cook in a curry

Butter Chicken/ Murgh Makhani – Chicken cooked in a spiced tomato gravy

Butter Chicken

UK curry lovers can’t seem to get enough of Chicken Tikka Masala; the one thing that gets the appetite going for most Indians undoubtedly has to be ‘Butter Chicken’ or Murgh Makhani.

Most Mughlai and Punjabi restaurants will serve you a plate of this goodness as do dhabas and street vendors. I could devour into an entire dish all by myself. Soft roomali rotis, naan or flaky parathas scooping up the thick spiced gravy of butter chicken along with succulent morsels of tandoori chicken with charred edges brings sheer delight with every mouthful. The heat/ spice of the dish combines with the rich gravy and slight sweetness that make it very hard to resist.

With most dishes that have fond memories it’s the taste that lingers on even years later. Cooking Butter Chicken at home has always for me been about getting the flavours just right and like I knew they should taste. This recipe is one that I can say is an absolute hit every single time with family and friends. There’s no calorie counting here I can tell you that now! There’s a copious quantity of butter (after all it is butter chicken!), cream and honey. But I assure you it’s worth every spoonful.

The chicken is marinated & grilled before adding it to the makhani sauce. Tandoori chicken pieces added to the sauce enhance the flavour of the overall dish. Follow my recipe for Tandoori Chicken and can even be done a few hours in advance. Once the chicken is cooked set aside and proceed to make the makhani sauce below. Fenugreek leaf powder is available at Asian stores or you can even grind dried fenugreek leaves.

Butter Chicken (3)


1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter

5 green cardamom pods lightly crushed

1” cinnamon stick

4 cloves

1 small onion finely chopped

1 heaped tbsp grated ginger

2 green chillies slit lengthwise

1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (or mild paprika)

½ tsp garam masala powder

3 tbsp tomato puree

150mls double cream

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp Kasoori methi/ fenugreek leaf powder

Salt to taste

Chopped coriander for garnish


Heat a heavy bottom sauce pan and add the butter. Add green cardamom, cinnamon stick and cloves. Fry for 20 seconds, add the onions and sauté for 5-7 mins on medium heat until they take on a light brown colour.

Add the grated ginger and slit green chillies. Fry for a further minutes and add the chilli powder, garam masala powder along with the tomato puree. Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes. Now gradually add the double cream stirring continuously to mix all the spices with the cream. Simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes. At this stage add a splash of water if the curry is too thick. Stir in the honey and the fenugreek powder. Season to taste. Now add the cooked chicken pieces and simmer the curry on a low heat for 8-10 minutes. Garnish with coriander and serve with roti or paratha.

Butter Chicken (2)
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  1. Posted September 21, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I’m completely obsessed with Butter Chicken and really miss not being able to buy it her often. The best I’ve ever had was in Nairobi a few years ago and since then I have been trying recipe after recipe to try and recreate it but to no avail.

    I look forward to trying yours now!

  2. Patrick Keville
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Cooked this tonight for myself and my wife. Absolutely delicious. Looking forward to trying a few more of your recipes.

  3. Chris Cheesman
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    I have made this recipe a few times now and it goes down extremely well with family and friends.

  4. Simon
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    This is more or less how I make Makhani myself. But a pro chef from Punjab said that traditionally they do not add onion to the makhani gravy. Great recipe, I had to water down the tomato pure/paste (half part tomato pure and half part water). If it’s not watered down the whole dish will taste like its tainted with tomato pure.

    • maunika
      Posted February 14, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Thank you. As mentioned in the recipe you can add a splash of water to make a thinner gravy. Also the cream helps make for a rich curry whilst diluting the tomato paste.

  5. AZA
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Hi, what kind of chicken preparation would be best for this dish and how much chicken please? thanks!

    • maunika
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Hi, If you read the post theer is a link to my tandoori chicken recipe with all the measurements/ quantities etc. Maunika.

  6. Posted September 19, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I just have to try this! It looks so delicious.
    I *may* have just gone to the Spicery and ordered some spices to give it a go! Will let you know how I get on.

  7. Jane
    Posted September 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Had this for supper tonight. Really enjoyed it …… Although 1/2 tbsp of honey was sweet enough for me.

  8. Aruna
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I want to try this dish, but am wondering how you got the color without adding food coloring?

    Also i am in the US, so dont get Double Cream, can i use Heavy Cream instead?

    • maunika
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Hi Aruna, Good quality tomato puree will give you that vibrant colour also the marinade in the chicken tikka pieces will enhance it. Yes of course you can substitute double cream for heavy cream. Hope you like it!

