butter chicken (murgh makhani) – indian hotel style

If you are a big butter chicken fan this one is for you. This is knock-down, drag out, go for gold cooking.

Seriously. It’s what they are serving at the best Indian restaurants. This is not your average takeaway butter chicken.

And it’s easier to make. Doesn’t make sense. I know. But it’s true. This is better. And easier.

Crazy talk you say? Read on. Not that far out there. You’ll see.

Restaurants run with (at least) two base gravies

Surprised? Something you don’t hear about much? Turns out good restaurants have a different gravy for butter chicken.

Maybe that’s one of the last Indian restaurant “secrets” out there. I don’t know. Probably not. I just asked and they told me. So not really a secret.

What I do know is the better Indian restaurants run with two base gravies. The best run with more. But it’s at least two.

There’s an onion based gravy. Backbone of a lot of curries. It can be restaurant style or hotel style. But there has to be onions.

And then there’s a makhani gravy. Or red gravy. That’s what they use for butter chicken. Specialized.

If you’ve ever wondered why your butter chicken doesn’t taste quite like it does at posh Indian restaurants, makhani gravy is what you’re missing.

Bowl of makhani gravy in a hammered copper bowl from the front.

There are no onions in butter chicken

Unsecret number 2. There are no onions in butter chicken. High-end versions anyway.

Now you are certain I am crazy. “No onions? That cannot be. Ridiculous. This blog is run by a lunatic”. I going to stop now. I’m hurting my feelings.

It’s counter-intuitive. I know. Onions are the foundation of a lot of Indian dishes. But not all of them. This is an example.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise. India is a huge country. A foodie country. With a long history of regional cooking. There are literally thousands of dishes. Tens of thousands.

Which leads me into my favourite rant. Indian food is popular around the world. But somehow it’s still a formula. The same 15 dishes. At every restaurant. Over and over. Boring.

I get that people might not be ready for Bengali fish head stew (your loss btw). But there are a lot of more approachable dishes.

But somehow the same dishes are good enough. For everyone. A few variations maybe. But when was the last time you went to a restaurant that didn’t serve a vindaloo? Or a butter chicken? Why do we put up with this?

If you see the irony in what I’ve just said, know that I am laughing at myself. Can’t get too serious.

Especially when you are preaching. And writing about the single most overdone restaurant dish in the world. In the same blog post. But I feel good about it because at least it’s crazy good.

In my defence I do push South Indian pretty hard on glebekitchen. And I slide in as much Bengali cooking as I can. Maybe not the fish head stew. But I’m trying…

Hotel style butter chicken in a kadai from above.

Cashews for the win

Cashews add a richness that butter and cream can’t match. There’s serious lushness factor working here. Lushness. Like that is even a word…

It might push the cost of this butter chicken out of the reach of a lot of restaurants. Cashews are not cheap. But if you like butter chicken and have a dollar or two to spare it makes a difference.

Sucks to be me though. I am allergic to cashews. I tested this recipe using cashews. Wasn’t pleasant. But I did it. My wife loves it. I just took little tastes of sauce along the way.

I know the cashew version is better. But I won’t ever get to enjoy it. You can though. And I think you should. I don’t mind. I’ve come to grips with my allergy.

And I’m going to do a macadamia nut version anyway. For everyone that is allergic to cashews. All seven of us. We’ll be so set.

Scale this recipe easily

The nice thing about hotel style is it scales. Easily. You don’t have to worry about frying curry base like you do in restaurant style.

Make it for two like in the recipe below. Or use the servings slider to adjust. It just works. 2 people or 6 people for dinner? No problem. I have no control over how high that slider goes though. So use a bit of common sense.

Less mess. Easy scale. More flavour. Hotel style brings it all.

Butter chicken in a kadai table scene with paratha and tarka dal from above.

Hotel style butter chicken

I didn’t invent hotel style. This is my version. Has a little more bite maybe. But it’s been around forever. And it’s closer to you than you might think.

The Ruby Murray at Dishoom is hotel style. They don’t call it hotel style in the book. But it is absolutely hotel style.

See? Posh Indian restaurant. Hotel style. No onions in their version either if you’re wondering.

That’s an amazing cookbook by the way. Seriously. If you want something a little different it’s worth every penny.

Forget what you think you know about butter chicken. Take a leap of faith. Pretty sure you will surprise yourself. In a good way.

