Murg Makhani (Butter chicken)

As a kid, apart from mum’s chicken curry, the only other chicken that I enjoyed eating was butter chicken. I guess it appeals more to kids because its gravy is less spicy on account of the cashews and cream.

Well whatever be the reason, I admit, I still do love to eat it. In fact on days when I do not want to cook and we either eat out or order in, my girls invariably end up asking for this dish along with others (if we are eating Indian food). Yes, such is their love for this dish too. And, contrary to popular belief, it does not incorporate loads and loads of butter. Truth be told, it is actually not a difficult dish to prepare.

Here is how you can do it at home…





The chicken for this recipe needs to be prepared in a four step process. The first step is marinating it, followed by cooking, roasting and then finally adding it to the gravy.

Ingredients for marinating and cooking the chicken

  1. 1 kg boneless chicken cut into bite sized pieces
  2. 1 tsp kasuri methi
  3. ½ tsp turmeric
  4. 1 tsp garam masala powder
  5. ½ tsp black pepper powder
  6. 1 tbsp oil + 1 tsp for marinating
  7. 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  8. ½ cup of thick curd/yoghurt
  9. ½ tsp red chilli powder
  10. ¼ tsp salt
  11. 2 tsp lemon juice
  12. A few drops of orange food colour (optional)

Marinating – In a large mixing bowl add the curd and stir in all the dry ingredients. Add the oil and lemon juice and mix to make an even paste. If you are using the food colour then add that now and stir till it is evenly amalgamated in the curd mixture.

Add the chicken to this and allow it to marinate for at least ½ hour. I prefer to let the chicken marinate overnight at times or at least for 2-3 hours. The more time you give for marinating, the tenderer will be the chicken.

Cooking –  Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a non stick pan. Once it is sizzling hot, pick up the pieces of the chicken and add them to the pan in lots of 3-4 (do not shake off the marinade. Add chicken with the marinade so that the marinade will coat the chicken pieces as they cook). The idea is to seal the chicken on all sides and also cook it. Stir fry the chicken on high heat till all moisture evaporates and the chicken is done.

Grilling – Now, I prefer to do this over a stove flame. I like the char burnt taste that I get. But, you can choose to do this in the microwave under the grill option. If you do it over a flame on the stove then do remember to put aluminium foil around the burner so that any dripping from the chicken will fall on that only. That will make the clean up easier. To grill on the stove, simply put a wire mesh on the flame set to low. I use the smallest burner for this. Brush the mesh with some oil to ensure that the chicken does not stick to it. Once the mesh is hot, lay a few pieces of chicken on it, at a time. Keep turning them over frequently to ensure that they char as desired and do not burn. Once done, that is your chicken cooked.

The next step is to make the gravy.

 Ingredients for the wet masala

1 tbsp oil

3-4 green cardamoms

4 medium onions, cut into fours (no need to chop)

4 medium tomatoes, (chopped)

18-20 cashews

Salt to taste

2 tbsp fresh coriander (has to be fresh)

2 tsp kasimiri red chilli powder (add as per taste but do not use regular red chilli powder)

1 ½  tsp garam masala

Preparation for wet masala

  1. add oil to a pan and add the green cardamoms.
  2. Add the onions. Stir fry them till they start to turn pink.
  3. Add the tomatoes and salt. Keep stirring till the mix turns soft (to speed up this process, you can add 2-3 tbsp water with the tomatoes and cover the pan with a tight lid).
  4. Once the tomatoes are cooked, add all other ingredients for the wet masala except garam masala.
  5. Cook till the masala emits an aroma and oil separates a bit (the tomatoes will still be pinkish).
  6. Cool it and then grind with about 1/2 cup if water.
  7. Stir in the garam masala and keep this paste aside

Ingredients for the butter masala

Whole spices – 1 stick cinnamon, 2 green cardamom pods, 2 bay leaves, 3-4 cloves

2 tbsp butter (unsalted/if salted then adjust salt in the dish acc)

1 ½ tbsp ginger garlic paste

2-3 green chillies, slit lengthwise

1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp kasuri methi

The cooked chicken pieces

Coriander leaves for garnish

Fresh cream to garnish (optional. I do not use this as I add more cashews to get a thicker gravy)

Garam masala (if needed)


Preparation of the dish

  1. In a pan add the butter and once that is hot tip in the whole spices and fry for about ½ min.
  2. Then add ginger-garlic paste and mix for a few seconds.
  3. Add the wet masala mix that we prepared above. You can add more water if needed. Cover and cook for about 2-3 minutes till the kixture starts to bubble. If you use kashmiri red chilli then the gravy will attain a yellowish orange colour.
  4. Once done, tip in the chicken pieces in and add the kasuri methi and mix well and cook for about 5 minutes till the chicken is tender.
  5. Once that is done, remove from heat and check for seasoning. The butter chicken is a dish that most people prefer as per their taste. If you like it sweet then add ½ tsp sugar at this stage. If you like it spicier then adjust the chilli and garam masala accordingly.
  6. Lastly, add the cream (if you are using it) and garnish with coriander leaves.
  7. Serve with hot tava naans (tava naan recipe -


Dhaba Style Chicken Curry

About Sonal Singh

I believe that life is a repertoire of anecdotes. The various situations that we encounter, the many incidents of every day, the people we meet, our conversations with them; all make life a melange of tales. And, that is what I attempt to capture through my writing. My cooking is no different! It reflects my love for travel and my love for innovation. The kitchen is my happy place. So, even though by vocation I am a recruiter (, by passion I am a writer, home chef and a hodophile.

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