the *butter*?

they both have creamy, tomato-y sauces, tandoori grilled chicken (boneless), onion, ginger, cardamom, cumin, fenugreek, etc.

(i love both dishes; i eat both at restos; i've cooked them (well, using a grill, not a tandoor -- oh, how i wish!); and i've perused many and various cookbook and online recipes for both dishes.)

isn't butter the only difference? if not, tell me what i'm overlooking, please!
(is it the chicken marinade? -- seems the same except maybe not ginger in regular tandoori vs. tikka?)

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  1. i too have eaten them both. chicken tikka masala is pieces of chicken. when i make butter chicken at home i can use bone in chicken. dont know if thats the real difference but will research this more and attempt to figure out. but interesting question.

    1. As a frequent eater of both in American restaurants, I can report the following (experientially, though not necessarily authoritatively); Tikka Masala sometimes can be spicier and the sauce a bit more "gritty" than Tikka Makhani (Butter chicken). Makhani sometimes can be a bit more creamy and mild, but not always. Technically, Makhani should have enough butter in it that it looks a bit "slick" and has a more pronounced butter flavor. Being creamier and more buttery, someone watching their calories might choose Masala over Makhani, though neither is going to help you shed pounds. Lastly, it is rare to find both on the menu in the same place, which leads me to believe that Indian restaurants in America regard the dishes as pretty much the same.

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      1. re: HSBSteveM

        Further to my post above, I just returned from London. I ate at two restaurants and had the Chicken Makhani (butter chicken) at both. At the second place, the item was actually listed on the menu as follows:

        CHICKEN MAKHANI (Chicken Tikka Masala)

      2. I did check out recipes for both. I think butter seems to the main difference. so whatever butter contributes to the taste is the difference between the two. isnt chicken tikka masala considered the 'national dish of the uk ?' maybe someone from the uk boards could help out as to the origin and explain the difference.

        1. Hi, alkapal, thanks for inviting me to join in, but afraid I haven't much to say. (That's a very unusual occurrence indeed!)

          I've not had much experience with either dish. In fact, I'm surprised to learn that Butter Chicken is made with chicken cooked in a tandoor. I'd thought it was cooked like a madras, with the usual pre-simmered chicken.

          Did you see this thread? Warning -- it makes the answer even more confusing:

          http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

          1. Being confused about the same thing, I did my search couple of years ago and here's what I concluded. Please feel free to add your opinions.

            Most of the non veg dishes in India have mogul roots. But these two chicken dishes have originated in restaurants. Chicken tikka masala originated in UK (therefore boneless) and butter chicken originated in India (has bones until the restaurant decides otherwise).

            I don't know how much of it is true as all this search is internet based and not based on a book.

            1. I had this same question. At my local Indian joint, the owner gave me this answer...."tikka masala" doesn't have butter and is white meat" and "butter chicken" has butter stirred into the sauce and is dark meat. Not sure if this is the authentic answer but it's this way at his place!

              1. And also the dark meat was cut with a cleaver into chunks, BONE STILL IN as well.