Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhni)

Butter Chicken

Enjoy the rich and aromatic flavors of India with this classic butter chicken recipe.

Butter Chicken

This post has been sitting in drafts for months. First I procrastinated cooking the dish at home, making an excuse I did not know how. Then mummy came to stay with us for a few months and offered help (read pushed). I gave in, cooked and then the images and recipe sat here some more. I hated Murgh Makhni or Butter Chicken growing up. The rich creamy sauce and the hint of sweetness was one reason I ran away from the dish as a kid, another was my brother.

This was and still is one of his favorite ways to eat a chicken curry. All the reasons why I hated this dish were the very same reasons he loved it. And sibling rivalry and my constant dislike of all things he likes, as a kid led me to staying away from Murgh Makhani. But then every other person I met, who knew I run an Indian food website would wonder if I had the recipe for it and without fail be disappointed (leaning more towards disgust) when I’d answer no. So today I give in. I finally share my recipe for Butter Chicken on Indian Simmer, constantly thinking of my brother who must be probably reading this right now with a smirk on his face and barely resisting calling me after.


But with age comes wisdom I guess? Although, unlike childhood I now enjoy my butter chicken, I still do not cook it at home as much as I should. Probably because of all the richness that the dish asks for but every ounce of calorie and the work that goes into this dish is just worth it. And coming from a one time hater of butter chicken, you should trust me on this one!

Alright now less about hate and more about love for Butter Chicken! The dish needs to introduction. A staple in practically every Indian restaurant around the globe this dish is pretty much the brand ambassador of Indian curries. So when I decided to share this recipe here I decided to do it in the recipe’s all glory. I tried to cook it the way they do at your local Indian restaurant. But do not let the list of spices and ingredients intimidate you. It’s a fairly simple dish to put together once you have all the mise en place.

What is Butter Chicken sauce made from

Butter chicken sauce, a staple in Indian cuisine, is a velvety and indulgent concoction that marries a range of essential ingredients. At its heart, this creamy sauce is crafted from a generous amount of butter, which imparts a silky richness to the dish. Tomato-based, the sauce typically incorporates a blend of tomato puree or diced tomatoes, delivering a zesty and vibrant foundation to the flavor profile. Spices like ginger, garlic, garam masala, and chili powder, along with a touch of fenugreek leaves, are used to infuse the sauce with depth and a tantalizing aromatic complexity. Cream or yogurt is frequently incorporated to create a smooth, soothing texture and to balance out the spiciness, culminating in a harmonious sauce that perfectly complements succulent pieces of chicken, as seen in the classic butter chicken recipe.

Does Butter Chicken Keep well

Butter chicken, when stored and handled properly, can indeed keep well. Its creamy tomato-based sauce and tender chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days, maintaining its flavors and texture. To extend its shelf life, it’s advisable to store it in an airtight container, ensuring there’s minimal exposure to air. When reheating, it’s best to use a stovetop or microwave method, reheating gently to prevent overcooking and drying out the chicken. The richness of butter chicken may even enhance after a day or two in the refrigerator, as the flavors continue to meld. However, for more extended preservation, butter chicken can be frozen for up to 2-3 months, though it may experience slight changes in texture upon thawing. Whether freshly made or as leftovers, butter chicken remains a delightful and convenient option for enjoying the flavors of India.

What do you serve butter chicken with

Serve butter chicken with fragrant basmati rice, which provides a neutral canvas to soak up the rich, creamy sauce. Complement the dish with warm, freshly baked naan bread for a delightful combination of textures and flavors.

Ingredients: Serves 6-8


Approx. 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used about 10), Can use same quantity of breast pieces too if you like

1/2 cup yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

2 tablespoon coriander powder

1 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri lal mirch

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoon olive oil or ghee

Salt to taste

Masala powder: If this step gets too much just feel free to use store bought garam masala. Flavors may vary though.

3-4 Black cardamom (whole)

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorn

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin (whole)

1 teaspoon cloves (whole)

3-4 green cardamom (whole)


15 almonds

15 cashews (both of then soaked in water for about 1-2 hours)

1/2 cup whole milk (or heavy cream if you prefer which will definitely give the dish a richer taste but then it will be richer!)

