Malai Chicken Recipe

Updated: October 6, 2023, By Swasthi

Make this better than restaurant Malai Chicken under 50 minutes. Tender chunks of pan-fried chicken simmered in an aromatic, delicious & creamy sauce. For the uninitiated, Malai Chicken is Indian style creamy white chicken curry that is minimally spiced & low in heat with unique mild flavors.

Malai chicken

Recipe Comments



It is best served with Tandoori roti, Naan, Basmati rice, Yellow rice or Saffron rice.

About Malai Chicken

Malai Chicken translates to cream chicken and is often seen on the North-Indian restaurant menus. It is basically a dish where chicken is simmered with milk, onion nut paste and spices. Lastly finished with some cream.

There are numerous versions of this dish and restaurants serving Mughlai foods make it with an addition of yogurt & kewda or rose water while other restaurants just use milk and cream. The spice combinations used also vary and this is what breaks or makes the dish.

If you have never been able to enjoy Indian foods due to the high heat and spice levels, this Malai chicken is the way to go! It is also kids’ friendly and is great to make for parties.

About this recipe

People order Malai Chicken in restaurants because everything else is overly spiced, hot and oily. There are only a few options for kids and those who prefer low heat levels.
But surprisingly the restaurant versions are very disappointing.

This Malai Chicken recipe makes a delicious & flavorsome dish with tender chunks of chicken. You can easily adjust the heat levels to your preference. Make it hot and spicy if you prefer or leave out the chilies for a milder dish.

Boneless chicken is first marinated in yogurt, spices and herbs to tenderize. We make the white gravy and later add pan-fried chicken to this gravy. You can also oven bake or air fry the chicken prior to adding into the white curry.

Photo Guide

How to make Malai Chicken (Stepwise Photos)

Marinate the chicken

1. To a mixing bowl, add the following ingredients:

  • 1½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (hung curd)
  • ¾ teaspoon garam masala (no chili powder included)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper crushed
  • ½ teaspoon kasuri methi (crushed, dried fenugreek leaves)
marinade for chicken

2. Mix well and taste test to adjust salt and heat levels. Avoid using runny yogurt because we want the marinade thick so it holds the chicken while pan-frying.

yogurt marinade

3. Add it to ½ kg (1.1 lbs) cubed chicken (boneless breasts or thighs cut to 1½ inch pieces) and marinate well. Cover and rest aside for a minimum of 30 minutes up to 36 hours in the refrigerator.

marinated chicken

To saute and puree

4. If you do not have a powerful grinder, soak 15 cashew nuts in half cup hot water until needed, later. You will need the following ingredients to make the malai gravy:

  • 2 to 3 green cardamoms
  • 1½ cups (150 grams) onions sliced (avoid red & purple onions)
  • ¾ inch ginger peeled & sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves peeled & sliced
  • ½ cup full fat milk (or milk with malai or heavy cream, I use milk)
ingredients to make the malai chicken gravy

5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and add cardamom, onion, ginger and garlic.

frying onions to make malai chicken

6. Saute on a medium heat for 4 to 5 mins, until they turn transparent & lose the raw flavor. Do not brown them. Cool completely.

7. Transfer them to a grinder jar along with cashews and milk/cream.

8. Grind to smooth puree.

Make Malai Chicken Gravy

9. Prepare and set these ingredients ready:

  • 1 to 2 green chili (chopped or deseeded & slit, adjust to heat, leave out for no heat)
  • 1 black cardamom (optional)
  • 2 inch cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 cloves (optional)
  • 2 strands mace (optional)
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (divided, no chili powder included)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper (optional, adjust to taste)
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon nutmeg grated
  • ½ teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

10. Pour 1 tablespoon ghee to the same pan. Add black cardamom, mace, cinnamon, cloves and green chilies. Let them sizzle for 30 seconds and pour the puree. Be careful as the spices can splutter.

temper spices to make malai chicken

11. Pour water and mix well. Start with 1½ cups and add another half cup later if required.

pour water

12. Bring to a gentle boil on a medium heat. Cover and cook until thick and the raw flavor of onions has completely gone. This takes about 12 to 14 mins. Half-way you may taste test your gravy and discard the chilies for low heat preference.

12. Meanwhile, another tablespoon ghee to a large wide pan and heat it. Place the chicken pieces and fry them on a medium flame on each side for 3 mins.

