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Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is a dish made of chicken in a spicy sauce or gravy base. Butter chicken is a popular dish of Punjab in India, and is highly influenced by Persian and Turkish cuisines. It has been introduced in other parts of the world including US and UK by the Sikh diaspora. It is primarily a spicy dish, though it may have mild variants depending upon variations in the standard recipe. Butter chicken is also known by the name of ‘Murgh Makhani’.

History of Murgh Makhani

A man by the name of Kundan Lal Gujral, who ran a restaurant called Moti Mahal Delux in Peshawar (now in Pakistan), is known to be the inventor of the Butter Chicken. After partition, the Moti Mahal restaurant moved to Delhi and soon the dish became hugely popular in Northern India.

Preparation Overview of Butter Chicken

Here are some of the primarily used ingredients in the butter chicken recipe-

• Chicken: Chicken, or domesticated fowl, is the primary ingredient used for the butter chicken recipe. It is marinated before cooking.

• Yoghurt: Yoghurt is used for marinating and tenderizing the chicken.

• Spices and herbs: Different kinds of spices and herbs are used for murgh makhani, and the spice mix may vary in different recipes. The commonly used ingredients in butter chicken recipe are ginger, garlic, pepper, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek and chili. Garam masala, a hot spicy mix used for cooking a variety of Indian dishes, is also used. Dried fenugreek leaves have a notable contribution in adding taste and flavor to the dish. Garlic, is used for flavoring the butter chicken.

• Cream: Cream is used for preparation of the gravy of butter chicken as well as for garnishing.

• Cashew: This is added in paste form to make the gravy for butter chicken recipe thicker and richer.

To prepare Butter chicken, chicken is marinated in yoghurt and spice mixture, and set aside overnight. The spice mixture typically consists of garam masala, ginger and garlic paste, lime, pepper, cumin, coriander, turmeric and chili. The chicken is cooked over a tandoor in traditional recipes, but it can also pan-fried, roasted or grilled. The sauce or gravy for the chicken, which is called ‘makhani’, is made by adding spices, tomato puree and cream to heated butter, and mixing the ingredients together to fry it well. Cashew paste may also be added to this. When the sauce is ready, the marinated chicken is chopped and cooked in it till the two have blended well and the chicken is cooked. The Murgh makhni, thus prepared, can be garnished with butter and/ or cream. Crushed fenugreek leaves can also be added.

Serving Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is served hot along with naan, roti or paratha and basmati rice.

Popular Butter Chicken Recipe Variations

Here are some dishes that have marked similarity to butter chicken-

• Chicken tikka masala: A dish similar in appearance to Butter Chicken, consisting of chicken in rich gravy.

• Kadai Chicken: A north Indian chicken dish, cooked in a kadai or wok that contains capsicum along with chicken and spices.

• Mughlai Whole Chicken in Gravy: This is a Mughlai dish consisting of whole chicken cooked in spicy gravy.

Health and Nutrition Facts about Butter Chicken

Chicken, the primary ingredient of the Murgh makhani, is a great source of high quality protein that is essential for growth and development of the body. Chicken is also a rich source of niacin, which is a B-vitamin which supports the energy metabolism of the body. It is a good source of selenium, vitamin B6 and phosphorus. Besides chicken, the butter used in the dish is a good source of calcium, while spices come with medicinal properties. They are known to aid in digestion and improve appetite. However, due to generous use of butter and cream in butter chicken, it is high in calorie content. Additions of cream and cashew paste also make the butter chicken heavy and hence, may not be easy to digest.


• Raw chicken used in the Murgh makhni recipe should be handled carefully, and should not be allowed to come in contact with other food items.

• Chicken is sensitive to heat, and hence it should be marinated and stored in a refrigerator.