Butter Chicken! The ultimate comfort food your entire family will love! Make the best flavour-packed, creamy and delicious authentic Indian Butter Chicken at home with this easy recipe. Serve it with Butter naan, Roti, Chapati, Plain Paratha, Steamed fluffy Basmati Rice or Jeera rice for a simple Indian meal. In this post I share the recipe to make the authentic North Indian Butter Chicken known as Murgh Makhani. This 10 year old recipe on my blog has been upgraded with plenty of tips & tricks, substitutes and notes to make one of the most flavorful & succulent Butter Chicken.
About Butter Chicken
Butter Chicken also known as Chicken Makhani is a classic Indian dish that’s made by simmering marinated & grilled chicken (Tandoori chicken) in a spicy, aromatic, buttery and creamy tomato gravy. This lip-smacking and delicious dish is hugely popular among the Indian food lovers across the world.
It is believed that Butter Chicken was invented during 1930 to 1935, by Kundan Lal Jaggi & Kundan Lal Gujral, the owners/partners of a restaurant named Moti Mahal in Delhi, India. The restaurant would usually have large orders of tandoori chicken but sometimes ended up with leftovers which were dry.
Butter Chicken was a way to use up the leftover dry Tandoori Chicken. The large pieces of grilled chicken were diced and simmered in a rich creamy and buttery tomato gravy. That’s how Murgh Makhani – Chicken Makhani came into existence.
Butter Chicken Vs Chicken Tikka Masala
Though Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala have a lot of similarities, they both differ in taste, texture and flavor. Chicken tikka masala is spicy, hot and the tikka masala gravy has onions included in it. But the original Butter chicken is low on the heat & spice quotient and does not include onions in the gravy.
More importantly Butter Chicken is cooked in butter whereas chicken tikka masala is cooked in oil. Butter Chicken has a smooth, rich and silky gravy/sauce but tikka masala has a texture from the chopped and caramelized onions.
How Is Butter Chicken Made?
The original & authentic Butter Chicken is made with tandoori grilled chicken. Firstly, bone-in chicken is marinated overnight with thick Hung curd (yogurt), spices and herbs. This marinade imparts tons of flavors to the meat, tenderizes it naturally & helps to remain succulent after grilling.
Later the marinated chicken is grilled in a tandoor, a clay oven which imparts its characteristic smoky aroma. This is then diced and simmered in a spicy buttery and creamy tomato gravy.
Since we are not equipped with tandoor at home, the marinated chicken has to be either roasted in a pan or in an oven or grilled on open fire (barbeque). For this post I have done it in a pan. Feel free to grill/bake the chicken in oven or on open fire.
More Chicken RecipesChicken BhunaChicken JalfreziChilli ChickenChicken CurryChicken Masala
If you are new to Indian cooking, do read the Ingredients & substitutes and pro tips sections below. For the old readers – you can also find the original earlier recipe after the recipe card below.
How to make Butter Chicken (Stepwise Photos)
For this recipe you require 500 grams (1.1 lbs) boneless chicken. You can use thighs or breasts like the way I use. A lot of people prefer thighs for the flavor and additional fats. If using chicken breasts be prepared to leave it in the marinade for a minimum of 12 hours for best results.
1. Here are the other ingredients required to marinate the chicken:
- ¾ to 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ to ⅓ teaspoon salt
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika adjust to taste, reduce for kids)
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (optional, dried fenugreek leaves)
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
- ¾ to 1 tablespoon oil
- ¾ tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt or hung curd (read my pro tips)
2. Make sure there is no excess moisture on your chicken. Pat dry with kitchen tissues/paper, if required. Add red chili powder, salt and lemon juice. Mix well, cover and rest for 20 mins.
3. Later add ginger garlic paste, garam masala, cumin powder, coriander powder, kasuri methi, turmeric and hung curd/ Greek yogurt. Mix well and cover. Let the chicken rest in the marinade for a minimum of 12 hours in the refrigerator. The longer you leave the more tender and juicer the chicken is going to be. You can leave this for a maximum of 48 hours.
Prepare for the sauce/gravy
4. When you are ready to make the sauce, prepare the following ingredients. Keep the chicken out of the refrigerator, as we don’t want to grill/ pan-fry the cold chicken.
