Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken Recipe (Murgh Makhani)

Along with Chicken Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken is without a doubt one of the most well known Indian dishes around the world. But unlike Chicken Tikka Masala, which is sometimes claimed as a national dish of the UK, Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) is decidedly of North Indian provenance.

Maybe it’s the name (can you think of a more decadent sounding name?), or perhaps it has a flavor profile that appeals across cultures. Whatever the reason, butter chicken has managed to find its way around the globe, showing up on menus from Toronto to Tokyo to Turin.

While I love butter chicken, I have a few problems with many restaurant versions. The first is that it’s often sugary sweet. The second issue is that it’s often made with leftover tandoori chicken, which by the time it makes it into the butter sauce, could make the cut for an NHL approved hockey puck.

Murgh Makhani Recipe

If you take the time to caramelize the tomatoes (yes, tomatoes!) this dish has a natural sweetness that really doesn’t need any added sugar. The sweetness along with the pleasant tang from the yogurt marinated chicken balances out the rich creaminess from the butter and cream. Also, if you’re making this at home, you have the luxury of under-cooking the chicken on the grill, so that it doesn’t end up overcooked in the sauce.

You might be wondering why you have to go through the effort of reducing the tomato puree since a bunch of liquid gets added back in at the end. Those of you who have made French Onion Soup in the past, probably know the magic that happens as the Maillard reaction transforms the pungent onion into a sweet and infinitely complex melange of flavors as the sugars reduce. But who ever said that onions were the only vegetable you could do this to?

Once the tomatoes have reduced down to a glossy paste, I whisk in some cashew milk. This not only provides a creamy base which allows me to cut down on the amount of cream I add, it also gives the sauce body. Lastly, I like to strain the spices out of the sauce, making the finished butter chicken easier to eat (there’s nothing worse than biting into a fibrous cardamom pod or a mouth numbing clove).

Equipment you'll need:

Butter Chicken
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Tender yogurt marinated chicken in a sweet creamy tomato cream sauce.
Butter Chicken
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Votes: 116
Rating: 3.42
You:
Rate this recipe!
Tender yogurt marinated chicken in a sweet creamy tomato cream sauce.
Prep Time
15minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
40minutes 240minutes
Prep Time
15minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
40minutes 240minutes
Ingredients
  • 30 grams garlic (~ 5 large cloves), peeled
  • 30 grams ginger - fresh (~ 1-inch piece), peeled and sliced
  • 450 grams chicken thighs - boneless skinless
  • 1/3 cup yogurt - plain
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
  • 600 grams tomatoes - whole stewed (1 1/2 small cans)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 pods green cardamom
  • 1 pod black cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 2 fresh chili peppers
  • 40 grams raw cashew nuts (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (qasuri methi)
  • 1 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
Units:
Instructions
  1. Put the ginger and garlic into a small food processor and puree, you may need to add a bit of water to make it go. If you don't have a small food processor, you can grate by hand.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, vegetable oil, salt, garam masala, saffron, and 2 teaspoons of the garlic ginger mixture together. Save the remaining garlic ginger mixture for the sauce.
  3. Put the chicken in a freezer bag and pour the marinade all over it, rubbing it into the chicken. Squeeze all the air out of the bag and seal it. Marinate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Chicken Marinating in Yogurt and SpicesFor the sauce, puree the stewed tomatoes with their juices along with the tomato paste in a blender or food processor.
  4. Add the butter to a pot along with the green cardamom, black cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Fry the mixture until the cloves are puffy. Spies frying for butter chickenAdd the fenugreek seeds, chili peppers, and remaining garlic ginger mixture and saute until browned, and very fragrant.
  5. Add the pureed stewed tomatoes and tomato paste and cook this mixture over medium heat until the tomatoes have become very thick and paste-like (about 45 minutes). Once the mixture starts sputtering you'll want to stir it pretty regularly to keep the sputtering under control while maintaining enough heat to reduce the liquid. Caramelized Tomatoes for Murgh MakhaniWhile the tomatoes are reducing, grill the chicken. You can use either an outdoor grill or broiler, but in either case it needs to be very hot. You want to get the outside lightly charred, but you don't want to cook the chicken all the way through as it will finish cooking in the sauce. If you cook it completely now, it will get overcooked in the sauce. Grilled Chicken for Butter ChickenTransfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
  6. In a blender or food processor, add the raw cashew nuts along with 2 cups of water. Puree until smooth and milk-like in color.
  7. When the tomato mixture is done caramelizing turn off the heat and add the cashew nut milk, whisking it together.
  8. Pass the sauce through a wire strainer into a saucepan, pressing on the solids with a silicone spatula to get as much sauce through as you can. Butter SauceCut the chicken into large chunks and add it to the pot with the sauce along with the salt, fenugreek leaves and garam masala. Cook this for 6-8 minutes over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. Butter ChickenAdd the cream and stir together and then turn the heat off. Plate the butter chicken and drizzle a little extra cream on top. Garnish with some cilantro leaves.

