Making Restaurant Style Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani has never been easier. This recipe is authentic, and the flavours are mind blowing. Serve it with butter naan and rice!
I have really high standards when it comes to my favourites. And Butter Chicken tops the list. So it annoys me when butter chicken is too sweet or too oily or just doesn't have a punch of flavour that makes you want to dive into the sauce.
For a lot of people, making butter chicken at home might translate into long hours spent in the kitchen. That's not true at all. This recipe takes a little under an hour from start to finish, and we are not using a ton of butter or cream to give it that luxurious, creamy taste either. How? I'm going to show you.
Best cut of meat + marination
I recommend using either skinless bone-in chicken or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. The chicken is first marinated, then pan fried and then cooked in the gravy to get maximum flavour. And boneless chicken breasts will not retain their juiciness through this process. I love using boneless, skinless chicken thighs because you can cut the meat into bite sized pieces and they stay juicy right to the end. A quick yogurt marination for this butter chicken ensures that the flavour seeps in, and adds to the juiciness. You don't need a long marination here, just 15-20 minutes is enough.
Here's a pro tip: If you'd like, use cooked chicken tikka or tandoori chicken and skip the whole process of marinating and pan frying the chicken. I do this when I have leftover tandoori chicken from the previous night
Creaminess in the Butter Chicken Sauce or Gravy
You don't need a lot of butter or cream for butter chicken. I use a total of 1 tablespoon butter and 3-4 tablespoons cream in the entire recipe. I love adding cashews in the sauce instead which add flavour and creaminess without all that extra fat that can sometimes get too much and make you feel bloaty. The cashew cooks with the tomatoes and softens which makes them really easy to blend later.
Tip: If you don't have cashews, feel free to substitute with blanched almonds (almonds soaked in water and skin taken off). Cashews and almonds naturally add creaminess to the gravy.
Naturally orange gravy
I have to forewarn you about this. If you've always had reddish butter chicken gravy, it's because of food colour. The butter chicken gravy is naturally orange-ish because of the tomatoes and the spices.
The Essential Ingredient
Most times, I'll give you substitutes for ingredients that might not always be in your pantry, but an essential ingredient in butter chicken is kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves. Butter chicken has a beautiful finish and that's because of kasuri methi. It adds a mild smokiness and just rounds of the flavours. Its easily available at Indian grocery stores or you can find it on Amazon. Try not to skip this. A little goes a long way and if stored in an airtight container, it retains freshness and flavour for a while. And is added to so many Indian dishes. So if you make Indian food on the regular, get yourself a stash!
Smoking Butter Chicken
Authentic murgh makhani will always have a smoky undertone, which traditionally comes from cooking the chicken in a tandoor or clay oven. But since we are trying to recreate that flavour in our kitchen, we'll smoke the dish right at the end with a piece of charcoal or lump coal. The process is outlined in the recipe below.
How to make Butter Chicken (Step by Step)
This recipe makes lots of sauce or gravy, so you can always reserve some for later. Use the same makhani gravy to add tofu, paneer, cauliflower etc. That gravy is sooo good!
Serve these with Butter Chicken
- Instant No Yeast Naan
- Soft Rotis if you want something light to pair with the rich gravy
- Dal Makhani
- Vegetable Raita
- Vegetable Jalfrezi
- Jeera Rice
Watch how to make Butter Chicken Recipe Video
This recipe was first published on May 25, 2016. It has been updated with new pictures and a video and minor tweaks to the recipe to make it better.
Easy Restaurant Style Butter Chicken Masala (Murgh Makhani)
- 1 kg Chicken Thighs skinless and boneless , cut into 1.5 inch pieces (or use bone-in Chicken pieces)
- 1 tablespoon Oil
For the Marinade
For the Gravy
- 1 tablespoon Oil
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 1 inch Cinnamon
- 2 Green Cardamom Pods
- 3 Cloves
- 5 Kashmiri Red Chillies
- 6 Garlic Cloves
- 1 Onion roughly chopped
- 7 - 8 Tomatoes roughly chopped (or 1 (15-ounce) can canned diced tomatoes)
- ¼ cup Cashew Nuts
- ½ teaspoon Chilli Powder
- 2 tablespoons Ketchup
- 1 tablespoons Kasuri Methi dried fenugreek leaves
- Salt to taste
- 3-4 tablespoons Fresh Cream
- Start by mixing all the ingredients under marinade and adding the chicken to it. Mix well, cover and set aside for 15-30 minutes while you make the gravy.
- For the gravy, heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet or pan. Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, whole red chilies and garlic. Saute for a minute or so till fragrant. Add onions and saute on high heat for 2-3 minutes till pink and translucent. Add tomatoes and cashew nuts. Mix once, reduce the flame to a simmer and cover and cook for 10-15 minutes till the tomatoes start breaking down and becoming slightly pulpy.
- Switch off the flame. Transfer to a blender or liquidiser, and blend till smooth. The trick to blending hot foods is to cover the lid with a thick towel and pulsing instead of blending at one go. This ensures that the lid doesn't explode.
- In another pan, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the chicken pieces and sear them on each side for 2-3 minutes on high heat, till theres a char on them. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
- Transfer the puree back to the pan, add chilli powder, ketchup, salt and ¼ cup water. Bring this to a boil. Reduce the flame to low, and cover and cook for 20-25 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the kasuri methi and fresh cream.
- To smoke the chicken, place a small steel bowl (please don't use plastic) in the middle of the butter chicken while it's still in the pan. Heat a piece of charcoal or lump coal on an open flame till red hot and then place it in the bowl. Pour a teaspoon of oil or ghee over it, and as soon as it starts smoking, cover the pan with a lid. Smoke for 3-4 minutes. Remove the bowl and serve with naan or rice.
- Chicken: Boneless, skinless chicken pieces work best. The pieces should be cut into 1.5 inch size. You can also use skinless, bone-in chicken thats cut into medium sized pieces
- Tomatoes: Substitute fresh tomatoes with a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Or use 1 ½ cups Tomato Puree or Tomato Passata
- Garam Masala: I use homemade garam masala, but you can substitute it with any store bought garam masala. Please note that garam masala is different from curry powder
- Butter: I love adding butter to this dish, but you can substitute it with ghee
- Sweetness from Ketchup: I think a really mild sweetness in butter chicken is actually nice and it balances the sourness from tomatoes. But feel free to reduce or increase the amount of ketchup based on what you like.
- History of Butter Chicken: It is said that butter chicken was invented by Kundan Lal Gujral of the famous Moti Mahal chain of restaurants, who added leftover cooked tandoori chicken to a tomato gravy, in an attempt to use it and the rest is history. The dish became really famous. It is called Murgh Makhani on their menu. So if there is a debate, you know that butter chicken is definitely an Indian dish, unlike its counterpart Chicken Tikka Masala which was invented in the UK and is spicier and slightly different.