I have really high standards when it comes to my favourites. And Butter Chicken tops the list. So it annoys me when butter chicken is too sweet or too oily or just doesn’t have a punch of flavour that makes you want to dive into the sauce.
For a lot of people, making butter chicken at home might translate into long hours spent in the kitchen. That’s not true at all. This recipe takes a little under an hour from start to finish, and we are not using a ton of butter or cream to give it that luxurious, creamy taste either. How? I’m going to show you.
best cut of meat + marination
I recommend using either skinless bone-in chicken or boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. The chicken is first marinated, then pan fried and then cooked in the gravy to get maximum flavour. And boneless chicken breasts will not retain their juiciness through this process. I love using boneless, skinless chicken thighs because you can cut the meat into bite sized pieces and they stay juicy right to the end. A quick yogurt marination for this butter chicken ensures that the flavour seeps in, and adds to the juiciness. You don’t need a long marination here, just 15-20 minutes is enough.
Here’s a pro tip: If you’d like, use cooked chicken tikka or tandoori chicken and skip the whole process of marinating and pan frying the chicken. I do this when I have leftover tandoori chicken from the previous night.
creaminess in the butter chicken sauce or gravy
You don’t need a lot of butter or cream for butter chicken. I use a total of 1 tablespoon butter and 3-4 tablespoons cream in the entire recipe. I love adding cashews in the sauce instead which add flavour and creaminess without all that extra fat that can sometimes get too much and make you feel bloaty. The cashew cooks with the tomatoes and softens which makes them really easy to blend later.
Tip: If you don’t have cashews, feel free to substitute with blanched almonds (almonds soaked in water and skin taken off). Cashews and almonds naturally add creaminess to the gravy.
naturally orange gravy
I have to forewarn you about this. If you’ve always had reddish butter chicken gravy, it’s because of food colour. The butter chicken gravy is naturally orange-ish because of the tomatoes and the spices.
the essential ingredient
Most times, I’ll give you substitutes for ingredients that might not always be in your pantry, but an essential ingredient in butter chicken is kasurimethi or dried fenugreek leaves. Butter chicken has a beautiful finish and that’s because of kasurimethi. It adds a mild smokiness and just rounds of the flavours. Its easily available at Indian grocery stores or you can find it on Amazon. Try not to skip this. A little goes a long way and if stored in an airtight container, it retains freshness and flavour for a while. And is added to so many Indian dishes. So if you make Indian food on the regular, get yourself a stash!
smoking butter chicken
Authentic murgh makhani will always have a smoky undertone, which traditionally comes from cooking the chicken in a tandoor or clay oven. But since we are trying to recreate that flavour in our kitchen, we’ll smoke the dish right at the end with a piece of charcoal or lump coal. The process is outlined in the recipe below.
how to make butter chicken (step by step)
This recipe makes lots of sauce or gravy, so you can always reserve some for later. Use the same makhani gravy to add tofu, paneer, cauliflower etc. That gravy is sooo good!