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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5 from 12 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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.

Notes

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.
 
 

Nutrition

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

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

  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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

    Reply
  3. 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?

    Reply
    • 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?

  4. 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….

    Reply
    • 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!

  5. 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!

    Reply
    • 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!

  6. 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.

    Reply
    • 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:-).

  7. 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

    Reply
  8. 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.

    Reply
  9. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

  10. 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 🙂

    Reply
  11. 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?

    Reply
  12. 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?

    Reply
    • 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.

  13. 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 🙂

    Reply
    • 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…

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