Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani

This rich, buttery, creamy chicken needs no introduction. Most probably the best known of all Indian dishes, it has already claimed the fame that it deserves.

A heartwarming favorite at home, a staple at most Indian restaurants, this north Indian dish has made its place in every corner of the world. And here I am, finally posting the recipe of this favorite dish. I have been seeing searches in my blog for the Butter Chicken and Naan and realized that I have not posted either one of them. (Update: Now Posted)

There are many who know not where India is, but is well aware of the culinary map; there is an instant spark and recognition at the utterance of “Butter Chicken”. Such is the magic of gastronomy. Food makes the world smaller and friendlier, provides a base for conversation between two people who might have nothing in common.

Butter Chicken

There are not many Indian restaurants that do not serve Butter Chicken.  In our home,  Murgh Makhani served in the restaurants is also a measuring tool to judge the quality of the  restaurant. If a restaurant cannot whip up a good Murgh Makhani, the kind that will leave you stuffed and satisfied yet craving for more, that restaurant is not worth stepping into the second time around.

The recipe is said to have originated in a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Delhi, India. “The origins of butter chicken can be traced back to a man named Kundan Lal Gujral, who ran a restaurant called Moti Mahal Delux in Peshawar before the partition of British India. With the partition of British India, Moti Mahal moved to New Delhi. Butter Chicken is regarded to have been first introduced by Moti Mahal in New Delhi” (Wiki)

Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani Recipe

Murgh Makhani is not the same thing as the Chicken Tikka Masala,; both the recipes look similar and uses marinated grilled chicken in the sauce, but the base sauce for the two recipes are quite different. While the Chicken Tikka Masala is told to have been created from the Cambell Tomato Soup, the sauce for Butter Chicken is made with pureed juicy tomatoes, and spices cooked in butter, and  is finished off with fresh cream. The primary aroma of the dish unfolds with the addition of the kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves. The trick is to cook the chicken in a tandoor/traditional clay oven, where the temperature reaches way higher than any regular oven; the marinated chicken is cooked in few minutes, tender and succulent.

Butter Chicken Making

Butter Chicken is a rich regal dish, and that is what the talk is all about. This in its authentic form has given it the popularity it achieved. There are many who gasp at the amount of cream that goes in it. So there are a lot of versions that substitutes the cream with yogurt or the butter/ghee with oil. I have tried those kinds too, but they have failed to fulfill me. Substitutions make nice chicken curries, but not the Butter Chicken. So when I make Murgh Makhani, and which does not happen everyday, I do indulge and make the rich original kind.

If you do need to substitute the cream, use half and half or evaporated milk or even milk. The taste of the final dish stays closer to the original.

Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

  1. 2 lbs chicken , washed, patted dry and cut into small pieces – (feel free to use chicken with or without bones, chicken thighs or a combination of breast and thighs)
  2. 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  4. salt
  5. oil/butter/ghee to baste while grilling

For marinade:

  1. 3/4 cup plain yogurt, strained/hung or use 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  2. 1.5 teaspoons kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves
  3. 1/2 – 1 teaspoon turmeric
  4. 1 teaspoon garam masala (homemade or store bought may be used)
  5. 1.5 tablespoon mustard oil, or any other cooking oil to substitute
  6. 1.5 tablespoon ginger paste
  7. 1/2 tablespoon garlic paste

**Note on the grilled chicken: you may use the recipe above or if you already have the Murgh/Chicken Tikka  (recipe posted) ready, you can use the same chicken in the sauce.

Note on the Sauce: You can make the sauce right when you are making this dish  (use recipe below) or use 2 cups of the Makhani Masala (without the cream added to it) if you have it already frozen and stored.

Whatever you use, pre made/frozen or make it now, use 2 cups of the Sauce/Makhani Masala. If you are making now as per the recipe below and have extra, freeze it for later use.