3 tablespoon butter

4 medium sized tomatoes (peeled, pureéd) OR 1 can (15oz) diced tomato, pureed

1 1/2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

2 tablespoon coriander powder

1 1/2 tablespoon kasuri methi

1 tsp dark brown sugar (white works just fine too)


1-2 drops red food coloring (optional)


Mix marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken and marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Soak cashews and almonds in milk for 1 hour. Grind everything together to loose paste. Set aside.

Bring all the ingredients of the masala powder together in a spice grinder. Grind to a powder. Set aside.

Preheat grill to medium high heat or oven to 375˚F (190˚C). Remove chicken from marinade and thread onto skewers. Discard remaining marinade. Grill for 5-8 minutes until almost done. Or bake on a aluminum foil lined and greased baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, until almost done. Baste a couple of times in between with ghee or oil. Keep utensils clean to prevent contamination from raw chicken juice. Chicken can be cooked on a cast iron or grill pan too.

Heat a thick bottom pan on medium high heat. Add butter. As it melts, add ginger garlic paste. Sauté for 20-25 seconds. Stir in tomato pureé. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until it turns into a loose sauce.

Add coriander, Kashmiri lal mirch, masala powder and salt. Stir. Simmer on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add kasuri methi, cashew and almond paste and dark brown sugar. Stir well. Add grilled chicken. Mix well to coat with sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes on medium low heat. You can add up to 1 cup of water here depending how runny you want your curry to be. Continue simmering until everything comes together, another 3-5 minutes.

Turn off heat. Let rest for 3-5 minutes.
Serve with hot naan, rice and a side of salad.


  1. Sounds amazing. A bit confused though.
    The kashmiri lal mirch is listed in the marinade ingredients. It is also listed in the steps for making the sauce but listed in the sauce ingredients.

  2. I cant make curry so usually use ready-made sauces from either PnPay or Woolies. Strange thing , last pack i got from PnPay the Butter Chicken curry which usually has a lighter color was very dark brown, almost black. I later went to check other packs at the store a day later and found them to be the same color. Ive never experienced this problem before , but is it normal to have it that color? Unfortunately didn’t eat it though. Wasn’t sure and didn’t want to get my whole family sick.

  3. I cant make curry so I get the ready made sauce at Pick n pay or sometimes Woolies, but for some reason the last pack i got was an unusual very dark brown color almost black. Is this normal? Because of the yoghurt in the recipe I thought the sauce should be lighter, which it always is except for this one. And a day or so later when i went back to the same store I found all the packs on shelf were the same color. Unfortunately we didn’t eat the curry because I wasn’t sure. Our loss:-(

    • Really depends on the quality of garam masala in my my opinion. There are several brands that put way too much coriander in it (which in my opinion has no place in garam masala) but if you are using one with a strong flavors of warm spices and less to none coriander, just use the same quantity mentioned here.

  4. […] The dish needs no introduction. A staple in practically every Indian restaurant around the globe, this dish is pretty much the brand ambassador of Indian curries. Do not let the list of spices and ingredients intimidate you. It’s a fairly simple dish to put together once you have all the mise en place. Recipe here. […]

  5. Hello Prerna,

    Growing up in a strict household we had very less food from outside. I found this dish only when I started doing engineering far away from home and splurging on the pocket money. I think I still did not fall in love with the recipe probably because wha I ate was all wrong. Then I got married and was blessed to have a Sasuma who cooked delicious food from all regions. Her version was poles apart from what I had so far and extremely delicious. It has now become a heirloom recipe and I do not think I will share that on my blog ever. The only place which came close to her version was Zaffran restaurant. Maybe if we meet then I could cook it for you and see your reaction. I read your entire version I think you have really held it to task to cook it right and rich. And I appreciate that, somehow I felt a traditional recipe should be cooked the way it is its healthy version is a new recipe but not the same recipe. Great work! I loved the pictures too very crisp….I think I should increase the content area on my blog.

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