Murg Makhani: Indian Butter Chicken

Authentic Murg Makhani (Butter Chicken)

The Spruce

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 105 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
564 Calories
30g Fat
18g Carbs
56g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 564
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30g 38%
Saturated Fat 9g 43%
Cholesterol 171mg 57%
Sodium 520mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 7%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 56g
Vitamin C 19mg 93%
Calcium 151mg 12%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 912mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Butter chicken was born in the kitchens of the Moti Mahal hotel in Delhi in the 1950s. Today, it is among India's best-known foods the world over.

Many restaurants around the globe have versions of it that are not authentic at all. So before you learn what authentic butter chicken should look and taste like, you should know what it shouldn't be like—sweet, loaded with food coloring, full of raisins or tomato ketchup.

Butter chicken is of North Indian origin, Punjabi to be precise. It gets its lovely, distinctive flavors from the tangy tomatoes, yogurt, and smoky kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) added to its gravy. This can be made as hot or mild as you like so it suits most palates. Also commonly known as murg makhani, butter chicken tastes great with kaali daal (black lentils), naan (flatbread), and a green salad.

This recipe for butter chicken is the real deal. If it feels like the list of ingredients is exhaustive, please don't allow that to deter you—they are all just commonly used ingredients in Indian cooking. We suggest making the spice powder from scratch (as in the recipe) since this will give you the best results.


For the First Marinade

  • 2 1/4 pounds boneless chicken, skin removed

  • 1 lime, or lemon, juiced

  • Salt, to taste

  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder, adjust to suit your taste

For the Second Marinade

  • 1 cup fresh unsweetened yogurt, must not be sour

  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

For Cooking

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or canola or sunflower cooking oil

  • 2 onions, chopped finely

  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste

  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste

  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, ground into a smooth paste in a food processor

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • Coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnish

For the Spice Powder

  • 6 cloves

  • 8 to 10 peppercorns

  • 1 (1-inch) stick cinnamon

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 8 to 10 almonds

  • Seeds from 3 to 4 cardamom pods

Steps to Make It

 Marinate the Chicken for the First Time

  1. Mix the chicken, lime juice, salt, and red chili powder in a large, nonmetallic bowl.

    marinate chicken
     The Spruce
  2. Cover and allow to marinate for 1 hour.

Make the Spice Powder

  1. Heat a flat pan or griddle over medium heat and gently roast (stirring frequently) the cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, bay leaves, and almonds until they darken slightly. Cool and add the cardamom seeds.

    grind spices
     The Spruce
  2. Now grind into a coarse powder in a clean, dry coffee grinder.

Marinate the Chicken for the Second Time

  1. Mix the yogurt, spice powder (from the previous step), ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric and add them to the marinated chicken.

    marinate chicken again
     The Spruce
  2. Cover and allow to marinate for 1 more hour.

Cook the Chicken

  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions. Fry until pale golden brown in color and then add the ginger and garlic pastes. Fry for another minute.

    saute veggies
    The Spruce
  2. Add the chicken (reserving the marinade) and fry until chicken turns opaque and the flesh goes from pink to whitish in color.

    add chicken
     The Spruce
  3. Now add the ground tomatoes, chicken stock, kasuri methi, and the reserved yogurt-spice marinade to the chicken.

    add stock and marinade
     The Spruce
  4. Cook until the chicken is tender and the gravy is reduced to half its original volume.

    stir and cook
     The Spruce
  5. Melt the butter in another small pan and then pour it over the chicken.

    pour butter over chicken dish
     The Spruce
  6. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with naan and kaali ​daal.

Recipe Variation

  • For an Authentic Cooked-Over-the-Coals Flavor: When the butter chicken is cooked, make a small bowl shape with aluminum foil and place it on top of the butter chicken (so it is "floating" on it). Heat a briquette of charcoal on an open flame until red hot and gently put the charcoal into the aluminum foil bowl. Cover the dish immediately. Remove the cover just before serving, discard the foil bowl and charcoal and serve. The chicken will be infused with a smoky flavor.