Butter Chicken Recipe (Chicken Makhani)
Butter Chicken! The ultimate comfort food your entire family will love! Make the best flavour-packed, creamy and delicious authentic Indian Butter Chicken at home with this easy recipe. Serve it with Butter naan, Roti, Chapati, Plain Paratha, Steamed basmati rice or Jeera rice for a simple Indian meal. There are numerous versions to make Butter chicken recipe. In this post I share the recipe to make the authentic North Indian version known as Murgh Makhani.
About Butter Chicken
Butter Chicken also known as Chicken Makhani is a classic Indian dish where grilled chicken (Tandoori chicken) is simmered in a spicy, aromatic, buttery and creamy tomato gravy. This lip-smacking and delicious dish is hugely popular among the Indian food lovers across the world.
It is believed that Butter chicken was invented during 1930 to 1935, by Kundan Lal Gujral, the owner of a restaurant named Moti Mahal in Delhi, India. The restaurant would usually have large orders of tandoori chicken but sometimes ended up with leftovers which were dry.
Butter chicken was a way to use up the leftover dry Tandoori chicken. The large pieces of grilled chicken were diced and simmered in a rich creamy and buttery tomato gravy. That’s how murgh makhani – chicken with butter came into existence.
Butter Chicken Vs Chicken Tikka Masala
Though butter chicken and Chicken tikka masala have a lot of similarities, they both differ in taste, texture and flavor. Chicken tikka masala is spicy, hot and the tikka masala gravy has onions included in it. But Butter chicken is low on the heat & spice quotient and does not include onions in the gravy.
More importantly butter chicken is cooked in butter whereas chicken tikka masala is cooked in oil. Butter chicken has a smooth and silky gravy/sauce but tikka masala has a texture from the chopped and caramelized onions.
How Is Butter Chicken Made?
The original & authentic Butter chicken is made with tandoori grilled chicken. Firstly, Bone-in chicken is marinated overnight with thick yogurt, spices and herbs. This step helps to tenderize the meat naturally and remain succulent after grilling.
Later the marinated chicken is grilled in a tandoor, a clay oven which imparts its characteristic smoky aroma. This is then diced and simmered in a spicy buttery and creamy tomato gravy.
Since we are not equipped with tandoor at home, the marinated chicken has to be either roasted in a pan or in an oven or grilled on open fire (barbeque). For this post I have done it in a pan. Feel free to grill the chicken in oven or on open fire.
More Chicken recipes
How To Make Butter Chicken (Stepwise Photos)
You can make these on the previous day if you feel the butter chicken recipe is elaborate. I made it on the same day:
1. Marinate the chicken and refrigerate.
2. Make the Punjabi garam masala powder or decide on a good garam masala.
3. Puree the tomatoes & cashews in a blender until smooth. Filter through a colander to remove the skin and seeds.
4. If you do not own a powerful blender then soak the almonds or cashews for 1 to 2 hours and use.
5. The color of your gravy may differ based on your red chili powder. You may want to arrange for a good chili powder that is less hot like kashmiri chilli powder.
1. Marinating chicken helps to make it soft and tasty. Wash chicken and pat it dry. Make sure there is no excess water in the chicken. Marinate with lemon juice, chili powder and salt.
2. Set this aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Go ahead with the second marination. Marinate with fresh yogurt, ginger garlic paste, crushed kasuri methi, oil, turmeric and garam masala.
4. Marinate and refrigerate for atleast 12 hours. The longer it is marinated, the meat turns softer and just melts in the mouth. Do not use sour yogurt/ curd.
Grilling – cooking chicken
5. Grill the chicken in the oven or stove top. For grilling in oven, preheat the oven to 240 C for at least 15 minutes. Skew the chicken on to soaked wooden skewers or place on a greased tray and grill for 20 to 30 minutes. In between you will have to flip to the undone side.
6. If grilling chicken on tawa. Add one tsp. butter and fry on high. Moisture begins to ooze out. This is very common. Keep stirring don’t burn and do not over cook.
7. Cook till the chicken is just done and all the moisture evaporates. Set this aside. You can even saute till the chunks turn lightly golden.
Make Butter Chicken Gravy
8. Heat butter in a pan, add cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Saute for a min or two. Add ginger garlic paste, green chilies and fry for 2 to 3 minutes till the raw smell goes off. (I did not use green chilies since my kids still cannot tolerate the heat.)
9. Pour the tomato puree. Add red chili powder, sugar and salt.
10. Mix and cook till the tomato puree becomes thick and begins to leave the pan.
11. Pour 1 cup water. I made my cashew paste separately so added it now. Let it come to a boil and then simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
12. Add chicken and simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes till it becomes tender. The cook time may vary depending on how tender your meat is. I check with a fork, the piece just breaks upon piercing. Check the salt and spice. Adjust as needed.
