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Butter Chicken Recipe - Murgh Makhani

Butter Chicken Recipe
Butter Chicken with Naan and
Cauliflower Pakora

This is my butter chicken recipe, butter chicken or Murgh Makhani is a classic and very popular Punjabi dish which dates back to the Moghul empire. There are many variations to this dish both in terms of ingredients and method. I have tried a few of them and they are all delicious.

It seems quite a complicated and time consuming dish - it's not really when you get used to it, but it is good to marinate the chicken for a few hours so it isn't something to do on the spur of the moment (some butter chicken recipes suggest marinating overnight and this has given me the best results).

Basic Ingredients
See notes below for relative quantities

A chicken or chicken breasts - 1lb (450g).
4oz (110g) yoghurt.
A lime.
1 medium onion.
1 or 2 good sized cloves garlic.
½ inch (2.5cm) root ginger.
1 fresh green chilli
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes.
Fresh double cream - about 4 tablespoons.
Butter for frying.

Chilli powder.
½ teaspoon salt.
4-6 Peppercorns.
Cinnamon stick about ½in (1cm).
1 teaspoon coriander.
½ teaspoon cumin.
3 pods cardamom.
¼ teaspoon nutmeg.
¼ teaspoon cloves.
1 Bay leaf.
About 6 whole almonds.
Coriander or Fenugreek leaves for garnish.

Notes on Ingredients

Chicken. Many butter chicken recipes suggest a whole chicken, jointed, skin removed and either boned or not (some leave the bones in the legs, thighs and wings saying this adds to the flavour). Personally I find this a bit of a pain so I usually go for chicken breasts which are much easier. The quantities in this recipe will be based on about 1lb (500g) of chicken breast, If you use a whole chicken then you need to adjust accordingly.

Lime. Lemon is an acceptable substitute but lime is a better taste.

Onion. You can leave this out if you like. I use 1 medium onion and chop quite finely.

Tomatoes. You can substitute tomato puree or passata for tinned tomatoes. The finish is slightly smoother but it is a matter of taste really. I have read the occasional comment that really authentic butter chicken recipe should use tomato puree. Whatever.

Chilli. Clearly this is a matter of personal taste. This is not meant to be a fire eater's curry - I use about 1 teaspoon in this quantity. It also depends on what kind of green chilli you are using. You can leave out the fresh green chilli if you wish.

Spices. The other spice quantities given are also variable to some degree depending on your own tastes. You will find recipes which include others and omit some of these.

Butter. This is a butter chicken recipe and, unsurprisingly, specifically calls for frying in butter rather than ghee or oil. Be careful not to overheat.

Basic Method

Butter Chicken. First Marinade
Chicken with Lime juice, Salt and
Chilli Powder

Cut the lime in 2 and squeeze the juice over the chicken. Stir this around.
Sprinkle the salt and chilli powder over the chicken and sir well to ensure that all the chicken is evenly coated
Set aside for 1 hour.

Butter Chicken. Final Marinade
Chicken in the Final Marinade
Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan with no oil.
Throw in the coriander, cumin, bay leaf, cinnamon, peppercorns, almonds and cloves, and roast for a few seconds until the seeds darken a little. (See Roasting Spices)
Put these into a grinder together with the seeds from the cardamom pods and the grated or powdered nutmeg and grind to a powder.
In a bowl mix the yoghurt and ground spices together.
Retrieve the chicken and chop it into cubes.
Mix the chicken with the yoghurt and spices, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).

Make a paste with the garlic, fresh green chilli, ginger and a little water.
Finely chop the onions.
If using whole tomatoes then chop these ready, discarding any nasty bits.

Butter Chicken Recipe.
Butter Chicken. Ready to serve

Heat the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Gently fry the onions on a medium heat until soft.
Add the garlic, ginger and chilli paste and fry some more - just a minute or so, stirring all the time.
Put in the chicken and marinade, and fry until the chicken becomes white - about 8 to 10 minutes.
Raise the heat a little and add the chopped tomatoes (or puree) and stir in.
Cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the chicken chunks.
When the liquid has reduced to a nice creamy consistency add the cream and stir in.
Pour out into a serving bowl and garnish with fresh fenugreek of coriander leaves.

Notes on Method

Dicing the chicken can be done before marinating in the lime juice, chilli and salt if you wish. I have tried both ways and I can't see much difference.

Spices. You can, of course, substitute ground spices for some or all of the ones used. You do not need to roast ground spices.

Paste. This can be done with a mortar & pestle, you can use a blender or even your spice grinder. Don't worry too much about getting a really smooth paste - very finely chopped ginger and chilli with crushed garlic will do. I have successfully used a garlic press to mash everything up then mix with water.

There are many butter chicken recipes where the methods of cooking the chicken differ considerably. Instead of putting the whole marinade mixture in the pan, you can put the chicken in first and seal this, then put the marinade in.

An alternative is to put the chicken pieces from the marinade onto skewers and bake in an oven (about 20 mins at 200C/Gas 6). Then make a sauce separately (basically continue as above but without the chicken) and combine with the chicken when it is cooked. (If you have a tandoor handy, then I'm guessing this is how authentic Murgh Makhani might have traditionally been made.)

The coriander or fenugreek leaves can be stirred into the dish at the end with the cream rather than used as garnish.

Serve your Murgh Makhani with naan bread and a lentil dish or with Aromatic rice.

This butter chicken recipe gives you quite a rich dish and the quantities here, even with just rice or bread, should feed 4 adults.

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