Butter Chicken Recipe (Indian Chicken Makhani)

Updated: June 18, 2024, By Swasthi

Make the BEST Butter Chicken at home with this authentic Indian recipe. This Murgh Makhani is flavor-packed, creamy, delicious and tastes better than your favorite Indian restaurant version. All you need is a bowl of Basmati rice or some Naans to mop up the luxurious sauce.

Butter Chicken is a classic Indian dish made with marinated & grilled chicken (Tandoori chicken), simmered in a creamy tomato gravy/curry. The sauce is super silky, buttery, aromatic and mildly spicy. This lip-smacking and delicious dish is hugely popular among the Indian food lovers across the world.

Though this dish has a lot of similarities with Chicken Tikka Masala, both smell and taste very different. Originally, Butter Chicken is a mild dish, does not include onions and is cooked with butter. But tikka masala is spicy, hot, includes onions and is cooked in oil.

Butter Chicken Murgh Makhani



About Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken has a smooth, rich and silky sauce but tikka masala has a texture from the chopped and caramelized onions. The original & authentic Chicken Makhani is made with grilled Tandoori Chicken. Bone-in chicken is marinated overnight with thick Hung curd (strained yogurt), spices and herbs.

This spiced yogurt marinade imparts tons of flavors to the meat, tenderizes it naturally & helps to remain succulent after grilling & simmering in the sauce. 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/bake the chicken in oven or on open fire.

Ingredients & Substitutes

  • Tomatoes: I love starting with good quality fresh ripe & pulpy/meaty tomatoes that are naturally sweet and slightly tart. But you may use canned versions without added citric acid. Choose between – 1 cup (8 oz) passata or canned tomato puree or 1 – 14 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes. Towards the end if you feel you need more intense tomatoey flavor, feel free to stir in a bit of tomato paste.
  • Greek yogurt/ Hung curd: Marinade requires thick strained yogurt like this Hung curd or Greek yogurt. Using regular yogurt (with whey) will easily let out too much moisture while roasting the chicken & all the spice marinade goes over to the pan. This makes your chicken taste bland. If your yogurt is runny, you may strain it following this Hung curd recipe.
  • Spices: To make a good butter chicken you need a really good garam masala else your dish can end up being bland without any flavors. You can make your own from this Garam masala recipe or use store bought. But be sure to use an aromatic blend and adjust the quantity because every brand is different.
  • Kashmiri Red chili powder is pure Indian chili powder (ground dried red chilies). It is a medium hot chili powder which also imparts brighter color to your dish. You may substitute it with Byadgi chili powder or a mix of smoked paprika & cayenne pepper (1:1).
  • Coriander and cumin powder add mild flavors to your dish, tone down the strong flavors of the garam masala and helps balance the tartness of the tomatoes.
  • Kasuri methi is dried fenugreek leaves and it is the key ingredient used in this dish. There is no substitute for this and you may leave out if you don’t have but you will surely miss those magical flavors.
  • Cashews impart a delicate flavor & acts as a thickener. It gives a smooth and silky richness to the sauce. You can use almonds or almond flour as a substitute but the flavors are different. To use almonds, soak them in hot water for 2 hours, peel and grind to a smooth paste/ puree. If using almond flour, grind it with water to a smooth paste.

More interesting Chicken Recipes
Chicken Bhuna
Restaurant Chicken Jalfrezi
Chilli Chicken
Chicken Curry
Easy Chicken Masala

Photo Guide

How to make Butter Chicken (Stepwise Photos)

Marinade

For this recipe you require 500 grams (1.1 lbs) boneless chicken. You can use thighs or breasts like the way I use. A lot of people prefer thighs for the flavor and additional fats. If using chicken breasts be prepared to leave it in the marinade for a minimum of 12 hours for best results.

1. Here are the other ingredients required to marinate the chicken:

  • ¾ to 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ to ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika adjust to taste, reduce for kids)
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (optional, dried fenugreek leaves)
  • ⅛ teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
  • ¾ to 1 tablespoon oil
  • ¾ tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • ⅓ cup Greek yogurt or hung curd (read my pro tips)
ingredients to marinate chicken

2. Make sure there is no excess moisture on your chicken. Pat dry with kitchen tissues/paper, if required. Add red chili powder, salt and lemon juice. Mix well, cover and rest for 20 mins.

spiced chicken for murgh makhani

3. Later add ginger garlic paste, garam masala, cumin powder, coriander powder, kasuri methi, turmeric and hung curd/ Greek yogurt. Mix well and cover. Let the chicken rest in the marinade for a minimum of 12 hours in the refrigerator. The longer you leave the more tender and juicer the chicken is going to be. You can leave this for a maximum of 48 hours.

marinade for chicken makhani

Prepare for the sauce/gravy

4. When you are ready to make the sauce, prepare the following ingredients. Keep the chicken out of the refrigerator, as we don’t want to grill/ pan-fry the cold chicken.