Hotel style butter chicken with parotha in a kadai from the front.
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4.88 from 41 votes

hotel style butter chicken

This is how they make butter chicken at the best restaurants.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword butter chicken, murgh makhani
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 2
Calories 826kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


quick chicken tikka

  • 3 chicken thighs boneless, skinless
  • 2 tbsp tandoori masala – avoid brands that are high in salt
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil

butter chicken

  • 2 tbsp neutral oil e.g. vegetable
  • 2 tsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder leave it out if you want really mild.
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp kasoor methi
  • 1 cup makhani gravy – with cashews. Recipe link below.
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp honey to taste
  • cream to drizzle


quick chicken curry

  • Make sure you've made your makhani gravy before you start. Combine the tandoori masala, kasoor methi, salt and oil in a bowl large enough to hold all the chicken.
  • Add the chicken and combine with the marinade. Use tongs. This stuff will stain your hands and you will not be happy at all.
  • Marinate for about an hour. Pre-heat your oven to 400F while this is going on. Use convection mode if you have it. I hear an air fryer is good for this as well. Place a sturdy baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat.
  • Transfer the chicken (remember your tongs) to the pre-heated baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook for about 6 minutes. Flip all the pieces and return to the oven. Cook until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160-165F. This should take another 4-8 minutes or so. Really depends on how big your chicken thigh pieces are.
  • Set the chicken aside. Try not to snack too much. I didn't include extra chicken tikka this time.

butter chicken

  • Pre-heat a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients over medium low heat.
  • Add 2 tbsp oil.
  • When it starts to shimmer add the garlic ginger paste. Stir continously until it stops sputtering. This should take about 30 seconds. You don't want it to colour up too much. Be careful.
  • Add the kasoor methi, salt and kashmiri chili powder (if using). This recipe is on the mild end of medium spice so if you like a little warmth leave it in. It makes a difference. It also makes a difference to the colour of the final dish.
  • Stir to combine and let bubble for about 45 seconds. Watch your pan. You don't want the spices to stick or burn at this stage.
  • Add the makhani gravy. Stir to combine and bring to a lively simmer. Simmer about a minute.
  • Add the honey and stir to combine.
  • Add the chicken. Continue to simmer until the chicken is warmed through – about a minute assuming it's not coming from the fridge.
  • Stir in the butter and cream. Adjust the consistency with a little water or chicken stock (bouillon cubes are mostly salt not stock so don't use that) at this point to get it to a nice restaurant texture. I can't really tell you exactly how much because it depends on how hard your simmer was as well as your exact timing. I use about 3-4 Tbsp. Sometimes a bit more.
  • Butter chicken is nice with a drizzle of cream. It makes it look a bit more special but it's not necessary – just fun!
  • Enjoy.


You can use any chicken tikka recipe you like. Just make sure you have roughly 3 thighs worth. The quick chicken tikka is just my regular quick naga chicken tikka without the naga. If you want butter chicken with kick don’t fear the naga.
The makhani gravy used in this butter chicken includes the cashews but not the butter and cream. Take it to the red gravy point. It works with the full makhani gravy recipe as well – it will just be a little richer.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 826kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 62g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 191mg | Sodium: 1833mg | Potassium: 1957mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 5878IU | Vitamin C: 80mg | Calcium: 129mg | Iron: 6mg

67 thoughts on “butter chicken (murgh makhani) – indian hotel style”

  1. Hi Romain! I made this dish today and it was super! The balance of the flavors is perfect. I was a bit nervous before making it, because I’m a bit bored with butter chicken, because it’s so common dish at the indian restaurants and I´ve never found it very interesting dish. This day changed my mind and I’m sure I’m going to make batter chicken soon again. Thanks again for sharing these wonderful recipes!

    • Delighted you enjoyed it. I find a lot of lowwer end restaurants make a pretty mediocre butter chicken myself!

  2. Hi there.

    I am allergic to all nuts but would love to make this dish! Do you have a substitute for nuts all together?


  3. The 2 tbsp tandoori masala — did you use the paste or powder? What is your preference of a brand, if you have one that is low in salt? High blood pressure in this family so low sodium is a must.

  4. Hi I made this tonight it was lovely but did I make a slight mistake by putting more than a cup of the mahkni gravy in. I think it could of been better.

    • Maybe try it again but follow the recipe more closely? Adding more makhani gravy is going to dilute the overall spicing of the dish…

  5. 5 stars
    Wow, this is probably the only recipe I’ve found that actually recreates this dish. I still don’t understand why everything else out there is basically tomato soup with garam masala! Thank you for the recipe.

