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Butter Chicken vs Paneer Butter Masala: Everything You Need To Know

By Annie J. Kuykendall |

Butter chicken and paneer butter masala are quite similar Indian dishes in their cooking style, spice mixes, and gravy consistencies, but the proteins differ. Confused? Fret not, as we discuss butter chicken vs paneer butter masala in depth ahead.

As the name suggests, both are butter-based, sweet, and tangy gravy dishes, but while there is chicken in one, the other uses Indian paneer (a sort of cottage cheese). Find out more here.

The Similarities Between Butter Chicken vs Paneer Butter Masala

You’d be surprised to know how very similar both butter chicken and paneer butter masala are! Unlike the dishes with the same protein but different gravies (like paneer butter masala vs kadai paneer) found in Indian restaurants, these dishes are almost the same gravies with different proteins.

Starting from origins, taste, and gravies to preferred pairing, there are many similarities between the two gravies. We have listed all the common things in the world of paneer butter masala vs butter chicken here:

Gravies

Both paneer butter masala and butter chicken gravies are tomato and butter-based sauces. Both curries require the use of red and ripe tomatoes, heavy cream, and butter as the base of the gravy, which is then tempered with other spices.

Side dishes

What you eat with butter chicken and paneer butter masala is not that different as well. Both the gravies are loved all around the globe with naan bread, garlic naan, tandoori rotis, lachcha parathas, plain steamed rice, basmati rice, jeera rice, ghee rice, or pulao.

Origins

Another similarity between the two dishes roots from their origins. Many believe that both the paneer butter masala recipe and the butter chicken recipe were popularized in Northern India (Delhi to be precise) by the legendary Moti Mahal restaurant. The former is obviously for vegetarians and the latter for meat lovers.

Spice mixes

While in various cases, gravies and spice mixes will hugely differ in the case of paneer vs chicken used as a source of protein, that is not the case at all with these two gravies. Both homemade paneer butter masala and butter chicken use a similar spice mix, including Kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves), chili powder, and garam masala or tandoori masala, and then tempered with bay leaf and cooked on medium heat.

Heat

In this way, both these curries are also mildly spicy and slightly sweet, unlike other typical Indian gravy dishes. There is not much difference between paneer butter masala vs butter chicken in terms of heat. Hence, both these dishes cater to a wide and diverse set of foodies across the globe who have low heat tolerance.

Now, before you start thinking that there are no differences when it comes to butter chicken vs paneer butter masala, let us also help you understand how very different both these gravies are. Read on to find out more.

The Differences Between Paneer Butter Masala vs Butter Chicken

Now there are many distinctions between these two mild, delicious, and buttery gravy dishes. In this section, we delve deep into the differences when it comes to butter chicken vs paneer butter masala.

While both paneer butter masala and butter chicken are easy to make, it is the small and discerning details that go into the making that make them each so unique. Restaurant-style paneer butter masala is generally sweeter and more complex.

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Ahead, we list the major distinctions between paneer butter masala and butter chicken. Each of these unique attributes of these curries has garnered millions of lovers across the globe.

Protein source

Let us start with the most obvious one: the protein source. Paneer is the most popular protein source among vegetarians in India, and probably paneer butter masala started as a popular spinoff of butter chicken to satiate their taste buds. And, of course, butter chicken has always been popular among meat lovers.

Nutritional value

Since the protein source is different, nutritional value also adds a relevant point when it comes to paneer butter masala vs butter chicken. Per 100 grams of paneer contains 340 kcal calories, 18 grams of protein, and 22-27 grams of fat. On the other hand, 100 grams of chicken contains 223 kcal calories, 23 grams of protein, and 12-17 grams of fat.

Way of cooking

The way you cook and treat the protein also differs while cooking these two dishes. While cooking paneer butter masala, you can either use raw paneer or you can sautee it slightly with fats on a pan. On the other hand, chicken is usually charred (or cooked in hot water) on an open flame or grilled on medium heat in the oven before adding in gravy.

Marination

Marination of the protein also makes a major difference while cooking these gravy dishes. Butter chicken is usually marinated with a blend of yogurt and spice mix (chili powder, tikka masala, a teaspoon of garam masala) before you grill or char it. However, there is no such need for marination when you fry the homemade paneer cubes before tossing them into the gravy mixture, cooking away with bay leaf on medium heat.

Use of cashews

Another major difference between the two gravies is the use of cashews. It is imperative to use cashews turned into a smooth paste (or cashew butter) in the making of paneer butter masala. But in the case of butter chicken, cashew paste is optional however, preferred. Butter chicken recipe Punjabi style is usually spicier and doesn’t use a cashew paste.

Texture

And finally, the two dishes also differ in texture. When considering butter chicken vs paneer butter masala in terms of protein texture, know that paneer cubes are softer and have more melt-in-your-mouth consistency. And chicken has more bite to it but is equally succulent.

Is Butter Chicken Really Indian?

Before you pop out your immersion blender to make your favorite creamy sauce gravy, let us learn more about the popularity of butter chicken, among other Indian curries. Fun fact: you can always replace paneer with tofu in Indian food.

Apart from the butter chicken vs paneer butter masala debate, there is another question that makes many foodies curious. Did butter chicken really originate in India? Let us find out!

Paneer butter masala’s origins are closely linked with the origins of butter chicken. So, it is worth investigating if butter chicken really is Indian. Butter chicken is an incredibly famous creamy curry in Great Britain (Gordon Ramsay calls it a delicious family dinner), but its origins are really Indian.

Just like chicken tikka masala, which is also quite popular in the Western corners of the world, butter chicken is also being debated as being a British (or Western) dish. However, it is hard to argue that the sweet and mildly spicy (or you can be generous with the chili powder) gravy originated in India, out of New Delhi.

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Written by

Annie J. Kuykendall

Annie J. Kuykendall

Hey there! My name is Annie J. Kuykendall and I'm a 41-year-old Scorpio with a passion for globetrotting and whipping up delicious meals. When I'm not busy being a certified world traveler and master chef, you can find me indulging in my other passions: Netflix binges and procrastinating on household chores. In my former life, I was a civil engineer, but let's be real, that was just a cover for my true calling as a wannabe stand-up comedian. So if you're in need of a good laugh or some tasty recipe inspiration, you've come to the right place.

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