13. If you want you may brown the chicken and if you want you can also under cook it at this stage and finish in the curry. I also cut each piece to smaller sizes with a spatula at this stage.

14. Once the gravy is cooked, it turns thick and loses the raw flavor of onions. You will also see specks of fats on the gravy. Taste test to see if the gravy still has the raw onion taste. I used 2 cups water in total and cooked for 14 mins.

bubbling malai gravy

15. This is the consistency. At this stage if you want, you may discard the whole spices and chilies. I do remove mine.

consistency of malai gravy

16. Add salt, garam masala, kasuri methi, nutmeg, black pepper and the chicken.

spices and pan-fried chicken to make malai chicken

17. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Taste test and adjust salt and spices as needed. If you want you may add 2 to 4 tbsps heavy cream. I do not use.

thick and creamy malai chicken in a dutch oven

Garnish Malai chicken with with crushed black pepper. Serve with Tandoori roti, Naan, yellow rice or saffron rice. Onion salad, vegetable salad or kachumber go well on the side. If you want you may squeeze some lemon juice while serving.

malai chicken recipe - creamy white chicken curry

Pro Tips

  • 2 cups of water may seem a lot for this recipe. But it is essential to cook down the onion puree very well until the raw flavor is lost. Also simmering for long results in a more creamy curry. Start with 1.5 cups and add more only if needed.
  • I prefer to cut the chicken to 1½ inch pieces before marinating and cut them further with a spatula after pan-frying, before adding to the gravy. It is easier to pan-fry larger pieces of chicken than the smaller so I do that.
  • I haven’t felt the need to use heavy cream at all in this dish. Because when you simmer full fat milk it’s going to make the dish creamy naturally. But if you want you may either add it while blending the onions or to garnish later.
  • This recipe uses yogurt only to marinate the chicken. Slightly sour yogurt also works well to marinate and that imparts tangy flavors to the chicken.
  • Your dish will have a different color if your garam masala includes red chili powder.
  • If you want you may add a few drops of kewda or rose water for a floral aroma. These also have preservatives added to them so use accordingly.
  • If making for kids, avoid the green chilies. But also note that if you do not use them, the heat levels will be very low.
  • If you use heavy cream and lemon juice both at the last stage of finishing or serving, the gravy may curdle.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

malai chicken recipe - creamy white chicken curry

Malai Chicken Recipe (Creamy White Chicken Curry)

5 from 51 votes
Malai Chicken is North Indian creamy white chicken curry. Marinated boneless chicken is pan-fried and simmered in a creamy onion nut gravy along with spices and herbs. Serve it with Tandoori roti, naan, Basmati rice, yellow rice or saffron rice.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings4
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

To Marinate

  • ½ kg (1.1 lbs) chicken boneless breasts or thighs cut to 1 to 1½ inch pieces
  • teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (hung curd)
  • ¾ teaspoon garam masala (no chili powder included)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper crushed
  • ½ teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

To Saute & Puree

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 to 3 green cardamoms
  • 1½ cups (150 grams) onions sliced (avoid red & purple onions)
  • ¾ inch ginger peeled & sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves peeled & sliced
  • 15 cashew nuts (or blanched soaked almonds or almond flour)
  • ½ cup full fat milk (milk with malai or heavy cream)

To make the gravy

  • 2 to 2½ tablespoon ghee (divided, to temper + fry chicken)
  • 1 to 2 green chili (chopped or deseeded & slit, adjust to heat, leave out for no heat)
  • 1 black cardamom (optional)
  • 2 inch cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 cloves (optional)
  • 2 strands mace (optional)
  • 1½ to 2 cups water (I use 2 cups water)
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon Garam Masala (divided, no chili powder included)
  • ½ teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon nutmeg grated
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper (optional, adjust to taste)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)


Instructions

Preparation

  • Soak cashews in half cup hot water until needed later.
  • To a mixing bowl add Greek yogurt (hung curd), salt, black pepper, ginger garlic paste, kasuri methi, coriander powder and garam masala.
  • Mix well and taste test to adjust salt and spice. Add the chicken and marinate. Cover and set aside at least for 30 minutes to overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Heat oil in a pan. Add cardamoms, sliced onions, ginger and garlic. Saute until transparent for about 4 to 5 mins. Do not brown them.
  • Cool down and add them to a grinder jar along with cashews and milk/cream (added in 2 batches if needed). Grind to a smooth puree.