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 cinnamon (2 inch piece, if using Ceylon cinnamon, feel free to use more)
- 4 green cardamoms
- 4 cloves
- ¾ tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 to 2 green chilies (deseed,slit or chop, avoid for kids)
- 1 to 2 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika (adjust to suit your taste and color)
- 1 to 1½ teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste, divided)
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
- 1 to 1½ teaspoon coriander powder (optional)
- ½ tablespoon kasuri methi crushed
5. To a blender jar add 600 grams diced tomatoes (4 large makes 3 cups puree). To another small grinder, add 20 to 22 cashew nuts. If you have a powerful blender, you may grind them together. If you do not have a powerful blender, you may soak the cashews in ½ cup hot water for 30 mins and then puree. Here I did them separately.
6. To make the cashew cream, I grind the cashews first to a powder and then add ¼ cup water and grind again. Pour another ¼ cup water and grind again. Puree them very smooth.
I leave the pureeing part for you to decide. Choose the method that works for you, depending on the kind of grinder/blender you own – together or separately but smoother the better.
Make Butter Chicken Sauce
7. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a pan. Add cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms. Once they begin to sizzle, add ginger garlic paste, green chilies (leave out for kids) and fry on a medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes till the raw smell goes away.
8. Do not burn.
9. Turn off the heat. Stir in the red chilli powder, garam masala, cumin powder and coriander powder.
10. Strain the tomato puree to the pan.
11. Use a sturdy spoon to strain and discard the residue.
12. Mix well and bring this to a boil on a medium high heat. Be careful as this can easily splatter.
13. Cover partially and let boil on a medium heat, stirring often, until thick. This takes about 15 mins, depending on the kind of cookware and stove.
14. This is how it should look, at this stage stir in the cashew cream or paste.
15. Pour 1½ cups hot water and mix well.
16. Simmer this, partially covered for 10 mins or until the sauce thickens & traces of fats/butter are visible on top of the sauce. Meanwhile proceed with the next step.
Grill the chicken on the stove top or Bake in the oven
17. Make sure your chicken is not too cold.
Option 1: To use oven, preheat the oven to 240 C or 460 F for at least 15 minutes. Skew the chicken on to soaked wooden skewers or place on a greased tray and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, depending on the size of chicken pieces. In between you will have to turn to the other side.
Option 2: To pan-fry/grill chicken on griddle/tawa. Add one tablespoon oil/butter or ghee and place the chicken pieces spacing them apart. Fry on a medium heat for 2 mins. Ignore the moisture oozing out of the chicken. Turn the chicken pieces to the other side, don’t burn and do not overcook.
18. Cook till the chicken is just done and all the moisture evaporates. Optional – If you want browned chicken, increase the flame to high and roast until they turn golden or light brown on both the sides. Be careful as this can easily burn the masala & dry out your chicken. This way roast the chicken pieces in 2 to 3 batches, depending on the size of your skillet. Avoid browning in a non-stick pan.
Make Chicken Makhani
19. After 10 minutes, the sauce should have been thick and traces of fats visible on the sauce.
20. Add chicken to the butter chicken gravy.
21. Pour ½ cup more hot water if the sauce is too thick and simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes till it becomes tender. This is the time the sauce actually develops the flavors. The cook time may vary here. This additional half cup water is not mentioned in the recipe and is optional depending on how long you cook. But I always use.
22. Add ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ tablespoon kasuri methi. Stir well and taste test. If required add more garam masala & another tablespoon butter for additional flavor.
23. Stir in ¼ to ⅓ cup heavy cream. Or Take a few tablespoons of the hot gravy to a small bowl and stir in the cream. Mix and then pour the cream to the butter chicken. This prevents cream from splitting.
Butter Chicken is best served with Jeera rice , Turmeric Rice, plain fluffy Basmati Rice, roti, Naan or Paratha .
Ingredients & Substitutes
Tomatoes: Fresh ripe & pulpy/meaty tomatoes are best for this recipe. However you may use 1 cup (8 oz) passata or canned tomato puree. Avoid using sour tangy tomatoes.
Cashews impart a delicate flavor & acts as a thickener. It gives that rich, smooth and silky richness to the sauce. You can use almonds or almond flour as a substitute but flavors are different. To use almonds, soak them in hot water for 2 hours, peel and grind to a smooth paste/ puree. If using almond flour, grind it with water to a smooth paste.
Garam Masala is a spice blend used in Indian cooking. To make a good butter chicken you need a really good garam masala else your dish can end up being bland without any flavors. You can make your own from this Garam masala recipe or use store bought. But be sure to use an aromatic masala and adjust the quantity because every brand is different.
