Finger Lickin’ Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)
Delicious restaurant-style butter chicken made right at home with simple ingredients. This recipe is exactly how they make butter chicken in restaurants – and I’ve had people tell me it’s actually better! Trust me when I say it’s finger-lickin’ good!
Finger-Lickin’ butter chicken! That’s a little too much fun to say.
Sharing one of my all time favorite Indian food recipes today.
Last week I had this intense craving for creamy and spicy homemade butter chicken. I mean, it was so crazy that I could practically taste the butter chicken in my mouth as I thought about it. My heart started racing, my hands started shaking — okay, it wasn’t quite that dramatic; but you get the idea. I dug down deep into the LSJ files (this is actually one of the first recipes I ever posted on the blog!) It was time to retake some of the pictures and reintroduce you to my finger-lickin’ butter chicken recipe.
Not only am I replacing some of my old (read: not so great) photography. But I also reworked the recipe to make the ingredient list a little shorter without compromising any of the flavors. I also took the liberty of making the instructions easier to follow I am sharing my tried and true tips on how you can get this on the table even quicker on weeknights!
I can’t say I take all the credit for this recipe. This recipe comes from my mom, who got it from her sister, who once upon a time worked at a very popular Indian restaurant. So there. It’s authentic, restaurant-style butter chicken, for reals. <– I just took the liberty of tweaking a few things to make this recipe attainable for us everyday people. I promise you all tweaks are simple and don’t compromise the flavor!
Trust me when I say this, I took my job very seriously and strive to provide you with the best restaurant-style butter chicken you’ve ever had!
Recipe Video – How to Make This in 63 Seconds:
So about that BUTTER chicken. Ironically enough my recipe doesn’t contain that much butter. Butter chicken is also called ‘Murgh Makani’ and when translated to English, it means Butter Chicken. And in fact, the butter in this recipe is actually clarified butter or ghee.
Nowadays, ghee is readily available in most mainstream grocery stores. You can definitely find it at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. And if you live in an area where your supermarket doesn’t stock it, you can always purchase it online here.
Ingredients for Homemade Butter Chicken:
- Chicken: Feel free to use boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. I typically cut the chicken into 1½ inch pieces and then toss it in a marinade made with yogurt and spices.
- Seasonings: Butter chicken calls for an array of spices. To help curb the ingredient list, I use a sachet of tandoori masala. It’s usually available in powder/paste form in the international aisle. The one I use and LOVE can be found here. This helps cut down on the number of spices you’ll need. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still need a little garam masala, cumin powder, coriander powder, and some red chili powder. You can also swap the red chili powder for cayenne but the flavor will be slightly different. I also find cayenne pepper to be hotter so I would suggest using slightly less than what’s called for. But you won’t need ground turmeric and a few others as the tandoori masala already contains these. Garam masala is South Asian spice mix that contains ingredients like cloves, black pepper, black cardamom, cinnamon, green cardamom, and several other spices.
- Fenugreek Leaves: In Urdu and Hindi fenugreek leaves are called kasuri methi. This is an ingredient you can easily find in almost any South Asian grocery store as it is used in many dishes. If your mainstream grocery store has an international aisle, they may carry it there as well.
- Fresh Ginger and Garlic: A lot of traditional Pakistani and Indian recipe call for freshly prepared ginger and garlic paste. Essentially, it’s just a combination of peeled knobs of ginger and a handful of cloves garlic broken down in a food processor with a little vinegar to help keep these ingredients fresh and some water. Some people also add a little oil for preservation, but this is optional. Nowadays, most South Asian grocery stores (as well as mainstream stores) sell prepared garlic and ginger paste. Feel free to make your own or purchase it for this recipe.
- Oil: You’ll need some oil to saute the onions and cook the butter chicken recipe. Feel free to use avocado oil, canola or even coconut oil for this.
- Yogurt: I like to use plain yogurt for this recipe. My mom has always taught me to beat the yogurt with the seasonings before adding the chicken pieces to ensure that the flavor disperses evenly throughout the chicken pieces.
- Ghee: We’ll use ghee (also called clarified butter) to prepare the butter chicken sauce for this recipe.
- Crushed Tomatoes: I use a can of crushed tomatoes for my butter chicken recipe. We’ll saute the onions season them with lots of spices and cook them with the tomatoes. The tomato puree will then be the base of the butter chicken sauce.
- Onions: You’ll need a large yellow onion that is sliced down the middle, peeled and then cut into thin slices. Like most south Asian recipes, this one too starts with sauteing the onions in a little ghee until they’re soft. A lot of recipes call for golden brown onions which add add sweetness to the dish when the onions are caramelized. My butter chicken recipe doesn’t take the onions that far. You want the onions to soften and turn translucent, but not brown.
- Heavy Cream: My family has always used heavy cream or heavy whipping cream for our homemade butter chicken recipe. If you are dairy-free full-fat coconut milk would make a good substitution as this is what many of my readers have mentioned using.
- Prepared Rice or Naan Bread: You’ll want to serve this up with my restaurant-style fluffy basmati rice or homemade naan. I’ve got a couple of different naan recipes that I’ve shared. You can make my high protein2-ingredient flatbread or my traditional naan recipe for this. I’ll even rub it down with a little garlic butter and garnish with chopped cilantro. Trust me, these naans are fantastic!
How to make the best butter chicken recipe
- Marinate the chicken for maximum flavor. Whisk the ginger garlic paste, yogurt, and seasoning together until the yogurt is smooth. Add the chicken piece and let this hang out. The longer you marinate the more flavorful the chicken. Ideally, you want to let it go for 12-24 hours, covered in the refrigerator, but even 20-60 minutes will do. The yogurt, ginger, and garlic really help make the chicken more tender. As always, I’m a fan of white-meat chicken, so I used boneless skinless chicken breasts, but you could go the dark meat route and use chicken thighs as well. Some may even tell you it’s more flavorful that way. I’m not one of those people!
