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The Best Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani

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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/Murgh Makhani

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5 from 13 reviews

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, minced

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

  1. If using bone-in chicken thighs, make 2 to 3 deep gashes in the chicken; skip this if you use the boneless pieces.
  2. 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.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

49 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. Um… they are mentioned. “Add the Kashmiri chilli powder, toasted cumin, garlic, ginger, garam masala, and green chilli. Stir until fragrant…”

      1. I’m making this recipe after my friend brought it to me the other day. It’s outstanding! She left out the pepper due to a health issue. I like a little heat and plan to use the Serrano pepper. How do it incorporate it in the sauce? Do I use it whole or do I dice it?? I can’t wait to eat this again!!!

    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.

    2. I would add probiotic pills powder to the coconut milk, to create a non-dairy yogurt. It worth a try I think that may work, maybe do some research. I could be wrong, but I also could be correct.






    1. It is edible but the juiciness of the chicken thighs adds a much better flavor and texture. Breast can end up a smidge overcooked after oven browning and then adding to a warm sauce.






    2. I made this for a family dinner this evening and used chicken breast, it was delicious! I sliced it and marinated it for about 7 hours, so it was very tender and enjoyed by all.

      Lovely recipe and so easy to follow, thank you.






  2. I’ve just put the chicken in the marinade to cook this tomorrow. Two questions. Can I leave out the cilantro or substitute something else? Also, can I freeze after cooking? It all smells so good already!

  3. Can the entire dish be made a day ahead and gently reheated? I’d love to make this for a dinner party. Your recipe looks amazingly delicious.

      1. Thank you so much – I can’t wait to make it!! I am a huge fan – I have all of your cookbooks, and your recipes are truly spectacular.






    1. No, they’re not the same thing. Tomato paste is precooked and has a richer flavor. Please use the amounts listed in the recipe, they’re correct.

      1. Thankyou, it made such a difference, good flavour, have made several times, good to freeze chicken ahead

  4. I’m usually terrible at following recipes due to laziness but I really appreciated how straight forward this was to follow. Also nice to be able to break it up into parts and do those as I was able to.
    I ended up grilling the chicken outside on the bbq because it is summer here and I love cooking outside. Chilli upsets my stomach but I am able to eat some paprika and there’s enough other flavour on to satisfy me. Served with naan and a chargrilled onion and tomato salad – happy days.
    Thanks for your work putting out these recipes.






  5. if using bone-in chicken thighs, should i marinate and cook them whole? does the chicken eventually fall off the bone? and finally, should i remove the bones when the mixture is done or should they stay in?

    1. Yes, marinate and cook them whole. Leaving the bones in the chicken is up to you, I’ve eaten it both ways in India.

      1. I may be miss-understanding you but do you mean you eat the bones aswell, if so how do you suggest best going about eating them.

      1. My guess would be to balance acidity from the tomato paste. To act as a flavour enhancer, and for general flavour balancing.

  6. Thank you so much, Nik. This recipe was perfection. Only thing I would note is to add less chili powder in the sauce! I also used serrano pepper which may have been the case of it being super spicy. In that case, I added honey and extra lemon. Nevertheless, this recipe is perfect! We LOVE it!!!






  7. Made this recipe last night for my family. Had never had any kind of Indian food. It was absolutely amazing! Thank you Nik for the easy instructions and adding the video to the recipe. It really helped!!






  8. Havent made it yet but recipe sounds yum……can’t wait Nik….I’ll update you once i do…. T-5 hours!!!!

  9. SO SORRY i mispoke. Im not going to make it tonight! Life blew me in a different direction so im just making s nice bowl of cereal instead LOL. But i will make it tomorrow. Dont worry. – nikki x

  10. Fantastic recipe!!!
    I will make it again and again.

    I’m also going to play with a dairy free version using cashew milk for my daughter!

  11. Nice!!!! Did your daughter like it? Have you made it again yet? My daughter loves cashew milk as well, a little too much, its beginning to be a problem. Any tips to get her off it? xx

  12. Is there a way to roast and broil on stove instead of oven ? My oven is not working currently and need an alternative

    1. Both roasting and broiling are oven cooking processes so attempting replicate those processes on the stove won’t work very well. I recommend searing and cooking the chicken in a wok or saucepan and then using it.

    1. Fenugreek in seed form won’t work, the flavor is very different from the leaves. Skip it, if you can’t find it

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