  9. Steve wright
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I’ve Never cooked I Don’t cook I can’t cook ,
    Tried this and it was blooming easy and
    Tasty I surprised myself, ps I never comment
    On “threads” but this deserved it

    • maunika
      Posted May 9, 2014 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      Thank you so much! Very glad you enjoyed it. Maunika.

  10. Nuurol
    Posted August 6, 2014 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    What else can I use to substitude Double Cream? Can I use coconut cream?

    • maunika
      Posted August 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Your looking for a rich consistency and traditional butter chicken doesn’t include coconut although you can of course make it with single cream too.

  11. Zainu
    Posted August 8, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    This turned out beyond delicious!!…. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Fana
    Posted August 10, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    hello, I noticed that your recipe does not call for fresh tomatoes that needs to be rendered down as shown in other recipes. Will this change the flavours of the dish or will adding only tomato puree suffice?

    • maunika
      Posted August 10, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Tomato puree does add the required colour, thickens the gravy and ofcourse is more of a concentrated alternative to fresh tomatoes. Yes it will suffice. Enjoy!

  13. Alistair
    Posted August 26, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Just tried your recipe, loved it and will definitely be making more often, thanks Maunika.

  14. Angela
    Posted October 6, 2014 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Hey Maunika,

    I watched your demonstration of this butter chicken recipe with Jamie on food tube and would love to give it a go!

    A few questions though,
    1. Is it ok to swap whole cloves with ground clove because I have ground one in my pantry already but not whole ones? I meant, would it taste differently?
    2. Cardamom pods? I have cardamom in my pantry and I am not sure where I can get the pods from. Would it make a huge difference?

    Thank you!!

    • maunika
      Posted October 6, 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Hi Angela, ground clove powder can be quite overpowering for this dish and the same with ground cardamom. The whole spices lend an aromatic flavour to the curry. Most are available in supermarkets or even online. You can check the diary pages of the website for a spice guide with details of stores where you can find the spices.

  15. Sue Maxwell
    Posted October 25, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I was looking for a good butter chicken recipe and saw your demonstration on Jamie’s food tube. I’ve just made it and it is absolutely devine! I will definitely be making this again.

  16. Jennifer
    Posted October 29, 2014 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    TIP: After watching the video of Maunika cook this dish with Jamie Oliver on Youtube, I realized that the tomato puree in the recipe is actually what Americans consider to be tomato paste. TOMATO PUREE = TOMATO PASTE.

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was the best Indian dish I have made (right next to my mother-in-law’s chicken biryani!). My husband loved this dish and he doesn’t even like butter chicken! Will be making this again and again. Thanks Maunika!

  17. Posted November 11, 2014 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I made this using the canned tomato paste we have here in america and added almost 2/3 cup of cream. The tomato paste was very over-powering and the dish turned out sour. Did you use crushed tomatoes as I don’t understand how the taste could vary so much.

    • maunika
      Posted November 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment! The recipe uses 3 tbsp. of Tomato puree to thicken and add colour to the curry. You might want to check the strength of the canned paste your using if its too strong/ tart that might be far too overpowering for the dish. The measurements for the cream are also in the recipe. So hopefully if you try it again it should turn out great.

  18. Anna
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I am very much looking forward to making this lovely dish for 6 people this weekend. How many people does your recipe serve so I know how much to multiply by? Thank you

    • maunika
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your enquiry. This recipe serves between 3-4 people. So its easily multiplied to feed 6. Enjoy!

  19. Christian Jørgensen
    Posted December 18, 2014 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. This is the first butter chicken recipe I have come across that uses tomato puré from a can instead freshly puréd tomatoes. Must make quite the difference in taste.

    I guess instead of watering it down, one could just thin the gravy with freshly puréd tomatoes? Or is there a specific reason you don’t use fresh tomatoes in the dish?

    • maunika
      Posted December 19, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your comments. Tomato puree thickens the gravy and also adds the required colour for butter chicken. If you get a really good colour from fresh tomatoes you can use them instead.

  20. Shweta
    Posted January 31, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi maunika.. I came across this recipe through Jamie’s food tube videos and now follow you on Instagram. I have always cooked butter chicken with fresh tomatoes where I fry them first then grind so that it retains the colour… For the first time I followed your method of using purée.. It turned out lovely, so thank you for sharing. I think I added a lot of cream so the colour faded away from the one in your pic.. But overall it’s something that I would def try again.

  21. kangna
    Posted March 20, 2015 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Hi Maunika!
    I came to know about you from instagram. Then I tried murg tikka and butter chicken. It was so simple and amazing-ly delicious. Thankyou for sharing your wonderful recipes and making cooking more exciting and easy.

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