Butter chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is a classic Indian recipe. It’s made with tender chicken pieces and a creamy, mildly spiced tomato-based sauce. This butter chicken recipe is rich, flavorful, and often mistaken for chicken tikka masala. It’s just as good, if not more than any Indian restaurant.
Butter chicken is one of my favorite Indian foods. This fan-favorite Indian food is creamy, delicately spiced, and packed with tender chicken pieces.
Butter chicken is mild and creamy and is a great way to introduce yourself to Indian flavors and spices. Even children love the buttery curry sauce.
Traditionally served with basmati Rice, Murgh Makhani should be eaten with your hands. Grab chunks of chicken and sauce with your hands.
Butter Chicken is a delicious and easy Indian curry that will become a family favorite.
What is Butter Chicken?
Butter Chicken, also known by Murgh Makani, means “chicken with butter.“
Butter chicken was invented in the 1950s by three Punjabi Hindu Indians who founded Moti Mahal, a Delhi restaurant. This dish was created by combining leftover chicken with a mild tomato gravy rich in butter, cream, and other ingredients.
There is a difference between Butter Chicken and Chicken Tikka Masala.
There are some critical differences between butter chicken and chicken masala.
- Chicken Tikka Masala is known for having a more significant number of spices. This results in a more vibrant, complex, and spice-infused curry sauce.
- The amount of butter used in the dish is another difference. Tikka Masala includes butter, but it is only half the amount.
- Then there is the matter of origin. Butter Chicken was invented in India, while Chicken Tikka Masala is a British invention.
Butter Chicken Ingredients
This recipe has two parts: the marinade and all other ingredients. Noteworthy is the marinade. The marinade is where all the spices are. Your chicken will stay for at least two hours, if not longer, if you have the patience.
- Chicken: For the best flavor, butter chicken should only be prepared with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
- Plain full-fat yogurt: You don’t have to use any other yogurt as long as the yogurt is unsweetened and full-fat. Yogurt can tenderize meats, which will be essential to the sauce’s overall flavor.
- Use fresh lemon juice: Use fresh lemon juice, and do not concentrate.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that’s popular in Asian cuisines. It imparts a bitter taste to food and has an earthy scent.
- Garam Masala: Garam Masala contains a mixture of spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. While garam masala mixes can vary between brands and regions, this is the one I recommend.
- Ground Cumin: Cumin is a staple ingredient in Indian cooking. It gives food an earthy, warm, and peppery taste.
- Butter: Salted butter is my favorite. Use unsalted butter if you are watching your sodium intake.
- Yellow Onions: Because they are milder, yellow onions are my favorite choice for butter chicken recipes.
- Fresh garlic
- Fresh Ginger: Fresh ginger is the best, just like garlic. To grate my ginger, I use a Microplane.
- Cumin seeds: These seeds have a different taste to ground cumin. It is not recommended to substitute ground cumin for the seeds as it can alter the dish’s overall flavor.
- Cinnamon Stick: You get the whole stick and not just the powder.
- Diced tomatoes: I used one 28-ounce can. You can add more, but allow the water to simmer before adding the cream.
- Red Chili Powder (not cayenne): Red chili powder is usually not spicy. If you or your family is sensitive to spicy foods, reduce the amount or completely omit it.
- Broth: I made low-sodium chicken stock. You can also make veggie broth with water.
- Cream: The full-fat variety is available. It is possible to use half-and-half, but it will taste less rich and luxurious.
- Tomato paste: To thicken the sauce, add a few tablespoons of water.
- Ground Cashews: Ground cashews can be added to sauces or curries as thickeners. You can skip cashews if your sauce is already thick.
- Fresh cilantro: Fresh cilantro is my favorite herb, so I add it to my butter chicken. This is optional.
Chicken Breasts and Chicken Thighs
Butter chicken is traditionally marinating chicken chunks in yogurt sauce for several hours. Then, it is grilled or baked in a traditional clay oven to create delicious, smokey, tender chicken pieces.
Chicken thighs are the best choice unless you have a tandoor oven. Although you can use chicken breasts, I recommend marinating the chicken at least overnight to get the best flavor.
How to Make Butter Chicken?
1. Marinate the chicken:
Start by cutting the chicken into large pieces and marinating them for several hours. This is an essential step to this delicious dish’s flavor and taste.
Mix all the marinade ingredients (yogurt. lemon juice. turmeric. garam masala. ground cumin. salt) in a large bowl. Stir well to combine. Mix in your chicken pieces.
