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.
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!
- 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.
Will try this tomorrow and let ya know how it turned out! Looks delish btw and your photography is ABSOLUTELY stellar! 🙂
Sucks. Butter chicken with a shan masala, what a let down.
Sorry you feel that way Ram.
Most Indian restaurants use a tandoori masala to flavor the chicken prior to preparing the gravy. Therefore this recipe calls for Tandoori Masala to flavor the chicken. We’re not using butter chicken spice mix. Give it a try, you might be surprised!
ya im gonna take my chances with the recipe that calls for the many many ingredients. Before i read this post I didnt like the idea of that Shan Masala.. im not a chef and im sure its good.. but just dont like that package.
Thank you so much for this recipe!!! It takes way less time than my other recipe where I had to make the tandoori chicken the night before and leave it to marinate. This is so much quicker and easier, plus I think it was actually even better – the chicken turned out even more tender than ever! And yes, it tastes totally authentic. I will most definitely be using this recipe from now on. Thanks again!
I tried your butter chicken recipe for dinner tonight (found it by googling) and it turned out great! Pretty much followed the recipe except for halving the butter and omitting the cream. My husband loved the result. It’s so time-saving to use a jar of tandoori paste instead of making everything from scratch. No harm in a little short-cut! Anyway, just wanted to let you know, and to thank you for putting the recipe online.
Made this for dinner tonight and it is almost done! I’ve gotta say, I am extremely excited to taste it! The color and smell are both perfect. My husband and I are serious Indian cuisine lovers and I really hope that it tastes as good as it smells and looks! I’ll post back after we eat! Thanks for posting!
I just found this recipe today and made it for lunch! YUM. We went to our favorite Indian restaurant last week and evidently the chef had changed, because the butter chicken was not as good as it normally is. So, when I saw this recipe, I had to try it.
Sure am glad I did. I did not have the tandoori spice mix, so I used fish curry mix and both my husband and I LOVED it.
I made a full recipe, when normally I cut them in half and am sure glad I did. Leftovers Baby, Leftover!
I hate it when there isn’t consistency in a restaurants food. But with that said, i’m so glad you made this recipe and loved it! Thanks for commenting! =)
I stumbled on your website looking for a butter chicken recipe. This one is awesome. I will be putting it on regular rotation. Thanks!
Would it be okay to use coconut milk (can) instead of whipping cream.
You can use coconut milk if you like but the flavor will be a little different then if you use whipping cream. It will be more like a coconut curry with the tandoori flavor. I think it would be delicious, just a different flavor than authentic butter chicken. Another option is half and half if it’s not a lactose issue. Or even fat free half and half if it’s the fat you want to avoid.
Hope that helps! 🙂
The recipe was absolutely delicious 😀 My family couldn’t help licking their fingers! I’m always hunting for easy-to-cook dishes and this one was just that. So glad I stumbled upon it..will be trying other recipes soon.
I’m so glad you all enjoyed the butter chicken recipe, Sarah!
Thank you for taking the time to comment! =)
How many does this recipe feed?
I would say 4-6.
I’ve made this twice now and it is really good. I’ve made maybe 10 other recipes for butter chicken in the past. This is probably in my top 3.
Glad you enjoyed it Jeremy! Thanks for taking the time to come back and comment!:)
Hi marzia could you do this recipe and then put it in a slow cooker for a few hours to make it more tender?
I haven’t tried making butter chicken in the slow cooker yet, but my suggestion would be to prepare/marinate the chicken as directed, prepare the sauce as directed (without adding the cream, garam masala, and fenugreek leaves) and add both to the slow cooker (let the chicken cook completely in the slow cooker). The boneless chicken may dry out if you cook it then add it to the crockpot. I would cook it for 2 hours on high and 4 hours on low. Since the chicken pieces are smaller, they won’t take as long too cook. Hope this helps!
I made twice and it came out perfect thank you for the recipe I also will post it on my website 🙂
Thank you for your recipe. Just wanted to confirm that the stated proportions were for 1 lb of chicken or 1 kg of chicken?
Yes that’s correct, 1 lb. of chicken. You can get away with using up to 1 1/2 pounds but anything more than that wouldn’t leave you with enough gravy.
Loved it, thank you for sharing.
Can I use heavy whipping cream instead? Thanks
Yes, heavy whipping cream is fine. 🙂
Hi, wonderful recipe. Tried today and my family loved it. Thanks so much.
Thanks Nikunj. I’m glad to hear your family enjoyed it!
I would like to make your recipe for about 25 people how do I increase the
ingrediants please help
This recipe comfortably feeds 5-6 people. If your serving just butter chicken then I’d suggest multiplying the recipe ingredients by 6. If you’ve got side dishes (at least 2-3 other sides) I would say just multiply this recipe by 4 (so 4 pounds of chicken, etc).
