Makhani Masala is the very aromatic butter based tomato cream sauce seasoned with spices and herbs – the base gravy for most of the tomato based creamy dishes in the Indian restaurants. If you are familiar with the lip smacking, finger licking Paneer Makhani/Paneer Butter Masala (Indian Cheese in a Butter Sauce), Malai Koftas (Cheese balls stuffed with nuts raisins and spices cooked in a creamy sauce), Dal Makhani (Creamy buttery lentils) or the internationally famed Murgh or Chicken Makhani/Butter Chicken served in the Indian restaurants, this is one sauce they are all based on. The Makhani masala can be adapted to form a gravy/sauce with a thick tomato base or with more cream/milk added, it makes the more popular light orange creamy sauce usually found in the restaurants.
The word ”makhani” comes form “makhan” which means butter. The origin of this sauce is in the northern regions of India (Punjab). Traditionally fresh butter and cream were used to cook this basic sauce. If you do not want to indulge the butter/ghee may be replaced with cooking oil ( I usually use Canola) and the cream may be substituted with half & half, or even regular whole milk.
I have been using this recipe for many years now. The recipe has been a very trusted friend. A few cups stored in the freezer have allowed me to whip up very delicious dishes in few minutes. It has been handed down to most of my friends and relatives. During the first years of our marriage I had written down a recipe some “Bombay Palace” cookbook. The original recipe has gone through some changes to adapt to our needs and taste over the years, but I will assure you that this is the best makhani sauce I have ever tasted. Once you have mastered this, you can really cook any of those famed dishes that appear in the menu of the Indian restaurants.
Few notes here: The amount of cream added to this at the end will depend on the recipe you are going to make with this. The proportions I have written here makes a base sauce. The more popular “makhani” dishes will need more cream/milk to be added after you add the chicken/meat (for Murgh Makhani) or Paneer ( for Paneer Makhani) or Lentils (for Dal Makhani). It also depends on your personal taste. Sometimes when I want a less creamy and more tangy sauce I add only a little bit of cream. The days to indulge and have a restaurant style menu we do the regular amount of cream. This is a great recipe for parties and you can really hear the “wow” when the dishes cooked with this sauce looks and tastes so professionally done.
Makhani Masala/Butter based Tomato Cream Sauce
Ingredients: (yields about 3 cups)
- 1/4 cup ginger paste
- 3tablespoon garlic paste
- 2 inch stick of cinnamon
- 2 black cardamoms
- 2 small green cardamoms
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek/methi seeds (This is a MUST)
- 1 tablespoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves; Available in Indian Groceries)
- 5 cups pureed fresh tomato (or about 1/2 the amount of tomato paste) – it is okay to use more tomato
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- Salt to taste
- 3 hot green peppers slit (optional)
- 1/4 cup melted butter/ghee (I substitute it with cooking oil for obvious health reasons)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream/whipping cream
- 1/2 cup milk
Heat butter/ghee/oil & add cinnamon, cardamoms and fenugreek seeds.
Once the seeds start to sizzle, add ginger garlic paste, salt, chili powder and stir and fry till fat (butter) separates, and starts to form small bubbles.
Add tomato paste, green chili, cinnamon powder and kasuri methi (Mix the tomato paste with double the amount of water to make it like a puree of use Tomato Puree).
Cook/simmer and reduce the tomato sauce, till done. (you will know which the fat/ and the spice mix/masala leaves the sides of the pan and the oil separates and you will definitely smell it!). Make sure to cover the pan as the sauce will bubble and splatter.
(At this stage the sauce can be frozen for later use. If you are cooking anything with the sauce right away, go ahead and add the cream and milk.)
Add heavy cream and milk. Boil/simmer for about 10 minutes.
After the sauce is done, proceed to cook whatever dish you have decided.
The masala/sauce can be frozen in airtight containers for quite a few months. BUT if you want to freeze it, DO NOT add the cream and the milk. Add the cream and the milk when you want to use it to prepare the final dish.
Just to give you a head start:
Murgh/Chicken Makhani: Boneless chicken pieces are marinated and grilled on the stove top or grill or tandoor and cooked in the makhani sauce.
Paneer Makhani: Cubes of paneer (Indian cheese) are simmered in the makhani sauce.
Dal Makhani: Lentils are slowly simmered in the makhani sauce.
Malai Kofta: Paneer/Indian Cheese is mashed and formed into balls which are stuffed with nuts, raisins etc. These are then deep fried and thereafter simmered in makhani sauce.