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
  • 1
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  • 3
  • 4
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Votes: 178
Rating: 4.05
Rate this recipe!
Tender yogurt marinated chicken in a sweet creamy tomato cream sauce.
Prep Time
Cook Time Passive Time
40minutes 240minutes
Prep Time
Cook Time Passive Time
40minutes 240minutes
  • 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
  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 Spices
  4. For the sauce, puree the stewed tomatoes with their juices along with the tomato paste in a blender or food processor.
  5. 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 chicken
  6. Add the fenugreek seeds, chili peppers, and remaining garlic ginger mixture and saute until browned, and very fragrant.
  7. 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 Makhani
  8. While 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 Chicken
  9. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
  10. 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.
  11. When the tomato mixture is done caramelizing turn off the heat and add the cashew nut milk, whisking it together.
  12. 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 Sauce
  13. Cut 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 Chicken
  14. Add 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.


        • 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!

  • mart

    hello, trying this tonight. do I have to soak or wash my methi/fenugreek leaves? also are you using normal butter or is it ghee?
    hope to hear from you soon. looking forward to trying this, thanks.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi mart, mine came dried and crushed so I use it like I would any other dried herb, but if that’s not the form yours came in I’d say use your best judgement. As for the butter, I use whole butter (not ghee) because I want the milk solids in it.

  • Steve

    Hey! I found this recipe and thought I just have to try it. I was just marinating my chicken with the radio on, and got lost in thought as The Clash started playing. Now it just so happens that I used all of the ginger-garlic paste in the marinade without noticing. Should I make more for the sauce, or will that be overpowering? Alternatively, I could make the sauce in the same pan in which I am planning to fry the chicken (I don’t have a grill), and still get the flavor from the marinade. Please help!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Steve, hahaha, it happens to the best of us:-) As for what to do now, it depends on how much you like garlic and ginger, but if it were me, I’d probably make some more ginger/garlic paste to add the sauce.

  • Will

    Hi there. I’m going to try this butter chicken recipe tonight. Just a question though, in the ingredients you don’t mention chilli peppers but in the directions you say to add the chilli peppers. Are they required? And if so how much?


    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Will, sorry for the late response. Chili peppers are the 6th ingredient from the bottom between the fenugreek and cashews.

      • James Strowger

        Hey, trying this now… There’s no prep directions for the chili peppers. Do they get de-viened and chopped or something ? Also, how much salt in the sauce?

        • James Strowger

          Oops, figured it out by reading… Salt to taste, chili goes in with no prep

  • Rukaiya

    How many servings will be there for the above ingredients

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It should be enough for 2-3 people if this is all you’re serving.

  • Anu

    This is the best ever butter chicken I have eaten and as I am Indian I have eaten some :).So easy to make except for the cooking down of tomatoes which takes a bit of time, but totally worth it. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Thank you so much, Marc, this is a keeper.

  • Rukaiya

    Hi.. I want to know that should we put inside the freezer to marinate & can i substitute curd instead of yogurt.???

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Rukaiya, I’m not quite sure what you’re asking, but if you’re asking if you can put the marinade in the freezer, I would not recommend it as yogurt has a tendency to curdle when frozen. As for curd, I’m not really sure what curd you’re referring to, but if you’re talking about cheese curd (set with rennet) I would not recommend it. Cheese curd is very hard and will not turn into a marinade.

  • Rukaiya

    Hi i am asking that should we put the chicken (after sealing in the freezer bag) in the freezer or leave it outside?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Rukaiya, chicken should be refrigerated, but i would not recommend freezing it with the marinade. If you’re trying to preserve the chicken for a long time, just make the recipe to the end and then freeze everything.

  • Manish

    Hi Marc
    Can you tell me how many servings you get from the above measurement ie.450gms of chicken

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Manish, it’s hard to say exactly how many grams you’ll get, but this should feed 3-4 people. Assuming you’re serving it with other things.

  • Moreniké Bamidelé

    Hi. When you say 600 grams whole stewed tomatoes do you mean fresh tomatoes that I stew myself or the ones you buy in a can? I don’t know how to stew tomatoes. Can you please respend? I want to make this for my Indian friend for her birthday; additionally, for the ginger garlic thing, if I don’t have a food processor can I use a blender? Grating it with a grater?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Moreniké, you can certainly stew them yourself, but the canned ones will work just fine. As for the garlic and ginger, you need to puree it. While a food processor is fastest, you can also use a grate to do it by hand.

  • Tim

    Wonderful recipe. I stuck an habanero in there for extra effect! Thank you.

  • Herr Yamamoto

    Can i use a higher amount of green cardamom instead of the black one?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Herr Yamamoto, black cardamom and green cardamom have a very different flavor profile, so increasing the quantity of one will not eliminate the need for the other. If you can’t find black cardamom, just leave it out.

      • Herr Yamamoto

        Thanks for your help Mark :) Another qustion: COULD this sauce work with lamb? Just the sauce, not the rest process.

        • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

          Yep, I don’t see why not:-)

  • FoodRecipesEasy

    It’s really a good idea to use saffron threads. I’ll try it soon.

  • carol steinberg

    what can I use instead of the cream? My husband had dietary restrictions.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Coconut cream, or any kind of unsweetened cream substitute should work.

  • Sandra

    Hi Marc,

    Could you recommend a brand of garam masala (or recipe) that you like to use for this dish. I’ve found that garam masala varies greatly in the world of indian cooking and I haven’t found a brand that I like yet.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Sandra, I don’t have a brand as I usually pick my garam masala up at a small Indian bodega that repackages their spices under their own label. I know what you mean though about garam masalas all being different. I tend to gravitate towards garam masalas that taste like a more pungent western curry powder. They tend to be lighter in color (less cloves more turmeric), and I think the blend is cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, fenugreek, cloves, cardamom…

  • Kelly Hills

    Hi there :) Made this recipe a few weeks ago and tried it with fish and lamb rabbit and kangaroo as well and crocodile!! so good!!! 😀

    • Kelly Hills

      oh must mention as separate dishes and not all together!! oops!! see so excited i have found a recipe i love that i didnt explain myself too well!!

      • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

        Hahaha, I figured:-) Glad to hear you enjoyed this so much and that’s an impressive variety of protein!

  • Sara

    Hi, im not sure if you put the yogurt marinade in as well or not?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Sara, there’s no need to scrape the marinade off the chicken, but you can toss whatever’s left in the bag.

  • john

    hi. some recipes call for marination with lemon. What do you recommend?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi John, I recommend the recipe as is. If I thought it would be better another way I would have published it that way. The yogurt has plenty of acidity, if you add lemon juice, it think it would make it too sour. That being said, everyone’s palette is different and if you like your chicken very sour, you should make it how you think you’ll like it.

  • IzF

    Soooo good. I forgot to add the cream at the end but it still came out AMAZING!! Thanks again, Marc!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      So glad to hear you enjoyed it IzF! It will end up a little lighter without the final addition of cream (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in summer:-).

  • Melinda Selmys

    Just made this. I didn’t have cashews so I substituted a combination of almonds and dried papaya. It’s still the best butter chicken recipe I’ve ever found.


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