I hope that helps! 🙂
Hi thank you for this excellent recipe, I made butter chicken better then my mom for the first time ever!
Wow! That’s quite a compliment! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
do you need the onions?
Yes, the onions are essential for making the gravy.
Hi, instead of crushed tomatoes, can I use tomatoes bought from the grocery store? If yes, how many do I use?
You can use fresh tomatoes if you’d like but the flavor will be slightly different. To replace with fresh tomatoes, use about 5-6 Roma tomatoes. Boil them in water until the skin bursts, peel, and pulse them in a food processor. Hope that helps!
Hello, what kind of vinegar do you use for the paste?
Just regular white vinegar, Sarah.
Can i use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar?
I have never tried using apple cider vinegar to make the ginger garlic paste before, so unfortunately I cannot say.
When u say 3 teaspoon ginger garlic paste is it 3 teaspoon each?
Shehla, you’re going to combine the ginger and garlic in the food processor with the vinegar. Once blended, use the paste as it’s called for in the recipe. Hope that helps!
I love butter chicken and always try to seek out Indian restaurants that make it well. Not any more. I make my own at home. Thanks to you. I did feel it was a bit bland so added salt, and honey to sweeten it up. I read somewhere that’s what they use in butter chicken. Great recipe. Thanks again.
Used the National Butter Chicken spice packet instead of Shan Tandoori, didn’t have cream so used some more yogurt and evaporated milk, cooked the onions longer until almost golden, and it was lovely. With homemade naan, my husband was so excited. This is the only butter chicken recipe that’s ever worked for me!
Hi Marzia! Recipe sounds great but we dont have any of tandoori masarla type mixes here in Oz (that we can find). Do you have a recipe for how we could make that component from scratch?
Do you perhaps get tandoori masala paste? That can be used instead of the my mixture. I unfortunately don’t have a recipe on how to make the tandoori masala from scratch but you can search for it online. Just make sure your tandoori masala recipe has red chili powder, turmeric, and garam masala amongst other ingredients. Hope that helps!
I’m from New Zealand and our products are very similar, often the same, as what you have. Do you have Pataks brand over there? I use the Pataks tandoori spice paste and although I have no comparison to Marzia’s mine turns out just as good as, if not better than, the restaurant version. If you don’t have Pataks I’m sure there’d be something the same as we have here that you could use. It’s a fabulous recipe!
Thanks for the suggestion for Pataks paste. That’s exactly what I was thinking, just couldn’t remember the name! 🙂
Thanks so much for the tip! We definately have Pataks here. Do you use the same amount as nominated in the recipe above?
Yes, exactly the same. I’m presuming it’s probably much the same thing as what is called for in this recipe anyway.
hi the fenugreek leaves can you use ground fenugreek as in Australia its very hard to find and if so is it the same amount needed.
Yes, ground fenugreek is absolutely fine! I’d replace it with 1/8 teaspoon first, you can always adjust to preference later. Fenugreek is quite pungent so you don’t want to use too much to start with.
Could you tell me what a Dutch oven is ?
A dutch oven is a cast-iron, thick bottomed cooking pot. If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can use any heavy bottomed pot or a large saucepan
Which garam masala powder to use..?..brand name?
I used a homemade mix, Akila. Any brand that you like will do!
Can you make the gravy in advance? Or freeze it? I’ve made this before and I loved it, but it is time consuming, so I’ve only made it a couple times. Just wondering because I could eat this at least once a week, but I don’t always have the time tio make it.
Definitely. You can make the gravy portion in advance, puree it and freeze it. Just make sure you defrost and reheat the sauce before adding in the whipping cream.
Just made this for dinner.
Both wife and kids loved it.
The recipe looks amazing I can’t wait to try it! I am off work at the moment and have plenty of time on my hands so I was wondering if you have your previous version of the recipe before you simplified the ingredients/method? I can’t wait to make it as since I moved to the UK I haven’t been able to find a proper Butter chicken anywhere, not even in a restaurant!!
Hey Rebecca! The previous butter chicken recipe is almost identical to this one. I just swapped out homemade ginger/garlic paste for store bought to make it a little easier. But of course, making it fresh right before you make the butter chicken will definitely make this recipe more delicious.
To make your own ginger/garlic paste, combine 1/4 cup peeled garlic cloves + 1/4 cup of peeled ginger with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a blender and blend until completely smooth. You’d use 2 teaspoons of this in the marinade and 1 tablespoon for the BC sauce. The leftover paste can be stored in single portions in ice cube trays and frozen or you can keep the paste in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Hope you enjoy the recipe! 🙂