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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

I am over the moon for today’s recipe murgh makhani, more commonly known as butter chicken. Our favorite Indian restaurant in Palo Alto, Darbar Indian Cuisine, has the BEST butter chicken. I can’t get enough of it. I’ve been trying to find a recipe so that I can make it at home, but all recipes have come up far too short. So, I did a lot of research, compared about 6 different recipes and have created my own. And I am here to tell you (in all humility, of course!), I nailed it. My version isn’t identical to Darbar’s, but it is darn close and they are equally as good. Success! (To add to the elation, both girls inhaled their dinner! This is a not-too-hot Indian dish, nice for kids. Increase the heat with more chilis and cayenne if you so desire!)

indian butter chicken 1 web

The key to this dish is using tandoori chicken. Almost all of the recipes I found were skillet recipes that simply add plain chicken breasts to the sauce. Using tandoori chicken makes ALL the difference. A delectable, mouthwatering difference. Not only is there more depth to the flavor, but the meat is oh so tender. Using tandoori chicken requires planning ahead, but it’s worth it.

Without further ado, I give you murgh makhani!

Note: This recipe does not have fenugreek because I did not have it on hand. Fenugreek is often used in butter chicken, along with all the other spices listed below. Feel free to add that in as well!

Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
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Mouthwatering with tons of flavor! Adapted from six different recipes!
Recipe type: Main Dish, Poultry
Cuisine: Indian
  • 4 cooked tandoori chicken breasts cut into chunks (see recipe below for how to cook the tandoori chicken - don't forget it needs to marinate overnight before cooking!)
  • ⅓ sweet onion, chopped
  • ~1 inch of ginger root, peeled and julienned
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 green chili (membranes and seeds removed), chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter (divided – 2 T and 4 T)
  • 6 medium tomatoes, cut into large pieces
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • 2 shakes cinnamon
  • 3 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken or veggie broth
  • ½ cup cream
  1. When prepping the ingredients for the sauce, you only need to roughly chop the ingredients - they will all get blended together eventually.
  2. Sautee onion, ginger, garlic and green chili in 2 tablespoons of butter until onions are translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes and let simmer for ~5 minutes. Add garam masala, chili powder, salt, cumin, cardamom, coriander, and cinnamon. Simmer another 5-10 minutes or so.
  4. Add tomato paste and broth, stir.
  5. Blend everything in a blender until smooth then return to pan. Add tandoori chicken, cream and last 4 tablespoons of butter.
  6. Serve with basmati rice and naan bread. Yum!

butter chicken sautee web

butter chicken final steps web

indian butter chicken 2 web

Homemade Baked Tandoori Chicken
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  • ¾ C plain yogurt (for a great non-dairy option, use cashew yogurt)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (I use my garlic press)
  • ~1 inch ginger root, peeled and crushed (it was hard to crush, I squeezed the juice out with my garlic press and threw in some of the mangled pieces of the root)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (this is the amount you’ll need for the butter chicken recipe above – you can make this recipe with bone-in, skinless, dark & white meat chicken cut into pieces – my personal preference are boneless, skinless chicken breasts and they worked great)
  • 1-2 T canola oil
  1. The night before, mix all the ingredients above except the chicken and canola oil in a bowl.
  2. Stab the chicken breasts all over with a fork then make some gashes with a shapr knife. Marinate the mutilated chicken in the yogurt mixture overnight, covered, until you are ready to cook it the next day.
  3. To cook the chicken, pat off some of the marinade, brush with oil and place in an oven-safe dish or pan (I used my 9X13 metal pan).
  4. Roast in a 450º F oven for about 20 minutes, or until juices run clear and internal temperature of chicken reaches 160º F.
  5. If using for butter chicken, let cool a bit then cut into chunks.


tandoori chicken prep web

tandoori chicken baking web



  1. 1

    This is so interesting… beautiful pics!