Kashmiri Red chili powder is pure Indian chilli powder (ground dried red chilies). It is a medium hot chili powder which also imparts brighter color to your dish. You may substitute it with Byadgi chili powder or a mix of smoked paprika & cayenne pepper (1:1).
If you don’t eat spicy foods, you may reduce the amount of red chili powder. The sauce will have a lighter color like seen in my old pictures.
Coriander and cumin powder: My original recipe never had cumin and coriander powders since they are already included in my garam masala. I have added it for extra flavor in the new version.
Kasuri methi is dried fenugreek leaves. There is no substitute for this and you may leave out if you don’t have but you will surely miss those magical flavors.
Greek yogurt/ Hung curd: Marinade requires thick strained yogurt like this Hung curd or Greek yogurt. Using regular yogurt (with whey) will easily let out too much moisture while grilling the chicken & all the spice marinade goes over to the pan. This makes your chicken taste bland. If your yogurt is runny, you may strain it following this Hung curd recipe.
- Marination is the key to get flavorful, tender & succulent pieces of chicken.
- Yogurt in the marinade tenderizes the chicken so do not skip it.
- Makhani recipe never uses onion so is this butter chicken recipe. Using onion changes the taste of the dish.
- The rich taste in the gravy comes from the cashews (or almonds) & cream.
- You can make the gravy ahead and refrigerate. Just grill the marinated chicken when needed and heat up the gravy. Then add the grilled chicken.
My previous original version was with lesser amount of red chilli powder (1 tsp). I upgraded the sauce with double the amount of whole spices & cumin + coriander powder for depth of flavors. Note that butter chicken is a mild curry and adding too much ground spices will alter the flavors. This is a picture of the butter chicken with lesser ground spices.
Butter Chicken Recipe first published in October 2012. Updated & Republished in May 2023.
Old version of Murgh Makhani
½ kg chicken (or 1 lb.) (Preferably boneless)¾ tablespoon lemon juice¼ teaspoon Salt½ teaspoon Red chili powder or paprikaSecond marination¾ teaspoon kasuri methi Optional (dried fenugreek leaves)⅛ teaspoon turmeric (haldi)½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala¾ tablespoon oil1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste½ cup Greek yogurt or hung curd (thick curd, refer notes)
for gravy2 tablespoon butter1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste1 cinnamon (2 inch piece, dalchini)2 green cardamoms (elaichi)2 cloves (laung)1 to 2 green chilies (slit or sliced, optional)4 large tomatoes pureed (400 to 500 grams)16 to 18 cashew nuts or blanched soaked almonds (refer notes)1 teaspoon red chili powder or paprika (adjust to suit your taste and color)½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala½ tablespoon kasuri methi crushed or powdered dried fenugreek leaves¼ tablespoon sugarsalt as needed80 to 100 ml chilled cream (heavy cream or whipping cream, refer the notes)2 tbsp Coriander leaves for garnishing
Preparation for chicken makhaniFirst marinate chicken with lemon juice, chili powder and salt for 20 minutes.Next marinate again with yogurt, kasuri methi, oil, turmeric, ginger garlic paste, and garam masala powder.Cover & rest in the refrigerator for atleast 12 hours. You can keep it as long as 48 hours. The longer the chicken rests in the marinade, the tender it will be after cooking.Add the cashews to a blender jar along with tomatoes. Make a smooth puree.If the puree is not smooth, then pass it through a filter. Set this aside.Also make the ginger garlic paste.Grilling or roasting chickenGrill the chicken in an oven or stove top.For stove top method, Add one tsp butter to a pan and add the marinade.Fry on high flame till all the moisture evaporates.To grill it in oven, preheat the oven to 240 C for at least 20 mins.Grill it until the meat is cooked through & is tender. It may take about 20 to 30 mins depending on the size of your chicken chunks. Ensure chicken is tender at this stage.How To Make Butter ChickenHeat a pan with butter & saute cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms for a min.Add ginger garlic paste, green chilies and fry till it turns fragrant.Next pour the tomato cashew puree.Add red chili powder, sugar and salt.Mix and cook until the tomato puree becomes thick.It also begins to leave the sides of the pan.Pour 1 cup water. Add more or less water to suit your desired consistency.Bring the mix to a boil and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.Add chicken and simmer for about 5 minutes.Butter chicken should become soft and tender. Add garam masala and kasuri methi.Stir and simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour chilled cream and switch off the stove.Garnish butter chicken with coriander leaves and extra cream if desired. Serve with long grain rice or naan or paratha.