One of the most popular Indian dishes, this Murgh Makhani, or Butter Chicken, is bursting with flavour. This one however, has a healthy twist! Similar to its cousin, Chicken Tikka Masala, but with a creamier sauce and still packed with flavour from a wonderful blend of spices.
What is Murgh Makhani?
Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken, is a dish that originated in the Indian subcontinent as recently as 1948. It is chunks of chicken in a mildly spiced tomato sauce. Makhani is a Hindi word which translates as "with butter". Sometimes this dish is called chicken makhani.
Why you will love it
- A lighter curry dish
- Mild spices so good for kids
- Easy to adapt with butter or yogurt
- Cheaper (and quicker) than ordering takeout
- Chicken - We used chicken breasts to keep this nice and lean, but you could swap it for boneless and skinless chicken thighs if you prefer. This would change the nutritional information though.
- Chopped tomatoes - Try to use the best quality tomatoes that you can, as you really will be able to taste the difference. Cheap tomatoes are really watery and you won't get the same delicious thick sauce.
- Onion - We used a standard brown onion, but you could swap it for shallots for a sweeter flavour.
- Garlic and Ginger - This is the base of any good curry. Fresh is always best, but you could save some time and use some garlic and ginger paste. If using fresh ginger, did you know you can use a teaspoon to peel it really quickly!
- Yogurt - A little low fat yogurt adds lots of creaminess to this curry, without using butter. This is our healthier version, which is why we have used yogurt.
- Cardamom, Bay leaves, Cumin seeds and cloves
- Chilli powder and Garam masala
- Fresh coriander (cilantro)
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: In a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic and ginger with a little oil and a pinch of rock salt.
Two: Heat some oil in a pan and add the chicken chunks. Cook until browned all over, about 5 minutes.
Three: Add the onion until cooked, about 5 minutes.
Four: Add the garlic/ginger paste and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute.
Five: Add the tomatoes, cardamom, bay leaf, cloves and cumin seeds. Cook for for 10 minutes.
Six: Add the Garam Masala and Chilli powder, cook for a further 5 minutes.
Seven: Remove from the heat and remove the cardamom, cloves and bay leaf. Very slowly add the yogurt and stir until mixed together.
Eight: Serve with rice or naan bread and sprinkle chopped coriander (cilantro) on top (optional).
Does it actually contain butter?
Although this traditional Dehli curry is usually made with butter (hence the name), swapping out the butter for low fat yogurt still gives it the same creamy taste, but with lower calories and fat. It still has all of the flavours from the herbs and spices.
If you want to keep this as an authentic Murgh Makhani, cook the chicken and onions in 1.5 tablespoons of butter instead of oil. When it comes to the step of adding the yogurt, use an extra tablespoon of butter. Using butter will considerably alter the nutritional values.
What to serve it with
Of course naan bread goes really well with a curry, so maybe try our peshwari naan. If you still want some bread, but want to save a few calories, then our Easy Homemade Flatbreads go really well too.
Traditionally, the main difference between these two curries is that butter chicken has less tomato and is creamier than chicken tikka masala. Tikka masala is a dry dish, cooked in a tandoor (a large cylindrical clay oven); butter chicken is cooked in a pan over heat.
The beauty of any homemade curry is that it can be as spicy as you want to make it. Traditionally, butter chicken is a fairly mild dish, which makes it a great introduction to curries, especially for kids. You can alter the amount of chilli powder that you put in to the curry to make it less or more spicy, depending on your own tastes.
Once you have allowed this curry to fully cool down, you can put it in the fridge in an air tight container and it will be good for up to 2 days. You can reheat it on the hob or in the microwave.
This curry freezes really well. Allow it to cool and then put it in a freezable container and it will be good in the freezer for up to 3 months. Once it is defrosted, you can reheat it on the hob or in the microwave until piping hot throughout – if the sauce is a little thick, you can thin it out with some water. Do not reheat the curry more than once.
Yes it can and we have a full recipe for a Slow Cooker Butter Chicken.
More chicken curries
Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil - for the chicken
- 300 g (10.5 oz) Chicken breast - cut into chunks
- 6 tablespoon (6 tablespoon) Low fat yogurt
- 400 g (14 oz) Chopped tomatoes - canned
- 1 (1) Onion - finely chopped
- 3 (3) Garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Fresh ginger - finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Olive oil - for the paste
- 1 pinch Sea salt
- 3 (3) Cardamom pods
- 3 (3) Cloves
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) Garam masala
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) Chilli powder
- 1 (1) Bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) Cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoon (2 tablespoon) Fresh coriander (cilantro) - chopped
- In a pestle and mortar, crush 3 Garlic clove and 1 tablespoon Fresh ginger with1 tablespoon Olive oil and 1 pinch Sea salt.
- Heat 1 tablespoon Olive oil in a pan and add 300 g Chicken breast. Cook until browned all over, about 5 minutes.
- Add 1 Onion until cooked, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic/ginger paste and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute.
- Add 400 g Chopped tomatoes, 3 Cardamom pods, 1 Bay leaf, 3 Cloves and1 teaspoon Cumin seeds. Cook for for 10 minutes.
- Add 1 tablespoon Garam masala and 1 teaspoon Chilli powder, cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and remove the cardamom, cloves and bay leaf. Very slowly add 6 tablespoon Low fat yogurt and stir until mixed together.
- Serve with rice or naan bread and sprinkle 2 tablespoon Fresh coriander (cilantro) on top (optional).
- For a truly authentic Murgh Makhani, once the curry has finished cooking, stir in a teaspoon of dried funugreek leaves (sometimes called methi, or kasuri methi). Cover, and let the dish stand for 5-8 minutes.
- You can use either oil or butter to cook with and either yogurt or butter in the sauce. Or a combination of either.
- Alter the amount of chilli powder depending how hot you like your curries.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.