Traditional Butter Chicken Recipe

Murgh Makhani (Delhi)

Try out one of our favourite Butter Chicken recipes used in the Sundar family kitchen again and again. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we do!

Chicken Makhani, made either with tikkas–derived from the Hindi word tukra and meaning pieces–or quarters of chicken, is the most popular dish in Indian restaurants both in India and overseas. It is essentially a restaurant and not a homestyle dish, because there are no tandoors in Indian home kitchens, and this dish consists of tandoor-cooked chicken in a sauce.

Butter chicken originated in the 1950s at the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi where they made the sauce by adding butter and tomato to the leftover chicken juices in the marinade trays from which they used to sell hundreds of portions of Tandoori Chicken every day.

Serves 4

900g chicken (skinned quarters, smaller pieces on the bone) or boneless pieces (tikkas)
4-5 tablespoons oil
For the Marinade
2 cups whole milk yoghurt
6 garlic cloves
½-in (1-cm) square of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
¼ teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon garam masala powder
A tiny pinch of tandoori colouring (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lime juice

For the makhani sauce
700g tomatoes
½ teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
75g chilled butter
½ teaspoon garam masala powder salt
1 ½ oz (40g) single cream

  1. First prepare the marinade. Place the yoghurt in a piece of cheesecloth and leave to hang to allow the whey to drip away. Puree the garlic and ginger in a blender. Add this and the marinade spices, salt and lime juice to the yoghurt and mix well.
  2. Scald the tomatoes for the makhani sauce and peel off the skin. Reduce to a semi-pulp with a fork or potato masher. Put the kasuri methi into a grinder and reduce to a powder. You will have to grind a larger quantity but use only ½ teaspoon.
  3. Make gashes in the chicken if using pieces on the bone. Marinate the chicken in the yoghurt mixture for at least 1 hour, preferably 2; for best results leave overnight.
  4. When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large, thick-bottomed skillet and put in the chicken with the marinade. Cover and cook over a low heat until done. Turn the chicken over during cooking.
  5. Put the tomato pulp into a frying pan and cook for 5 minutes or so until the liquid has evaporated slightly.
  6. Add the chilled butter and chilli powder, ginger and garlic puree; after the butter has melted let it cook for just 1 minute. Add the kasuri methi and garam masala powder and salt to taste. After 30 seconds, add the cream and stir. The sauce is now ready. Pour it into the skillet and mix well with the chicken. Serve immediately.

If butter is cooked for longer than 3 minutes it will begin to turn into ghee and become a grainy emulsion. So start with chilled butter and cook for less than 2 minutes after the butter has melted.

You can cook the chicken ahead of time. But makhani sauce takes only 5-6 minutes to prepare and should be made when the dish is to be eaten. You can cook the tomato ahead, but add the butter just before serving.