A seriously delicious, rich, velvety, spicy curry that anyone can do

PREP TIME: 30 mins (plus 4 hrs marinating)
DIFFICULTY: easy but you have to make things in stages
IDEAL FOR: family meal, Friday night ‘fakeaway’, crowd pleaser

Murgh Makhani is Hindi. It means “with butter”.

Otherwise known as Butter Chicken.

Whatever name you know it by, it’s delicious.

And unlike Chicken Tikka Masala, it’s an original Indian dish.

Not a made-up English version of an Indian dish (which are still very nice).

Food history

As I’ve been starting to understand with my food research, a lot of food history can be, shall we say, a bit murky.

Depending on who wants credit for the invention of a recipe, who sees it as part of their cultural fabric or if indeed it (allegedly) pays homage to a historical figure, see Beef Wellington.

The background of many recipes, how spices came to be, etc, can be shaped by many elaborate tales and colourful adventuring cooks.

However, I think when it comes to the story, Murgh Makhani, it seems there is a consensus to it’s food history.

Where does it originate?

Murgh Makhani originates from a legendary restaurant in Dehli, called Moti Mahal.

The owner and chef Kundan Lal Gujral created it in 1948.

Kundan Lal Gujral worked as a chef in a Peshawar (now Pakistan) where he created tandoori chicken.

Gujral then had to flee Pakistan during partition.

He ended up in Delhi and started his own restaurant, Moti Mahal.

During that time, he wanted a way to ensure his popular tandoori chicken dish didn’t dry out once cooked.

Enter, butter chicken.

Gujral decided to slowly stew the tandoori chicken in a tangy sauce of tomatoes and spices… and butter.

His restaurant and dish was a great success!

And thankfully it spread around the world for us to all enjoy.

Murgh Makhani aka Butter Chicken

What’s in a Murgh Makhani?

Unlike (in my opinion) a lot of other curries, this is a simple dish.

It’s succulent chicken pieces, sit in a velvety sauce of tangy tomatoes, aromatic spices, cream and butter.

It’s not too sweet and not too spicy.

And now a firm favourite in our household.

Don’t be put off if you think the list of ingredients is long – it’s really very straightforward.

In a nutshell, you marinade the boneless chicken for 4 hours in yogurt blended with spices.

Then you make the makhani sauce with fresh tomatoes and spices etc.

Grill the chicken or cook in the oven.

And lastly, on a hob on a low heat, add the sauce in with the cooked chicken (or vice versus).

With the final flourish of stirring in the cream, butter and some cashews.


Serve with naan bread or rice.

What’s your favourite curry? Leave a comment.

Murgh Makhani aka Butter Chicken curry

A rich, velvety, tangy tomato, spicy chicken curry
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword family meals, simple
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Cost ££


Murgh makhani aka butter chicken marinade

  • 8 boneless chicken thighs (remove the skin) (you can also use chicken breast)
  • 1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste (Tip: I bought these separately and did 50/50 to make up the tbsp. You could also sub in fresh)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (Tip: you can mix 50/50 cayenne and paprika or just paprika if you can't find Kasmiri chilli powder)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Makhani Sauce

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 green chillies
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 10 tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp clear runny honey
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp cashew nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Kasoori methi, (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • 60 ml single cream
  • salt

Before serving

  • 4 knobs of butter


Marinade the chicken

  • Mix the chicken with the ginger and garlic paste and salt.
    Then whisk together the yoghurt, chilli powder, garam masala and oil.
    Now, massage this into the chicken and marinade for a minimum of 4 hours in the fridge

The sauce

  • Pierce the green chillies a few times with a sharp knife.
    Heat the oil in a saucepan add the green chillies, the whole spices, bay leaves and ginger and sauté for a couple of minutes.
    Then add the tomatoes and simmer over a medium heat for 20 minutes (or until the tomatoes are cooked to a pulp).
  • Once the tomatoes etc are cooked e, pass them a strainer or sieve and put this smooth sauce aside.
    Whatever is still left in the sieve (after removing and discarding the whole spices and green chillies), purée in a blender, with a little water if required.
    Pass again through a sieve and add to the tomato sauce.
    Place the sauce back on the heat, bring to the boil and add the chilli powder, honey, tomato paste and butter.
    Season with salt and simmer for a further 20 minutes

The final cook and serving

  • Grill the marinated chicken under a hot grill, BBQ or oven until cooked.
    Add the cooked chicken to a saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the cashews and pour in the makhani sauce.
    Sprinkle with the Kasoori methi, add the cream, a few more knobs of butter, stir and simmer for a few minutes.
    Serve with naan or rice.