    Also wanted to share some notes regarding this recipe:
    – I marinated in tandoori masala, garlic ginger paste, lemon, and buttermilk and it created incredibly tender juicy chicken
    – Cooking with mustard oil really improved the overall flavor versus using any other neutral oil. Weird cooking with something that says “for external use only” but it seems many people consume without adverse effects
    – I tried this recipe once with regular fenugreek leaves and the other with ground fenugreek and both tasted great. Whatever option you choose don’t leave this out!!!

    • I don’t understand it either. It’s just a misunderstood dish that has been propagated everywhere. I’m half Bengali. I use a fair bit of mustard oil but haven’t tried it in this dish. Will give that a go!

  6. My third time making this and I love the way you break all your recipes down into “building blocks”. And scalable. I think I emptied the shelves at Dollarama of all their 1 and 2 cup glass lockable/freezable containers.

    One thing I realized is that I have been using Methi powder, not Kasoor Methi (leaves/flakes?)… so probably a little heavy on that flavour….

    Is there a ratio I could use between powder/Kasoor? Offhand, I guess maybe 1:2 would be OK

    • Unfortunately I’ve never used or even seen methi powder (I’ve never really looked for it). Your ratio sounds about right though.

  7. Hi there does the butter chicken reheat well? Thinking of making for a dinner party alongside bhuna and would prefer to make in advance if possible

    • Yes. Just be gentle with the heat. But what would be even better (and almost as easy) is just make the butter chicken sauce to the point right before you add the chicken along the tikka ahead of time. Then warm the sauce and add the tikka to warm through and finish with the cream/butter and serve. That’s how I would do it.

  8. 5 stars
    Romain – you just be a magician because this recipe is magical. Although I have always enjoyed eating Indian food out, I have never attempted to make it at home. I followed your recipe to a T besides doubling (or maybe tripling honestly) the spice level and it was incredible! I served alongside your pilau rice which I added saffron to in place of green cardamom. Wow! This was truly one of the best meals I’ve made at home in awhile. The only downside is that I would love to make this for other people but my spice level would blow them away (and I can’t compromise!).

    Now I have a kitchen filled with new ingredients that I haven’t experimented with before and I am so excited to dive into your blog. Thank you for sharing your passion with us!
    Next up is gojuchang meatloaf!

    • Delighted to hear that! You could always make a split batch and serve those with a low spice tolerance a mild version and keep the good stuff for yourself.

      Happy Cooking!

  9. Hi!
    I have not made this recipe yet – but I was wondering about the chicken being marinaded overnight in yogurt. I’ve seen that step in quite a few other recipes and I was thinking about adding it in. Is there a reason not to?
    Thank you!

    • I don’t like yoghurt for tikka. I don’t like the way it blunts the flavour. It is also a mild tenderizer and I find the texture softens. Blasting it with 900F heat in a tandoor fixes this problem but if you are cooking at 500F I think you are better off to leave it out.

  10. 5 stars
    Oh my days. Having never tried butter chicken before we had nothing to compare this to …. but it was delicious. Unctuous with surprisingly complex flavours and a gentle kick thanks to ‘not fearing the naga’. The butter and cream provided mouthfeel and texture to the sauce rather than a distinctive taste of butter and cream which was lovely. Seriously. Romain. Publish a book already! 10/10.

  11. 5 stars
    Another great recipe Romain! I love the restaurant version, but I only make this one now as I enjoy making the makhani gravy etc.

    I would like to ask about substituting passata for tinned tomatoes in the makhani gravy. I recently tried this but for me, the resulting butter chicken just seemed too… tangy? I added a teaspoon or 2 of more honey but that didn’t help.

    Perhaps passata is just more tangy than tinned tomatoes, or maybe I didn’t get the good stuff?

    Thanks again and Happy Holidays! P

    • I imagine it depends on the passata but for me tomatoes passed through a food mill always wins.

      Happy holidays to you too!

  12. 5 stars
    We all enjoyed this as a birthday meal. Must admit it is my all time favourite. It takes all my strength not to lick the pan clean! So simple to make but oh so luxurious..all that buttery creaminess. We had it along with homemade onion bhajis, pilau rice, naan breads and for afters we had coffee and a some pineapple ladoo, again homemade. I wish everyone could try this dish at least once they would be floating on air!

