makhani gravy – hotel style

Hotel style makhani gravy. Want to make butter chicken like you dream about? This is the first step. The first step to other great dishes too.

Makhani gravy is a foundational sauce. Think French mother sauces. Just like hotel gravy. A step on the path to a finished dish. The right tool for the job.

This one is for butter chicken. Or anywhere you want to bring big, spiced tomato flavour to your dish.

Makhani gravy is the other gravy in just about every Indian restaurant

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know. Just about every Indian restaurant runs with two base gravies.

There’s one general purpose onion based gravy. It’s used in just about everything.

But there’s another one you never hear about. The butter chicken gravy. This is that gravy. There’s a little twist here though. It’s also an ingredient in other curries.

It’s another tool to the arsenal. For hotel style cooking. Think dal makhani, chicken tikka masala. Bhuna. Rajma. There’s curry magic to be had here.

makhani gravy in a bowl surrounded by tomatoes, garlic and spices from the front.

Hotel style is high end cooking

Pretty good chance you haven’t heard about hotel style. Unless you’re a regular around here. It’s not mainstream. Not yet.

But it’s really, really good. It’s restaurant style cooking. Just not in the way you might know.

Restaurant style is what you get pretty much anywhere you go. It’s good. I make it all the time. A lot of people do. There are lots of restaurant style recipes on glebekitchen. I’m a fan.

But when I want to pull out all the stops. When I want to totally crush it. That’s when I turn to hotel style.

It’s a little more refined. What’s going on in really good Indian restaurant kitchens. High end Indian restaurant cooking. High end cooking. Period.

Restaurant style is one style fits all. It’s fast. It’s relatively easy. And it’s tasty. People love it. I love it.

Hotel style is a more disciplined approach. There are multiple different base gravies.

Think about that for a second. It’s called base gravy for a reason.

Because it’s foundational. The base of what you are cooking. That’s classical cooking discipline. French cuisine has 5 mother sauces. Hotel style has more than 10.

Don’t freak out though. You don’t have to make 10 base gravies. One step at a time. You’re not running a kitchen in an Indian hotel. You’re allowed to just have fun.

Between makhani and the hotel gravy you’re in good shape. I’ll probably roll out more in time though. At least one more. Two or three max.

For now you have the two big ones. And the combination of the two. So three variants. That’s already pretty good.

Makhani gravy in a bowl surrounded by fresh tomatoes on the vine.

On the matter of cashews

Cashews are a pretty common ingredient in traditional Indian cooking. They add a wonderful richness to dishes. Without being cloying. Or so I’m told.

If you look around glebekitchen you’ll notice there are no cashews anywhere. There’s a reason.

I am allergic to cashews. So this one is tough for me. I developed and tested this recipe with cashews. I tasted it. It was perfect. And it made me unwell.

I also tested the hotel style butter chicken with with and without cashews. The cashew version won. It wasn’t even close.

But this is the last time I’m testing with cashews. All the other recipes I make with makhani gravy will be cashew free. Full disclosure. I’ll probably figure something out using macadamia nuts though.

The pictures are taken with cashews. So if you leave them out it will look different.

And the matter of onions

There are no onions in makhani gravy. Not a shallot. No scallions. There are zero onions here. Madness you say?

Nope. Not madness at all. Butter chicken is proof. Takeaway butter chicken may have onions. But that’s takeaway.

We aren’t talking takeaway here though. This is hotel style. And hotel style is upscale. It’s about going the distance.

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

On butter and cream

If you are making makhani gravy it needs butter and cream. Makhani means butter. Hard to make it without the star ingredient.

But the timing doesn’t matter as much. You can add butter and cream when you make the gravy. Or you can add it into the final dish.

Technically, it isn’t makhani gravy until you add the butter and cream. But I’m using this gravy in other dishes. Where maybe butter isn’t necessarily right.

So I leave it out. Stop this recipe right before the last step. Add the butter and cream into the final dish. If I need it.

And if I don’t it’s good to go. Like a tomato gravy. Tomato masala. So this is two gravies in one.

Makhani gravy – it’s not just for the best butter chicken you can make

Makhani gravy is an ingredient. It can stand alone. In butter chicken. Dal makhani. Or it can be used together with the regular hotel gravy.

Makhani gravy and chicken tikka is pretty much butter chicken. Not quite. But pretty close.

It’s also a tomato flavour bomb. Perfect for upscale tikka masala. Bhuna. Rajma. That’s where the blend comes in.

A little hotel gravy. A little makhani gravy. And all of a sudden you are down the rabbit hole.

Hello Alice. So very glad to see you here.

