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Is Butter Chicken Keto Friendly?

If you're looking for an explosion of flavors then you need to try butter chicken. However, is butter chicken keto friendly? Unfortunately, if prepared using the traditional method butter chicken is not keto friendly.

Is butter chicken keto friendly

However, there are a few recipes available online that alter the ingredients a bit to make the food keto friendly.

Let’s dig in and find out what butter chicken is and whether it is keto friendly.  

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter chicken is a popular dish of the Indian cuisine and is widely consumed throughout the world due to its delicious and mouthwatering flavor. It is also sometimes referred to as “Murgh Makhana” which is an Indian curry made with chicken, tomato sauce, and butter.

The key ingredient is butter in this curry which is why it is called butter chicken. The curry was first introduced back in the 1950s by two famous migrants from Peshawar after the partition of the India and Pakistan.

Keto Friendly Butter Chicken

Interestingly, the founders of this recipe are also the founders of a famous Indian restaurant, Moti Mahal.

Here comes the even interesting part, butter chicken was made by chance without anticipation. It was made by mixing leftovers of tandoori chicken with a butter-rich tomato sauce. This resulted in the luscious meal that is now known as butter chicken.

The original recipe of butter chicken was published back in 1974, which then made its way around the world. Butter chicken can be consumed in a number of ways including:

  • Pizza fillings
  • Poutine
  • Butter chicken wraps (inclusive of rolls and roti
  • Used as a pie filling (originating from Australia and New Zealand)

Either way it is consumed, people simply love the creamy and rich sauces used in the recipe.

Talking of the taste, butter chicken has a luscious chicken taste with a touch of spices due to the presence of Garam masala used in the ingredients. Here is an insight into how butter chicken is made.

What Are The Ingredients Used In Making Butter Chicken?

Making butter chicken requires you to get the ingredients right according to the original recipe of the founders. The best part about the ingredients in butter chicken is that they are common, and you might even have them in your kitchen.

There are two key aspects of making butter chicken, the marinade, and the sauce.

Marinade Ingredients:

  • Greek Yogurt – It is used in making the base of the marinade. However, not all of it is used in making the actual butter chicken and most of it is discarded. A full-fat and plain type of Greek yogurt is usually preferred in making the base of the marinade.
  • Garlic – It is only used to make the marinade fragrant with a savory flavor.
  • Spices – Indian cuisine is greatly reliant on spices. In the butter chicken curry recipe, garam masala, chili powder, ginger, salt, and cumin are used.
  • Chicken – Preferably chicken breasts or thighs are used in making butter chicken. So, depending on your preference, you can opt for either one of the two.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • Butter Butter is the most important ingredient in making butter chicken just like how it was used by the founders of the luscious dish.
  • Onions and garlic – Onion and garlic both are sauteed and caramelized. This not only adds a rich sweet flavor to the recipe but also guarantees the traditional richness.
  • SpicesThe same spices that are used in the marinade are added in the sauce as well.
  • Tomato SauceTomato sauce makes up for the base of the recipe. Similar to butter, the tomato sauce is also an important ingredient in making butter chicken.
  • Heavy creamHeavy creams or any substitutes like the coconut creams are added to give the butter chicken a creamy flavor.

On a side note, these ingredients are used in the traditional and original recipe of butter chicken. However, based on your preference, you can either add or reduce the number of spices in the recipe.

Moreover, garam masala also contains a mix of these spices, so you can avoid adding any spices as well.

How Is Butter Chicken Made Traditionally?

Butter chicken is easily made and takes only 30 minutes of cooking time. Here is how the traditional butter chicken is made.

Butter Chicken Keto Friendly

Making the marinade:

For starters, the marinade is prepared. There are different ingredients like Greek yogurt, garlic, cumin, ginger, chili powder, salt, and garam masala.

These ingredients are first mixed thoroughly in a large bowl and once a constant texture is formed, chicken thighs or breasts are added by stirring it. Once prepared, the chicken is left in the bowl (covered with a lid) for some time.

Caramelizing the onions:

Butter is melted in a large sauté pan over low-medium heat. Once the butter is melted, sliced onions are added to the mixed and cooked until they turn brown, and their texture is softened. Next, a well-like structure is made in the center of the onions and minced garlic is added to the mix.

It is then further sautéed for some time on medium heat until cooked.

Preparing the butter chicken sauce:

The next step involves making the butter chicken curry sauce. First, tomato sauce, some cream, chili powder, ginger, cumin, some garam masala and salt-to-taste are mixed thoroughly. Next, the chicken from the marinade prepared earlier is taken out and sliced into small pieces.

After slicing the chicken, it is thoroughly cooked in a medium sized pan for up to 10 minutes. Once cooked, it can be served directly with or without seasoning.

Is Butter Chicken Keto?

If butter chicken is made using the traditional recipe or if you order it from a restaurant, it may not be keto friendly. This is because there might be some added sugars which bump up, the amount of carbs in butter chicken leading up to 17 grams or more in just a single serving.

Apart from this, the tomato sauce used in the traditional recipe might also bump up the overall carbs composition which means you will be going outside the keto bounds of 30 – 50 grams of carbs per day.

So, unfortunately, this makes butter chicken non-keto, and it would be best to avoid it.

However, there are certain keto friendly recipes of butter chicken that you can use to make your own butter chicken. These recipes have slightly different or lower amounts of ingredients which do not affect the carbs content much.