  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 to 2 green chilies (deseed,slit or chop, avoid for kids)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika (adjust to suit your taste and color)
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste, divided)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
  • ½ tablespoon kasuri methi crushed
  • 1 cinnamon (optional, 2 inch piece, if using Ceylon cinnamon, feel free to use more)
  • 4 green cardamoms (optional)
  • 4 cloves (optional)
ingredients for sauce

5. I have updated this recipe to use onions. It is optional but helps to cut down the sour taste of the tomatoes, especially if you are using canned tomatoes or passata. Sauté 1½ cups (130 grams) sliced onions (1 medium onion) in 1 tablespoon oil until slightly golden, for 7 to 8 minutes. Cool down and add them to the blender.

6. To the same blender jar add 600 grams diced fresh tomatoes (4 large, makes 3 cups puree) or 1 cup passata (or 1 – 14 oz can whole peeled tomatoes), 28 cashews and half cup water. Grind to a smooth puree. Alternately, If you do not have a powerful blender, you may soak the cashews in ½ cup hot water for 30 mins and then puree them separately in a small coffee grinder like the way I did.

puree tomatoes and cashews

7. To make the cashew cream, I grind the cashews first to a powder and then add ¼ cup water and grind again. Pour another ¼ cup water and grind again. Puree them very smooth.

I leave the pureeing part for you to decide. Choose the method that works for you, depending on the kind of grinder/blender you own – together or separately but smoother the better.

pureed tomatoes with cashews

Make Butter Chicken Sauce

8. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a pan. Add the optional whole spices – cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms. Once they begin to sizzle, add ginger garlic paste, green chilies (leave out for kids) and fry on a medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes till the raw smell goes away.

temper spices for butter chicken sauce

9. Do not burn.

saute ginger garlic

10. Turn off the heat. Stir in the red chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder and coriander powder.

stir in the spices

11. Pour the puree. If your puree is not smooth strain it to the pan.

strain the tomatoes

12. Use a sturdy spoon to strain and discard the residue.

pass tomato puree through strainer

13. Mix well and bring this to a boil on a medium high heat. Be careful as this can easily splatter.

simmer tomatoes

14. Cover partially and let boil on a medium heat, stirring often, until thick. This takes about 12 to 15 mins, depending on the kind of cookware and stove.

cover the pot

15. This is how it should look, at this stage stir in the cashew cream or puree if you made it separately.

add cashew cream

16. Pour 1½ cups hot water and mix well.

pour water

17. Simmer this, partially covered for 10 mins or until the sauce thickens & traces of fats/butter are visible on top of the sauce. Meanwhile proceed with the next step.

simmer butter chicken sauce

Grill the chicken on the stove top or Bake in the oven

18. Make sure your chicken is not too cold.

Option 1: To use oven, preheat the oven to 240 C or 460 F for at least 15 minutes. Skew the chicken on to soaked wooden skewers or place on a greased tray and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, depending on the size of chicken pieces. In between you will have to turn to the other side.

Option 2: To pan-fry/grill chicken on griddle/tawa. Add one tablespoon oil/butter or ghee and place the chicken pieces spacing them apart. Fry on a medium heat for 2 mins. Ignore the moisture oozing out of the chicken. Turn the chicken pieces to the other side, don’t burn and do not overcook.

pan fry chicken

19. Cook till the chicken is just done and all the moisture evaporates. Optional – If you want browned chicken, increase the flame to high and roast until they turn golden or light brown on both the sides. Be careful as this can easily burn the masala & dry out your chicken. This way roast the chicken pieces in 2 to 3 batches, depending on the size of your skillet. Avoid browning in a non-stick pan.

grilled chicken

Make Chicken Makhani

20. After 10 minutes, the sauce should have been thick and traces of fats visible on the sauce. If you want you may remove the whole spices & discard at this stage.

thick sauce for murgh makhani

21. Add chicken to the butter chicken gravy.

add grilled chicken to sauce

22. Pour ½ cup more hot water if the sauce is too thick and simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes till it becomes tender. This is the time the sauce actually develops the flavors. The cook time may vary here. This additional half cup water is not mentioned in the recipe and is optional depending on how long you cook. But I always use.

pour hot water

23. Add ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ tablespoon kasuri methi. Stir well and taste test. If required add more garam masala & another tablespoon butter for additional flavor.

add spices and herbs

24. Stir in ¼ to ⅓ cup heavy cream. Or Take a few tablespoons of the hot gravy to a small bowl and stir in the cream. Mix and then pour the cream to the butter chicken. This prevents cream from splitting.

stir in cream and garnish with coriander leaves

Serving Suggestions

Butter Chicken is best served with Jeera rice , Turmeric Rice, plain fluffy Basmati Rice, Tandoori Roti, Naan or Paratha. To extend your menu, you may try Kachumber salad or onion salad, Jeera aloo or Paneer Tikka.