13. Add garam masala and crushed kasuri methi. You can adjust the consistency by adding more water, if the gravy is very thick. Mix well and simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes. Then add chilled cream. Switch off the stove.
or Take a small portion of hot gravy and add it to the cream first. Mix and then pour the cream to the curry. This prevents cream from curdling. Take care not to cook longer after adding cream.
Garnish butter chicken with cream and coriander leaves. It is best served with Jeera rice , plain basmati rice, roti, naan or paratha .
- Marination is the key to get flavorful, tender & succulent pieces of chicken.
- Yogurt in the marinade tenderizes the chicken so do not skip it.
- Makhani recipe never uses onion so is this butter chicken recipe. Using onion changes the taste of the dish.
- The rich taste in the gravy comes from the cashews (or almonds) & cream.
- You can make the gravy ahead and refrigerate. Just grill the marinated chicken when needed and heat up the gravy. Then add the grilled chicken.
Butter Chicken Recipe | Chicken Makhani
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ kg chicken (or 1 lb.) (preferably boneless)
- ¾ tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Red chili powder or paprika
- ¾ teaspoon kasuri methi Optional (dried fenugreek leaves)
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- ¾ tablespoon oil
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- ½ cup greek yogurt or hung curd (thick curd, refer notes)
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 cinnamon (2 inch piece, dalchini)
- 2 green cardamoms (elaichi)
- 2 cloves (laung)
- 1 to 2 green chilies (slit or sliced, optional)
- 4 large tomatoes pureed (400 to 500 grams)
- 16 to 18 cashew nuts or blanched soaked almonds (refer notes)
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder or paprika (adjust to suit your taste and color)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- ½ tablespoon kasuri methi crushed or powdered dried fenugreek leaves
- ¼ tablespoon sugar
- salt as needed
- 80 to 100 ml chilled cream (heavy cream or whipping cream, refer the notes)
- 2 tbsp Coriander leaves for garnishing
Preparation for chicken makhani
- First marinate chicken with lemon juice, chili powder and salt for 20 minutes.
- Next marinate again with yogurt, kasuri methi, oil, turmeric, ginger garlic paste, and garam masala powder.
- Cover & rest in the refrigerator for atleast 12 hours. You can keep it as long as 48 hours. The longer the chicken rests in the marinade, the more tender it will be after cooking.
- Add the cashews to a blender jar along with tomatoes. Make a smooth puree.
- If the puree is not smooth, then pass it through a filter. Set this aside.
- Also make the ginger garlic paste.
Grilling or roasting chicken
- Grill the chicken in an oven or stove top.
- For stove top method, Add one tsp butter to a pan and add the marinade.
- Fry on high flame till all the moisture evaporates.
- To grill it in oven, preheat the oven to 240 C for at least 20 mins.
- Grill it until the meat is cooked through & is tender. It may take about 20 to 30 mins depending on the size of your chicken chunks. Ensure chicken is tender at this stage.
How To Make Butter Chicken
- Heat a pan with butter & saute cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms for a min.
- Add ginger garlic paste, green chilies and fry till it turns fragrant.
- Next pour the tomato cashew puree.
- Add red chili powder, sugar and salt.
- Mix and cook until the tomato puree becomes thick.
- It also begins to leave the sides of the pan.
- Pour 1 cup water. Add more or less water to suit your desired consistency.
- Bring the mix to a boil and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add chicken and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Butter chicken should become soft and tender. Add garam masala and kasuri methi.
- Stir and simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour chilled cream and switch off the stove.
- Garnish butter chicken with coriander leaves and extra cream if desired. Serve with long grain rice or naan or paratha.
- If you are using a young chicken, 4 hours of marination works. I have always found that the size of the chicken matters a lot. So if using larger sized or older chicken then rest it in the marinade for atleast 12 to 16 hours. This is the key to tender butter chicken.
- Curd/yogurt: If you do not have hung curd or greek yogurt, you can use thick yogurt too, but the cooking time increases slightly.
- Cream: You may use whipping cream/ heavy cream, thickened cream or sterilized cream. You can also use low fat cream but the gravy won’t be very rich. Chill the cream and add it to the gravy. Turn off the stove otherwise the gravy may split. or Take a small amount of hot gravy and add it to the cream in a separate bowl. Stir well. Then add the cream to the pan. This also helps to prevent curdling the cream.
- If using almonds, soak them in hot water for an hour and remove the skin.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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The best. My partner says it is restaurant quality!
Thank you Noel
Delicious .. we all loved it!
Hi! I tried this recipe today and my family loves it…thank you so much
Hello, I need to make this for next week, just wondering how many days/hours in advance I can make the gravy please.
You can keep it for 2 days with chicken or for 4 days without chicken added to it.
This is better than a restaurant dish.. amazingly tasty
Thank you 😊
Thank you so much Anna
Wow! Same fab flavors like I ate in India. Guys! this is the real butter chicken. You got to taste this at least once in your life. Delicious!!!
