Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recipe: Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken)

In my research, I've found that this is a "dining out" recipe which means that most people don't make it at home. The reasons for this are practical as most homes don't have the tandor oven necessary to make the chicken perfectly. From what I understand this recipe originated using not only the leftover meat but also the drippings from tandori roasted chicken. That doesn't mean it's impossible to make at home. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Chicken Makhani is probably the most popular Indian dish in the world. My introduction to it came at one of my favorite lunch haunts: New Mother India in Waltham, Massachusetts. I've had chicken makhani at many other places, but New Mother India's is still the best. It's their sauce of course and the extremely tender chicken doesn't hurt. They were the target I was shooting for when I started trying to replicate the dish. Two years, and a host of recipes, alterations and attempts later, I still don't have it. No one's complaining in my house though because I've come up with one that is very good and easy to prepare at home. It's a home kitchen homerun!

Now I've had Chicken Makhani in restaurants a few different ways. Sometimes it comes with a little sauce, sometimes in comes with a lot. This recipe is in the middle. If you want more sauce, just scale up all the ingredients except the chicken. This recipe also includes what I've been lead to believe is a widely used but rarely admitted to Indian restaurant secret: Good 'ol American Ketchup! Trust me, it has to be true because it makes a big difference in the finished dish!

Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken)

1 inch piece of ginger (diced)
3 garlic cloves (diced)
1/2 cup of almonds (some recipes say blanch them. I did once but don't anymore.)
1/2 cup of plain yogurt (Greek preferred but use what you have)
1/2 tsp of mild chili powder (some Indian types are VERY hot)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp fenugreek
4 cardamom pods
1 lb. diced fresh tomatoes (the redder, the riper, the better)
1-1/4 tsp salt
2 lbs. boneless chicken breast (cut into bite-sized pieces)*
5 TBS clarified butter (yup, this isn't for the faint of heart, it is called "Butter chicken" for a reason!)
1 large onion (thinly sliced)
6 TBS fresh cilantro (finely chopped, Chop a little extra as a garnish).
5 TBS heavy cream
1-3 TBS ketchup (I use Trader Joe's organic)

Blend the ginger, garlic, almonds and yogurt into a liquidy paste. Add a little water if necessary.

Put the ginger, garlic, almond and yogurt paste in a large bowl. Add the chili powder, cloves, cinnamon, garam masala, cardamom, tomatoes, salt and blend everything together well.

Add the chicken to the bowl and mix in well. Be sure all the chicken is well-coated.

Now, some recipes say to marinate this in the fridge from 2 to 24 hours. Me? Nah, right on to the next step and I don't taste a remarkable difference.

Preheat your oven to 350°F (Yup, I learned this from one recipe and it makes a nice difference).

Set a large, deep, OVEN SAFE pan or dutch oven over medium heat and add the clarified butter until melted. Add the onions and sauté until beginning to brown and soft.

Add the chicken and sauce mixture and fry for a few minutes to get the mixture up to oven temp.

Add the chopped cilantro and heavy cream. Carefully mix in thoroughly.

Place in the oven uncovered and cook for about an hour. Keep an eye on it. You want it to brown a little in a few places on top, but not burn or dry out! If it seems to beginning to brown too much or looks like it is drying up, throw an oven-safe cover, or aluminum foil on it and finish cooking it like that.

When time is up, immediately remove it from the oven. Add the ketchup (shhhhhh!) and stir it in thoroughly. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve garnished with a little chopped cilantro. Add basmati rice and naan as sides and kabam! Indian food heaven!

*Truth be told you can use any skinless cuts of chicken you like. I like boneless breast.

Chicken makhani butter chicken recipe


  1. This is neat. I've eaten it in restaurants many times, but never cooked it at home. I'm putting this on my 'To Try' list.

  2. This is my favorite ever Indian meal. I like you love to cook a lot, eat a little, and benefit everyone else! Great blog here!

  3. Yes, this one is tricky because of the tandor and chicken drippings thing. It took a LONG time to get it where I like it. It is also one of my favorite Indian dishes. Thank you for your kind comments.

  4. I love Butter chicken and this looks supebe.
    Now just need few naans to polish the plate yumm.

  5. Excellent receipe. I believe it tastes like the one served at resturants

  6. Thank you very much. Though I find if I scale up the recipe it's not as authentic. I imagine that is just a matter of the variables in ingredients and cooking in general. Thanks for you comment!