How to make Malai Chicken

  • Pour half of the ghee to a pan & heat it on a low flame. Add all the optional ingredients – chopped green chili, cloves, black cardamom, cinnamon and mace. Be careful, the spices can splutter.
  • Pour the blended mixture along with water. Bring it to a gentle boil on a medium heat. Cook covered until thick & you see specks of oil/fats on top. This takes about 12 to 13 minutes. Keep stirring every 5 mins.
  • While the gravy simmers, heat a pan with the rest of the ghee and place the chicken pieces. Fry them until almost cooked, for 3 mins on each side.
  • It’s okay if the chicken is undercooked, if you want you may brown the chicken.
  • When the sauce is thick, stir in the garam masala, nutmeg, salt, kasuri methi, black pepper and the pan-fried chicken.
  • Cover and cook for 2 to 3 mins. Taste test and adjust salt and more black pepper or garam masala. If you want you may add heavy cream.
  • Garnish with black pepper. Serve Malai chicken with Tandoori roti, Naan, Yellow rice or Saffron rice. If you want you may squeeze some lemon juice before serving.


Notes

  • For best results, marinate chicken for at least 30 mins. It soaks up the flavors and turns extremely tender as it marinates in yogurt.
  • Adjust the amount of garam masala and if yours has red chili included, it is likely to add heat and alter the color of your dish.
  • If you brown the onions, your curry will have a deeper color.

Video

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Malai Chicken Recipe (Creamy White Chicken Curry)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 450 Calories from Fat 306
% Daily Value*
Fat 34g52%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Trans Fat 0.1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 14g
Cholesterol 117mg39%
Sodium 734mg32%
Potassium 410mg12%
Carbohydrates 9g3%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 27g54%
Vitamin A 231IU5%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Calcium 82mg8%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

© Swasthi’s Recipes

This post is from the Archives and was first published in 2014. Updated in October 2023 with a new recipe.

Recipe 2 – Red Malai Chicken

There are different versions of malai chicken served in restaurants and is mostly a region based thing. So the recipe I have shared here is not the Punjabi dish but it is a variation & tastes extremely good. This recipe was inspired from a malai chicken that I got to eat in Bangalore many years ago.

red malai chicken

Name this whatever!! But give this recipe a try. I am sure you will be in love with my version of malai chicken. The recipe is pretty easy. Briefly saute the chicken and then marinate it with yogurt, tomatoes, herbs and spices.

Tips to Make Malai Chicken

An overnight marination not only helps the chicken soak up all the flavors but also make it so tender, juicy and succulent. Later cook the chicken along with the marinade on a very low flame.

Then to finish off and balance the tang add as much cream as you like. So this recipe like the murgh malaiwala uses no milk at all.

If you like to further simply the dish then use tomato paste instead of cooking down the pureed tomatoes.

There is one more ingredient which brings a unique flavor to the dish. That is fried onions. These are the same deep fried onions used in making authentic Hyderabadi biryani.

However if you are on a low fat diet, then just fry the thinly sliced onions in 3 tablespoons oil until crisp and golden. They won’t turn as crisp as the deep fried onions but they will be flavorful. Alternately you may air fry the onions until crisp and golden or use store bought onions.

Recipe Card

malai chicken recipe

Red Malai Chicken

5 from 9 votes
Marinated chicken simmered in a super flavorful, delicious and creamy Indian masala. Serve it with basmati rice or any Indian breads like naan, roti or paratha.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes
Servings4
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

  • ½ kg chicken
  • ½ to ¾ cup tomato puree (pureed tomatoes)
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (avoid sour yogurt)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (or ½ tbsp fresh ginger paste, ½ tbsp garlic paste)
  • ¼ cup fried onions (refer notes)
  • 1 green chili (slit, optional)
  • 8 to 10 mint leaves (fresh , very finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • teaspoon chicken masala powder (or garam masala, use good one, adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (more if needed, to balance)
  • 2 tablespoons oil or butter (adjust if needed)

Whole spices

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamoms
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds (or shahi jeera)
  • 1 inch cinnamon piece
  • 2 to 4 cloves
  • 1 strand mace (single strand, skip if you don't have)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper corn (or crushed pepper, skip if you don't have)


