Indian butter chicken (murgh makhani)

By Michael Argentini
Managing Partner, Technology and Design

This recipe is not only my favorite Indian preparation. It's also my favorite chicken recipe. And I think you'll want to lick your plate clean before getting a second helping. It's THAT good. This is a kid-friendly meal, provided you adjust the heat to their taste. My youngest has been eating it since she was 4.

The preparation involves two steps. First, you'll marinate and cook chicken in the Tandoori style (without the clay pot). Second, you'll prepare the sauce. It's recommended that you include basmati rice and naan (flatbread) to soak up the extra sauce. You can cook the rice following the package instructions, while also adding one cardamom seed pod and a sprinkling of cumin seed to the water.

You'll notice the use of maple syrup and probably wonder why. Well, this recipe normally requires fenugreek leaves, which can be hard to find. The use of curry powder already provides some fenugreek, but the maple syrup provides sotolone, which is the primary fragrant compound found in fenugreek leaves. This substitution provides a little extra sweetness and is a dead-on replacement for fenugreek leaves.

This recipe serves 6.

Marinate the chicken

Place the chicken in a nonporous glass dish or bowl with lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder and salt. Toss to coat; cover the dish and refrigerate to marinate for 1 hour.

Drain the yogurt in a cloth for 15 to 20 minutes. Place in a medium bowl; mix in salt, garlic paste, garam masala, butter, chili powder, ginger paste, lemon juice and oil.

Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken, replace cover and refrigerate to marinate for another 3 to 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Cook the chicken

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Place the chicken on skewers. Place the skewers in baking dishes and bake for 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through. The goal is to keep the chicken off the surface of the dish by balancing the skewers on the edges of the dish.

You can also grill the skewers, preferably with a smoke box, to add even more flavor.

Tandoori Chicken Ingredients (First marinade)

  • Package of thin, 12-inch bamboo skewers
  • 3½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Tandoori Chicken Ingredients (Second marinade)
  • 2 cups yogurt, strained
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • ¼ cup ginger paste
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Make the sauce

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garam masala. When the masala begins to crackle, mix in the ginger paste, chopped garlic, and green chile peppers. Saute until tender, then stir in the tomato puree, chili powder, salt, and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring in honey, maple syrup, and curry powder. Simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Stir in the fresh cream. Add the chicken to the sauce mixture. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

Sauce Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green chile pepper
  • 29 ounces (1 large can) tomato puree
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 4 cups water
  • 15 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or 2 tablespoons fenugreek
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Fresh cilantro as garnish (or freeze dried)

The traditional way to serve the meal is to give each person their own separate dishes of rice and makhani. The naan flatbread should be in a single basket for everyone to share. But you can also top a portion of rice with makhani on a single dish. Either way, top with fresh (or freeze dried) cilantro.

Article last updated on 4/21/2018