Authentic Butter Chicken Recipe: A Culinary Delight from India

Butter chicken, known as “Murgh Makhani” in Hindi, is one of India’s most popular and internationally acclaimed dishes. This rich, creamy, and flavorful chicken curry has won hearts across the globe with its perfect blend of spices and its luscious, buttery sauce. This article will guide you through the authentic butter chicken recipe, ensuring that you can recreate this iconic dish in your kitchen with ease and precision.

The Origin of Butter Chicken

Butter chicken originated in the kitchens of the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi during the 1950s. The dish was created by mixing leftover tandoori chicken in a rich tomato-based sauce, replete with butter and cream. This innovative method not only made use of the leftovers but also resulted in a new, delectable dish that quickly gained popularity.

The Essence of Authentic Butter Chicken

The key to making authentic butter chicken recipe lies in understanding the balance of flavors and the cooking techniques that give this dish its signature taste and texture. The following sections will cover the ingredients, preparation, cooking steps, and some tips to ensure your butter chicken is as authentic as possible.

Ingredients: The Building Blocks of Flavor

Butter chicken is a symphony of spices, dairy, and aromatic ingredients. Here’s a detailed list of what you’ll need:

For the Marinade:

Chicken: 1 kg (approximately 2.2 lbs) of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Yogurt: 1 cup of thick, full-fat yogurt.

Ginger-Garlic Paste: 2 tablespoons of freshly made ginger-garlic paste.

Lemon Juice: 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.

Spices: 1 teaspoon each of turmeric powder, red chili powder, and garam masala.

Salt: To taste.

For the Sauce:

Butter: 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter.

Onions: 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped.

Tomatoes: 4 large tomatoes, pureed.

Ginger-Garlic Paste: 2 tablespoons.

Green Chilies: 2-3, finely chopped (optional, adjust according to spice preference).

Spices: 1 teaspoon each of cumin powder, coriander powder, and garam masala.

Kasuri Methi (Dried Fenugreek Leaves): 1 tablespoon, crushed.

Heavy Cream: 1 cup.

Honey or Sugar: 1 tablespoon (optional, to balance acidity).

Salt: To taste.

For Garnish:

Fresh Coriander Leaves: A handful, finely chopped.

Additional Butter or Cream: For drizzling on top.

Preparation: The Key Steps

Marinating the Chicken

Mixing the Marinade: In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, turmeric powder, red chili powder, garam masala, and salt. Mix well to form a smooth marinade.

Marinating the Chicken: Add the chicken pieces to the marinade, ensuring they are well-coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. This allows the flavors to penetrate the chicken and makes it tender.

Preparing the Sauce

Sautéing the Onions: In a large pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onions and sauté until they turn golden brown.

Adding Ginger-Garlic Paste: Add the ginger-garlic paste to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until the raw smell disappears.

Tomato Puree: Add the tomato puree to the pan and cook until the mixture thickens and the oil starts to separate from the masala (spice mixture).

Spices: Add cumin powder, coriander powder, and garam masala. Stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes to ensure the spices are well incorporated.

Green Chilies: If using, add the finely chopped green chilies and mix well.

Cooking the Chicken

Grilling or Searing the Chicken: Traditionally, the marinated chicken is cooked in a tandoor (clay oven), but you can also grill it or sear it in a pan. Preheat your grill or pan to medium-high heat. Cook the chicken pieces until they are about 70% done, with a nice char on the outside. This step adds a smoky flavor to the dish.

Adding Chicken to the Sauce: Add the partially cooked chicken to the tomato-based sauce. Stir well to combine.

Finishing the Dish

Simmering: Reduce the heat to low and let the chicken simmer in the sauce for about 20 minutes, or until fully cooked and tender.

Kasuri Methi: Crush the dried fenugreek leaves between your palms and add them to the sauce. This adds a distinctive flavor that is essential to authentic butter chicken.

Cream: Stir in the heavy cream and cook for another 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and add honey or sugar if you prefer a slightly sweeter taste.

Final Touch: Add a small knob of butter on top for extra richness.

Serving Authentic Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is best enjoyed with Indian breads like naan, roti, or paratha, and it pairs wonderfully with steamed basmati rice. Garnish the dish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and a drizzle of cream or melted butter before serving.

Tips for Perfect Butter Chicken

Quality Ingredients: Use fresh and high-quality ingredients, especially the chicken, spices, and dairy products.

Balanced Spices: Adjust the level of spices according to your taste, but don’t omit key ingredients like garam masala and kasuri methi, which are crucial for the authentic flavor.

Marination: Don’t rush the marination process. Allowing the chicken to marinate overnight enhances the flavor and tenderness.

Cooking Method: Grilling the chicken before adding it to the sauce adds a smoky flavor that is characteristic of traditional butter chicken.

Simmering: Let the chicken simmer in the sauce on low heat to allow the flavors to meld beautifully.


Butter chicken, while rich and indulgent, also provides a variety of nutrients:

Protein: Chicken is a great source of high-quality protein, essential for muscle growth and repair.

Vitamins and Minerals: The dish contains vitamins like B6 and B12, and minerals such as iron and zinc from the chicken.

Healthy Fats: While butter and cream contribute to the dish’s richness, they also provide essential fatty acids.


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