Murg Makhani aka Butter Chicken

Murg Makhani aka Butter Chicken is an Indian dish made with roasted to grilled tandoori chicken in buttery smooth tomato thickened with cashews and cream. Served best with Indian flatbreads or a bowl of basmati rice.  
Murg Makhani aka Butter ChickenA south-Indian restaurant is known for the kind of Sambar they serve; similarly, north-Indian restaurants are known for the kind of Butter Chicken they serve. Every restaurant or home has its own version of Butter Chicken aka Murgh Makhani, so they don't taste the same. Honestly, I was never drawn to this until I was testing Naan at home. I wanted to serve the naan with some curry that we usually order if we were at a restaurant - Butter Chicken. I have perfected the butter chicken recipe but making a perfect Naan still eludes me.

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken aka Murg Makhani or Chicken Makhani is an Indian curry made with leftover tandoori chicken or tikka kebabs nestled in a rich seasoned tomato gravy thickened with cashews and finished off with cream. To make butter chicken from scratch, you need to first make a batch of grilled or roasted chicken marinated in Tandoori masala - which includes spices and yoghurt. The chicken can be oven grilled or roasted or pan-fried or roasted. Tomato gravy is made with fresh tomatoes and then blitzed to smooth sauce. Finally, toss the chicken in the tomato sauce and let it simmer. Served best with naan, parathas, rice etc. A total indulgence! Tear a piece of hot naan and scoop it in the silky butter chicken -the perfect marriage!

Butter Chicken Recipe Ingredients

  • Chicken: I prefer to use boneless chicken thighs or breasts. You may use bone-in chicken too. 
  • Lime or lemon juice: Freshly squeezed. If you don't have, white vinegar is the last bet. 
  • Ginger garlic paste: Best to use homemade, fresh ginger and garlic and just pound them in mortar and pestle. You will need this in both marination and sauce.  
  • Oil (mustard oil or any cooking oil): A little bit goes into the chicken marination. 
  • Red chilli powder: for the spicy factor
  • Kashmiri red chilli powder: for the rich colour. 
  • Turmeric powder
  • Kasoori methi: Aka dried fenugreek leaves 
  • Garam masala: Use the one that is made for North Indian or Pakistani food. You can make a batch using my garam masala recipe. 
  • Thick yoghurt: Try to strain the yoghurt or use hung yoghurt or Labneh or greek yoghurt. 
  • Salt to taste
  • Butter
  • Whole spices: Green cardamom, Black cardamom (optional), Cinnamon, Cloves and Fenugreek seeds
  • Cashews: Adds body to the sauce making it thick and rich. 
  • Green chillies: a few for the kick
  • Onion: Red for the Indian taste
  • Tomatoes: Fresh and ripe ones. 
  • Salt to taste
  • Water
  • Sugar: a little to cut down the tomato acidity. 
  • Cream: You may use heavy or whipping or thick cream. Adjust as per your need.
  • Coriander leaves: for garnish

How to make Butter Chicken?

  1. Marinate the chicken and roast in the oven or pan with butter until cooked through. 
  2. Prepare the tomato gravy in butter. Cool and blend to smooth paste. 
  3. Simmer both the chicken and sauce with some water until thickened.
  4. Finish off with cream and garnish 
Did you know that Murgh Makhani was created during the 1950s by Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi? That too while making staff food with leftovers tandoors? Some confuse Chicken Tikka with this and claim that this was found by a chef in the UK. But I like to believe it is Moti Mahal in Delhi that served it first. Whatever you believe, I only want you to know that this dish does not define Indian food! 

marinated chicken chunks

pan roasted chicken chunks

butter chicken gravy preparation

blended the tomato gravy

butter chicken in tomato gravy

added cream

Murg Makhani aka Butter Chicken

Murg Makhani Recipe | Butter Chicken Recipe


For the Chicken tandoori: (marinate and roast/grill)
  • 500gms boneless chicken thighs or breasts or 700gms whole chicken cut into pieces and pat dried
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon oil (mustard oil or any cooking oil)
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 4 tablespoons of yoghurt
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter to roast or pan fry
For the Tomato gravy: (cook and blend)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 green cardamom
  • 1 black cardamom (optional)
  • 1-inch cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 10 whole cashews
  • 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  • 2 to 4 green chillies, slit
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
Final additions for makhani:
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kasoori methi
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 to 3 tablespoon cream 
  • Coriander leaves to garnish


Prepare the tandoori Chicken:
  1. Marinate the chicken with lime juice, ginger garlic paste, oil, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, kasoori methi, garam masala, thick yoghurt and salt.   
  2. Cover and keep it refrigerated for 4 to 5 hours or overnight. If using boneless chicken breast, 30 mins would suffice. If using bone-in pieces, then make deep cuts before marinating. You may skip this and use leftover chicken tikkas or tandoori chicken. 
Roast the marinated chicken:
  1. Heat a thick-bottomed saucepan with some butter. 
  2. Roast the marinated chicken on high flame turning the pieces a few times to roast all sides evenly until cooked through. You may do this in the oven. 
Prepare the Tomato Gravy
  1. Heat butter in a deep saucepan.
  2. Add the green and black cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and fry till fragrant.
  3. Add the fenugreek seeds and saute for few seconds.
  4. Add the whole cashews and saute until golden.
  5. Add grated ginger garlic paste along with slit green chillies. Saute this mixture until the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes, red chilli powder, and a little salt. Cook partially covered until the tomatoes are cooked down and oil separated. Switch off and let it cool.
  7. Add the tomato mixture into a blender and blend it until smooth.
Final steps for Butter Chicken
  1. Return the blended tomato gravy sauce back to the pan along with the roasted chicken and a cup of water. Bring this sauce to a boil.
  2. Reduce the flame to low and stir in the sugar, kasoori methi, and garam masala. 
  3. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Garnish with a good drizzle of cream, chopped coriander leaves and serve with any kind of flatbreads like Methi Paratha, Naan, kulcha, or a bowl of rice.  

Murg Makhani aka Butter Chicken

In simple words, marinate, grill, cook in a tomato-based sauce that is rich in cream and butter. But what goes into the marination and the sauce is what makes it  Murg Makhani. I think what makes it stand out is not just the butter and cream but the dried fenugreek leaves aka Kasoori methi. 

New images added 11th June 2019 made in my Abu Dhabi home


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