  2. 2

    Wow, this looks insanely good!! I am definitely going to try this. We are huge fans of Indian food and if we can get my son on board with this dish, then we have a winner! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh, oh, oh! I LOVE Indian food and would love to make it myself. Thanks for the fabulous recipe.

  4. 4

    Mmmmmmmm! I LOVE Darbar! I’ll have to try this.

  5. 5

    It looks great Jane…sigh…but it’s baseball season which means it probably won’t happen in my near future.

  6. 6

    Holy Batman that looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  7. 7

    Oh Jane Jane Jane. I think I love you. I used to order a dish like this at my favorite Afghan Kebab House in New York City, back in the day. I can’t wait to try it!

  8. 8

    Love the way it looks on the plate! This is a type of food I’ve never tried before. I’ve always shied away from Indian cuisine because I dislike the spice Americans call curry so much. I am coming to realize that ‘curry’ in Indian cooking does not always = use of curry powder. So I may just have to broaden my horizons and try a few Indian dishes. Thanks for the idea.

  9. it’s interesting you should mention curry – my friend lived in India for several years and she was just talking about there isn’t curry spice in Indian food, despite what people commonly think. go for the plunge! the foods are still very spicy in that they have so many different spices and flavors, but I really like that…and it’s not curry! 🙂

  10. 10

    As an Indian, I thought I’d chime in too 🙂
    There is indeed no such thing as curry powder in India….Indians use a different combinations of spices to make different salan(or curries as they are commonly called). And Jane is right about murgh makahni tasting better with tandoori chicken. Try bbq’ed chicken in a pinch..that works too!

  11. phew, I’m SO relieved that I shared all the right info! Thanks, Nabeela! So happy you commented!

  12. 12

    Do you buy garam masala at the grocery store, or did you have to go to a specialty shop

  13. 13
    Jane Maynard

    I think it’s pretty widely available. I haven’t looked at my local Safeway (the run-of-the-mill grocery store) because we have a Penzey’s in town, which is where I purchased mine. If you can’t find it, there are “recipes” online to mix your own garam masala…but I have to say, I like the one that I bought much better than the one I mixed myself.

    You can buy Penzey’s spices online – here is the link for garam masala. I love Penzey’s spices.

  14. 14

    This looks so delicious. Was it horribly time consuming? I miss having Indian food, and this sounds so so good.

  15. 15
    Jane Maynard

    it was more time consuming than what I normally do, for sure…but it was worth it. 🙂 I’m the laziest cook around, so that’s saying something!

  16. Mmmm this looks very good. Congratulations in nailing butter chicken. The best one I have cooked so far is Deeba’s from Passionate About Baking. It is so good to nail complex dishes from foreign lands.

  17. 17

    this is so funny! We went out last night for Indian food, and my son’s favorite dish is Makhani and he actually asked me if we could make it at home. Now, I can tell him that is completely possible, thanks!

  18. 18
    Jane Maynard

    that is funny! 🙂 glad I figured this out, then! 😉

  19. Made this for dinner tonight. Was a huge hit with everyone. Thanks!

  20. 20

    I just made this with my own few substitutions and my pretend Tandoori chicken. My husband likes it hot, so I nearly doubled most spices for the chicken. It turned out INCREDIBLE! He won’t stop talking about it!

    Thanks for sharing!

  21. 21

    Gorgeous! I love your site, and can’t wait to make this. I have found a great way to deal with fresh ginger (can’t remember where I read it…). I peel it with a spoon and use my microplaner thingamabob to “grate” it very finely right into the pan. make sure to scrape the back of it off into the pan too. It catches all the juice and is finely grated easily and quickly.

  22. 22

    What kind of green chili do you use? Would a jalepeno or serrano pepper be an appropriate sub? Thanks for the recipe, I can’t wait to try it.

  23. 23

    New to your site, Jane. But I love it already! I made this chicken over the weekend and invited some friends over for dinner. They couldn’t stop raving. I made Alton Brown’s (food network) indian rice pudding (which was also delicious) and some trader joe’s naan. Splendid, splendid, meal! Two notes: 1-I used penderi’s (similar to penzey’s) tandoori spice mix, which made things easier 2-this recipe is spicy! I added extra cream, but wish I had used less chili powder instead. Still, the guys raved!! Just the gals thought it was a bit hot. Thank you Jane!!!!

