Authentic Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) Recipe

Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani to give it it’s correct name, is a typical Punjabi dish which is now popular in many countries all over the world.  It is a rich creamy dish and can be made as mild or as spicy as you like and has to be one of my all-time favourite curries to make and eat.

What is Butter Chicken?

Butter Chicken, although similar, shouldn’t be confused with Chicken Tikka Masala.  Chicken Tikka Masala originated in the UK where as Butter Chicken is a true Punjabi dish taking it’s influence from hundreds of years of Punjabi tradition and history.

Butter Chicken is typically a very rich dish, as is typical with cuisine from the Punjab, historically due to the amount of calories that the rural people burned whilst working in the fields during the day.

First the chicken is marinated with garlic, ginger, chilli, yogurt, lemon juice and other spices and then traditionally cooked in clay oven or tandoor.  The sauce is prepared separately and consists of spices, butter and cream to give the curry a luxurious smooth richness.

This Butter Chicken Recipe is based on another sweary Gordan recipe that is super easy to make and results in a classic I’ve adapted for my fine tuned palate 🙂

Butter Chicken Origins

Butter Chicken Recipe

Easy Butter Chicken Recipe

Originally created during in the 1950s, its invention is attributed to three Punjabi restaurateurs, Kundan Lal Jaggi, Kundan Lal Gujral and Thakur Dass, who founded the world-renowned Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi.

The original Recipe for Butter Chicken came about as a solution to a problem – Tandoor cooked chicken can become slightly dry sometimes if left in the tandoor and not wanting to waste anything, the chefs were looking for a way to make the chicken more moist.

The answer came when a customer came to their restaurant and wished to order a chicken curry, but there was only tandoori chicken available. The chef decided to create a gravy to go with the chicken which originally was made from cream, butter and tomatoes and a few spices.

They realised that this would be the ideal way to rehydrate the tandoori chicken and butter chicken was born!  From that day, it has become one of the most popular dishes in Indian cuisine.

Quick and Easy Butter Chicken Recipe:

This super easy recipe for Butter Chicken Curry is quick to make and uses simple ingredients that most of us already have in our cupboards at home.  I typically marinade the chicken the night before to give it the full flavour

Chicken and Marinade Ingredients

  • 800g skinless, boneless chicken cut into 3cm pieces. You can use thighs if like as some people think chicken thighs have more flavour
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves finely crushed
  • 2cm peeled ginger finely grated
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ – 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 75ml natural yoghurt
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
Butter Chicken Served with Rice

Butter Chicken Served with Rice and Naan Bread

Authentic Butter Chicken Curry Ingredients

  • 1½ tbsp ghee or if you can’t get ghee, use melted unsalted butter
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves finely crushed / chopped
  • 2cm stick peeled ginger finely chopped
  • Seeds from 1 cardamom pod lightly crushed
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 -2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 – 3 tsp hot chilli powder(careful!)
  • 300ml tomato passata or chopped tomatoes blitzed until super smooth
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 250ml (1 cup) of double cream (heavy cream) or Crème Fraîche for a lighter version
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander for garnish

Butter Chicken Recipe – Chicken Preparation

  1. From the Chicken Ingredients, add the cubed chicken, garlic, ginger, chilli, salt and lemon juice into a large bowl. Make sure the chicken is well coated, cover the bowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  2. Now mix the garam masala, tumeric, cumin and yohurt and add to the chicken, again making sure that the chicken is well coated with the mixture. Cover and marinate for at least another 2-3 hours in the fridge although overnight is preferable.
  3. When you’ve finished marinating the chicken, preheat the oven to 180C and after placing the chicken pieces on a grill rack, bake them for 8-10 mins.
  4. Now remove the chicken from the oven and brush with a little oil and turn then over.
  5. Put back into the over and bake for another 10-12 mins or until the the chicken is just cooked through.

Butter Chicken Recipe – Sauce Preparation

  1. Heat the ghee/butter in a large frying pan and once it’s hot, add the crushed garlic and ginger and fry for 1-2 minutes only
  2. Now add the chilli powder, cardamom, garam masala, cloves, coriander and turmeric and stir well frying for another 1-2 minutes
  3. Then stir in the tomato puree with the lemon juice and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the already cooked chicken pieces and the butter and cream and stir gently until the butter has melted and the sauce becomes smooth.
  5. Add more seasoning if neccesary and when ready serve and garnish with chopped corriander

Preparation time: 30mins, but don’t forget about all the marinating!

