Butter Chicken or Chicken Makhani is a popular recipe at Indian restaurants made by marinating and grilling boneless chicken pieces, after which they are cooked in a rich tomato and cream based gravy.
Butter Chicken, Chicken Makhani or Murgh Makhani is an entree I love to order at restaurants. The dish consists of boneless chicken cubes marinated in yoghurt and spices that is grilled till golden brown. The chicken pieces are simmered in a fragrant tomato and cream gravy to make a decadent dish, best served with garma garam naan.
How to make butter chicken or chicken makhani?
- Start off with marinating the chicken - ginger garlic paste and spices add flavour while the yoghurt and lemon juice is responsible for tenderising the chicken. Let it marinate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. If you are planning for a dawaat the next day, this step can be done the night before.
- Once the chicken has marinated, put it on skewers and grill till golden brown and charred. This step can be done on a stove top, the oven, the air fryer or on a bbq grill. Once the chicken has been grilled, set it aside. At this point, the grilled chicken can be eaten on its own - it makes the best chicken paratha rolls with green chutney and onions!
- While the chicken is being grilled, make the butter chicken gravy. Start off with heating butter, then add spices, followed by onion and tomato puree. In the end, add cream, and add garam masala and dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi). This two-step process of grilling the chicken separately is what gives butter chicken that restaurant style smoky flavour. It can be time consuming, but the results are worth it.
The recipe that I have shared has been adapted from Maunika Gowardhan, an Indian food writer and chef who I strongly admire for her food knowledge and recipes. I also have her book “Indian Kitchen”, and it is one of my go-to cookbooks for authentic Indian food.
Looking for more Pakistani & Indian recipes for your weekly dinner inspiration. Check out the following:
- Ginger Chicken, Pakistani style
- Murghi ka Salan (Chicken curry with Onions and Tomatoes)
- Karahi Chicken
- Lobia ka Salan (Black eyed peas in curry)
- Aloo Gosht (Mutton Curry with Potatoes) – Stovetop & Pressure Cooker method
And in case you are looking for a vegetarian makhani recipe, do check out my recipe for mushroom butter masala.
Would love it if you could try out and rate the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below!
Butter Chicken or Chicken Makhani
Ingredients for Chicken Marinade:
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 green chilli chopped
- 2 tablespoon yoghurt
- 2 teaspoon besan/ gram flour
- 1 teaspoon chili powder adjust to taste
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 450 grams boneless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
- 2 tablespoon butter for cooking and basting
Ingredients for Butter Chicken Gravy
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 5 green cardamom pods elaichi, lightly crushed
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 2 green chillies slit lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- Salt to taste
- ½ - ¾ cup tomato puree
- 150 ml cream
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaf / kasuri methi
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- Chopped coriander for garnish
- Butter for garnish (optional)
Method for Grilling Chicken:
- Place the ginger paste, garlic paste, green chilies in a bowl. Add yoghurt, besan/chickpea flour, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder, lemon juice and salt. Whisk together or mix with a fork to ensure there are no lumps. The marinade will be thick. Add the boneless chicken pieces and stir to combine properly. Make sure that all the chicken is coated properly. Let the chicken marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
- Soak wooden skewers in water for about 15 – 20 minutes. This is to ensure that they don’t burn when grilling. Skewer the marinated chicken pieces on the skewers, shaking off the excess marinade.
- Heat a grill pan or frying pan on medium, and melt about a tablespoon of butter. The grill pan will result in grilled marks which look beautiful visually but the frying pan can also be used. The chicken can also be baked off in the oven or cooked in an air-fryer.
- Cook for about 15 - 20 minutes till the chicken pieces are cooked through. Cook them on medium-high heat for the first few minutes to result in a golden brown exterior with slightly charred edges. After that, turn heat to low so that the chicken can cook through from inside. If worried about the chicken cooking through, cover with a dish lid, which will create steam ensuring that the chicken is cooked from all sides. Add butter as required for basting and cooking the rest of the batches.
- Once the chicken is ready, take it off the skewers and set it aside.
- The chicken can also be eaten on its own with roti or rice, and even made into paratha rolls with chutney and onions.
Method for Butter Chicken Gravy:
- Heat a medium saucepan and add butter. Once the butter melts, add cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Saute for about 30 seconds, and then add chopped onions. Saute the onions for about 5 – 8 minutes till they turn light golden.
- Add ginger paste and chopped green chiles. Cook for a minute, and then add salt and chilli powder. Stir and then add the tomato puree, cooking for about 5 – 10 minutes. Take the mixture off the heat, and blend using a hand blender or pour into a blender, and process for a few seconds. Make sure to take out the whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon and cloves) while blending else it will clog the blender.
- Add the cream, and cook for about 2 minutes, making sure to stir to mix all the ingredients properly.
- Add the cooked chicken pieces, along with the honey and fenugreek leaves. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes till the chicken is warmed through. Add water if the gravy feels too thick.
- Turn off heat, and add garam masala powder, along with fresh coriander and butter for garnish.
- Serve hot with roti, paratha or rice.
- Canned tomatoes - just take about ¾ of a can of whole canned tomatoes instead of the tomato puree, but cook for about 20 minutes or so till soft. If using canned tomatoes, it's best to puree the butter chicken gravy as it can be chunky otherwise.
- Tomato paste - tomato paste is a thicker concentrate of tomato puree, but it can be watered down to make tomato puree. ⅓ cup of paste plus ⅔ cup of water will make about a cup of tomato puree.