Butter Chicken Recipe

Expert Tips

  • 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. However using them helps to balance the tang/sour taste of tomatoes, especially if you are using passata or canned tomatoes.
  • 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.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

butter chicken recipe

Butter Chicken Recipe (Indian Chicken Makhani)

4.99 from 1463 votes
Butter chicken is a popular Indian dish made with chicken, spices, tomatoes & cream. This creamy & authentic tasting butter chicken is the best you can make at home. Serve butter chicken with Turmeric rice, Cumin rice, basmati rice or naan.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Marination12 hours
Total Time45 minutes
Servings4
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

First Marination

  • ½ kg (1.1 lbs) boneless chicken (read notes)
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika adjust to taste, reduce for kids)
  • ¼ to ⅓ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • ¾ to 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Second Marination

  • cup Greek yogurt (hung curd/thick curd, refer notes)
  • ¾ tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (optional, dried fenugreek leaves)
  • ¾ to 1 tablespoon oil

For sauce

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter or ghee (divided)
  • 2 inch cinnamon piece (optional)
  • 2 to 4 green cardamoms (optional)
  • 2 to 4 cloves (optional)
  • 1½ cups (130 grams) onions sliced (optional, *updated)
  • 3 cups (600 grams, 24 oz) fresh tomato puree (or 1 cup passata/canned tomato puree or 1 -14 oz whole peeled tomatoes)
  • ¾ tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 to 2 green chilies (deseed, slit or chop, optional)
  • 28 (42 grams) whole raw cashews (soaked in hot water if required, read notes)
  • ½ cup water to blend (more if required)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder (reduce for kids, adjust to taste)
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoons garam masala (divided, adjust to taste)
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoon coriander powder (optional, adjust to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder (optional, adjust to taste)
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (to balance the flavors)
  • ½ tablespoon Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • cups hot water to make gravy
  • ⅓ cup (80 to 100 ml) heavy cream or whipping cream (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (fine chopped to garnish)


Instructions

  • Marinate chicken with lemon juice, chili powder and salt. Cover and rest for 20 minutes. Next add yogurt, kasuri methi, oil, turmeric, ginger garlic paste, coriander powder, cumin powder and garam masala powder.
  • Marinate and rest for a minimum of 30 minutes, or overnight for best results. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Optional – If using onion, sauté in 1 tablespoon oil until lightly golden, for 7 minutes. Cool down.
  • To a blender, add tomatoes, sautéed onions, cashews and water. Blend to a smooth puree. If you want you can also blend the cashews separately with water to a smooth cream.

Make the sauce

  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, to bring it close to room temperature.
  • Melt butter in a pan & add all the whole spices – cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms.
  • When they begin to sizzle, stir in the ginger garlic paste & green chilies. Fry on a low heat, for a minute or 2, till it turns fragrant but not burnt.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in red chili powder, garam masala, cumin and coriander powder.
  • Stir in the tomato cashew puree. If it is not smooth, strain it to the pan.
  • Mix well and cover partially. Bring it to a boil on a medium high heat, reduce the heat to low or medium. Cook until the puree turns thick, keep stirring occasionally.
  • Pour hot water and simmer for 10 mins, until the sauce thickens & traces of fats are visible on top of the sauce. Remove the whole spices and discard at this stage.

Grill or roast chicken

  • Spread one tbsp. butter or ghee in a griddle/pan and heat it well. Place the marinated chicken pieces, spacing them a little apart.
  • Fry on a medium heat for 2 mins and turn them. Don’t burn and do not overcook. Cook till the chicken is just cooked and all the marinade dries up. It is not necessary to fully cook the chicken at this stage.
  • This way roast the chicken pieces in 2 to 3 batches, depending on the size of your skillet.

