Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken | Tender marinated chicken drenched in an incredible creamy sauce of tomatoes and spices. It’s one dish you’ll make again and again.

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

When it comes to my favorite dishes, I have really high standards. It’s very hard to impress me with Dal Makhani, Keema, Aloo ke parathe and of course the well loved Murgh Makhani, Authentic Butter Chicken. To me every part of authentic butter chicken plays its role to come together as one of the most iconic North Indian dishes: the chicken should be tender, juicy, well-marinated, the sauce smooth, flavorful and not overly sweet or oily. The spices should be balanced and it definitely should not taste as if boiled chicken was dumped in a vat of butter and cream.

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

The history of this dish is of humble beginnings, it was created by Chef Kundan Lal Gujral Gujral as he was attempting to avoid wastage of his ever famous tandoori chicken and tikkas. He discovered that a tomato gravy, rich with butter and cream, would soften his leftover chicken and served it on a whim. The combination proved to be a masterstroke and thus, the infamous butter chicken was born.

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

I make butter chicken both ways, with chicken tikkas specifically for the purpose of butter chicken and with leftover chicken from tandoori chicken and I always lean towards the later. I’m sharing both ways today. Murgh Makhani is one of the dishes that my brother and cousins ask me to make every time we meet.

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

Here is a recipe for tandoori chicken drumsticks and a whole tandoori chicken if you’re looking to make this dish with leftovers. If you’re vegetarian, you’ll love this Paneer Makhani.

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

HOW TO CHOOSE THE MEAT + MARINATE IT

If you are not making butter chicken with leftover drumsticks or a whole tandoori chicken, I suggest using skinless, boneless chicken thighs or tenders for this recipe. The chicken is marinated, grilled and simmered in the creamy sauce and spices to bring out the flavors. For the marination, yogurt and lemon juice help break down the proteins in chicken which results in juicy chicken pieces with only a quick 20 minute marination.

If using leftover tandoori chicken, cut or shred into 1.5-2 inch pieces.

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

HOW TO GET THE BEST MAKHANI SAUCE

The gravy in this dish is rich and aromatic with the perfect balance of spice and hint of sweetness from the tomatoes and cream. I like to serve this with tandoori rotis, pickled onions and a simple raita. 

The cashews add a richness to the dish. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need tons of cream to make good butter chicken! I add soaked cashews to my sauce which adds a ton of flavor and creaminess without it being heavy or fat laden. In place of cashews, feel free to substitute with blanched almonds. I use Swad Tandoori Masala in this dish, if you don’t have tandoori masala, you can mix equal parts red chili powder, kashmiri powder and half the amount of cumin powder and coriander powder. 

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken | Tender marinated chicken drenched in an incredible creamy sauce of tomatoes and spices.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
For the chicken:
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs or tenders, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
  • ½ cup whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon tandoori masala (I use swad brand)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ½ teaspoon haldi/turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • ½ tablespoon salt
For the makhani sauce:
  • 2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cup tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 3 green cardamom
  • 12-14 whole cashews
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon kasoori methi (dried fenugreek)
  • 1 teaspoon jeera/cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon dhaniya/coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon lal mirch/red chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon tandoori masala
  • 3 teaspoon salt; adjust to taste
For Garnish: fresh cilantro
Method
For the chicken:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large oven tray with parchment paper or coat them with a very thin layer of oil.
  2. Marinate the chicken in yogurt, ginger garlic paste, haldi, oil, lemon juice, salt, tandoori masala.
  3. Let marinate for 20 minutes.
  4. Line on baking tray and cook for 20 minutes, turning the pieces over after 10 minutes so that they cook evenly
For the makhani sauce:
  1. In a small bowl, soak the cashews in one cup of hot water. Set aside.
  2. On medium high, heat the one tablespoon of oil in a deep pan or wok.
  3. Add in the onions and sauté until translucent, followed by the chopped tomato and cashews, cook until the oil starts separating.
  4. Remove from heat and in a blender or a food processor, purée until smooth and reserve.
  5. Heat the butter and remaining oil in the same pan and add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cloves and cumin seeds.
  6. Once they start expanding add in the ginger garlic paste followed by the onion tomato cashew purée and tomato paste.
  7. Add in the red chili powder, tandoori masala, coriander powder and salt. Mix well, taste for salt / adjust as needed. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  8. If the sauce is very thick add in ¼ cup of hot water and mix the sauce well. Add in the chicken tikka or leftover tandoori chicken pieces.
  9. Cover and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  10. Uncover and mix in kasoori methi and garam masala.
  11. Add in heavy cream, mix together and turn off the heat.
  12. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Notes
If the gravy gets too thick, add in ⅓ cup of hot water at a time until you get your desired consistency.

If you don’t have cashews or are allergic, feel free to substitute with blanched almonds. If you are making a nut free version double the amount of heavy cream.

This recipe can be made up to two days ahead of time and refrigerated. Just reheat when ready to serve.

Enjoy,

How to make Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

22 thoughts on “Murgh Makhani | Authentic Butter Chicken

  1. Nisha, I just tried this recipe and it was a hit! My hard to impress husband gave it his seal of approval! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. This was simply excellent! SO delicious! My adaptations: I only had homemade yogurt made with 2% milk so marinated chicken with that. Probably Marinaded for a good 3 hours. Used broil function for 8-10 min after the required 20 min at 400. Replaced cardamom pods with a dash of nutmeg as ran out. Used about 14 blanched almonds. Didn’t use heavy cream at the end. Probably added close to 1 cup water to help thin out gravy. I can’t wait to make this more often! I love seeing your posts and all the delicious looking food you make!

  3. This looks easy. Yet to try. Can we make the chicken tikka in a Kadai rather than an oven. I feel the over dries out the chicken sometimes. Any tips?

    1. Hi in my recipe the chicken does not go dry but if you prefer you can make it on the stove top

  4. First time making this tonight. All in all this was the best butter chicken that I have made at home. I marinated the chicken overnight, cut back on the salt and added a little sugar. But otherwise followed the recipe and hints to the letter and it came out great. This is the second recipe I have made off this site and both came out well seasoned. Adding this blog to my favorites. Great work,

  5. Hello! I followed Palak’s referral to you and can’t wait to try this recipe! Have you tried making this in the instapot?

    1. Hi there! YAY looking forward to you trying it! I have not made this in the instant pot as the chicken tastes most authentic when cooked in the tandoor, grill or oven! You can most certainly make the makhani in the IP!

  6. Made this recipe For lunch today and it came out so perfect. Just like a authentic indian restaurant. Was so easy too.
    The only change was how I cooked the tandoor chicken pieces – used air fryer 390 deg for 10-12 minutes ( flip around 8 minutes) and it got the slight char, smokey flavour still being juicy pieces.

    Thanks nisha for another great recipe.

  7. I just tried this and although I followed the recipe I found that I couldn’t blend the sauce out so it was smooth. How long do you leave the onions, tomato and cashews on the stove before blending? I am determined to get this right. Lol

    1. Hi! Cook them down for about 5-6 minutes until the onions are soft and the tomatoes start to cook down. I used my vitamin but you can use any high speed blender for the smoothness.

  8. I’ve made this recipe a couple times and it’s always a hit! My only question is that mine turns out yellow instead of the beautiful orange color in your picture. I follow the recipe and don’t make any modifications – any suggestions on where I may be going wrong?

    1. Hi! It may be a difference in tandoori masala, you can add a pinch of beetroot powder to make it a bit more vibrant!

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