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Butter chicken/Chicken makhani

Posted Jan 10 2012 9:27pm

Do you ever ask yourself this question, why does everything taste better with butter? I really do! Its the first crumbly bite of warm crumbly bread slathered with butter that makes you think so, it is the warm Parisian croissant that is just subtly perfuming the dough that makes you think so, it is the sinfully delicious sugary frosting that makes you think so..well I could go on, but you get the idea right!! Oh and I have been watching Julie and Julia and Paula’s best dishes all day. I also believe that a dish does not have to be swimming in butter to give it that distinct yum factor. A little butter goes a long way.

In India, classically north Indian dishes have the striking quality of bursting with aromas from the melee of spices mingling together in forbidden quantity of butter and heavy cream. These curries are typically cooked low and slow providing the blanket of comfort in the cruelly cold winters in the northern part of the country.

One dish belonging to this category of cooking is butter chicken or traditionally called Murg (chicken) Makhani (in a buttery sauce). Makhani is a buttery creamy sauce that has also been adopted by vegetarians to flavor their staples like paneer, mushrooms, baby corns or mixed veggies. If you are a vegan you can use also tofu, just like I used tofu to make my tofu tikka masala .

As comforting and delicious the food gets on adding butter, I cannot come to terms with the idea of clogging my own arteries and that’s when you put your thinking hat on. Good for me, my mum did the thinking and I follow her recipe.

So presenting to you my mama’s low fat butter chicken! It is easy, takes hardly any time to cook, easy on your waistline and take my word, its delicious!




Step 1: Cut the chicken thighs into 1 inch cubes and allow it to sit in the yogurt marinade for at least 30 minutes or upto 8 hours but no more.

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Step 2: While the chicken marinates, get started on the makhani gravy. Chop tomatoes and garlic.


To a skillet, add 1 tbsp butter and whole spices. Let them cook for about a minute.

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Next add the tomatoes and garlic and enjoy the olfactory pleasure! Once the tomatoes get soft and mushy which takes about 7-8 minutes add the powdered spices.

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Let it go for another minute and using a blender or stick blender, blend it to a smooth chunks please. And yes, the whole spices stay in do not remove them!

Step 3: Once the tomato mixture is ready, in the same skillet or another one add the second tbsp of butter, julienned ginger and serrano peppers. Let them cook for about a minute.

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Add the smooth tomato mixture, cover and cook on low heat for for about 10 minutes.


While the gravy cooks the chicken can be cooked. I used a stove top grill to cook’em but you can also pan fry them or roast them.

Add the cooked chicken pieces, honey, milk , garam masala and season to taste. Let the chicken cook in the gravy for about 3-4 minutes.


Garnish and serve with rice or whole wheat naan (recipe coming soon)



  • 2 tbsp butter ( you can also use canola oil, earth balance)
  • 1lb chicken thighs
  • 1 serrano pepper deseeded and julienned
  • 1 inch piece of ginger julienned
  • 4-5 medium sized tomatoes (I used roma) diced
  • Whole spices: 1 stick cinnamon, 1 bay leaf, 2-3 cardamom pods, 1 flower of mace (optional)
  • Powdered spices: 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tbsp garam masala powder.
  • For the marinade: 1 cup Yogurt, 1 inch piece of ginger grated, 2 cloves of garlic minced, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Marinate the chicken pieces in the yogurt marinade for at least 15 minutes but no more than 8 hours or else the chicken tends to get stringy and tough.
  2. While the yogurt marinates for 15 minutes, get started with the makhani gravy. To a skillet, add 1 tbsp of butter, whole spices, tomato and garlic. Cook the tomatoes till they become soft and pulpy. This should take about 7-8 minutes.
  3. Once the tomatoes reach a soft consistency add the powdered spices and let it cook for another two minutes.
  4. At this stage pulse the tomato mixture in a blender or using an immersion blender to get a smooth consistency. This smooth consistency is the hallmark feature of a makhani gravy so don’t leave it chunky.
  5. In the same skillet, add the second tbsp of butter, julienned ginger and serrano peppers and let cook for about a minute.
  6. Add the tomato mixture and once it starts bubbling, cover and let it simmer for about 7-8 minutes.
  7. In the mean time the marinating chicken pieces can be cooked. I grilled the chicken on a stove to grill, you can pan fry it or even roast in the oven for 30 minutes, whatever suits your fancy.
  8. Once the chicken pieces are cooked, transfer them to the simmering gravy and let it go for another 3-4 minutes.
  9. Lastly, add the honey, milk and garam masala. Garnish with chopped cilantro.



Q. Your favorite dish at an Indian restaurant?

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