This easy and creamy Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) recipe is a simple version of the classic Indian takeout dish. Featuring yogurt-marinated chicken thighs in a homemade butter sauce, this flavor-packed meal will quickly turn into a new family favorite.Jump to Recipe
Indian-inspired butter chicken at home
Learn how to make restaurant-quality Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) at home! This Indian-inspired takeout favorite combines Indian-spiced and yogurt-marinated chicken thighs with a buttery, tomato-based gravy. The easy-to-follow instructions are beginner-friendly, too, helping you turn this Indian-inspired recipe into a weeknight staple.
What is murgh makhani?
Murgh makhani, or chicken makhani or butter chicken, is a Northern Indian curry dish made from seasoned and diced chicken thighs simmered in a rich and creamy tomato-butter sauce. It’s known for its bright red color and luxurious textures and flavors.
This is an easy butter chicken recipe made with budget-friendly ingredients, such as:
- Yogurt – Any plain yogurt or Greek yogurt you have at home will do. Marinating the chicken in an Indian-spiced yogurt sauce infuses it with moisture and flavor, leaving you with luscious and juicy pieces of chicken.
- Lemon juice
- Garam masala – A warm Indian spice blend made from cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, and more. You can find this in most well-stocked grocery stores or Indian markets.
- Fenugreek powder
- Smoked paprika – Or regular paprika.
- Chili powder – Or, if you can find it, replace this with Indian red chili powder (lal mirch). It’s spicier than regular chili powder, is a staple in many Indian dishes, and is a popular addition to meat rubs because it packs such a punch.
- Kosher salt
- Garlic – Fresh garlic is always best.
- Ginger – Use ginger paste, grate fresh ginger yourself, or use ground ginger (only 1 teaspoon).
- Chicken thighs – Boneless chicken thighs are best because they’re easier to cook under the oven broiler and don’t dry out as quickly as chicken breasts.
- Butter – For the butter sauce, of course!
- Olive oil
- Tomato paste – This adds a concentrated tomato flavor that’s necessary for the butter chicken gravy or sauce.
- Fire-roasted tomatoes – Canned tomatoes keep this recipe as easy as possible without losing any flavor.
- Heavy cream – Or use a can of full-fat coconut milk. You can use whole milk instead but the butter sauce won’t be as creamy or rich.
- Chicken broth – To thin out the butter sauce.
- Cilantro – For garnish.
How to make a simple butter chicken recipe
Add the diced chicken thighs to a bowl along with the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, spices, and salt. Stir to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic and transfer to the fridge to let the chicken marinate.
When it’s done, transfer the marinated chicken to a baking sheet. Place it under the broiler until the pieces are cooked through.
While you wait on the chicken, prepare the butter chicken sauce by melting the butter and heating the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion in the butter/oil until it’s slightly golden, then add the garlic and ginger.
Stir in the tomato paste, garam masala, fenugreek powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, and salt next. Let the spices bloom for 30 seconds to enhance their flavor.
Next, pour in the canned tomatoes with their juices. Stir, then cover the skillet with a lid and leave the mixture to simmer until the tomatoes start to break down.
Transfer the simmered sauce to a blender and blend until it’s completely smooth. An immersion blender works well, too (see the Tips section for instructions).
Pour the blended sauce back into the skillet and add in the cooked chicken. Toss to coat, then let the butter sauce and chicken cook together for 5 minutes to meld the flavors together.
Slowly stir in the heavy cream and broth to finish. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed, then scoop the homemade butter chicken into bowls with rice. Enjoy!
This recipe is best served in bowls with cooked basmati rice, brown basmati rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, or the grain of your choice. Sprinkle fresh cilantro or parsley on top, and scoop up each bite with a piece of warm naan bread.
Tips and variations
- Blending the butter sauce – You can blend the butter sauce in a regular blender or a mason jar with an immersion blender. It will be very hot, which is why it’s important to let the steam vent. Do this by removing the center insert from the blender lid and covering the hole with a kitchen towel. If using an immersion blender, hold the mason jar with a towel as you blend.
- If the sauce isn’t completely smooth after blending – Continue to blend, adding 1 tablespoon of water at a time, until the sauce is no longer grainy and completely smooth.
- Is it too spicy? This simple butter chicken recipe doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of heat. However, if you’re sensitive to spice, lower the heat by using only an ⅛ teaspoon of chili powder and using regular paprika instead of smoked.
- Is it not spicy enough? Saute diced chili peppers, like jalapenos or serrano peppers, along with the onions, garlic, and ginger. You can also add a pinch of cayenne.
- Vegetarian butter chicken – Replace the chicken with baked tofu cubes or sauteed tempeh, and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
Frequently asked questions
You can leave the chicken pieces in the yogurt marinade for a minimum of 30 minutes or a maximum of 24 hours.
Yes, there are a few ways to prepare this recipe in advance: (1) The butter sauce can be made and blended, then stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 day, (2) you can let the chicken marinate for up to 24 hours ahead of making the recipe, and (3) broil the chicken and store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Once it’s time to eat, cook the chicken as normal while you heat the sauce in a skillet or heat the pre-cooked chicken and sauce together in the pan. Enjoy!
Leftover butter chicken will stay fresh for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. I don’t recommend freezing it because the sauce may become gritty when thawed.
Looking for more easy dinner recipes?
- Ravioli Lasagna Recipe
- Peruvian-Style Grilled Chicken
- Chicken Mushroom Pot Pie
- Swedish Meatballs (Ikea Copycat)
Did you try this easy Butter Chicken recipe? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below and giving this recipe a rating! Don’t forget to take a picture tag me on Instagram or use #lenaskitchenblog to be featured in my stories! I love seeing what you come up with!
Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)
- ½ cup whole plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoons garam masala
- 3 teaspoons fenugreek powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste or freshly grated
- 2 ½ pounds boneless chicken thighs or breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 tablespoons butter cut into pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 clove garlic grated
- 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 ½ teaspoon kosher salt more to taste
- 1 14.5 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup chicken broth or a little more to thin if needed
- 3 tablespoons cilantro chopped or whole leaves
- In a mixing bowl, add chicken pieces, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, spices and salt.
- Cover bowl and transfer to refrigerator and let marinate at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
- After marinating, transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
- Move the oven rack 3 inches below the broiler in the oven. Preheat broiler to high heat, once heated place chicken in oven and broil until cooked through and browned, about 10-12 minutes, flip halfway.
- While the chicken cooks, melt the butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onion and saute until slightly golden brown for about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, saute for 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste, garam masala, fenugreek powder, smoked paprika, chili powder and salt. Sauté for 30 seconds.
- Pour in fire roasted tomatoes. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent burning.
- Transfer mixture to a blender. Cover with lid and remove center insert from blender lid (this helps to release the steam), cover with a folded kitchen towel. Blend sauce on low until smooth. Or add sauce to a mason jar and blend with a stick blender. Use a towel to hold the jar since it will be hot.
- Add the sauce back to a skillet, add in cooked chicken pieces and rendered juices from the baking sheet. Cook for 5 minutes on low to ensure the flavors combine well.
- Pour in heavy cream and chicken broth and stir. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt to your liking. Cook for a minute on medium-low to bring up the heat.
- To serve, add hot basmati rice, top with butter chicken, sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a side of warm naan.