Bollywood Cooking: Murg Makhani - Creamy Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken (01) by MeetaK

Anyone who is a fan of Indian cuisine will certainly have tried the famous Butter Chicken or murgh makhani (if you are not a Vegetarian). It's on every menu in any Indian restaurant in countries all over the world. Depending on where you are, the taste varies from restaurant to restaurant, even in India itself you'll never find two cooks making the same butter chicken.

The dish originated in the Punjab region of India. Served in the famous street side stalls, Dhabas, the butter chicken found it's way into mainstream restaurant cuisine because of it's creamy, buttery sauce and tender, succulent chicken. It's not surprising that it became so popular.

Butter chicken is prepared by marinating the chicken overnight in a yogurt-spice rub. The Makhani sauce is made with butter, tomatoes, spices and ground almonds among other ingredients. Traditionally the chicken is cooked in a tandoor, and in many restaurants you will find that the meat is still prepared in the clay oven.

As it is often the case, a dish like this simply tastes exquisite when it is prepared at home. Using high quality, free-range and/or local chicken will definitely ensure that you are creating a mouth-watering dish right from the beginning.

You do not need a tandoor to make butter chicken at home. You can make this in an oven-proof dish or a roasting tin. The next best thing to the tandoor is the Römertopf, which is what I used here. 

Hope you enjoy making the famous Punjabi dish at home and find pleasure in the the wonderful aromas and flavors this butter chicken offers.

Butter Chicken (03) by MeetaK


Printable version of recipe here.

1 kg chicken - without skin, boned and cut into bite-size cubes or strips
50ml vegetable oil

For the marinade

300g yogurt
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons red chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
Juice from 1 fresh lime
Salt and pepper

For the spice mix

6-8 cloves
10-15 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 small cinnamon stick

For the butter sauce

500 ml chicken stock
Handful of almonds, 20-25, skinned and pureed to a fine paste
3 onions - finely chopped
2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
50g butter
3-4 tablespoons cream
Handful coriander leaves, chopped


In a large bowl mix all the ingredients for the marinade and mix to incorporate. Add the chicken pieces and coat well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

For the spice mix, dry roast all the spices in a small pan. Finely grind in grinder, food processor or using a pestle and morsel. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C.

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the onions with the ginger-garlic paste until the color takes on a golden color. Add the chicken pieces, reserving the marinade, and pan-fry until the meat turns opaque.

Stir in the dry spice mix to the chicken and mix well, then transfer everything into your Römertopf, roasting tin or ovenproof dish. Pour in the chicken stock, cover tightly and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is tender.

Stir in the reserved marinade and bake for a further 15 minutes. Reduce the heat of the oven to 150 degrees C and finally add the almond paste, butter and cream. Put back into the oven and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with fresh rotis, naan or steamed rice.


Don't let the ingredient list put you off. The method of preparing the butter chicken is so easy that you'll be licking your fingers for more. If you do not want to prepare the chicken in the oven simply use a pot and prepare the butter chicken on your stove/oven top.

This butter chicken tastes absolutely delightful. By baking in the oven, the meat remains succulent and tender. The sauce has the perfect opportunity to unfold it's incredible aromas and bring out all the flavors. You might have noticed I leave tomatoes and tomato puree out of my recipe. This because I personally think that adding tomato to this delicate dish takes away the attention from the main focus - the chicken and the buttery sauce. The flavor of tomatoes makes the dish tarter, which somehow in my opinion, does not fit here. If you prefer it with tomatoes by all means add a few chopped tomatoes to the chicken when pan-frying it.

For us at home we love it just the way it is.

Good luck and let me know what you thought!

More poultry recipes to try out from WFLH:

Turkey Caprese
Turkey Breast and Roasted Pumpkin
Chicken Curry02
Chicken Curry
Chicken & Seafood Paella

Chicken from around the blogs:

Steamy Kitchen's best roast chicken recipe
FXCuisine's mouthwatering tandoori chicken
Morsel & Musings' delectable Hungarian paprika chicken
Andrea's Recipes' spicy chicken tikka masala

The Daily Tiffin Reader Tip:
Don't let the bed bugs bite! by Manisha

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  1. IMHO, the kasuri methi is what does the trick... this is a much loved dish. I agree with you, no two restaurants of chefs can dish out identical versions of this dish :-)

  2. It's gorgeous Meeta, straightfoward and I do indeed love this dish. Thanks to you, I can & will make it at home.

  3. Fantastic photo meeta!!!!love that golden background....I dont eat non-veg....but I love to read ur stories:-)They always put a smile on my face....

  4. That looks wonderful Meeta! As funny as it sounds, I've never been a fan of Butter chicken; I know, my family thinks it's weird indeed. But somehow I've never been a fan of creamy gravy bases. I'm more into those rich Mughlai dishes that take days to prepare! Your recipe looks like something I would actually make, and I agree, adding Kasuri Methi definitely gives it that extra level of flavour.

  5. Love butter chicken, papa always wants us to make butter chicken and nothing else.

  6. This looks delicious! I'd made and posted murgh makhani a good while back and I always enjoy seeing the many different approaches to it. Its amazing how much variety there is, and yours sounds great!

  7. I showed K your post just before he left to work... and he said he's gonna try it after coming back... Oh meeta the pics are droolworthy even to a vegetarian like me !

  8. Those pictures are so good, and tempting.. love this..

  9. Thank you! I love butter chicken in our local restaurants but this must have the superior taste. I shall try this very soon. Your pictures are amazing.