  13. 5 stars
    Having cooked this once before and we all fell in love with it. I shall cook it again on Thursday. Tomorrow (Wednesday is my birthday) and the following day is my husbands. So we will have a family meal without having to go out and spend money needlessly on something I can cook at home with full confidence in the knowledge that it will be excellent. Sure I have to do the prep and the cooking but I have become so speedy now that it really is no hard task. Husband gets the pleasure of cleaning up hahah. You know Romain, apart from the simplicity of your written instructions the other things I like is that you do not waffle on, you have a good sense of humour and most importantly you do not tell people they need this gadget or that gadget. Good sturdy frying pans and knives and utensils and all is good. Everything that’s needed people already have at home, after that they just need to *listen* to you and they will never go wrong.

    • Happy birthday week! Hope it is a great one!

      Good knives, good pans and a decent blender and you can do almost anything. A good quality rice cooker is a very nice to have though (hint for your husband:-).

  14. 5 stars
    Hey Romain, just wanted to say a massive thanks for all the amazing recipes. I moved to the Swiss mountains a few years ago. It’s absolutely awesome here, but being from the UK, man I was really missing my restaurant curries. I do tons of cooking which is kind of my hobby and although home curries are great, they’re not the same. Enter your website! Now my freezer is packed with restaurant base, hotel base, makhani and I’ve got your spice mixes in the cupboard too. The butter chicken is probably my favourite but all of the curries are so good. Your other recipes are all awesome too. Miles better than anything in my dozens of cook books. The birria tacos in particular are out of this world. I also just made the Jamaican curry the other day and that blew my mind! Absolutely delicious. So thanks again for the amazing work. Now if you can just teach me how to make British beer, my life will be complete!

    • What a great comment! Thank you! You are very welcome.

      Unfortunately I don’t know anything about beer except how to drink it…

  15. 5 stars
    This is the best butter chicken recipe I’ve made, the magic ingredient which I make and freeze is the makhani gravy well worth the effort its simply
    my favourite thank-you.

    • Delighted to hear that. I think the makhani gravy really makes the difference. And you are absolutely right. Keeping makhani gravy in the freezer makes this one pretty quick.

  16. 5 stars
    Have done this recipe a couple of times but last night I nailed it. Followed the recipe precisely but used passata and did the chicken in the air fryer for the first time. It was really good and my wife, who is not a “hot” curry fan was very impressed. Great recipe and surprisingly simple to make. I also like its easy scaleability.

    • Delighted to hear that and especially happy that your wife was impressed. It is an easy one. This is an example, I think, of less is more. And no onions!

  17. 5 stars
    You will be getting tired seeing my name lol. We have just eaten this and were very very impressed. The consistency and flavours of the sauce were out of this world, so cream and buttery. The chicken was perfectly flavoured. This will most definitely be another favourite. We served it with basmati rice with added fennel seeds, naan bread and crisp bhajis. My daughter remarked how she could taste so many different flavours for a change that she never tasted in currys that we had bought in a takeaway. But I want to know….where have you been all my life to share all these amazing recipes and walkthrus 🙂

    • I will most certainly not get tired of seeing your name. Please do keep letting me know how things go!

      Your dinner sounds amazing. You are making me hungry:-).

      I’ve been at this about 5 years now so fairly new. Delighted to hear you are enjoying the recipes.

  18. 4 stars
    Hi! I made the makhani sauce and used ginger garlic paste and chili in that, when i make this do i add more ginger garlic and chili? Just making sure!!

    • Yes – both recipes are correct as written. One is for a makhani gravy that can be used in multiple recipes. This one is for the butter chicken that uses the makhani gravy.

  19. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, I’ll admit that I have never been the biggest fan of Butter Chicken. Sure it’s good. In the same way that Mac and Cheese is good. Kids’ food really. This recipe changed my mind. Butter Chicken made this way is flavorful, delicious and even interesting. It is really really good. I won’t lie to you: it’s never going to be my favorite – there’s just many more exciting and adventurous recipes that I’d rather make. But I’ll make it every once in a while, when the rest of the family tire of constantly trying out new dishes.

    • 5 stars
      Hi Romain,
      I have made this as per your recipe, delish. How do I ‘scale up’ From two to eight people for this lovely butter dish? Are all ingredients multiplied?

    • Delighted you enjoyed it! Straight linear scaling for all hotel recipes. You can use the portion slider to make it easier.