Hotel makhani gravy in a bowl from above - closeup
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4.96 from 24 votes

makhani gravy – hotel style

This is how they make that butter chicken you've always wanted to recreate.
Course ingredient
Cuisine Indian
Keyword makhani gravy
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 3 cups
Calories 700kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


Step one ingredients

  • 28 oz tomatoes – canned. Make sure there are no other flavours (basil etc). Just tomatoes, juices and salt.
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder – less if you want a milder gravy
  • 1 tsp kosher salt 2/3 tsp table salt
  • 1 small tej patta – Indian bay leaf
  • 1 black cardamom whole. A small one. I hear people talk about monster black cardamom that are an inch long. I'm talking 1/2 inch here.
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 1 inch cassia stick
  • 1 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 green chili = jwala aka finger hot, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • 3 tbsp neutral oil – vegetable, canola etc
  • 1/2 cup whole cashews – optional. 1/2 cup is an approximate measure. Depends how much space there is between cashews. 80 grams is what I actually use.

Step two ingredients

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp butter


Step one

  • Put your tomatoes and the juices in the can through a food mill. If you don't have a foodmill try crushing them with your hands. The goal is to get rid of the stem of each tomato and to get things pretty smushed up. Smushed is a highly technical cooking term. It means smushed. They don't have to be completely pureed. Everything winds up in a blender later on.
  • If you don't want to smush, you can try cutting the cores out with a small knife and chopping the tomatoes. I've even heard a potato ricer works although I've never tried that myself.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients over medium low heat.
  • Add the whole spices and let them crackle for about a minute. You want to see little bubbles forming around the spices.
  • Add the garlic ginger paste and cook until it stops sputtering. This should take under a minute.
  • Add the kashmiri chili and salt. Stir to combine and gently fry the chili powder/salt for 30-45 seconds. This is called blooming spices. It's important. Don't skip this step.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, the green chili and the cashews if using them. Bring to a simmer, cover loosely and cook for about 45 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly and puree until smooth (whole spices and all) in a blender. Your blender can handle the whole spices. Don't worry.
  • At this point you can stop and portion your makhani gravy. Technically it's not a makhani gravy at this point. It is a tomato masala. And that's a useful thing for other recipes. That's what I do. Portion it out in one cup (for butter chicken, dal makhani) or half cup portions (rajma, chicken tikka masala, bhuna etc) and freeze it.
    I turn it into makhani gravy when I cook the actual final curries. You can approach it either way. I just like the effect of fresh cream and butter on the final dish. If you do go the distance then just add a little extra cream and butter to taste when you make your curries.

Step two

  • If you prefer to make the complete makhani gravy up front return the pureed gravy to the saucepan. Bring to a bare simmer. Remove from heat. Mix in your butter and cream.
  • Done. Portion out as above or use immediately.


If you skipped straight to the recipe the cashews aren’t really optional. I’m allergic to cashews. I tested this recipe with cashews and it’s way better with them. Not even close really. If you can eat cashews don’t leave them out. 


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 700kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 52g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 1024mg | Potassium: 2931mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 10892IU | Vitamin C: 160mg | Calcium: 160mg | Iron: 5mg

96 thoughts on “makhani gravy – hotel style”

  1. I’m at the stage where I’m blooming the spices before adding the tomatoes and the aromas in the house are amazing from the smoky black cardamom! You should sell it in candle form.

  2. Romain

    My whole family absolutely loves your food. I only use your recipes when I’m making curries now. I’ve got batches of your two base sauces bagged up in portions in my freezer ready to spring into action. I’m absolutely chomping at the bit for you to share some more base sauces to add to my repertoire..and freezer!!

  3. Hello Romain – I have been working with your recipes for some time now. I was looking for something like Paneer Lababdar.

    My wife loves that, I believe it looks like we can use this gravy, and wanted to see if you have a restaurant or hotel-style recipe for this.

  4. 5 stars
    Hi Romain – This is a great recipe along with others on your website.

    Going further into cooking India Food, I was looking for a recipe called Paneer Lababdar.

    Any chances of having this?

  5. Hello, I live in Thailand and find it impossible to get fresh cream, butter no problem. Could I use coconut cream? I can get this ghastly none dairy cream but I’d prefer not to.

  6. Just a quick question on weight, where you ask for 28oz of tinned toms, is that the weight of just the toms or juice in can also, our tinned toms in the uk seem to have more juice than toms!

    Thank you

  7. Just starting out on my Glebe journey so I apologise if its been asked already; can this recipe be scaled up/ simply doubled? Thank you!

    • You do not need to thin this down. It is ready to go as made as is the hotel gravy. You don’t need to thin glebekitchen restaurant gravy either FWIW.

    • An abundance of garden fresh tomatoes. What a wonderful thought!

      I’d skin them (cut a little x on the side opposite the stem) and drop in boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer the tomatoes to an ice bath (ice and water). Peel and seed. Use 28 oz of peeled, seeded tomatoes. I bet it will be incredible.

  8. Hi amazing recipe thanks, just to ask – if you add the cream and butter in the gravy, do you add cream and butter in curry as well?

    • I take it to the stage before I add the cream and butter when I make it. Finish it in the final curry. I include both approaches as technically it is not a makhani gravy until you add the cream and butter.

  9. 5 stars
    Hi, so I can just cook up some mushrooms in a tikka paste and add this gravy to the pan? I don’t need a heap more spices etc? Thanks, Jordan

  10. 5 stars
    This stuff is insane. I have recently been using it with a standard pizza cheese blend to create mind blowing Indian Calzones in my wood fired oven.

    Can you give me some idea on a gravy like this that is spinach based but with a rich smooth consistency and a different spice blend?

    • Try and tandoori chicken, red onion and jalapeño pizza with it as the sauce. That’s my current favourite.

      I’ll give the spinach based sauce some thought. Thanks for the idea.

  11. Thanks for this recipe. This is a nice step forward for me on my quest to make a nice curry like the local restaurants. Blending in all the whole spices worked just fine. BUT my simple blender had a hard time pureeing all those cashews with the tomatoes. I think that was because I double the recipe. And left the tomato juice behind in the can, using just the tomatoes. You might include a warning about low power blenders needing to blend smaller batches.

    • Without being in the kitchen with you I can only guess but my guess is by leaving out the juices you reduced the amount of liquid in the blender. That often gives just about any blender trouble. I used to make this with a 30 year old blender that finally died.

  12. WAIT! “puree until smooth (whole spices and all)” Did you mean to include the bay leaves and cassia and cardamom pods in the blender? And not take them out instead?

    • Palak paneer do you mean? There’s not a lot of tomato in the glebekitchen version so I’m thinking probably not if you want to stay reasonably true to the recipe.

    • I try to never say anything absolute without having first tried it. I haven’t tried this. I’m not sure creamy tomato would be move it in a direction I would like but again – I haven’t tried it so I really don’t know. A worthwhile experiment though!

    • Ok so last night we added half a cup of this gravy (cashew version without butter and cream) to saagwala and all I can say is WOW THANK YOU !!

  13. GOODNESS!!!!!! I made a batch of this today..what can I say…and once I added the butter and cream I was speechless. That really will give a perfect finish to many dishes. SO simple to make and so worthwhile. Thank you again for walking me through another success.

    • That is so great to hear. This one really isn’t difficult and the results are pretty spectacular (if I say so myself:-).

  14. Hi Romain
    You refer to perhaps also using this in Dal Makhani. I am looking at your recipe ingredients for Punjabi Dal Makhani & note that it lists Tomato paste and Curry Base. Excuse my ignorance but is this Makhani Gravy supposed to replace either of these?

    • I haven’t done that recipe yet. It’s still a work in progress. I’ve been a bit slow at publishing lately because I have been busy raising a puppy She is 1 year now so I am getting back to it.

  15. 5 stars
    Well, I just made this tonight. My first venture into Indian hotel style cooking. When I read the recipe and as I was pulling the ingredients together, I was quite reticent… I couldn’t imagine how this could be better than the restaurant style… No onions???
    But..omg… Oh my goodness! This is ridiculously delicious.. and it’s only the sauce ..that will become the ingredient in the other recipes. I just can’t wait to make a butter chicken tomorrow.. we have guests coming to dinner. I am thinking of making a lamb dish also.. wanted to do something with very different flavoring. What do you think of serving a lamb madras and palak paneer with the chicken makhani, to give a real variety?

    Thank you once again for your wonderful recipes that allow me to share the great pleasure of Indian cuisine.

    • I am delighted you overcame your reticence and took the leap of faith.

      Your menu sounds absolutely amazing. I’d like to come for dinner please!

      The only thing I might think about from a balance perspective is all three of the dishes are quite rich. Maybe think add a tarka dal or chana masala to balance it out a bit if you can manage to get a 4th dish done. Or you can just enjoy a lovely dinner you have planned. It’s fun to spoil yourself a bit every now and then:-)

  16. 4 stars
    I’ve made a few recipes from Glebe Kitchen and they’ve all been amazing.
    However, this gravy didn’t come out smooth and silky looking (like the pics).
    It seemed like it needed to be loosened, wetter and smoother.
    I used tinned crushed tomatoes.

    • I have absolutely no idea. Did you drain the tomatoes? Did you use a real blender (not an immersion blender)? That’s all I can think of…

    • Didn’t drain the tomatoes.
      Did use a real blender.
      It seemed to go a bit dry during the simmering.
      I’ll mess with the rest of the gravy and see what I can do.
      Thanks for all the great recipes….

    • I just re-read your original comment. You used crushed tomatoes. I have never tried this recipe with crushed tomatoes. Likely they are a thicker starting point than a can of tomatoes passed through a food mill…

  17. 5 stars
    Hey, i love your bases and the recipes that accompany them. I am however wondering when you use certain whole spices like cardamom, is it best to open it up or not? Thank you.

    • Thanks for saying! I don’t usually bother cracking them, especially if they will be cooked for while or blended in like they are in the makhani gravy.

    • Raw if you can get them. I get mine from my Indian grocer. You can get them at bulk food places as well (here anyway).

    • Thanks for your reply! That’s what I guessed and raw are easy to find here in Oregon. I love your recipes – so pungent and flavorful!

  18. I told you I’d get to it today. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner. This is a keeper. My Son-in-law’s favourite Indian dish is Butter Chicken. This Hotel Style Gravy is right up there. The smokiness of the black cardamom is perfectly balanced. It is very easy to overdo. Simplicity with results. What more can you ask?

    • I haven’t tried it so I don’t know for sure but I googled the number of seeds to a pod and it’s 8-16. So maybe try 10 to be a bit conservative. Don’t try green cardamom though. I did try that and it was way too floral. Just not good.

  19. Just a quick one. When you say bloom or fry the powdered spices. Do you mean the chilli powder and salt at this point. These seem to be the only powdered slices or have I missed something?

    Thanks you

  20. Sadly my husband is also allergic to cashews! ( maybe that’s why he loves all your recipes though :)) Are Macadamia nuts the next best thing to cashews ?

    • I have been working on a relaunch of Glebekitchen that has kept me busy so I haven’t had a chance to test it out but I’m guessing that or a combination of macadamia and poppy seed is what I will settle on.

    • Char Magaz. Melon Seeds with the outer husk removed. These will do the job and are often used along with cashews in Hotel Style White Gravy for Korma etc.

    • Yes. Absolutely. I’d leave the butter and the cream out though. I prefer to add that in for the actual recipes (or not depending on what I am actually doing).

  21. I used a really good Passata instead of the canned tomatoes and it is delicious and easy to make. Looking forward to recipes to use it.

  22. Hi Romaine – this base looks so easy. Do you have any recipes on your website to use it with as yet? Thinking of dinner tonight…

  23. Just a quick one Romain, when you say canned tomatoes do you mean like whole plum tomatoes? As opposed to say chopped tomatoes?

    • That’s right. Chopped will work in a pinch. I really like a food mill to extract the puree, leaving behind the bits I don’t want (cores etc) but if you don’t have one it’s not the end of the world…

  24. 5 stars
    Hi Romain I’m about to make this gravy, I love the other hotel gravy and the restaurant base so here goes. I will of course be desperate for the butter chicken recipe when I’ve made the gravy.
    One question what is Rajma? I’ve never heard of it before.

    • Butter chicken recipe comes next week! Rajma is a red kidney bean masala. I have a real love for dals and beans so I’m always looking to add more recipes.

    • Hi Romain, I just made your hotel madras curry with lamb and it was delicious! I am looking at the makhani gravy recipe and wonder how exactly one would use it to make rajma masala????

  25. 5 stars
    Thanks Romain, another base to up my game on home made Indian curry’s.
    My wife and friends like chicken tikka masala with almond, would this gravy be suitable if I swapped the cashew for ground almonds?

    • I don’t think chicken tikka masala would work with makhani gravy alone. You’d wind up with a spicier almond butter chicken. If your question is could you make makhani gravy with almonds instead of cashews I haven’t tried that. I will be doing a hotel CTM soon though…

  26. My dear curry guru! This looks so good and I can’t wait to try it. Really looking forward to a Dal Makhani, but all in good time. Sorry to hear you had to suffer for your passion (as in the cashews!) Thank you, Romain.

  27. Would this gravy stand up to say , a Chicken Tikka Jalfrezi, minus butter and cream ? Definitely going to add it to my ” to do” list . Thanks Romain.

  28. made it up yesterday , easy to do with great results , tastes great as it stands so very excited to make something with it , another belter , well done and thankyou my friend

4.96 from 24 votes (14 ratings without comment)

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