Chicken Korma vs Butter Chicken – What’s The Difference?

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Both butter chicken and chicken korma are famous staples of Indian cuisine and as such will often be readily available in many an Indian restaurant. However, both dishes are described as being creamy and mild in spice whilst being similarly orange in colour. As such, this leads people to question whether there’s actually a difference between chicken korma and butter chicken.

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What Ingredients Does Each Indian Dish Contain?

Many Indian dishes found at takeaways or Indian restaurants will often use a similar list of ingredients in many of their dishes. This is because the majority of what is associated with this cuisine is Indian curry. As such it becomes quite easy to confuse one dish with another. 

However, just because many of these dishes share ingredients, doesn’t mean they don’t have dramatically different tastes. The reason for this is that whilst many Indian curry dishes will incorporate some similar ingredients, they will also contain just as many if not more that are unique to them.

Chicken Korma

Chicken korma, which roughly means braised chicken, is one of the most popular dishes of Mughlai cuisine. As such the process of making a chicken korma involves braising your marinated chicken. 

During this process garam masala, ginger garlic paste, coconut milk (or plain yoghurt/coconut cream), almonds, ground cashews, saffron, onions, turmeric and paprika and very rarely tomato will be added at various stages. This creates a dish with a mild yet vibrant curry sauce that is nutty, slightly sweet and incredibly creamy.

Chicken Korma vs Butter Chicken - What’s The Difference?

However, different people across Northern India and indeed other parts of India and the world will have different regional cuisines and preferences. Korma is one of the oldest Indian food recipes and has become incredibly popular as a mild dish that isn’t too spicy, unlike something like a vindaloo or even a rogan josh. Due to its popularity across the Indian subcontinent and the world the spice combination and meat used can vary. However, it will pretty much always be lighter on the spice level than other curries. 

Butter Chicken

Whilst korma is a very old and widely experimented with recipe with many variations, butter chicken on the other hand is rather new by comparison. Despite this though, butter chicken has managed to become a hugely popular Indian dish. 

Whilst korma is made via frying and braising, most of the technique for making a delicious butter chicken actually involves boiling the core ingredients of butter and tomato. Additionally, the sauce and chicken are typically cooked separately before being mixed. As such the sauce is often made whilst the lightly marinated chicken cooks in a tandoor oven. The tandoori chicken is then mixed with butter and tomato based sauce and yoghurt is added towards the the end of cooking to make the dish more creamy and neutralise some of the acidity from the tomatoes.

Chicken Korma vs Butter Chicken - What’s The Difference?

Butter Chicken vs Chicken Korma Spice Pallet Comparison

When comparing these two dishes, the level of spice will be roughly the same since both are intended to be creamy and mild yet flavourful dishes. Whilst both may have slight notes of spiciness this is unlikely to be any more than you’d expect from a small sprinkling of black pepper.

Truthfully which would be considered more spicy would likely come down to the individual cooking style of the chef who made the dishes. This is because some cooks may prefer to add more paprika to their korma, turmeric to their butter chicken or vice versa.

Nutrition / health

Due to both dishes typically containing quite a substantial amount of yoghurt, cream and/or milk, neither dish can be called particularly healthy. However, neither can be said to be particularly bad for you. 

Despite this though, if you are conscious about your calorie intake, then you will be better off with a korma. This is because butter chicken can contain 470-630 calories per serving whilst chicken korma typically averages out at around 300-330 calories per serving.

Indian Spices

Which Is Better?

Which of these Indian curries is better will ultimately come down to personal preference. Whilst both dishes are very mild in spice even when compared to something like a chicken tikka masala, they are really more different than they are similar. If after a light and buttery curry dish with a smooth creamy tomato flavoured sauce then the butter chicken is what you need. However, for a dish with creamy but sweet, slightly chunky and richer sauce then the korma is what you’ll want. Whichever you pick though, it’ll be delicious with a side of basmati rice, naan bread or roti.

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