So glad you like it Bob. Thank you for sharing back.
Your recipes are amazing. Love this butter chicken and we make it every other week.
Thank you so much Roger for trying and sharing back. Glad you like it.
The definitive at home butter chicken recipe. Friends beg me to make this recipe for birthdays, etc. Turns out flavorful and consistent every time.
Wow! That’s awesome! Thank you so much Sean
I’m new here and defffinitely sticking around as you make cooking amazing Indian food very approachable- thank you! Follow-up questions: do you boil the tomatoes first before blending? About how much tomato puree do you think is best for this recipe? My 4 tomatoes made over 2 cups, but I didn’t take out the seeds before making puree…should I? Could I use canned tomato puree instead? Re: the cashews- I read the other comments, I did the 1/2 cup hot water (soaked first), then made my paste seperately– it turned out “pasty” and had a slightly sandy-texture after puree. Even with straining (very timely), I couldn’t get the cashew paste precisely smooth, is this fine? Lastly, these quantities only made 1 meal (we had no leftovers, so good!). How much gravy do you typically yield?
Use about 1 to 1.1 pound tomatoes. I don’t boil or remove the seeds & skin because we strain the tomato puree. If pureeing only cashews is harder in your grinder, try grinding them with tomatoes. Your cashew paste has to be super smooth & that’s what gives you the creamy & smooth gravy. This recipe serves 4.
My husband orders this recipe from our local restaurant about once a week. This recipe was so much better. It is delicious and fresh. He loved it. Impressing him with this deliciousness bought me 5+ more years of a happy marriage! Thank you!
That’s Awesome Patricia. Happy to know your butter chicken turns out delicious! Congratulations & Many best wishes to both of you!
Hi! I love your other recipes and want to try this. Do I take out the cloves, cardamon and cinnamon after cooking them with the butter? I would hate to get a spponful of curry and bite down on a clove or cardamon pod! Thanks so much
Thank you! Leave out the whole spices (all 3). Taste test the sauce at the last stage and add a bit more of garam masala if required. Hope you enjoy the dish!
I’ve made this a number of times. It takes some time, but is not hard to follow. The results. Are. SPECTACULAR. Better than most any I’ve tried in a restaurant. Thank you so much for sharing, this is certainly a favorite of ours. <3
So glad to know Jess. Thank you so much for sharing how it turns out for you.
Today I cooked this wonderful recipe as tomorrows Main part of our Christmas dinner and I have cooked it before a hundred times! It makes the most tender and flavourful butter chicken and deserves nothing but 5 stars. It was also the very first recipe of Indian cuisine I ever tried as a German 😁 with step by step photos it came out so good. Thank you Swasthi for sharing all your lovely recipes with us!
So happy to know this Indian butter chicken is a part of your Christmas dinner! That’s awesome! Thank you so much for sharing with us how it turned out.
I always refer your recipes when my boys demand something new. Thank you!
For butter chicken can I use refrigerated malai instead of store bought fresh cream?
So Happy to know that! Yes you can. Whisk the malai with a fork until smooth and then add 1 to 2 tbsps of the prepared butter chicken gravy into it. Mix well and then add to butter chicken. This way It won’t split. If the prepared malai is too grainy you can also strain it through a strainer. Thanks for rating the recipe. Hope this helps
Superb Recipe , it did try it today , it was very tasty
Thank you Rajat
I need to make a nut free version, is there something you recommend to replace the nuts or just leave out?
Use sweet tomatoes and 6 to 8 tablespoons whipping cream. Make the sauce thicker and add the cream at the last step.
Thanks for your reply, I have made is recipe several time and love it, I’m making 70 potions for a school winter fair (hence the bit free)
so many mouths will enjoy.
Wow! 70 is a large number.
Nice to know Matthew!
Can butter chicken be made a day or two in advance before the party?
Yes you can make it 3 days ahead and refrigerate. I usually add some water while reheating. Add the cream when you reheat.
The best butter chicken recipe ever! It is so easy and quick and turns out perfect every single time. I’ve already made it a couple of times and one can’t go wrong with it. Thanks Swasthi!
Happy to know Sruthi
Thank you so much!
Do you have recommendation for amchur as a substitute for lemon juice? Have plenty of limes as well just no lemon
Yes you can use lemon/lime juice as amchur substitute. But the flavor is different. Add it while serving.
I have tried many times to recreate my favorite restaurant butter chicken at home (the nearest restaurant is 90 miles away) to no avail, until I finally found your recipe. It is delicious. Thank you!
Thank you Brittni
Happy to know!
I have prepared butter chicken with this recipe for more than 10 times and have gotten praise every time. Smell, color, texture and obviously taste is mouth watering.
That’s Awesome! Thank you so much for letting us know.