How to make Butter Chicken

  • Add chicken to the butter chicken gravy. Pour more hot water (about ½ cup, not in the recipe) if the sauce is too thick. Cover and simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes till it becomes tender.
  • Stir in salt, sugar and kasuri methi. Taste test and optionally add more garam masala & another tablespoon butter for additional flavour (both are optional).
  • Turn off and stir in the heavy cream. Garnish Butter Chicken with chopped coriander leaves and some cream. Serve with Turmeric rice, steamed Basmati Rice, Butter naan or Cumin Rice.


Notes

  1. Read my pro tips and Ingredients section in the post.
  2. Use good quality ripe sweet tomatoes. Avoid using sour/tangy tomatoes. 
  3. Using onions is optional and you may use them to cut down the sour taste of the tomatoes.
  4. The quantity & type of tomatoes and ground spices determine the color of your butter chicken gravy.
  5. Butter chicken is a mild curry, using a lot of spices alters the flavor and taste of the sauce.
  6. If using almonds, soak them in hot water for a few hours and remove the skin. Grind them with half cup water. You can also use ¼ cup blanched almond flour, grind it with half cup water until really smooth.

Video

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Butter Chicken Recipe (Indian Chicken Makhani)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 385 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Trans Fat 0.3g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 119mg40%
Sodium 701mg30%
Potassium 934mg27%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 32g64%
Vitamin A 1940IU39%
Vitamin C 25mg30%
Calcium 62mg6%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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About Swasthi

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. More about me

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5 stars
This recipe is delicious and works perfectly as written! I use chicken thighs and marinate overnight. Chicken has a pleasant flavor and is very tender. We add 2 green cardamoms like your paneer butter masala and it makes the curry very fragrant. Thank you. This is going to our rotation

5 stars
This is the best butter chicken recipe I have ever tried. Thank you it turned out amazing

Beautiful recipe! I look forward to make this on the weekend. Would this recipe work with tomato paste? Do you have a conversion for tomatoes to tomato paste? Would you make any changes to the recipe with tomato paste? Thanks for your reply

5 stars
Made this for a weekend potluck and it was the first one to get over. I served yellow basmati rice in separate bowls, topped with this butter chicken and your cucumber salad. We crisped pepper papadums in the air fryer and that’s it. It was a super hit. My friends loved these rice bowls & now everyone calls me the Butter chicken gal. Thank you for helping me whip up this!

5 stars
This butter chicken is definitely worth every penny! It took a little extra effort but it turned out better than anything I have eaten. I found my best butter chicken!

I’m making this today. I’m a little intimidated by the instructions but I’m sure it’s easy than ot looks. I do have a question is we are using whole ripe tomatoes do we cook them 1st or just add to the blender raw? Also, I was told oregano is the best substitute for fenugreek, I hope that’s true as that is what I have on hand.

Thank you Swasthi! Does slow cooking in the instant pot make it better? At what point should I use the cooker?

5 stars
I made this for dinner tonight and I didn’t have cashews or a couple of the spices that aren’t so popular, so I just added a little more of the spices I had and used a full cup of whipping cream to make up for it and we all loved it. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us!

5 stars
Amazing, thank you

5 stars
*chef’s kiss* I am shocked at how delicious this butter chicken turned out. It took me a week to find the fenugreek but it was all worth the wait. Everyone should try it and it smells heaven. I use rani’s garam masala it worked fantastic. The only change was to add a bit of date syrup for sugar. This is a keeper and my family approved it for a rotation.

5 stars
Thank you! I am overjoyed. I made it for our first wedding anniversary and this was a blast with your butter naan.

Hello there, I marinated my chicken, cooked them on the pan, added them to the sauce and cooked them according to the instruction but I’m not sure why my chicken is rubbery. Can you please advise what I may have done wrong? The sauce was great though!

5 stars
Good recipe. Tried it with passata and onions. Didn’t have to change anything. Worked beautifully.

5 stars
Made this last night and it was delicious! Thank you for helping me make a super delicious butter chicken!

5 stars
Can this be made ahead and frozen?

5 stars
Have made this several times and it’s always delicious. One of our favorites. I was wondering if this can be made in advance and frozen. I’m sorry if I missed that info in your directions.

5 stars
This is amazing! I used roma tomatoes and it was a hit with the family.

Hi Swasthi: If I am going to use onion, at what point do I add it?

Thank you! Making it now.

5 stars
This turned out absolutely stunning and delicious! Swasthi, you make the best Indian recipes and they have the best flavors. We have tried many of them and have become our family staples. I am glad to add this recipe to our rotation list.

5 stars
Amazing dish- very flavourful!

5 stars
Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m completely blown away by the flavours and the fact that now I can cook a very beautiful Indian dish 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻🫶🏻🫶🏻🫶🏻😋😋😋