Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani

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Butter chicken or Murgh Makhani is an Indian dish, popular all over the world. The origins of butter chicken can be traced back to Delhi, during the period of Mughal Empire. According to a documentary by the Discovery Channel, butter chicken recipe was invented by a person working in the kitchen staff of a famous restaurant called Moti Mahal located in Daryaganj, the central region of Delhi. Called Murg Makhani in Hindi, Butter Chicken originated in the 1950s at the Moti Mahal restaurant in Old Delhi. Famed for its Tandoori Chicken, the cooks there used to recycle the leftover chicken juices in the marinade trays by adding butter and tomato. This sauce was then tossed around with the tandoor-cooked chicken pieces and presto - Butter Chicken was ready! The leftover dish appealed to Delhites and was quickly lapped up by the rest of the world.
So impressed was India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by Kundal Lal's dishes that Moti Mahal became a permanent fixture in all his state banquets. Legend has it that when former Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev was asked what he liked about India, he replied, ''Taj Mahal and Moti Mahal''. When the Shah of Iran came on a state visit to India, the Indian Education Minister Maulana Azad told him that coming to Delhi without eating at Moti Mahal was like going to Agra and not seeing the Taj Mahal.
After Nehru, his daughter and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi continued the relationship with Moti Mahal. So fascinated was she by the food that at the wedding of her younger son Sanjay Gandhi, Moti Mahal specialties dominated the dinner.
Dressed chicken is marinated overnight in a yogurt and spice mixture and then grilled, roasted or pan fried. Makhani, the sauce, is made by heating and mixing butter,tomato puree, and various other  spices with some fresh cream and cashew paste.
Once the sauce is prepared, the prepared chicken is cooked till the gravy and chicken have blended. While the dish's general recipe is well known, the actual flavor can vary from restaurant to restaurant even within India. Butter chicken is usually served with naan, roti, parathas or steamed rice. Below is my version of Butter Chicken ~a favorite of my daughter.
Butter Chicken 1

For the Chicken:
  1. Boneless chicken (approx about 4 cups of cut chicken)
  2. 4 tablespoon yogurt/curd
  3. 2 tablespoon fresh cream
  4. 1 teaspoon kasoori methi
  5. 1/4 stick or 2 tablespoons of butter
  6. 4 teaspoon lemon juice
  7. 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  8. 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  9. 2 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  10. 1/4 teaspoon garam masala powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon saffron soaked in warm milk
  12. 1 teaspoon salt
  13. a pinch of red food color (optional)
For the gravy:
  1. 1 cup sliced onions
  2. 1 cup sliced tomatoes
  3. 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  4. 1 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder
  5. 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
  6. 1/4 teaspoon garam masala powder
  7. 1/2 stick butter or 4 tablespoons of butter
  8. 2 tablespoons cashews
  9. 1 teaspoon kasoori methi
  10. 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  12. 1/4 cup fresh cream
  13. a pinch of red food color (optional)
  14. salt to taste
  1. Cut chicken into small bite size pieces and marinate with the ingredients given.Refrigerate overnight or a minimum of 3 hours for the chicken to absorb all the flavors.
  2. Place the chicken on a baking tray and bake them in the oven at 425° F for 15 minutes and then broil for another 10 minutes. (when the oil starts to separate it indicates it is done). Do not discard the juices. The marinated chicken can also be deep fried in oil. Keep the chicken aside.
  3. Heat the butter in a heavy pan/kadai , add the onion and saute well until the onions turn translucent. Now add the ginger garlic paste and saute for another 3 minutes. to this add the chilli and  garam masala powders. Mix the tomatoes immediately and saute well until the tomatoes turn soft.
  4. Cool completely and grind with cashews to fine smooth paste.
  5. In another pan/kadai bring the ground mixture to a boil with 1/2 a cup of water and simmer for 10 minutes (stir occasionally).
  6. To this add the sugar, food color, cream and salt. Add the chicken and simmer until the butter chicken consistency is reached ( approx 5 minutes ).
  7. Switch off heat and finally add the butter, kasoori methi and cumin powder.
Serve with naan, roti, parathas or steamed rice.
FYI:Moti Mahal is at 7 Jagannathan Road, Nungambakkam Chennai. 


  1. Butter chicken looks great, thanks for sharing the info relating to this dish, good job!

  2. Gorgeous color and smooth sauce, love it.

  3. Looks totally captivating Cilantro. I have never heard of anyone not liking this particular creamy preparation.

  4. Lovely, smooth and utterly delicious. Never knew it was so easy to make Cilantro.

  5. thats an authentic looking butter chicken I must say. love that captivating picture. Simply awesome.

  6. wow, I wish I was a non vegetarian, never mind, might try using paneer instead of chicken..love the creamy gravy...

  7. yummy ,..thnks for the info,..:-)

  8. Who says no for such a delicious and rich dish!

  9. Slurpppp!! such a tempting dish, looks fantastic and mouthwatering here..

  10. Interesting history for a simply superb dish. Sauce looks nice & creamy

  11. The click is fantastic! And the story behind Butter Chicken was very interesting to know too. Thanks!

  12. That just looks perfect! I can feel the taste from the picture...yum....

  13. This looks and sounds delicious...

  14. it looks so smooth..and the colour is just drool making!

  15. Ah! I was reading the curd rice post of yours and tantadaing, you are in Seattle!! :))) Naaaaaaice blog, Cilantro! (Am a vegetarian, so cant comment about this post, picture looks good!)

  16. such an informative intro!! and lovely recipe...

  17. Wow this is a drooling dish!!!

  18. One of our favorite dishes, & I bet a favorite for most Indian food lovers. Looks wonderful. I make mine a little differently, sometimes don't add onions. What a pretty color and silky texture.

  19. Most creamiest gravy I've seen

  20. Oh yeah, everybody loves this dish! It's a favorite of my daughter's and really so easy to make!

  21. OMG!! mouthwatering!!! nice clicks!!

  22. enjoyed reading the history behind butter chicken... and really beautiful clicks too...

  23. Hi, In the gravy portion of the recipe you have instructions "Now add the ginger garlic paste and saute for another 3 minutes. " but the gravy ingredients doesn't call out for ginger/garlic paste. How much should we put in the gravy? - Thanks!

    1. Nina,
      I have updated now. Thank you for mentioning it to me.

  24. This is a superb recipe, thank you! Your recipe made me look good...it was so incredibly melt-in-the-mouth delicious. It was very easy and authentic looking. I'll never hunger for restaurant butter chicken again.

  25. I have always been curious as to when to add the juices ("Do not discard the juices.") back in. I do it at the same time as the chicken. Is this how it's supposed to be done? Thanks for the recipe btw, it's become a family tradition for us!


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