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  • Angela Roberts

    I’ve been seeing butter chicken everywhere lately. I love this recipe version. I recently had it at an Indian restaurant, where they used their tandori chicken in the recipe which was quite good, but you have so many amazing flavors here, I have a feeling yours is better.

  • Jonny Bell

    I browse many food blogs looking for new recipes and new ideas. I’m really excited to try this recipe, which is not something I say very often! As I’m sure you know, after reading 10,000 recipes and cooking them, it’s not hard to tell when one stands out for the right reasons. Thanks for posting!

  • Sharon

    I am so excited to try this recipe…..love butter chicken and yours look amazing. Thanks !

  • Natika

    Sounds amazing! And I’m a sucker for any article that mentions Canadian things once, let alone twice. LOL.

  • Gaule

    I enjoy your recipes and photography very much, and look forward to making this recipe. Perhaps my scale is broken… I blended the garlic and ginger together and have a very full 1/2 cup measure. Is that correct? It seems a lot to use in one recipe but I admit I haven’t made anything like this before.

  • armedjester

    As always with your recipes, I made this. It’s everything as perfect as you make it sound. It took me about 3 hours to do it (there’s no such thing as boneless, skinned chicken thighs in Europe, so I had to do them from scratch) and by the time the sauce wouldn’t caramelize to the consistency you wrote, I had some choice words to say about your perception of effort vs. pleasure …

    … but then I tasted it. This is creamy, spicy love going right down your throat. This is the best butter chicken I ever tasted. Ever.

    Thank you.

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  • smbaxter

    I made this last night. It was absolutely delish!

  • Theresa Klein

    Wow, best butter chicken recipe I have found!
    Love the use of saffron in place of tumeric.

  • flooky

    This butter chicken is sooooooooo amazing. It tastes like the best of indian restaurants. I didn’t use saffron, but tumeric, and it was still so amazing.

  • David Torrey Peters

    This is the best butter chicken I have ever had. Also, I made it twice now with home-made paneer and sweet-potato and peas for a vegetarian friend and it was equally good. Sometimes I use Almond milk instead of making cashew milk, because I can just buy it. But either way, so great. I also used the method of caramelizing tomatoes that you explained for a Rogan Josh with yogurt and that turned out to be the best Rogan Josh I ever ate! Basically, you are the best chef and recipe writer I have found in the whole wide internet.

  • Tete97

    can I replace heavy cream with coconut milk ?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Tete, you may want to substitute it for coconut cream (it’s the thick white stuff that floats to the top of a can of coconut milk if you don’t shake it).

      • Tete97

        Okay Thank you, I will try it!

  • Mazda

    Is this a sweeter recipe or more of a spicy stew like that of a chicken tikka masala?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Mazda, it’s sweet from the tomatoes, but it’s also spicy. It’s pretty similar in taste to chicken tikka masala, but more rich and flavorful.

      • Mazda

        Awesome. Thanks for the recipe. Will try it out next week and post my thoughts.

      • Mazda

        Marc, you are the man! Best Butter Chicken recipe I have ever had the pleasure of cooking; and believe me, I’ve tried dozens. A lot of authentic flavours come out of this dish. You really hit the nail on the head with this one. Thanks again.

        Cheers.

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  • Michael Dean

    Made this tonight. We have an Indian market close to our house and I’ve always wanted to try to make a well-liked and familiar Indian dish from scratch. I forgot to grab saffron, but subbing in turmeric did the trick. I went ahead and did the stewed tomatoes from scratch because I figured…why not?
    Anyway, it was a major hit. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Greg

    This is the version I’ve been looking so long for, thank you!

  • AM

    Can I cut the chicken before marinating it and also if I don’t have a grill, what’s an alternative you would recommend?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi AM, you could cut them up before marinating but I like to leave them whole because it makes it easier to grill them that way. If you’re not going to grill you could fry them in a frying pan, or put them on a baking sheet and put them under your broiler to get a little char.

  • Ebony

    i made this tonight and it was soooo good! Thanks for posting and sharing your recipe with us!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Ebony, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it. Happy Holidays!

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