Instructions

Preparation

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add all the whole spices and let them sizzle for 30 seconds. Be cautious as they may splutter.
  • Add ginger garlic paste and sauté until a nice aroma comes out. Do not brown and burn this.
  • Add chicken and fry on medium heat till it turns white or pale in color. This takes around 3 to 4 mins. Transfer this to a plate.
  • Pour 1 teaspoon oil to the same pan, add pureed tomatoes and sprinkle salt. Cook this until all of the moisture evaporates and turns thick like a sauce. This step takes around 4 to 5 mins.
  • Turn off the stove and transfer the chicken to the tomato mixture. Cool all of these completely. Cooling them is very important.
  • Once cool, combine the chicken, tomato mixture, yogurt, fried onions, mint, coriander leaves, turmeric, green chili, red chili powder, salt & half of the chicken masala powder.
  • Marinate the chicken, set aside for at least 1 hour. For best flavor, taste & tender meat marinate overnight in the fridge.

How to make malai chicken

  • Heat 1 tablespoon butter or oil in a pan. Then add marinated chicken.
  • Turn down the flame to lowest, Cover and cook till the chicken turns tender. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  • I do not add any water as the chicken releases some juices. However this depends on the kind of meat.
  • Once the chicken is tender, add the rest of the chicken masala powder & kasuri methi. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 mins. If the curry looks runny, evaporate the excess moisture by cooking further (uncovered) on a higher heat. At the end of this step the curry must be quite thick since it will thin down after adding the cream.
  • Add the cream and mix well. Taste test and add more salt or cream to taste. Garnish with more cream and coriander leaves.
  • Serve malai chicken hot with roti, naan, chapati or basmati rice.


Notes

  • Marinating overnight gives the best results. Chicken soaks up all of the flavors and turns extremely tender as it marinates in yogurt.
  • Cook chicken on the lowest heat.
  • Adjust the amount of chicken masala or garam masala as needed. There are several different brands selling them and each one is different so add more or less as needed.
  • To make fried onions, slice 1 medium onion and fry them stirring constantly until golden and crisp. These are the same onions used to make biryani. 

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Red Malai Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 458 Calories from Fat 315
% Daily Value*
Fat 35g54%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Cholesterol 118mg39%
Sodium 196mg9%
Potassium 521mg15%
Carbohydrates 10g3%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 26g52%
Vitamin A 883IU18%
Vitamin C 13mg16%
Calcium 89mg9%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

© Swasthi’s Recipes

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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
I’ve just tried this recipe and it’s amazingly delicious!
I’m a big fan of your recipes and I’m always sure that no matter what recipe I’ll try,it will taste delicious!
Thank you so much for sharing all this with us!

5 stars
Ordered this when on vacation to the Maldives and it was so good I decided to make it at home. It was heavenly!! One of my favorite dishes EVER. I added more salt, used butter not ghee, and ground cardamom. Still melt in your mouth amazing. Will make again!

5 stars
We loved this white malai chicken. The marinated chicken took it over the top and the gravy is perfectly delicious. My kids were so happy with it and want to eat it every weekend. Thank you for another amazing recipe.

Looking forward to making this tonight. Quick general question; is it OK to use roasted cashews, or just natural?

5 stars
Thanks. I ended up making this with almond flour anyway, turned out lovely. I have a lot of roasted cashews so was wondering. I will use them now in your aloo gobi recipe. Yum.

There was one more recipe of malai chicken which is red in color . Can I get it ? It has tomato puree, pudina leaves , fried onion ..

Thank you ?

5 stars
It tasted really delicious! I had one problem: the sauce curdled when I added the spices and chicken to it (I didn’t add any lemon juice or heavy cream). Any idea how to prevent this?

5 stars
I love this malai chicken. So easy to make it and tasted very delicious

5 stars
Been using recipe for a while now and have to say I’m addicted. Even leaves an authentic Indian Takeaway aroma after cooking. Yum!

5 stars
Oops, I think I accidentally gave a 0 star rating before. Just correcting it now, .

Just a little concerned about marinating the partially cooked chicken overnight. Can you marinade raw in the way I’ve traditionally used or does this alter the taste significantly?

5 stars
Absolutely beautiful recipe-this was a real treat and my family loved it! Thanks so much for this 🙂