Murg Makhani: Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken - Murg Makhani
Butter Chicken - Murg Makhani. Zohaib Hussain/ Getty Images
  • 105 mins
  • Prep: 60 mins,
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Ratings (104)

Butter Chicken was born in the kitchens of the Moti Mahal hotel in Delhi in the 1950s. Today, it is among India's best-known foods the world over. Many restaurants around the globe have versions of it that are not authentic at all! Before you see what authentic Butter Chicken should look and taste like, you should know what it ​shouldn't be like--sweet, loaded with food coloring, full of raisins or tomato ketchup--unfortunately, you may find these dishes with the name "butter chicken" on some restaurant menus. 

Butter Chicken is of North Indian origin, Punjabi to be precise. It gets its lovely, distinctive flavors from the tangy tomatoes, yogurt and smokey Kasuri Methi added to its gravy. This can be made as hot or mild as you like so it suits most palates. Also commonly known as Murg Makhani, Butter Chicken tastes great with Kaali Daal (black lentils), Naans and a green salad.

This recipe for Butter Chicken is the real deal! If it feels like the list of ingredients is exhaustive, please don't allow that to deter you--they are all just commonly used ingredients in Indian cooking. I suggest making the spice powder from scratch (as in the recipe) since this will give you the best results. This recipe has been tried and tested numerous times and is loved by everybody that has eaten it. 

What You'll Need

  • 2 1/4 lbs. /1 kg. boneless chicken, skin removed
  • Juice of 1 lime or lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. red chilli powder (adjust to suit your taste)
  • 6 cloves
  • 8 to 10 peppercorns
  • 1-inch stick of cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 to 10 almonds
  • Seeds from 3 to 4 pods of cardamom
  • 1 cup fresh, unsweetened yogurt (must not be sour)
  • 2 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable, canola or sunflower cooking oil
  • 2 onions, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. ginger paste
  • One 14 oz. can /400 g. chopped tomatoes, ground into a smooth paste in a food processor
  • 2 cups /1/2 liter chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • Garnish: coriander (cilantro) leaves

How to Make It

  1. Mix the chicken, lime juice, salt and red chili powder in a large, non-metallic bowl. Cover and allow to marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Heat a flat pan or griddle on medium heat and gently roast (stirring frequently) the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, and almonds until they darken slightly. Cool and add the cardamom seeds. Now grind into a coarse powder in a clean, dry coffee grinder.
  3. Mix the yogurt, spice powder (from the previous step), coriander powder, cumin and turmeric powder together and add them to the chicken. Allow it to marinate for another hour.
  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan on medium heat. When hot, add the onions. Fry until pale golden brown in color and then add the ginger and garlic pastes. Fry for another minute.
  2. Add the chicken (reserving the marinade) and fry until chicken turns opaque and the flesh goes from pink to whitish in color.
  3. Now add the tomato paste, chicken stock, kasuri methi and the yogurt-spice marinade to the chicken.
  4. Cook until the chicken is tender and the gravy is reduced to half its original volume.
  5. Melt the butter in another small pan and then pour it over the chicken.
  6. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with Naan and Kaali Daal.
  7. For an authentic and traditional cooked-over-the-coals flavor: When the Butter Chicken is cooked, make a small bowl shape with aluminum foil and place it on top of the curry (so it is "floating" on it). Heat a briquette of charcoal on an open flame until red hot and gently put the charcoal into the aluminum foil bowl. Cover the dish immediately. Remove the cover just before serving, discard the foil bowl and charcoal and serve. The curry will be infused with a smokey flavor.