This butter chicken recipe is most definitely a triumph of flavors exploding in your mouth, all at the same time.
The delicious, juicy tandoori chicken is hugged by this tomato-based curry sauce that is enriched with cashews, cream, and, obviously, butter; what more can a person want?
What is butter chicken?
Indian Butter Chicken (I specify just in case there are other *less known to me* butter chicken recipes!) has two main components.
The first ingredient is the chicken, which needs to be marinated in Indian spices, such as Kashmiri red chili powder, yogurt (dahi = curd in Hindi) and ginger and garlic paste among others.
The second component is the sauce, which is mainly made up of tomatoes, whole masalas, such as cardamoms, cloves, and cinnamon, as well as other flavorings important in Indian cooking, such as ginger, garlic, and again *obviously* butter.
These two components come together to make what we know as murgh makhani.
Butter Chicken vs Chicken Tikka Masala
Butter chicken is a proud Indian dish, which originated in Delhi in the late 1940s, while Chicken Tikka Masala is a British dish; while these two may look very similar, their taste is not, and neither are their ingredients.
Butter chicken uses a tomato-based sauce, with very little onion, and is enriched by butter, while Tikka Masala’s gravy has a real tomato and onion taste; although butter chicken curry’s main ingredient (volume-wise) is tomato, the spices and the butter, as well as the discretionary cream, are the real stars of the dish, especially after the gravy is strained and made extremely smooth.
How does butter chicken taste like?
Butter chicken curry tastes like butter, in a sweet, very smooth gravy, while the chicken itself tastes like tandoori chicken.
Let’s talk nutrition!
There are three main ingredients in this recipe that are worth exploring, as they are extremely different from the other in taste, nutrition, and provenance; these are chicken, butter, and tomato.
- Chicken breast: skinless, boneless chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein, meaning it has very low amounts of fat.
As proteins assist build and maintain muscles, eating chicken breast is a great way to integrate this nutrient into one’s diet.
This cut of meat has no sugar nor starch, therefore no carbohydrates, making this food’s glycemic load (grams of carbohydrates per portion consumed) close to zero.
In addition to this, skinless chicken breast is also a great source of Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), Vitamin B-3 (niacin), selenium, and phosphorous.
Raw chicken is a great place for bacteria to grow, therefore it is essential it is handled properly both before cooking, during preparation, and while cooking.
- Butter: butter comes from the fat of the milk, which has been separated from the other milk components.
While for many years this food has been considered unhealthy because of its high levels of saturated fat, it is now considered to be the opposite, especially when consumed in moderation. Butter has about 100 calories per portion (with one portion being considered 14g) and it is made for about 80% fat and 20% water.
Of the fat in butter, about 11% of it is made of SCFA (short-chain fatty acids), the most common of which is called butyric acid, which studies have shown can reduce inflammation in the digestive system.
Butter is also rich in vitamins, but because the recommended portion is very small, because of its high calorie and fat content, it does not contribute much towards the daily amount; the vitamins found in butter are A, B-12, D, E, and K-2.
- Tomatoes: tomatoes are generally used as a vegetable, however, this food is a fruit that comes from South America.
Tomatoes are made up of about 95% water and 5% carbohydrates and fiber; the carbs in this fruit are predominantly simple sugars and insoluble fibers.
Tomatoes are rich in Vitamins, especially C (which is an essential nutrient and an antioxidant), K-1 (also known as phylloquinone, it is important for blood clotting and bone health), B-9 (known as folate, which is essential for tissue growth and cell function; it is often given to pregnant women as a supplement), as well as potassium, which is a mineral that assists with blood pressure control and may help prevent heart disease.
How to make butter chicken sauce?
It is much easier done than said in this instance; a tomato and whole spice base are cooked with some water, then passed through a strainer for a very smooth consistency. In a pan, butter, ginger, and green chilies are lightly cooked, before the creamy gravy is added to it; the whole is finished off with some dry fenugreek leaves, cream, and a pinch of sugar, for its famous slightly sweet taste.
Can I make instant pot butter chicken?
Way too many recipes are made in an instant pot, which is a game-changer for slow-cooked sauces and soups, but I strongly believe butter chicken should be cooked on a regular stove as the tandoori chicken in this dish needs that grilled taste that no instant pot can offer.
How to make butter chicken?
Like I said before, this butter chicken recipe has two main ingredients, which can be prepared simultaneously or not. The chicken has two separate marinades and is then grilled, while the sauce is prepared in two stages, as described above; the two components are then mixed and served with a discretionary dollop of butter or cream (or both) and a sprinkle of fresh coriander.
Preparing the Chicken Tikka
Butter Chicken Curry Sauce
Combining the elements for Butter Chicken
Can I freeze butter chicken?
Yes, this curry can be frozen; you must allow it to fully cool down before storing it in the freezer.
Can I skip the cashew nuts in the curry?
