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Published August 19, 2022. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This delicious Butter Chicken recipe features thin-cut marinated and seared chicken finished in a delectable chili tomato and butter sauce. This is one of my wife’s and my all-time favorite dishes.
Butter chicken, better known as Murgh Makhani, is a classic Northern Indian recipe consisting of thin-cut pieces of marinated chicken that are served in a roasted onion, tomato, spice, and chili sauce that is finished with butter and heavy cream. The sauce the chicken is served in is a form of curry.
This is an extremely popular recipe in Indian cuisine, and you will commonly see it on Indian restaurant menus. You can prepare this dish in its entirety in under 90 minutes from start to finish making it a perfect weeknight meal.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken – You can use dark or white meat, but I prefer to break down a whole chicken for cost-effectiveness.
- Chiles – I used seeded jalapeño and Kashmiri chiles. However, you can use Thai or kanthari’s.
- Chili Powder – There is an Indian red chili powder you can use if you find it. However, regular chili powder will work.
- Garam Masala – I’ve got a great homemade garam masala recipe, but you can buy pre-made.
- Kasoori Methi – This is also known as dried fenugreek and has notes of celery and fennel.
- Turmeric – Ground turmeric is what you will use in the marinade.
- Cilantro – Use fresh cilantro in the sauce and for garnish.
- Cashews – I used unroasted, unsalted cashews.
- Tomatoes – Roma tomatoes are a great all-season option unless you have fresh from the garden.
- Garlic – Finely minced or processed fresh garlic cloves.
- Ginger – Peeled and finely minced or processed ginger is what I used.
- Onions – Red onions would be the most classic. However, you can use yellow onions.
Lemon – The juice of 1 lemon is used for the chicken marinade.
- Yogurt – I like to use full-fat yogurt in the marinade that is strained.
- Butter – Use cold unsalted butter in this recipe.
- Cream – Cold heavy whipping cream should be used.
Start by preparing the chicken and cutting it into bit size pieces.
Next, add the spices, garlic, ginger, yogurt, and lemon to a bowl along with the prepared chicken and mix thoroughly. At this point, cover it with plastic and keep it in the refrigerator to marinate for 1 hour.
While the chicken is marinating, caramelize some red onions in melted butter in a large pot or rondeau.
Next, mix in some ginger and garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, which takes about 30 to 45 seconds.
Add in the spices and chiles and mix for 1 to two minutes. You may need to add water to scrape up some of the fond.
Place in the tomatoes and cashews, cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes on low to medium heat. Come back every 5 to 7 minutes to give it a quick stir.
Next, transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.
Strain the mixture completely back into a pot and keep warm on low heat. See chef note on thinning out.
Whisk in cold butter and then whipped cream until mixed in.
Adjust the seasonings of the sauce with salt. Keep warm.
In a separate large rondeau or frying pan with ghee or oil over medium-high heat, add the marinated chicken once the butter or oil begins to smoke lightly.
Cook the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes and then stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until cooked throughout.
Transfer the cooked chicken to the pot with sauce and finish with fresh chopped cilantro, kasoori methi, and more butter, and serve.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten immediately; However, you can keep warm in the sauce on low heat for up to 30 minutes before serving.
How to Store: Cover and keep the butter chicken in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This will freeze well covered for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of butter chicken to a small saucepot and heat over low heat until hot.
Chef Notes + Tips
- You can marinate the chicken overnight. However, I do not think it needs to go that long as the marinade is jam-packed with flavor and can infuse into the chicken in a short amount of time.
- After the 5th procedure, it’s good to deglaze with 3 to 4 tablespoons of cold water to release the fond. Fond is the browned bits of food remaining on the bottom of the pan after it has been sauteed or roasted.
- When blending anything hot, be sure to remove the centerpiece to the lid of the blender to release the heat, or else it will explode. I usually place a towel over the top while blending.
- To thin out the sauce after blending, add about a cup of cold water to the blender and swish it before straining. The sauce will remain thick and have a good consistency.
- If you want to get a good sear on the chicken, you’ll need to do it in batches to spread it out and ensure the pieces aren’t touching each other.
More Chicken Recipes
Butter Chicken Recipe (Chicken Makhani)
For the Chicken:
- 2 1/2 pounds of skinless, thinly sliced chicken (dark, white, or combination of both)
- 2 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon kasoori methi
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon garlic paste, see video
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste, see video
- ½ cup whole milk yogurt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons ghee or oil
For the Sauce:
- 1 stick + 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
- 2 peeled thinly sliced red onions
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste, see video
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste, see video
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kasoori meth
- 5 seeded dried chiles, I used kasmiri
- 1 seeded and roughly chopped jalapeño
- 10 cored and roughly cut Roma tomatoes
- ½ cup cashews
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt to taste
- Start by preparing the chicken and cutting it into bit size pieces.
- Next, add the salt, pepper, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, kasoori methi, garlic, ginger, yogurt, and lemon to a large bowl along with the prepared chicken and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with plastic and keep it in the refrigerator to marinate for 1 hour.
- While the chicken is marinating, start on the sauce.
- Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to a large rondeau pot over low to medium heat and caramelize the red onions until they are well browned, which takes about 30 minutes. Stir every 5 to 6 minutes.
- Next, mix in the ginger and garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, which takes about 30 to 45 seconds.
- Add in the garam masala, chili powder, ½ teaspoon of kasoori methi, dried chiles, and jalapaño, and mix for 1 to 2 minutes. You may need to add some water to scrape up some of the fond. See chef notes.
- Place in the tomatoes and cashews, stir and cover with a lid, and cook for 20 minutes on low to medium heat. Come back every 5 to 7 minutes to give it a quick stir.
- Next, transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.
- Strain the mixture back into the pot and keep warm on low heat. See chef notes on thinning out.
- Whisk in 1 stick of cold butter until mixed in and then add in the whipped cream and stir to combine.
- Adjust the seasonings of the sauce with salt. Keep warm.
- In a separate large rondeau or frying pan with ghee or oil over medium-high heat, add the marinated chicken once the butter or oil begins to smoke lightly.
- Spread the chicken out across the pan and cook the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes, and then stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until cooked throughout. See chef notes on searing.
- Transfer the cooked chicken to the pot with sauce and finish by mixing in fresh chopped cilantro, remaining ½ teaspoons of kasoori methi, and 2 tablespoons of butter and serve.