  10. The butter chicken looks so tempting.. though its different from my version in my blog :-)
    I will try this one too!!

  11. Oh I am so in love with this dish! One day I'll come visit and you'll teach me...please!

  12. you know, i love butter chicken, although I usually am more on the spicy side. have never tried making my own, though, as with most indian dishes - but this is just what i need in this miserable weather... i just wish i had all my spices at hand in this cabin i'm renting over the summer! (not that there aren't any miserable days in london, this will come very handy in any case!)

  13. Oh I love butter chicken! And I love it when I find a recipe with ingredients that I already have in my pantry. Will definitely give this one a go. Thanks for mentioning my chicken tikka masala. :-)

  14. That butter chicken looks really tasty.

  15. This is one of my favorite restaurant dishes, yet I've never tried to make it at home. Using the Romertopf is a great idea. I actually have one, buried deep in my pantry somewhere, that I received as a gift but almost never use. Now I know what to do with it!

  16. I have just been introduced to butter chicken and samosas by my sister and I love this dishes although I am not used to the taste of the spices - yet. I will definitely make the butter chicken and hopefully it will turn out as good as your. Wonderful photos.

  17. I love the simplicity of this dish. Indian is an all time favorite in my home and passing this on for my daughter to make.

  18. Wow! so many out there loving this dish. No wonder it's one of the most popular dishes in India.

    Raaga - a fine sense of taste you have to be able to spot that little special spice.

    Peter - great you like this one Peter. I'd love to hear about how you liked it!

    Veda - you know you could sub the chicken with paneer pieces.

    Meena - I think you would like this one. It's not that 100% typical butter chicken one gets in restaurants. I'd like to think of it as down to earth homemade chicken, paying attention to the sense of ingredients and flavor.

    Medhaa - LOL! MAybe you can ask your papa to make this for YOU!

    Mike - we are twins living in parallel worlds. There have been dishes we made almost at the same time - the nutella mango pancakes being just one.

    Ben - yup chicken rocks and prepared as a butter chicken it'll blow you away. Thanks for the points!

    Dee - I hope K likes this. I'd love to take a peak into the kitchen when K makes this.

    Shreya, Toffeeapple - thank you for your compliments.

    Cinnamon - I think every cook makes it differently. Hope you like this one.

    Helen - you teach me macarons, I'll teach you butter chicken. Deal? or No Deal?

    Johanna, so good to see you back. My Bollywood Cooking series is actually perfect for you - the dishes I make are easy peezy! Yes, do start with this one. You'll love it.

    Andrea, your CTM is lovely I speak from experience as I've already made it a few times. Hope you like this one.

    Kevin, oh it was it was!

    Lydia - I normally make a lot of my Indian dishes in the Römertopf. It's perfect.

    Liliana, your sister is doing a great job ;-) Make this for her and surprise her!

    Kim, great to hear that you enjoy Indian cuisine. I hope you and your daughter enjoy making this!

  19. I keep trying to get my husband to take me out for Indian, but I've had no luck so far. I'll have to make it myself at home!

  20. Meeta,
    When do you add the chicken stock? at the end with butter and almonds? Then the whole 1 hour in the oven, the thing is dry? Confused moi :-(

  21. Not a light recipe Meeta, but I'm sure it tastes fantastic!

    I love your gold plate too - sometimes metallic things are difficult on photos because of all the reflections you can see in them but the texture of that plate is just perfect for food pics

  22. Deb - that's the best way to go. Homemade always tastes best!

    Zu, sorry for confusing you. I modified the method to make it clearer when the stock goes in.

    Sophie, it's not light but lighter than the original. I like the gold plate myself too and use it not often enough for photos.

  23. Oh yes, butter chicken never gets old! I have never had the guts to attempt it at home though...with your recipe, maybe it is time I did!

  24. hey meeta,
    i tried your version of Buttery chicken. It turned out just fantastic. I posted it Under T&T event.


  25. Sorry to disagree but butter chicken without tomatoes in the gravy is just not butter chicken to me. This excepted I really like the spice combination you made. I'll try it, but I'll add my tomatoes ;o)

  26. Thanks for your comments!

    Anita, go for it girl! If I can do this I know you can do it in a breeze!

    Yasmeen, glad you liked it and I saw your version. Lovely!

    ANON - I think cooking is all about experimentation, mixing and trying. I have eaten so many butter chicken variations in my lie - each one different than the other. To me this is version, is Butter Chicken. I really hope you enjoy it and as I mentioned in the post you may or may not add the tomatoes. Let me know how it turned out!

  27. Hi Meeta, tried this recipe, and it turned out really good one. Everyone liked it...thanks a lot for the awesome recipe :)

  28. Hi Meeta,
    Just wondering when you said grind all the roasted spices, do you include grinding the bay leaves?
    Because the bay leaf is still in one piece in the picture you've shown here.
    Can I not grind them and just dry fry them since I don't have an oven nor a grinder.

    Will the black peppercorn flavour comes through if it is not grinded?


  29. Quinn - you can leave the spices whole and add them to a spice bag. After the dish is finished just remove the entire bag. Pepper tastes slightly more intense if it is cracked. You do not have to grind it entirely you can crack it coarsely.

  30. Thank you for the recipe. I will be looking for a tandoor.

  31. Ooooh YUM! Is all I have to say - this looks delish!

  32. Would you consider cashew paste? We had a great (non-tomato) butter chicken in London that was remarkably creamy - and I think it had cashew paste, rather than almond.


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