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Butter chicken done right can be an incredible curry. Rich. Creamy. Well-spiced. Just really tasty. Big, big tastes.

Done poorly, it tastes like a can of Campbells cream of tomato soup with a little garam masala. Like curried tomato soup with chicken. Who wants that?

 

Restaurant butter chicken in bowl from above.

Butter chicken does not have to be bland

I don’t know why people think condensed soup and garam masala is Indian. Or butter chicken. Or even worth eating. I just don’t get it. And yet there are lots of recipes out there that claim butter chicken is just that.

If that’s your thing it’s easy. Literally. Can of tomato soup. A teaspoon of garam masala. A little extra sugar. Some boneless, skinless chicken. And a whack of cream and butter. Cook it up all together. Add the cream and butter at the end. Done.

This butter chicken is loaded with big flavours and spice.

I’m not saying that’s wrong. Not judging. But I am thinking it. Be sure of that. If you want to make curry for 6 year olds, that’s how you do it.

Unless the 6 year old is Indian. Then they want something tasty. And soup with garam masala doesn’t cut it. Trust me. I was 6 once…

 

Restaurant butter chicken in a copper bowl with spoon.

 

Murgh makhani is why this recipe works

It’s when you start looking for murgh makhani that you start to see what it’s really about. Murgh makhani is the Indian name for butter chicken.

And it’s good. Really good. Goodbye canned soup. Hello flavour. Hello murgh makhani.

This murgh makhani is done restaurant style. Like they do in restaurants. Not like people say tastes like something close. And then tells you to open a can of soup. Or add a ton of pureed tomatoes. Or a gallon of cream.

 

Butter chicken with rice.

 

Restaurant style with extra flavour

This is restaurant technique. Real restaurant technique. And the results are as good or better than you can get in a restaurant.

I’m not even that fussed on this dish in a lot of Indian restaurants. It’s kind of close to the soup version. This is butter chicken like it should be served. Comes with flavour. Comes with heat. Murgh makhani really. For when flavour matters.

I know I rant a lot about how boring Indian restaurants have become. How they all serve the same 20 dishes. No variety. No representation of what a billion people call dinner.

This is a different rant. I know they have butter chicken on the menu. Let’s make them make good butter chicken. Next time you are out at an Indian restaurant demand better. Say you want murgh makhani like they make in India.

 

Restaurant butter chicken in a bowl from above - close up.

 

Restaurant butter chicken in a bowl with rice and paratha
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4.65 from 17 votes

butter chicken

Butter chicken or murgh makhani doesn't have to be bland. Done like they do in restaurants, this butter chicken is loaded with flavour.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword butter chicken
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 536kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen

Ingredients

Tandoori seasoned chicken

  • 10 oz boneless, skinless chicken - thighs or breasts. 3 thighs or one large breast
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp tandoori masala - available in Indian grocery stores

Spice mix

  • 1 1/2 tsp indian restaurant spice mix - recipe link below
  • 3/4 tsp tandoori masala
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder - or more to taste
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi - dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt or 1/3 tsp table salt

Butter chicken

  • 2 tbsp onion finely diced
  • 1 green chili cut into strips plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp garlic ginger paste - recipe link in notes
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste diluted with 3 tbsp water
  • 15 oz curry base - recipe link in notes
  • 1 tbsp almond flour
  • 2 tsp sugar - jaggery is a nice touch if you can get it
  • 2-3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp butter (optional)

Instructions

Do your prep.

  • Make the spice mix.
  • Dilute the tomato paste with enough water to get to the consistency of passata.
  • Have everything ready to go. Onions chopped. Chilies cut. Garlic ginger paste standing by. Curry base pre-heated.  Ingredients at hand. Be ready. It's going to go fast from here.

Cook the tandoori seasoned chicken

  • Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces
  • Heat your frying pan (don't use non-stick) briefly over medium low heat. Add the oil and then 1 tsp tandoori masala.
  • Add the chicken and fry until it's all evenly coloured and partially cooked. This takes about 5 minutes. Don't worry. It will finish cooking in the curry.
  • Remove the chicken and set aside. Return the pan with the now seasoned oil to the stove over medium low heat.

