Butter Chicken – Murgh Makhni

The smooth and buttery butter chicken, a.k.a murgh makhni, is an ultimate pleasure to all our senses, not only the taste buds!
Butter ChickenIf you make a list of most popular Indian dishes outside India, you might see Chicken Tikka topping the list; but if there is any other recipe which can give tough competition to Chicken Tikka, then it has to be butter chicken!
You might also be thinking about Tandoori chicken as well! Aren’t you? Yeah, these three are definitely the flagship recipes of authentic Indian cuisine for valid reasons of course! Butter chicken is something which you may not want to have frequently (simply because of its ‘sin!’ quotient); but when you do, you must treat yourself royally!
What I mean is, do not try to make butter chicken by substituting butter with oil to bring down the guilt factor; that would not do justice to this extremely flavorful and delicious dish!
Butter ChickenThere are as many versions of butter chicken as its popularity. Every version is unique on its own. Some like to grill the chicken rather than frying it up. That’s a good alternative and brings a rustic charred taste to the chicken. In this version of mine, I have fried the chicken in butter, made the tomato based sauce separately and finally assembled both before serving.
One point worth mentioning about butter chicken is that it tastes better the next day. The simple reason being that all the ingredients mature over time and marry among themselves which enhances the flavor of the sauce and the chicken as well. Best is to make it on a Friday night and enjoy in weekend lunch!

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4 servings
  • Chicken – 1 kg, cut into medium pieces
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • A few drops of refined oil
  • Butter – 50 gms
  • Sugar – ½ tsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 tbsp

  • Ginger-garlic paste – 3tsp
  • Onion – 1, pureed
  • Whisked curd – ½ cup
  • Coriander powder – 2 tsp
  • Cumin powder – 2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Red hot chilli powder – 2 tsp
  • Juice of 1 lime

The Rich Tomato Gravy
  • Ripe red tomatoes – 10, large
  • A few drops of refined oil
  • Cooking butter – 50 gms (I use unsalted butter)
  • Ginger – 1 inch, chopped fine
  • Green chillies – 2, chopped fine
  • Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  • Red hot chilli powder – 1 & ½ tsp
  • Cumin powder – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 2 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar – 1 tsp
  • Fresh cream – 4 to 5 tsp (optional)
  1. Combine all the ingredients listed under marinade in a bowl. Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl and add the marinade to it. Rub the marinade well into the chicken so that the pieces are coated well all over. Cover with a cling film and marinate in the refrigerator for couple of hours.
  2. While the chicken in marinating, prepare the rich tomato gravy.

The Rich Tomato Gravy
  1. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, peel and de-seed them and puree the flesh in a processor.
  2. Heat a saute pan on medium heat and add both the butter and oil. Oil will prevent the butter from burning as it has a much higher smoking point.
  3. When the butter melts and the foam subsides a little, add the chopped ginger and green chilies and saute for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Make sure they do not burn.
  4. Add the spice powders listed under the tomato gravy and a splash of water. Saute them till they are richly colored and oil starts separating from them.
  5. Now add the fresh tomato puree and stir well to mix with the spices. Simmer on low heat till the sauce is thick and has a rich, deep red color with the raw smell gone.
  6. Add sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Season with salt to taste. Simmer for couple of minutes more and then turn off the heat and set it aside to mature.

To cook the chicken
  1. Remove the marinated chicken from refrigerator and bring them to room temperature (this step is important; so make sure to have the chicken at room temperature before starting to cook). Season with salt and mix well.
  2. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet and add few drops of oil and the butter.
  3. Once the butter is hot, add few chicken pieces at a time and sear them on high heat till they have a rich caramelized crust on them and are slightly charred. Do now crowd the pan with too many chicken at a time.
  4. When all the chicken are done, return all the seared chicken pieces to the pan and fry them all together. Add sugar, lemon juice and any leftover chicken marinade. Continue to fry the chicken, till it is almost fully cooked.
  5. Add the spicy tomato gravy to the chicken and de-glaze the pan to lift up the sticky pan deposits which has got a lot of flavor and takes your dish to a whole new level.
  6. Cook on medium heat, stirring well to ensure the chicken is fully submerged and coated in the delicious gravy. Simmer uncovered to reduce the gravy.
  7. Add the thick cream and stir through to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes more to blend well.
  8. Sprinkle some coriander leaves, add a knob of butter and enjoy this home-style butter chicken with naan or tandoori roti.


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