For the sauce/Makhani Masala:

  1. 2.5 inch fresh ginger, made into a paste
  2. 8-10 cloves of garlic, made into a paste
  3. 2-4 fresh green chili pepper, slit
  4. 4 tablespoon melted butter
  5. 4 green cardamoms
  6. 1.5 – 2 inch cinnamon sticks
  7. 2 cloves
  8. 1 black cardamom
  9. 1/2 -3/4 teaspoon methi/fenugreek seeds
  10. 3-3.5 cups tomato puree (fresh tomatoes) or canned tomatoes (reduce the amount a little bit here as the water content will be less as compared to the fresh)
  11. 1 tablespoon red chili powder/cayenne pepper/paprika or to taste
  12. 10 almonds, soaked, peeled and made into a paste
  13. 1 teaspoon garam masala
  14. 1 tablespoon kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves, very lightly toasted on a dry skillet and crushed
  15. 1/2 tablespoon sugar or honey (you might need to adjust this based on how tart the tomatoes are. The dish will not be sweet. The sweet is used to neutralize the acid)
  16. 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon heavy cream


Apply red chili powder, lemon juice and salt to the chicken and set aside for 20 minutes. This is the first marination.

Combine all ingredients of the second marinade (see ingredient list). Apply this marinade to the chicken and refrigerate for three to four hours; overnight works better.

Put the chicken on  skewers and cook on a grill or a preheated oven  at 400°F,  for about 10 minutes while turning them over mid way. Cook until done. Do not overcook, as the chicken will dry out and get fibrous. Baste it with butter/ghee/oil or marinade if you want, a couple of times while cooking. Set aside once done.

(The chicken may be grilled on a skillet/cast iron pan/grill pan on the stove top  too. Heat the skillet/stove top grill pan and coat it with oil. Place the skewers and cook while turning them around and basting with oil and marinade until done, for about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.)


Cooking the Sauce:

[ If you are using the pre made makhani masala, it should be about 2 cups in quantity]

Heat butter/ghee or oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add green cardamoms, black cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Sauté for a couple of minutes  or till they start to sizzle and get fragrant; add the methi/fenugrek seeds. When the methi seeds sizzle, add ginger paste and garlic paste, and the slit green chillies. Cook in medium heat for five  to eight minutes; the water from the paste would have evaporated and the ginger garlic paste would have reduced in quantity.

Add tomato puree or paste, red chili powder, and salt. Cook (may partially cover during cooking) at medium heat for about 15 – 20 minutes. The puree will reduce to a thick paste and the oil/ghee will separate from the sides of the pan.

After the tomatoes are cooked down, you might want to blend the cooked sauce (along with all the spices) into a smooth puree, if you want a restaurant like smooth texture for the sauce – especially if you are using fresh tomatoes. return it back to the pan after blending and continue with the rest of the process.

Add 2.5 cups of hot water to the pan (or if you want it less soupy and want the sauce to kind of coat the chicken pieces and have a little bit extra, add less water or simmer for longer time to achieve the pref. consistency as per your taste), add the almond paste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes; add sugar and crushed kasuri methi.

Add cooked grilled chicken pieces. Stir well to combine – the chicken will be well coated with the sauce. Cover and simmer for eight to ten minutes; Lower the heat and add garam masala and the heavy cream. Stir in the cream and simmer at low heat for about five more minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and add a splash of cream before serving.


Butter Chicken/murgh makhani

Serve hot with Pulao.

Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani

or with Naan or Parathas.

Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani

Related Posts:

Malai Kofta: Cheese Dumpling Simmered in a Creamy Sauce

Dal Makhani

Chicken Korma: Chicken cooked in a creamy nut sauce

Achari Murgh: Chicken with Pickling Spices

Methi Murgh: Chicken Curry with Fenugreek Leaves

Around the Food World:

Manisha’s Butter Chicken

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207 comments to Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

  • Andy Carrein

    I just made this and it tastes excellent. The first thing that surprised me is that there are no onions in it. Must be the first curry I cooked that doesn’t have any.