Make the butter chicken

  • Add the onion and cook until well softened. 
  • Turn the heat to medium. Add the garlic ginger paste and the green chili and cook, stirring constantly, until it stops sputtering.
  • Turn down the heat and add the spice mix. This is the critical step. Stir it constantly for 30 seconds. If it starts to darken lift the pan off the heat. You want the spice mix to cook in the oil but not burn.
  • Turn the heat up to medium high. This is important. The heat is what caramelizes the onion in the curry base and gives the curry it's Indian restaurant flavour. As you become more comfortable with this technique try pushing it. Add the diluted tomato paste and stir until bubbles form (the oil will likely separate). This takes around 30 seconds to one minute depending on the heat.
  • Add 3 oz of curry base. Stir until bubbles form (little craters really), around 30 seconds. Think lively boil. Watch the edges of the pan. The curry can stick here. Sticking is OK. Just scrape it back into the base. Burning is bad.
  • Now add 6 oz of curry base and stir briefly. Let it cook until the bubbles form again. This takes 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the curry base and let cook until the bubbles form.
  • Turn the heat down to low. Add the chicken, almond flour and sugar. Stir and simmer until the chicken is just done. This takes about another 5-6 minutes depending on how much you pre-cooked the chicken. Sneak a peek if you need to. Cut into a piece to see if it's done.
  • Let the curry simmer for about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick add a bit more curry base. Don't add water.
  • Remove from heat. Add the cream and butter if using. 
  • Garnish with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and green chili if you like. Serve.

Notes

The recipe for curry base is here.
The recipe for indian restaurant spice mix is here.
The recipe for garlic ginger paste is here.
If you haven't read about Indian restaurant technique yet, do that before you start cooking. It's a good read. Worthwhile.
Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go. If you are making multiple curries, have your curry base warming in a pot on the stove. If you are just making one, microwave it to warm it up right before you start cooking.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 2servings | Calories: 536kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 1211mg | Potassium: 799mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1000IU | Vitamin C: 7.8mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 2.1mg

46 thoughts on “butter chicken – indian restaurant style

  1. Looks fantastic, I’ll have to try. Thank you. The curry base is not included in the ingredients list. Looks like there is a total of 9 oz. of curry base needed here?

  2. Made this the other night for dinner along with all the auxiliary condiments this calls for and it was fantastic.. Now that I have bags of curry base in the freezer, I’ll have to try some of your other recipes that call for it.. Here in the US, what type of green chili do you recommend to use? Thanks for this lesson.

    • That’s awesome. For green chilies I get (in Canada) green finger hot chilies. They are available at pretty much any Indian grocer. You could substitute jalapeño for any dish that calls for green chilies. They are quite a bit thicker walled though so maybe smaller pieces?

  3. I was looking for a good butter chicken recipe that I could trust and I ended up here. Your recipe looks like a little more work than most of the ones I have seen which is what I like. The recipe is nicely detailed and proves you know what you are talking about. Thank you for sharing and love your blog!

    • Thanks Andrew! It is work to make the curry base and learn the techniques but it does open up a whole world of restaurant style Indian cooking.

    • That’s great to hear. Thank you for saying.

      I find ghee blunts the flavour of the curries more than I would like. Adds a nice richness sometimes though. It’s really a tradeoff. I guess I fall on the side of oil.

  4. I have not bought Butter Chicken since I found this recipe! It is SO GOOD and it’s a perfect weekday meal as it is quick and easy to put together after a long day at work. I followed all the instructions and have everything premade so it’s a simple cook and serve. Thank you for sharing your delicious recipes!!

    • Yes! So glad you get it. Thank you for that! No reason you can’t make this any weeknight. You just need to be ready.

  5. This is the second recipe of yours I have tried (bombay aloo was the other), I echo the above remark about your recipes requiring abit more work, i enjoy that also.
    Love the curry sauce recipe I was always unsure of the spices to add this recipe has solved that problem. I’m prepped and ready to get this Butter Chicken made, sure it’ll be as good as the potatoes.

    • Glad it’s working out for you. I know my recipes are a bit more demanding than some but I find you get out what you put in. It’s always flavour first around here:-)

  6. Very good recipe. The curry base is time consuming to make but worth the effort. I have made this twice. Second time was better as I took more time to camarelize the tomato paste and curry base. Only substitution I made was replacing the ground almonds by cashew paste.

    • Timing is everything when you cook in the restaurant style. Great to hear you are comfortable enough to go for the caramelization. It really makes a difference. Hope you try a few other of the restaurant curries here.

      Cashew paste is an ingredient you will never see in any of my recipes sadly. I am quite allergic to cashews and pistachios for some strange reason. No other nuts I am aware of…

  7. Just made this, it smelt too strong when I added spices but turned out perfectly! Will be trying some of the other recipes soon. I can imagine that once I’ve done a bit of bulk prep these recipes will actually be super easy to put together.

    • Glad you liked it. Now that you have all the prep done you are set up to really start cranking out the curries quickly!

  8. Will try making it this weekend. I will, however, use about 2 kg of bone-in chicken instead. Should I make four times as much of everything else in the recipe then, or will that be too much? Since I have so much more meat than you have in the recipe, I think I need to up everything… but I don’t know exactly how much.

