Butter Chicken! The ultimate comfort food your entire family will love! Make the best flavour-packed, creamy and delicious Indian butter chicken at home with this easy recipe. Serve it with Butter naan, Roti, 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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)
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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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