Cooking time: 30m

Number of servings (yield): 4

I hope you love this scrummy simple and easy Butter Chicken recipe as much as I do, and if you do then please tell us all about it in the comments below and afterwards take a look at my favourite authentic Chicken Madras Recipe or if you’re looking for something more spicy try the best vindaloo recipe you’ll find online…


25 thoughts on “Authentic Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) Recipe

  1. Graham

    Hi, I’m going to try this as my kids love buttered chicken. Shouldn’t buttered chicken use fenugreek leaves? It would give the curry a unique flavour.

  2. Michael

    Third time using this recipe as a guide for making curry at home. My variables have been to include veggies (squash and potatoes) as well as swapping in lamb or, this time, pork. Thank you for sharing the original recipe!

  3. lillian

    made this curry for friends and we all felt that there was far too much tomato puree in the recipe, that totally spoiled the meal, so much so not an emptly plate all round, quote 10/10 for presentation and 2/10 for butter chicken. will not make this meal again!!!!!!

    1. David Post author

      Hi Lillian
      It is supposed to be quite a rich dish, hence the tom puree, but if you like you can replace it with a tin of chopped tomatoes or 400gm of finely chopped / blitzed tomatoes, but remember to alter the cooking times to compensate.

      I’ll edit the recipe to reflect this..

      1. Willa

        I learned how to make butter chicken from an Indian woman, and I think what this recipe doesn’t say is that after adding the tomato puree, you must simmer until it cooks out. There should not be any liquid left, only a thick coating on the onions. Then add the chicken. This will leave the recipe not tasting of tomato. x

  4. Maxine

    Just made this. We quite liked it, but thought the sauce was a bit tart. I think next time I’ll try leaving out the lemon juice

  5. Sarah

    I thought this was great! I left the lemon juice out of the sauce after reading the review that it made the sauce too tart. Next time I’ll probably add it in and see. Wonderful tasting as well as gorgeous looking – thanks so much!!

  6. Maria

    Butter chicken is one of my favourite meals to have at an Indian restaurant but my husband is vegetarian so I just made the sauce to have with quorn fillets. I followed the recipe to the letter but I still thought it was vile and quite different from any butter chicken sauce I’d ever had before. Only one star from me, I’m afraid. 🙁

  7. David AUS

    Thank you, I have been looking for a butter chicken like this… Its nearly the best I have tasted. I have tried a few from the web and many restaurants.

    FYI the best I tasted was from the LovelyIndia restaurant in Rotorua New Zealand. It’s their signature dish, if you visit NZ you have to try it.

    I followed Willa’s suggestion and simmered out the liquid from the tomato puree to a very thick consistency and also added some honey (2tbls) and it was so close to the above restaurant’s dish. The heat … the flavor, fantastic.

    lillian, You should try it again following Willa’s suggestion.

    Thanks for the recipe David.

  8. Ann-Marie

    I cooked this recipe for my family.
    They thought it was delicious and the best curry I have made to date which is praise indeed as I have made quite a few!

  9. Rachel

    I absolutely love this recipe. Have made it several times now. I use pasata instead of tomato puree though and it makes a lovely smooth and still rich sauce.

  10. Louis

    Congrats… An excellent version of BT that puts many fast food Indian restaurants to shame. This dish has become one of my family standards and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all from the novice to the seasoned curry fan. Try variations too, including making your own garam masala. I use kashmir chili powder because it has more flavour than heat and my own green massa because I grow my own chilis.

  11. Bob Spiers

    I have now tried the recipe twice, and the second time with the following modifications proved a success with my wife who found the original to the published recipe too tart, mainly I believe because of the excessive lemon content and tomato puree . For the second attempt I used abt a tea spoonful of lemon for the marinade, but none in the sauce. I also used passata and cooked it out and stirred in a table spoon of honey. Before serving I added 50ml crème fraiche and a generous handful of fresh coriander. The end result came pretty close to our favourite Indian restaurant Makhani and a big improvement on the original.

  12. pollycfc

    I’ve cooked this several times but have never used tomato puree. Using pasata is a great shout as it’s blended already. It’s a wonderful dish if you don’t rush the marinating process. Lemon juice is key in the first process as it does make the chicken very tender. I absolutely swear by this recipe, it’s blinding!

  13. altaf

    This curry turns out fantastic.
    I add a bit of honey at the end to help with the tart taste.
    Also blitz some cashews and chuck in at the end to give a more textured flavour.
    All my family love it


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