Butter Chicken

Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

It didn’t matter where I lived, India or America, butter chicken aka Murgh Makhani, was the dish we always ordered at a restaurant or got as takeout. Over the years, I’ve received many requests for this dish and finally got a recipe that I know you will love. I’m very proud of how good this turned out (since it took so many tries and plenty of tinkering). The sauce is smooth and velvety and glides over the roasted succulent chicken pieces with a joyful speed. Don’t take my word for it; watch it slide over a bowl of hot rice, and you’ll see what I mean.

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Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is one of the most famous dishes associated with Indian restaurants, and if you have a craving, this is the recipe for you. Butter chicken uses tandoori chicken cooked in a tandoor (a type of Indian oven) that gives the chicken, subsequently, a wonderful smoky flavor. To replicate the smokiness, I roast the chicken in the oven and then broil it quickly. Serve this fragrant chicken dish with its decadent fiery red velvety sauce with kachumber salad, rice, or flatbread like naan.

  • Yield: 4 to 6

Ingredients

2.25 lb/1 kg chicken thighs, skinless, bone-in or

2 lb/910 g chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into 1 in/2.5 cm cubes

For the Marinade  

½ cup/120 g plain unsweetened Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice

1 Tbsp grated garlic

1 Tbsp grated ginger

1 Tbsp garam masala homemade or store-bought

1 tsp ground Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp kasoori methi (optional)

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp fine sea salt

For the Butter Chicken Sauce  

½ stick/55 g unsalted butter

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 Tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tsp ground toasted cumin

1 Tbsp grated garlic

1 Tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp garam masala homemade or store-bought

1 green chilli such as jalapeno, serrano, or Bird’s eye

¾ cup/180 g tomato paste

1 cup/240 ml heavy cream

1 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice

Fine sea salt

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, tender stems and leaves

1 Tbsp salted butter for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • If using bone-in chicken thighs, make 2 to 3 deep gashes in the chicken; skip this if you use the boneless pieces.
  • Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a medium bowl or ziptop bag and combine until smooth. Fold in the chicken and make sure the chicken is completely coated with the marinade. Leave in the refrigerator covered for 1 hour, preferably overnight.
  • When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
  • Lay the marinated chicken pieces out on a baking dish or roasting pan. Roast the chicken in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 164F/74C, 30 to 45 minutes (boneless chicken takes about 20 minutes), rotating the dish halfway through during cooking. Transfer the baking dish to the upper rack of the oven, and then broil over high for 2 to 4 minutes, until the chicken starts to char in a few spots. Remove the baking dish from the oven.
  • At the 20-minute mark of cooking the chicken, start the sauce. Melt the butter in a medium Dutch oven or saucepan over low heat. Once the butter begins to foam, stir in the oil. Add the Kashmiri chilli powder, toasted cumin, garlic, ginger, garam masala, and green chilli. Stir until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Then add the tomato paste and cook until the paste begins to turn light brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream and add the chicken and any liquids left behind in the baking dish. Fold to coat well. Stir in the lemon juice, taste, and season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high; the fat should separate from the sauce. Remove from the heat. Garnish with cilantro and salted butter if using. Serve hot or warm with rice or naan. Leftovers will stay good for up to 3 days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • The number one question I receive when making this recipe is – “Do you need to use Kasoori Methi?”. My short answer is no. This dish is wonderful without it, and I’ve made it both ways, and you can skip it. 
  • I prefer bone-in over boneless chicken; the flavor is always better.
  • To save time, prep the chicken with the marinade a day ahead of time. For long-term planning, marinate the chicken for 30 minutes, then freeze for two weeks. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Fret not if you’re out of Kashmiri chilli powder at home; for every 1 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder, use ¾ tsp ground smoked sweet paprika and ¼ tsp ground cayenne.
  • If you want the butter chicken hotter, add cayenne.

8 Responses

  1. Getting ready to make this and have a question about the sauce. Ingredient list includes ginger and garlic- but these are not part of the instructions for the sauce. Do we use them in the sauce? If so, when do we add them? Thanks!

    1. Coconut milk won’t provide the same degree of richness to the gravy and is too thin for this application. If you can’t consume dairy, use a non-dairy yogurt instead.

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