Tip: The chicken can be marinated up to three days in advance. Add the chicken to a container that has a tight-fitting lid. Please keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
2. Get the Sauce started
Once ready to cook, get a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and heat it on medium-high heat. Once the pan has heated up, add the butter and oil. Before adding the onions, let the butter melt completely.
I recommend cutting your onions as small and thin as possible, especially if you will not blend the sauce in a blender. (More on that later). A cheese grater can also be used to grate the onions.
When the onions are translucent and have begun to brown, add the fresh ginger, garlic, and cumin seeds. Stir to combine. Continue cooking for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. To prevent the onions from burning, reduce heat to medium. Next, add chopped tomatoes, diced red chili powder, and salt. Mix everything and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat. You may need to simmer the mixture for a few more minutes if you have added tomatoes.
Optional: Mixing the tomatoes with onions
You have two options: leave the sauce chunky or blend it in a blender. It’s up to you. Mine needed to be blended. I didn’t blend mine this time.
That’s what I did when I made my chicken masala. For this butter chicken recipe, however, I didn’t chop anything. Instead, I let the slow simmering do all the work of breaking down everything and mixing it.
3. Marinate the chicken
Turn the heat to medium-high, and then add the chicken and all the marinade to the simmering tomatoes. Combine all ingredients well. Stirring often, cook the chicken for between 8-10 minutes. If the tomatoes begin to burn, reduce the heat to medium.
Add the chicken broth to the saucepan and bring it to a boil. When the broth has boiled, reduce the heat to medium and cover. Let it simmer for 20 minutes while stirring frequently. Continue to simmer for another 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently.
The chicken should be done by this time, and the sauce should have thickened. You should see the onions and tomatoes dissolved into smaller pieces.
Add the heavy cream, tomato paste, and ground cashews. Combine well and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
Season the dish with salt, pepper, and, if necessary, some cayenne pepper.
Most Frequently Asked Questions
Is butter chicken spicy or mild?
Butter chicken is generally not spicy. This recipe is very mild, as written. To kick it up a bit, add 1/2 teaspoon or more cayenne powder.
Is butter chicken gluten-free?
This recipe is gluten-free.
What can I substitute for chicken?
Butter chicken is delicious with lamb, beef, mutton, and cauliflower.
Storing, Freezing, or Reheating
- Storing: For up to five days, keep leftovers in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
- Freezing: You can freeze leftover butter chicken. Let the sauce and chicken cool down before you transfer them to freezer-safe containers or bags. You can freeze the chicken for up to three months.
- Reheat: Let frozen leftovers thaw overnight in a refrigerator before you reheat them. Reheat leftovers quickly on the stovetop or in a microwave until they are heated.
What to serve with Butter Chicken?
Butter chicken is served with naan, chapati bread, cucumber, fluffy basmati Rice, and Indian Masoor Dal. For dessert, a bowl of Kheer.
Please leave a comment if you make this Butter Chicken Recipe. I will appreciate your point of view for my recipe.
Butter Chicken Recipe
Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) is an Indian classic recipe that uses tender, juicy chicken pieces and a creamy, mildly spiced tomato-based sauce.
Chicken and Marinade
- 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken legs
- 2 cups plain full-fat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 lemon – Juiced
- Two tablespoons of ground cumin
- One teaspoon salt
- Two tablespoons of ground turmeric
- Two tablespoons of garam masala
- Eight tablespoon butter (1 stick, 1/4 pound)
- One tablespoon vegetable oil or canola oil
- 2 diced yellow onions
- Eight cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon cumin seed – (not ground cumin)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons fresh ginger – chopped and grated
- 1.5 cups cream
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Optional 1/4 cup ground cashews
- fresh cilantro – to garnish
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes – tomato puree
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for marinade. Mix well. Mix in the chicken, and then coat it with the batter.
- Allow the chicken to marinate for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven on medium heat. Allow the butter to melt completely before adding it.
- Mix in the onions.
- Sautee for about 4-5 minutes or until the onions start to turn translucent and soften.
- Add the cumin, ginger, garlic, and ginger to the pot. Cook the onions for another 3-5 minutes.
- Stir frequently.
- Add the tomatoes, cinnamon stick, red chili powder, salt, and onions. Reduce heat to medium low and let the mixture simmer for 5-10 mins, stirring occasionally.
- Optional: Remove the cinnamon stick and blend until smooth. Then return the tomato sauce to the pot.
- Turn heat up to medium. The marinade and the marinated chicken should be added to the pan. Combine and mix the ingredients together and cook for 10 minutes. Stir frequently.
- Bring to a boil the chicken broth. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cream, tomato paste and ground cashews. Let the curry simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
- Season the dish with salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.
Remaining food can be kept in the fridge for up to five days in an airtight container.
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