  24. 24

    Oh yeah, when I said it was hot…I forgot to mention that I did substitute jalepeno for green chili pepper. So this intensified the heat, I’m sure! But, I couldn’t find green chili peppers…

  25. 25
    Jane Maynard

    I just noticed I never responded to Holly’s comment…so, let me take care of that first! here’s the chiles I used

    Ro – I’m so delighted that you found the site and that the recipe was such a success! This recipe is definitely one of my babies…I’m always happy when it turns out for people and they enjoy it! even with that spicy jalapeno in there! 😉

  26. 26
    Jane Maynard

    oh, and I may have to try Alton Brown’s indian rice pudding! I’m sure I can find it, but if you have the link, feel free to share! 🙂

  27. 27

    Made this last week for friends and it was amazing! I blogged a little about it too and gave you credit. Thanks for the great recipe!!

  28. 28

    Hi this looks like a delicious recipe and I am starting to marinate the chicken tonight. When i saw green chilli I immediately thought jalapeno however now i beleive that is incorrect. Would a jalapeno still work or which chilli is the correct one? The link in the comments has many chillis on the page.


    • Jane Maynard

      you’re right, that page does have a lot of chilis on it! sorry about that, I obviously didn’t scroll down at all when I linked to it. I’m 99.9999999% sure the green chili I used is the top one, Anaheim chile = California green chile = long green pepper = chile verde. when I go to the store they are just labeled as “green chili” – they are larger than a jalapeno, and not as spicy. I think the jalapeno is just going to make the dish much spicier, so if you like that, then you’re probably good to use it.

      hope that’s helpful! and if you do use the jalapeno, let us know how it goes!

  29. 29

    I made this in bulk with the chicken cut bite size for my sisters shower. This recipe hit it out of the park. Minor changes I made: I grilled the chicken, neglected the chicken broth, simmered it longer (more because I was working on other things) and used jalapeños. I wanted to bath in this sauce it was so good.

  30. 30
    Jane Maynard

    yea! I’m so glad you loved it so much!!

  31. 31

    I made this recipe with my boyfriend because its his favorite dish…It was awesome!!! Perfect balance of flavors. We ate it for dinner on Saturday AND breakfast on Sunday. Wow!

  32. 32

    I absolutely love Indian food. I have travelled to India a few times and always line up for the butter chicken when dining out. I have tried so many different buttered chickens but cant wait to actually make your recipe. Time to throw away the jar sauces and actually make the real thing. Cant wait

  33. LOVE this dish! It looks outstanding. Indian food makes a regular appearance on our table. Everything from Butter chicken to chicken tikka, to chana masala and more. You have a great mix of spices in your sauce.
    So happy to have stumbled upon your site!

  34. 34
    Ainon Mahmood

    This is superbly delicious. Thank you

  35. 35

    when you say chili powder do you mean American or indian chili powder

    • great questions, shar. I used amaerican chili powder. although, I think trying it with indian chili powder would be a GREAT thing to do!

  36. 36

    Hello I Just cane across this it looks awesome! Very exited to try it but I’m stopped up at the first part lol:tandoori chicken. Please share, is this something you buy somewhere pre-made or is there a link for the recipe to make tandoori chicken before I attempt butter chicken? Help! Thanks

    • just follow the recipe exactly and you’re good. the first set of ingredients are for the tandoori chicken (it’s not an actual bullet item, we just can’t remove the bullet), and the second set of ingredients are for the sauce. this recipe provides a “cheat” for the tandoori chicken. if you read through the directions, you’ll see how to make the “tandoori chicken”

      good luck it is DELICIOUS! 🙂

  37. 37

    Oohhhh! I’ve been to this restaurant. . If the recipe is even close to the original it will be fabulous! Thanks for sharing!

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