    • Tricky. This is a recipe that is designed to make 300g of chicken worth of curry. The technique is all about doing the way a restaurant does it. If you want to make 2kg of bone-in chicken I think the best way to approach this is to make 4 batches in a row and keep them warm until service.

      I hate to do this but I don’t think this is the right recipe for you if you want to make all 2kg of chicken at once. I really don’t think it will work out well for you and I would rather send you elsewhere than have you fail…

  9. Stupid question maybe, but I see oz used, when is it ounces (weight) and when is it fluid ounces ? Or do you always use it as weight?

  10. Thank you so much for this robust site on Indian restaurant style cooking! I made the butter chicken recipe following your instructions and it was totally amazing! The results are as good or better than the Indian restaurants I have been to in the area. I now have a large pot of curry base in the refrigerator and am planning to make korma and madras curries in the next couple of days.

    Your recipes have exceeded my expectations for making Indian foods at home and I really can’t thank you enough!

    One question I have is about the best approach for pre-cooking the chicken (or meat). Do you recommend pre-cooking it to 165 degrees or something more like 140 degrees? Also, is it okay to precook a large batch of chicken and put in the fridge for a day or two? If so, do I need to pre-heat it before adding, or just heat it in the curry?

    • Thank you for saying. I’m glad you like it.

      Good for you for asking about internal temperatures. I would go for somewhere around 140-150F or so for the chicken tikka in the first step (where you first fry the chicken) and then take it to your target (165-170F) when you simmer the chicken in the curry.

      You certainly can pre-cook the chicken and store it in the fridge for a day. I do find the taste of cooked chicken deteriorates pretty quickly so I don’t think I would push it past one day though. Again, just make sure you take the chicken to your final target temperature when cooking the curry.

  11. I have checked out quite a few of your recipes and haven’t seen Ghee in the ingredients. Any reason in particular apart from the high calorie count ?

    • I’m not worried about calories. Oil or ghee – it’s lots of calories either way. It’s a flavour thing for me. As much as I love the buttery taste, I find that ghee blunts the flavour of most curries. Every now and then I’ll make something with ghee but mostly I am just a spice junkie…

  12. As usual a fantastic curry..I couldn’t find almond flour so I blitzed almond flakes in my nutribullet..it is my favourite so far..I have been making my own chapatti and though they taste great they aren’t puffing up throughout..only in parts ..what am I doing wrong?..oh and I spend so much time in my local Asian shop he’s been giving me free Samosas..half a stone I have put on in 6mths 🙂 ..do you have a recipe for them haha..

    • Love that you are getting free samosas! That’s awesome. And I’m very happy to hear you like the bitter chicken. Thank you!

      Chapatis are all about feel. Just keep trying. Maybe vary your heat a bit. If they are mostly puffing up you are doing well.

      Samosas and chapatis are both on the to do list.

  13. OMG! Your recipes have changed my life! The last few days I have closely followed your instructions and made the curry base, spice mix and garlic/ginger paste and turned my house into a curry shop. I’ve gotten to know my local Indian spice shop owners and navigated my way around their wonderful store. Tonight I made your buttered chicken recipe in the only non stick pan I had. I followed your wonderful instructions and I can’t believe I have real “Buttered Chicken”. I have longed for this flavor for years. Thank you! Your recipes are the BEST. Off to make your Bombay potato recipe next…

    • Awesome! Thank you so much for saying so.

      I hope you like the Bombay potatoes as much. I’m a big potato lover so that one is one of my favourites.

      Isn’t getting to know your way around Indian shops fun? A bit of a mystery at first but lots of fun things to discover.

      • Yes, I have to admit I was a bit intimidated at first. The fresh produce is so interesting, and I just love the music…it makes me want to learn Hindi. Cooking is so much more than just eating, it’s about learning a whole new culture. Thank you again for your attention to detail in your wonderful recipes. I’m hooked.

  14. Another excellent recipe from Glebe Kitchen, Romain. I made this last night and was very impressed! It also fits in well with my low carb way of eating. So I can happily add the optional butter….. and more ☺️ Thankyou 👍🏻

  15. Hi, just discovered your site and made the curry base and palak without the cheese yesterday, came out great. And want to make this today. I got a box of tandoori masala at my local Indian store. For your recipe do I just use it as a powder or do I mix it with yogurt as it says on the box to make a paste?

    Thanks

  16. Having tried this at home, I cooked it, together with your Bombay Potatoes, for the British Superbike medical team … 16 people (tripled the recipe and made it three times). It was cooked a few days beforehand and frozen, then reheated and served on a campsite – and despite that mistreatment, still tasted fantastic. Lots of people wanted to know the recipe, so you’ll have some more followers of your website from the UK. Thank you.

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