This authentic Indian Butter Chicken Recipe (Murgh Makhani) is filled with tender pieces of spiced chicken in a richly spiced tomato and cream based sauce. This traditional Indian dish is served with basmati rice and naan bread.
Lately my husband and I have been hooked on this local Indian restaurant and every time I go I always order the butter chicken. As you can imagine, it can get pretty expensive going out to eat often, so making this dish at home was my goal.
I’m happy to report that I nailed this dish! The chicken is perfectly seasoned and the sauce is thick and creamy and out of this world. It’s the perfect blend of flavors and now I can make it at home to my heart’s content.
What is Butter Chicken?
Butter Chicken, also referred to as Murgh Makhani, is a traditional Indian dish originating from Northern India in 1948. This recipe consists of seasoned chicken that is cooked in a smooth and silky curry sauce that’s enhanced with butter and heavy cream.
Ingredients For Butter Chicken
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast – you could also use chicken thighs
- Plain Yogurt or Sour Cream
- Spices and Aromatics – Ginger, Garlic, Garam Marsala, Turmeric, Cumin, Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper
- Diced or Crushed Tomatoes
- Cashews – to thicken the sauce
- Heavy Cream
How To Make Butter Chicken:
In order to get ultra flavorful and tender chicken, it’s best to marinate your chicken for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours (if time allows) in a mixture of spices and plain yogurt. I use sour cream because that’s usually what I have on hand. It works perfectly!
- Combine the sour cream, garlic, ginger, garam marsala, turmeric, cumin, chili powder and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Stir in the bite sized pieces of chicken and cover, allowing to marinate.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan and cook chicken in batches, until browned on all sides.
How To Make Butter Chicken Sauce
Once you’ve cooked your chicken pieces in the pan, put them aside on a plate and keep warm. Now you’ll cook the sauce in the same pan, making sure to scrap any browned bits off the bottom for maximum flavor!
- Add butter the pan and toss in sliced onion. Cook until tender about 7 minutes.
- Toss in the garlic, ginger, cumin and garam marsala and cook until fragrant, then add in the tomatoes, chili powder, cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it), salt and cashews.
- Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until it’s a deep red color and very fragrant.
Why Cashews in Butter Chicken Sauce?
Cashews are a traditional way to add a slight nutty flavor while also thickening the sauce to that perfect consistency. We’re not adding any cornstarch or flour to our recipe, making it a truly authentic dish that’s thick and creamy.
The trick is to add the sauce ingredients (including the cashews) to your blender and processing until smooth. The mixture will be pretty thick at this point, which is just fine. We’ll be adding in more butter and heavy cream to bring it to the perfect silky consistency.
Once you’ve added your blended sauce back to the pan, stir in the heavy cream gradually until the mixture comes together and is silky smooth. Add the chicken back to the pan and cook until the chicken is cooked through.
What really takes this dish over the top is, well… more butter! Once you’ve simmered your chicken and sauce together, stir in a few tablespoons of butter to add a delicious richness to the sauce.
Recipe Tips and Variations
- The chicken can be prepped and marinated ahead of time, up to 24 hours.
- Use pork, lamb or even shrimp in place of the chicken for a nice variation.
- Adjust the spice level of this dish by adding more or less cayenne pepper. With ZERO cayenne pepper it’s very mild and kid friendly. Add up to 1 tsp of cayenne pepper for more heat.
- Do you need Garam Masala for this recipe? Yes, it’s a crucial ingredient that gives this dish that signature flavor. You can find this spice either in the spice aisle of your local grocery store, in the Asian foods aisle or on Amazon.
You’ll be blown away by the flavor, texture and taste of this authentic Butter Chicken Recipe. I’m thrilled to be able to make this over and over again at my house and skip going out to eat at the expensive Indian restaurant!
More Indian Recipes:
Authentic Butter Chicken Recipe
For the Chicken:
For the Butter Chicken Sauce:
- 6 tbsp butter, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 tsp ginger, minced
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 15oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, up to 1 tsp (optional according to spice preference)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cashews, unsalted
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp sugar
For the Chicken:
- Combine the chicken ingredients in a large bowl and stir until the chicken is coated completely. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinade for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight if time allows in refrigerator.
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sear chicken pieces in oil, until browned all each side, about 3 minutes. Chicken will not get cooked through here, but later on in the sauce. Don't overcrowd the pan, you will have to work in batches, adding more oil if necessary. Set chicken aside on a plate to keep warm.
For the Butter Chicken Sauce:
- To the same pan that was used to cook the chicken, add 3 tbsp of butter and let it melt over medium heat. Toss in the onions and let cook about 5 to 7 minutes, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add in the garlic, ginger, cumin and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the tomatoes, chili powder, cayenne (if using), salt and cashews. Bring mixture to a slight simmer for about 10 minutes, until mixture turns a deep red color.
- Scoop mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Pour mixture back into the skillet over low to medium heat and gradually stir in the heavy cream and sugar.
- Add the chicken (and any juices) back into the sauce and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Finally add in the remaining 3 tbsp of butter and let it melt into the sauce as you stir. Serve warm with basmati rice, warm naan bread and enjoy!