Part of Indo-pakistani cuisine, butter chicken or murgh makhani has gained worldwide popularity and features on the menu of every famous restaurant. Typically served with naanfarata or plain steamed rice, this delicious main dish is considered by many as the ultimate eat-out fare but I have tried to recreate the unique blend of spices, the creamy texture and the brilliant vermillion colour of the rich sauce in this homemade version.

The  famous dish is widely attributed to have its origins from the Northern state of Punjab but its humble beginnings are thought to have started in a Delhi restaurant by Chef Simon Mahli Chahal.  He improvised with some tandoori chicken, butter, tomato and a mixture of spices and as luck would have it, he came up with the original butter chicken and gave us the basis on which has been built a recipe that we all enjoy today.

Of all the spices, it is the dried fenugreek leaves or methi that makes the greatest contribution to the characteristic flavour. The yogurt added to the marinade helps to counter the overall hotness of this spicy dish. And yes, it is called butter chicken for a reason so I would request you not to go skimpy on the cream which I believe is solely responsible for elevating it from our ‘daily chicken curry’ to the dish for special occasions – the magestic murg makhani.



For the Marinade

2 lbs chicken, cut into chunks

1 cup curd or yogurt

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tbs crushed garlic

1 tbs crushed ginger

2 tbs vegetable oil

1 tsp table salt

1 tbs lime or lemon juice

For the Sauce

2 tbs butter or ghee

3 whole cloves

3 cardamom pods

1 inch cinnamon stick

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp chilli powder

1 large red onion, chopped

1 green chilli, chopped

1 tbs lime or lemon juice

2 cups tomato puree

1 cup fresh cream

2 tbs pure honey

1 tsp table salt


  • Combine garam masala, chilli powder, salt, ginger, garlic, oil, lime juice and curd/yogurt in a large bowl.

  • Marinate chicken pieces with this mixture until well coated and set aside for 4-5 hours in the refrigerator.

  • Preheat oven to 350 oF. Wrap marinated chicken pieces in aluminium foil and bake for 10-15 minutes.

  • Roast the fenugreek/methi seeds in a pan. Cool and then crush into a fine powder. Set aside.

  • In a big saucepan or kadai, melt butter and add whole cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick.

  • Next add onion and green chilli and stir fry until golden. Now add ginger and garlic and saute for a couple minutes.

  • Pour in the tomato puree along with salt, chilli powder and lime juice. Cook till butter starts to appear on the edges.

  • To this mixture add the pieces of baked chicken after removing them from the aluminium foil wrap.

  • Cook for 2-3 minutes until gravy thickens to the desired consistency, add upto 1/2 cup of water if it gets too thick.

  • Let it come together and blend well with the chicken. Add fresh cream, crushed fenugreek seeds and honey last.

  • Stir well so that everything is homogenously distributed and the mixture turns reddish orange in colour.

  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and mint leaves. Serve hot with cheese naan or farata. Makes 6-8 servings.

Butter Chicken & Faratas