In addition to this, the amount of carbs is no more than 7 – 11 grams per serving in these recipes. With that being said, you can enjoy butter chicken using keto friendly recipes even on a low carb diet like keto.

More importantly, butter chicken is extremely healthy because it contains a high concentration of proteins (up to 30 grams depending on the ingredients used in the recipe) and a good amount of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and calcium amongst other minerals.

Not only will you be enjoying a luscious dish, but you will also be benefiting from it substantially.

Butter Chicken: Nutritional Profile 

The restaurant style butter chicken made using the original recipe has the following nutrition in a one cup serving of 240 grams.

Keto Butter Chicken
Calories335 Cal
Calories from fats210 Cal
Total fats23 g
Saturated fat10 g
Trans fat0.5 g
Polyunsaturated fat3.8 g
Monounsaturated fat8.3 g
Cholesterol92 mg
Sodium251 mg
Potassium610 mg
Total carbs14 g
Dietary fibers2 g
Protein23 g
Vitamin A19% of the RDV (Recommended Daily Value)
Vitamin C16% of the RDV
Iron16% of the RDV
Calcium9.8% of the RDV

Depending on how the ingredients are used in the recipe, the concentration of these nutrients may increase or decrease slightly since not all recipes use the same quantity of ingredients.

Regardless of that, the amount of carbs in the traditional recipe is considered high so you may want to look for a keto friendly butter chicken recipe instead.

Keto Friendly Butter Chicken Recipe 

Keto friendly butter chicken recipe has the same delicious flavor but with substantially lower number of carbs (up to 7 – 11 g of net carbs). Here is a keto friendly recipe of butter chicken that you can use to make butter chicken at home.

Butter Chicken Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Butter (Unsalted)
  • 1/2 large Onion (sliced into thin pieces)
  • 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 29-oz Tomato sauce (Can based)
  • 1/2 cup Heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp Garam masala
  • 1 tsp Cumin (optional ingredient since garam masala already has cumin in it; or you can add slightly more garam masala)
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Sea salt (you can increase or decrease the amount according to your preference)
  • Cilantro (optional ingredient, only used for garnishing)


  • 3/4 cup Full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 4 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 1 tsp Cumin (optional ingredient as it is already present in garam masala; or add an extra tsp of Garam masala instead)
  • 1 tsp Sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Chili powder
  • 2 lb. Chicken thighs or breasts

Note: Any cut of chicken will be great for the recipe regardless of whether it is bone in thighs or chicken breasts. You can also add any other cuts with the condition that you use bite-sized pieces of chicken for lower active cooking time.

You can also add whole chicken pieces, but it will take slightly longer to cook. So, bite-sized pieces are preferred in the recipe.


  • Take a large bowl, add all of the marinade ingredients and stir them thoroughly. After getting a consistent texture, add the chicken pieces. Stir it again so that the chicken pieces are coated in the mixture. Next, cover the bowl with a plastic or a lid and let it marinate for over an hour. The greater the marination time, the more tender will be the chicken pieces.
  • Take a large pan, set the heat to low-medium and melt the butter thoroughly. Once melted, add the chopped onions and let it cook on low heat for 10 minutes until their color turns brown. Make sure you do not overcook the onions or you will get a burnt taste.
  • After the onions turn brown, simply add the minced garlic and let it cook for a few minutes. This will add a fragrant or sweet touch to the chicken later. 
  • In a bowl, add the tomato sauce, heavy cream, garam masala and the rest of the ingredients including seasonings to taste. Stir them well so that the flavors are consistent.
  • Next, take out the marinade and separate the chicken pieces from it. If the chicken pieces are bigger, chop them into small bite-sized bits.
  • Once you get bite-sized chicken pieces, toss them in a pan and add a single layer of the sauce. Turn up the heat and simmer the chicken will constantly stirring for up to 10 minutes.
  • Note the texture of the sauce and cook it further if the sauce isn’t thick enough. Also keep checking the chicken to ensure it is properly cooked.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Using this recipe will provide you with a keto friendly alternative to the popular butter chicken with substantially a smaller number of carbs which will fit perfectly in your keto diet.

Moreover, you will also get to benefit from the nutrition including proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in butter chicken without having to compromise your keto diet.

Butter chicken keto

Wrapping Up 

Is butter chicken keto friendly? Unfortunately, no. Butter chicken prepared using the original recipe contains a high number of carbs which comes with the risk of putting your body out of ketosis.

Moreover, since the number of carbs is higher in butter chicken, you will also have little room for your other meals in terms of the overall carb intake. But, with a keto friendly recipe of butter chicken, you will be able to enjoy the delicious meal without taking in too many carbs.

If you'd like to learn more about keto friendly foods, click on one of the links below:

Are Capers Keto Friendly?

Is Wine Keto Friendly?

Are Chia Seeds Keto Friendly?

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is butter chicken good for?

If you keep butter chicken in the refrigerator for around 3-4 days, it'll remain good. Alternatively, if you keep it in the freezer, it'll be good for at least 3 months.

Why is my butter chicken watery?

Your butter chicken can end up looking watery if you add the butter and cream before the sauce cools down properly. You need to wait until the sauce is cool before you add the butter and cream.

What can you replace rice with on keto?

There are a few different keto friendly rice options that you can consider. Some of the most popular ones are cauliflower rice, shirataki rice, mushroom rice, and lentils.


Founder of The Art Of Keto.

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