  20. 5 stars
    2nd time doing this one – Nailed It !!
    I don’t have a Food Mill for the tomatoes so I used Passata instead.
    So good….
    Right taste, colour, consistency and hard to tell from our local Indian Restaurant.
    Thanks Romain

  21. 5 stars
    I just noticed my favorite local Indian restaurant has almonds listed in the description of the butter chicken. Its better than what I can make but this is pretty close.
    Any opinion on using almonds or almond butter?

    • Haven’t tried almonds but I expect you could put them in with the cashews or maybe try stirring in a little bit of almond butter into the final dish?

  22. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, made this last night, my second effort from your website after the Hotel style lamb bhuna. Oh my goodness, it was amazing – great balance of the rich tomatoes with the smoothness of the cream and butter. Added a handful of chopped red peppers at the start to get one of my five-a-day too.

    So simple to make as well, I had some chicken tikka in the freezer alongside the makhani sauce from the lamb. 15 minutes tops!

    Thanks for this recipe – we really enjoyed it. Now, what next….

    • Delighted you are enjoying hotel style. If you have both gravies on hand I think the chicken tikka masala would be fun (and tasty). I find it hard to go wrong with the hotel gravies no matter what I do!

  23. I made the hotel style Murgh Makhani this evening and it was absolutely heaven. I made it with Naga chicken tikka, with almost a teaspoon of naga pickle, which really took it to the top. One of my goals during the pandemic has been to learn to cook good curries and your site has been a huge help toward that goal. Thank you!

    • Very happy to be a part of your your quest and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the murgh makhani. The naga chicken tikka adds a nice little kick!

  24. I cooked this tonight Romain, as I said I would. It is a delicious curry. There is a real tartness from the tomato gravy and the smoothness of the butter and cream is perfect. The chilli heat is just right but this is a variable anyway and you can’t know what others are using. I know enough to adjust to the family palate.

    My son-in-laws favourite Indian dish is Butter Chicken. Much to my disdain he sometimes uses jars to prepare his own. He said this is up there with the best I’ve ever made. I agree. You can’t argue with the diners even if they are freeloaders.

    • Haha. Glad you enjoyed it. It’s a bit of a leap of faith to accept there are no onions in butter chicken but if you can make that jump it’s sure to please (especially the freeloaders:-).

  25. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! this was my first foray into Indian cooking and I was pleased to say it was pretty good! I love how everything is more or less scratch and delicious

  26. 5 stars
    Hello Romain,
    Your recipes are delicious! I’ve been using them for over a year now and everyone in the family is loving it. This butter chicken is also delicious.
    Thank you for all your recipes.

  27. 5 stars
    Hi Romain,
    I am loving so many of these recipes!

    A wee question I have is on upscaling them for 4-6 people…. is it a case of x2or3 on ingredients, or am I better using the triple slow cooker/ food warmer I am lucky to have and cook/warm/repeat?

    • The hotel recipes scale linearly. Just make 3 curries worth in one go. That’s the beauty of these recipes. You aren’t faced with the challenge of trying to scale up the frying base gravy step because you don’t have to fry the base gravy when you make the curry. All the hard work is done up front.

  28. I can’t wait o try this very soon but I was thinking of using really nice Duck breast that I have in the fridge. Am I mad or could that work? Love your recipes 🙂

  29. 5 stars
    Another absolutely delicious curry, the makhani gravy is to die for. All 3 of us loved it, its definitely going to be made again.

    Just one question what’s NEXT?

  30. I’ve made many of your previous recipes and they have all been thoroughly enjoyed by my family, but we have been waiting for our favourite, buttered chicken. However, like you, my daughter is allergic to nuts and wondered is there any close alternative to cashews?

    • I am allergic to cashews and pistachios in particular. I think macadamia or maybe macadamia and poppy seed will work but I haven’t tried yet. I made this without the cashews (for me) and while my wife said the cashew version was better, the cashew free version was still as good or better than I have ever had in a restaurant.

      Going forward all the recipes I develop using the red gravy will be cashew free so think of cashews as a bonus rather than a requirement.

  31. 5 stars
    so many of your recipes are my favourite i really would struggle to choose but this one is way way up there at the top , ive made it for lots of friends and everyone has said it’s better than the restaurant takeaway ❤️ again you have topped . i thankyou , my friends thankyou , now what’s next 🙂

    • I think a bhuna and maybe a CTM although I still have that south Indian prawn recipe to do. And I want to do a chicken tikka naan wrap with this chili/mango pickle drizzle I’ve been eating lately. And…

4.88 from 41 votes (19 ratings without comment)

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