  • Paul

    Hugely disappointed. I had high hopes for this as I’ve had it many times in Indian restaurants & always enjoyed it. When I looked at the list of ingredients I was surprised how little butter was involved but pressed ahead regardless. I tasted the sauce just prior to adding the cream which is the final step. At that point it was a pretty tasty tomato based curry, unfortunately adding the cream just turned it it into an extremely bland rich gloop. The only thing that saved it was the grilled chicken which was full of flavour & made it just about edible. If I ever make this again I’ll skip the cream – I accept that it’s then a different dish.

  • Abby


    The same thing happened when I cooked this recipe. The addition of the cream made it bland. I turned down the fire, and brought the taste back to balance by adding a whole stick of unsalted butter (in lieu of not having ghee in hand), one tablespoon of tomato paste, and half a packet of parampara brand roghan josh sauce spice mix (pre-fried spices). I made sure they got well incorporated into the sauce, and turned off the fire. Came out great! Next time, I will skip the cream and instead, add as much ghee as my heart desires. Have eaten this dish in high end restaurants in India, and it never has the creamy-cloudy color that results from the addition of cream in this recipe. Always was bright orange-ish, and yet the creamy taste was there. All that is telltale signs that generous amounts of ghee is present in the dish. Now, in India, they traditionally have no fear of oily food, esp oil derived from milk. For thousands of years, their cows eat grass and therefore the oil produced from the milk are richer in heart-healthy Omega-3. Also, even in modern livestock farming, they raise A2 milk-producing cows (the original breed of cows from long ago), whose DNA are totally different from the modern A1-milk producing cows we mostly raise here in the West (newer man-made breed of cows). A2 cows produce milk and fat that are very beneficial to the human body. Just one of many differences is: A2 milk elevates the level of glutathione in the human body, while A1 milk depletes it. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. Studies have shown that people who live longer life spans are those whose glutathione levels are higher than that of their peers. I am allergic to A1 milk, but I thrive when I drink A2.

  • Abby

    I just served this dish for lunch today, and my whole family loved it! Thank you for posting this very detailed recipe. I looked at quite a lot of recipes online and this is the best one I’ve found in terms of methodical details and the array of spices used. Other recipes I’ve found that are written in English are overly-westernized versions of the dish, and omitted too much of the spices. Next time I cook this, I will keep a jar of ghee in stock. I’m glad to have followed your recipe, the taste is amazing, and we all enjoyed a very sumptuous lunch :)

  • Eli Barnett

    Very, very good recipe. I’ve made this maybe 10 times now, and loved it every time, and everyone I’ve served it to has been amazed. Thank you *so* much for your recipes and your blog. I do make a few (small!) modifications now, though:

    I find the amount of yogurt in the marinade is a bit too much; I’m usually left with a pool of marinade at the bottom of the bowl after I’ve skewered the chicken for broiling. This seems wasteful (all those tasty spices left behind!), so in addition to only using Greek yogurt for the marinade, I also reduce the amount to about 2/3 of what the recipe calls for. I find this gives just the right consistency to ensure that almost all the marinade stays on the chicken. I also increase the amount of mustard oil by a bit, but I think that’s just personal preference (I would never have discovered my love for mustard oil if not for your blog).

    A tip for broiling the chicken in the oven: err on the side of bigger chunks, and really cram it on the skewers, as tightly-packed as you can reasonably-manage; and make sure that there is room in the oven for hot air to pass between the skewers (they should not be touching each other side-to-side). This helps to ensure that the outside of the chicken can properly crisp up and caramelize before the inside overcooks. Also, be sure to put a drip pan with a small amount of water below the chicken, lest you fill your kitchen with smoke!

    I think 1/2-1 tsp of jeera added with the rest of the whole spices gives the curry a bit more of a well-rounded flavor. I also use quite a bit more ghee than the recipe calls for, and also less cream (a full half-cup always seems excessive; I usually end up using a bit more than half that). I also find that I need to add more sugar than you suggest to fully dispel the acid “bite” of the tomatoes – that might just be the low quality of the tomatoes at my local supermarket, however!

  • It is really hard to control myself because I am really loving this recipe and I have decided to make this dish with my friends.

  • Great Recipe Butter
    Chicken is my all time favorite. I cannot wait to try it, good work and thanks for sharing such an easy recipe.

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