How to Make the Best Butter Chicken

Butter chicken, also known as Murgh Makhani, is a beloved Indian dish celebrated for its rich and creamy tomato-based gravy, tender chunks of marinated chicken, and the subtle infusion of aromatic spices. This culinary masterpiece has a special place in the hearts and palates of food enthusiasts around the world. With a well-crafted recipe and expert tips, you’ll be on your way to mastering this classic dish that brings India’s flavors to your kitchen.

The Essence of Butter Chicken

Before we head towards the recipe, it’s essential to understand the soul of butter chicken. This dish traces its roots to the culinary treasure chest of India, particularly the North Indian region of Punjab. Butter chicken is characterized by its luscious, tomato-based gravy, infused with cream, butter, and an array of aromatic spices. The chicken is typically marinated in yogurt and spices, rendering it tender and flavorful.


For the Chicken Marinade

  • 1.5 lbs (700g) boneless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon of red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

For the Butter Chicken Gravy

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon of red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 cup tomato puree (from 2-3 medium-sized tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water (adjust for desired consistency)
  • Fresh coriander leaves for garnish


Marinating the Chicken

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, red chili powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, vegetable oil, and salt to create the marinade.
  • Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, ensuring they are well coated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight, to allow the flavors to meld and the chicken to become tender.

Cooking the Butter Chicken

  • Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the unsalted butter and vegetable oil.
  • Once the butter melts and starts to bubble, add the finely chopped onions. Sauté the onions until they turn translucent and begin to brown at the edges, which will take about 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for another 2-3 minutes until the raw aroma dissipates.
  • Add the red chili powder, garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin, and turmeric powder. Stir well to combine the spices with the onion mixture, and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spices are fragrant and well-roasted.
  • Pour in the tomato puree and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for another 5-7 minutes until the tomato mixture thickens and releases the oil. You’ll notice the sauce turning a rich red color.
  • Reduce the heat to low and gradually add the heavy cream, stirring continuously to combine it with the tomato mixture. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 2-3 minutes, ensuring it doesn’t come to a boil.
  • Now, add the marinated chicken pieces along with any remaining marinade to the sauce. Stir well to coat the chicken evenly with the creamy tomato gravy.
  • Pour in 1/2 cup of water to achieve your desired consistency. Remember that the sauce will thicken further as it simmers.
  • Cover the pan and let the butter chicken simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked and tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, taste the sauce and adjust the salt and spice levels according to your preference. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can add more cream to balance the heat.
  • Garnish your butter chicken with fresh coriander leaves.

Serving Your Masterpiece

Butter chicken is best enjoyed with hot, freshly cooked naan or steamed basmati rice. The creamy tomato gravy perfectly complements the tender, marinated chicken, creating a harmony of flavors that will leave your taste buds craving for more.

Pro Tips for the Best Butter Chicken

  1. Whenever possible, use fresh ginger, garlic, and ripe tomatoes for your tomato puree. Fresh ingredients elevate the flavor of your dish.
  2. Marinating the chicken for an extended period (ideally overnight) enhances its tenderness and flavor absorption.
  3. Adjust the amount of red chili powder to your spice preference. For a milder version, reduce the quantity or use Kashmiri chili powder for its vibrant color and less heat.
  4. Don’t shy away from the cream and butter; they are the essence of butter chicken. For a richer flavor, you can add more butter or cream, but be mindful of your dietary preferences.
  5. Adjust the amount of water to achieve your preferred gravy consistency. Some like it thick, while others prefer a more liquid consistency.

The art of crafting the best butter chicken is a rewarding culinary journey that pays off with each indulgent, creamy bite. This classic Indian dish personifies the rich flavors and aromatic spices that have made Indian cuisine famous worldwide. With the detailed recipe and expert tips provided in this guide, you have all the tools you need to recreate the magic of butter chicken in your own kitchen. So, gather your ingredients, embrace the essence of this dish, and get on a gastronomic adventure that will delight your senses and transport you to the vibrant streets of India.


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