- Make the butter chicken curry. To a Dutch oven or any heavy bottom pan, add the ghee and saute the onions over medium high heat until they are soft and translucent. Add the ginger and garlic paste and give it a few seconds to bloom in the oil. Add the seasonings – chili powder, cumin, and coriander and let the spices cook in the oil. Stir often to keep them from sticking and burning. If you find the spices are cooking too quickly, you can add a splash of water or even chicken broth if you’d like. Blend the sauce in a traditional blender or use an immersion blender to make this quick and easy.
- Make ahead option. At this point, you can refrigerate the butter chicken sauce once it’s cooled down in an airtight container. You can also add it to a freezer-safe container or zippable bag and freeze it. This makes weekday dinner so much quicker to get out on the table. Marinate the chicken on Sunday and pull it together in about 20 minutes on a Monday. That’s faster than ordering take-out and trust me, it tastes better too!
- Finish it up. Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking. This is so that the yogurt has a chance to come to room temperature. I find that if you add it cold from the fridge the temperature difference sometimes causes the yogurt to curdle. To another clean pot or if you used a traditional blender, to the same pot add the remaining oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the marinated chicken. You want to discard any additional marinade. Saute the chicken until it’s golden on add aides. Add the prepared butter chicken sauce to the pot and stir to combine. You want to let the chicken finish cooking before you and the heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala. Once the sauce reaches a simmer, taste and adjust the salt as needed. Then crush the fenugreek leaves between the palms of your hands to release their flavor and add them to the butter chicken. Butter chicken over fluffy basmati rice, it’s what my dreams are made of. If you’re looking for an authentic murgh makhani recipe, I’ve got you!
FAQs about Murgh Makani:
Butter chicken sauce is made of sauteed onions, tomato puree, and lots of spices. It’s finished at the end with a smattering of heavy cream and some fenugreek leaves.
Butter chicken and Murgh Makani are the same thing. Literally translated ‘murgh’ means chicken, and ‘makhani’ means buttery (or butter.) It always makes me laugh when people argue that a recipe tasted more like murgh makhani than butter chicken.
Chicken tikka masala packs more of a punch when it comes to spices, and may or may not contain any butter. I reserve the ghee for my butter chicken and opt for oil when I’m making chicken tikka masala. Butter chicken also is a tad bit sweeter (because of the sauteed onions or the addition of sugar in many recipes) and milder when it comes to spices than chicken tikka masala.
You can make the of this recipe, blend it, and allow it to cool completely before popping it in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Like most Indian food, leftovers (or sauces prepared ahead) actually make the dish more flavorful. Many readers have also mentioned that they like to prepare the sauce and freeze it (without the heavy cream) to make butter chicken quicker on weeknights. This is something my family does as well!
If you like this butter chicken recipe, you might also like:
- chicken tikka masala
- 30-minute shrimp masala
- weeknight chana masala
- homemade palak paneer
- 30-minute brown lentil daal
Original recipe shared Feb 2016, updated with new post and images May 2023.
- 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons tandoori masala (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon EACH: ginger paste and garlic paste (I used Gourmet Garden)
- ½ cup yogurt
- 1 tablespoon oil
Butter Chicken Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) (see note)
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 ½ teaspoon EACH: ginger paste and garlic paste (I used Gourmet Garden)
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon chili powder (see notes)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (crushed between fingers)
- In a medium bowl, combine the tandoori masala, ginger, garlic, and yogurt. Whisk until smooth, adjust seasonings to preference. Add the chicken and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes and ideally for 12-24 hours, covered in the refrigerator.
Butter Chicken Sauce:
- Heat the ghee in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they turn translucent and start to sweat, about 5-7 minutes, don't allow the onions to brown. Add ginger and garlic paste and let cook for 30 seconds, stirring so it doesn't burn. Add the can of crushed tomatoes along with the chili powder, coriander powder, and cumin powder and continue to cook for 5 minutes, if the mixture starts bubbling rapidly, add about ¼ cup of water and continue to cook.
- Remove from heat, add the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, you may need to add a couple water to help it blend (up to ¼ cup). Depending on how powerful your blender is, you may want to blend the mixture in two batches. Remember to hold the lid of the blender down with a kitchen towel when blending, to avoid accidents.
- MAKE AHEAD OPTION: At this point you can cool and refrigerate the sauce for 24-48 hours (or freeze it for up to 3 months), it will help blend the flavors even more, just remember to bring the sauce back to room temperature (use the microwave) before proceeding with the recipe OR you can continue on with the recipe immediately.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the dutch oven over medium heat. Add the marinated chicken (discard any excess marinade) and cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring as required to brown all sides. Add the butter chicken sauce to the pot and heat everything through. Once it starts to bubble, add the cream and garam masala. When the sauce regains a simmer, add the crushed fenugreek leaves. Serve over basmati rice or with naan.
- Fan of dark meat chicken? You can replace the cubed chicken breasts with cubed boneless, skinless chicken thighs for more added flavor.
- GHEE: If you can't find it you replace it with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil.
- TANDOORI MASALA: is available in powder/ paste form. I prefer the powder but some of my readers recommended Patak's brand tandoori paste. You'll need about 2-4 tablespoons of the paste (to preference).
- CHILI POWDER: optional! If you prefer milder food, you may want to leave it out as the tandoori masala already has heat. Traditionally, a spicy pepper similar to cayenne is used. If you can't find Indian or Pakistani chili powder (usually sold at Indian stores), replace it with cayenne. 1 teaspoon can be a lot so if you prefer a milder flavor, replace with 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon.