Baking | The original butter chicken … make yours at home

” If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.”
Romain Rolland
Today is India’s 61st Independence Day… & I decided to post something Indian today. In fact, India’s most popular gastronomic export to the Western world, which is Butter Chicken or Murgh Makhani.
Quoting from a snippet in a tabloid debating butter chicken vs chicken tikka masala…”Many years ago, a man named Robin Cook, not the novelist, but the late Labour Party leader & Britain’s Foreign Secretary, had stirred an international gastronomic debate by calling Chicken Tikka Masala his country’s national dish. People who contested his claim, should have saved their breath, for CTM indeed is a British creation. What they did was dunk chicken tikka that didn’t sell during the day, Campbell’s tomato soup, fresh cream & lots of red chillies into the frying pan, & they called the result CTM. It must have come as a blessing to a generation that must have grown tired of the blazing vindaloo.” But this was far from butter chicken…
This appeared in the newspaper in July 2008, in an article from the man who gave Delhi the most memorable Butter Chicken ever…& has been doing so for years – Monish Gujral of Moti Mahal. The article has interesting trivia about the original murgh makhani, or butter chicken, which originated in a dhaba (roadside eatery) near Peshawar in the 1920’s. Like everything pertaining to Indian cuisine, there are no records to prove any claim – & was imported into post-partition Delhi by a refugee named Kundan Lal Gujral, or so says his grandson, Monish Gujral. He remembers the founder of Moti Mahal telling him that the dish originated to end the problem of excess chicken tikka, which if left overnight, gets hard & fibrous. This kind man shared his best kept secret of one of India’s most famous exports to the Western world in his book, Moti Mahal’s Tandoori Trail….& in a moment of weakness, shared that you need to keep certain points in mind to get best results.
In brief, the chicken should be a broiler, weighing no more than 600-700 gms. This recipe is made ‘best with bones’, & you can’t make butter chicken with anything other than tandoori chicken. Also, the butter chicken tastes best when gravy tomatoes (bright red ones) are used, as compared to ready made tomato puree from the market. To balance the sourness of the tomatoes, use a bit of sugar, & to get the right consistency, add cashew paste. I can say it works, & works brilliantly. I’ve made this thrice (on the bone, boneless breast & boneless drumsticks) & it’s very, very nice indeed. The sauce is brilliantly flavoured & quite mild despite the garam masala, red & green chilies.
I had an old aunt, my mother’s elder sister, visiting on her way out to Canada. Feisty old lady, at 80+ speaks her mind & has brought up 2 sons & a daughter. One son is a Professor of Genetics at Pittsburgh University, & the other is a Geologist in Canada. Sadly, she lost her daughter, quite young, to Multiple Sclerosis last year.

I played host to her while she was transiting to catch her flight last month, as my Mom was out of town. My aunt babysat me often when I was very young, & the few food memories I have of when I was a child, all relate to her…right to the aromas of the dal she fed me, to the crisp onions on top. My mother is horrified that I remember nothing of the good stuff she slaved to make & present on the table….shudder…I just hope that doesn’t happen to me!!

Anyway, I asked my aunt if there was something special she would like to eat, or else I would figure out what would be nice. Pronto came the reply…a request for Butter Chicken! She said she always remembers a very nice butter chicken I made for her almost 5 years ago, & that’s just what she’d love to have. Obviously, our food memories were mutually complimentary…so I set to make this recipe. My recommendation…on the bone is the best!

…like from the horses mouth!
Chicken – 600-700 gms (on the bone)
For the first marinade:
Lime Juice of 1 lime
Red chili powder – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
For the second marinade:
Yogurt – ½ cup / thick
Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Ginger – 1 tbsps
Rock salt – 1 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Kasoori methi – ½ tsp (these are a variety of dried fenugreek leaves often used in Indian cooking)
Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Make 2 deep incisions each in both breast pieces &s drumsticks. Mix all ingredients on the first marinade & rub well into chicken pieces. Keep aside for an hour.
  • For the second marinade, mix all ingredients well & rub into chicken pieces till they are well coated. Leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours. I usually leave this overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  • Place the chicken on the grill rack, with a tray underneath to collect the drippings. Grill for 8-10 minutes, brush with oil, turn the pieces, & grill for another 4-5 minutes until the chicken is tender. Keep aside.

For the makhani sauce
Ripe, red tomatoes – 800gms / chopped
Oil – 2 tbsp
Onion – 1 / chopped
Red Chili powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala _ 1 tsp
Cumin/Zeera powder – 1tsp
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Cashew paste – 2 tbsp (I ran a handful in my dry grinder in short bursts)
Bay leaf – 1
Green chili – 1-2 / finely chopped
Butter – 50 gms
Single Cream – 50 ml (original has 100 gm double cream)
Kasoori methi – 1 tsp
Green chilies, fresh coriander, cream for garnishing. Method:

  • Heat the oil in a pan, add onion & sauté for a few seconds. Put in chopped tomatoes, bay leaf & salt & simmer, stirring occasionally, until the oil leaves the sides. Cool slightly & strain the sauce. (Do this the previous day to save time).
  • Pour the sauce back into a pan over low heat. Add all the spices, followed by the tandoori chicken. Stir well & simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the butter & stir in till it melts. Finally stir in the cream & take off heat.
  • Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, cream & green chilies, as desired.
  • Serve hot with crisp garlic naan, & a salad of onion rings tossed in lime juice & salt.

Enjoy a finger-licking good chicken gravy…the original butter chicken!


  • Manggy
    8 years ago

    Very interesting history lesson, Deeba. It answered my question about CTM.

    In our country, butter chicken is just a very simple dish made of sauteed skin-on chicken pieces in a garlic-butter sauce. This looks very delicious and very complex! Thanks for the authentic recipe.

  • Ivy
    8 years ago

    Happy Independence Day Deeba. Thanks for sharing with us this delicious Indian recipe and the story behind it.

  • Kate / Kajal
    8 years ago

    Happy I day to you as well dear, the butter chicken is screaming out at me to be eaten !!! I ‘ll make the naan you bring the chicken , lets celebrate together 🙂

  • nicisme
    8 years ago

    I’m gonna shout: I LOVE IT!!
    We call this ‘chicken tikka masala’ and it is the most popular dish in the Indian restaurants here.
    Your photos are a joy to see, beautifully presented with the swirly cream.

  • Mike of Mike's Table
    8 years ago

    That’s an interesting bit of history about the dish–I never knew. Your take on this favorite of mine looks amazing, and wouldn’t you know it, I have leftovers of butter chicken waiting for me for dinner tonight? So for once, I had the foresight against my cravings, lol!

  • Divz
    8 years ago

    hey deeba…iam new to ur blog…u have done a fabulous work.. must say beautiful pics!! keep up ur good work!!

  • arundati
    8 years ago

    jashn-e-aazaadi mubarak?? looks fab…and am sure is the asli swaad!!

  • Bellini Valli
    8 years ago

    I am glad that you explained what Kasoori methi was Deeba. I live in a smaller community that thinks it is urban..but when it comes to finding a large number of ingredients they are nowhere to be found except in the large city centres. I may be able to find it…and maybe not. We do have a growing population of Indian peoples so more ingredients are becoming available:D Yay!!!

  • Gloria (Canela)
    8 years ago

    What’s beautiful recipe Deeba and happy Independence day xxxxxx Gloria

  • Mona
    8 years ago

    Looks so authentic! Lovely clicks.

  • Bentoist
    8 years ago

    A lovely post. And that serving dish is so elaborate-looking. I would like to try this dish someday but first, I need to hunt down the spices you listed. Thanks for sharing!

  • muralimanohar
    8 years ago

    Oh, yum, thanks for that! Dh is always wanting butter “chicken” (we follow what is basically the Hindu diet), but he always thinks of it at the last minute, so we end up trying some revolting bottled crap in the shop. I’ll have to try this!

    Question…what exactly are gravy tomatoes?? Are they just really ripe tomatoes, or a specific variety??

  • Helene
    8 years ago

    Oh wow this looks so good. I’m glad you share this recipe with us.

  • Cynthia
    8 years ago

    I wish I could taste your creation.

    This had me laughing for a while:
    My mother is horrified that I remember nothing of the good stuff she slaved to make & present on the table….shudder…I just hope that doesn't happen to me!!

  • Arabic Bites
    8 years ago

    Murgh makhani looks very delicious.

    Beautiful photos!

    zainab 🙂

  • Mallika
    8 years ago

    CTM has been the bane of my existence in Britain. I hate it when people say “I love Indian food, CTM is my favourite”. I made buter chicne using a jar of Italian ready tomato sauce of Passata, which doesn’t have any herbs added. very similar to your method. It was divine too.

  • decorated cookies
    8 years ago

    this looks DIVINE!

  • meeso
    8 years ago

    Oh, You know I have to try your recipe for butter chicken! I can’t wait to taste it! Looks absolutely awesome and perfect!

  • Jeanne
    8 years ago

    Oh, I love butter chicken! And seeing as hubby is on a mission to learn to make authentic curries, your recipe could not have come at a better time 🙂

  • Proud Italian Cook
    8 years ago

    Happy belated independence day Deeba! I’m speechless at the beauty of this dish. Your gorgeous vessel and photo’s make it all so delectable!

  • Ria Mathew
    8 years ago

    Hi Deeba!

    I tried this recipe at home and was an instant hit! Thanks a ton! I really love your blog 🙂 I have posted this recipe with few changes i made and have linked back to your blog.


  • Ria Mathew
    8 years ago

    Thank you Deeba!!

  • Tali
    8 years ago

    This is the only curry i will eat!! Love butter chicken!.. fantastic recipe thanks for sharing

  • PreeOccupied
    6 years ago

    These are the most adorable and cutest Butter Chicken photos I have seen. And look what you made – the Moti Mahal Butter Chicken. Fingerlicking good.

    I made Butter Chicken the other day – its called the Anaarkali Butter Chicken. Apparently, the most expensive Butter Chicken money can buy or should I say donation…

  • Tara
    3 years ago

    I just have one doubt. Only tomatoes is written on Monish Gujral’s website in his recipe.
    What are gravy tomatoes? I have searched it on the net but cant find anything. PLEASE HELP!
    I have to make this on 4th .

    • 3 years ago

      Hi Tara, This is one I posted ages ago. Now have updated. Gravy tomatoes must refer to ripe, red tomatoes i.e. ones that will make a rich gravy! Good luck!

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