The cashew nuts in this curry offer richness and increase its consistency, however, if you do not like/have or are allergic to cashews you can skip this ingredient. Should you not be allergic to and prefer almonds, you can use these instead; although not traditional for this recipe, the consistency and richness will certainly be felt.
Can I skip the cream?
Yes, the cream can be skipped for this recipe, however, the quantity required is very little when breaking down into four portions, therefore if calories are a concern, perhaps reduce it rather than eliminate it, as it is worth it!
Can I use other cuts of chicken instead of the breast?
I used chicken as I find it easier to grill and it is lower in calories, giving me some extra allowance to make a really rich butter chicken sauce. Should you prefer, chicken thighs are a great choice as they have higher fat content and dry less while grilling; bear in mind that higher fat equals more calories per portion.
What can I serve this curry with?
This curry can be served with anything and in my case, I like it with simple white pulao rice. It is extremely nice to have alongside freshly prepared chapatis or parathas as well as butter naan bread.
You will love this recipe as it tastes authentic, it is easy and quick to prepare and it has chicken tikka in it… I won’t add anything more as this ingredient alone is top-notch!
The recipe is divided into easy-to-follow steps, so a great result is achieved with minimum effort… restaurant-style murgh makhana in no time!
~~ Want to try chicken tikka in other ways? Chicken Tikka Baguettes Sandwiches
~~ Have you ever thought of making your own Shish Kebabs? You need to try this kabob recipe !
Butter Chicken Recipe (Murgh Makhani) | How to make Butter Chicken
- 300 g Chicken Breast Skinless and Boneless, Cut in Flat Strips
- 2 Tbsp Butter Unsalted
- ½ Tsp Fresh Ginger Chopped
- 3 Green Chilies Fresh, Slit on the Side
- Salt to Taste
- 1 tbsp Fenugreek Leaves Dry
- ½ tsp Sugar White
- 2 Tbsp Cream Full Fat, Unsweetened
- 10 g Fresh Coriander Chopped
- 20 Sprays of Cooking Spray
For the first marination of the chicken
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste or half teaspoon of garlic paste and half teaspoon ginger paste
For the second marination of the chicken
- 1 tsp Sunflower Oil
- 1 ½ tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
- 50 g Full Fat Natural Yogurt
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
For the curry base
- 250 ml Water
- 220 g Tomatoes Fresh, Chopped
- 50 g Onions Chopped
- 1 Bay Leaf
- ½ inch Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Black Cardamom
- 3 Cloves
- 3 Green Cardamoms
- 3 Garlic Cloves Chopped
- ½ inch Fresh Ginger Chopped
- 1 tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
- 1 ½ Tbsp Butter Unsalted
- 15 Cashew Nuts
- Chop the chicken breasts in flat strips (picture in the article above for reference) and put in a bowl with the ingredients of the first marinade; mix everything well together and set aside, allowing to marinate for 30 minutes.
- After thirty minutes, add the ingredients of the second marinade to the chicken and mix well, until the color of the marinade is uniform. Set the chicken aside and allow to rest for at least thirty minutes.
After thirty minutes that the chicken has been sitting with the second marination, one can commence to put together the curry:
- In a pan, put all the ingredients of the curry base, mix well, put a lid on the pan and allow to simmer on low to medium heat for about twenty minutes, until all the ingredients, especially the tomatoes and onions are mushy.
- Once all the ingredients are mushy, put the curry sauce in a blender and reduce it to a fine paste.
- Pass the blended curry through a fine grain sieve, straining all the pieces that have not blended. This will create a very smooth curry cream, which can be kept on the side in a bowl.
- Using the same pan, add two tablespoons of butter and allow to melt on low flame; once the butter has melted, add ½ teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger and 3 slit chilies. Sautee these together until the rawness of the spices has gone.
- At this stage, add the blended curry sauce to the pan and mix well and add a little bit of water (100-200ml – I added it to clean the blender). Leave on low flame with a lid to simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the curry sauce simmers away, grill the chicken on a griddle, using the cooking spray to help yourself; should it be preferred the chicken can also be cooked in the oven instead. Allow the chicken to cook halfway before turning; this will allow for nice grilling lines on it and the darker pieces will try to mimic the flavor that a tandoor oven offers.
- Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly, set aside on a plate.
This is the final stage in this curry preparation:
- Return to the curry sauce and adjust the salt level and add half a teaspoon of white sugar.
- Put the dry fenugreek leaves on a paper towel and warm up in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds, then remove and crush between the palms of your hands and into the curry. Putting the leaves in the microwave will allow the leave to release their smell as well as making them easier to crush.
- Mix well the curry sauce and add the chicken; mix the chicken in the curry sauce allowing it to be fully coated and cook on low flame for 4-5 minutes.
- Garnish the curry with two tablespoons of full-fat unsweetened cream and freshly chopped coriander. Serve and enjoy!