indian butter chicken murgh makhani

Fun fact: One time, at the ripe age of 19, I started day-drinking with a friend in Phoenix, got an insuppressible craving for Indian food, and called the one person I know that would be down to eat at an Indian buffet with me at 3pm on a weekday -- my big brother. Looking back, this makes almost perfect sense to me. I've always kind of been a food > friends girl.

Even though we went to a buffet where we could indulge in endless amounts of food for $8.95, my brother still inclined to mop up every last bit of curry sauce with naan, obviously making him the perfect candidate for such an affair.

I vaguely remember filling my brass chalice up with mango lassi and recklessly cheersing with my brother as it spilled over the brim on to the white table cloth, spooning tikka masala into my mouth, laughing with him like we were royalty.

At a buffet.


Me, drunk. Him, sober.

The wait staff nervously smiling as a belligerent fool like myself kept telling my brother, and the girl he brought with him (shit, I just remembered he brought a friend) to “Eat up!” as if I cooked the food myself. 

While I have yet to travel to India, and may no longer be welcome there for such antics, it's one of my escapes from Chinese food when I feel like something different. Just like western food, Indian food in Beijing costs a pretty penny. A penny that I am too cheap to let go of. 

For that, I have to fend for myself.

Murgh Makhani, or butter chicken, is an undeniably delicious staple that is like the California Roll of Indian cuisine. We’ve all tried it. We all love it. We all feel culturally rich after eating it.

You’ve never had butter chicken omgggggggggz?!?!?!


serves 3-4, 1 hour


  • 3/4 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoons garam masala (I used this recipe)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2lbs pounds chicken (I used breast because I had it on hand, but go for legs or thighs)
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons oil (I used coconut)
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1-2 red chiles, seeded, diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • ⅔ cup chicken stock, low-sodium or homemade
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk or cream (I had coconut milk on hand)
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds, or nut of choice
  • ½ bunch cilantro leaves, for garnish

Recipe adapted from the NY Times


If you can't find garam masala, you may already have the ingredients to make it at home, like I did. Link above.

Now that you have your key ingredient, start by marinating your chicken in the yogurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala, and cumin. I mixed the spices into the yogurt first, then submerged the chicken breast (I used about 8-9 of the small ones) and then refrigerated for roughly three hours. Feel free to do it overnight. 

indian butter chicken recipe

When you're ready to start cooking, prep your aromatics. 

murgh makhani ingredients

In a large pan over medium heat, melt your butter and then add the oil to it. Add your diced onions and sauté until translucent, then add your minced garlic, ginger, and cumin seeds. Smells. So. Good.

authentic indian butter chicken.JPG

When the onions are browned, add the cinnamon stick, tomatoes, chiles and salt, and cook until the chiles are soft, give or take 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and the marinade to the pan. The yogurt may have thickened up by this time, so if you'd like to thin it out, add 1/4 of stock or water. I preferred mine a little thicker. Bring everything to a boil, and then simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Mix your tomato paste as well as you can into the cream or coconut milk. Pour into the pan and gently stir until the paste has melted and you achieve an orange base, simmering an additional 7-10 minutes.

Add in your ground almonds and take off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes or so. Garnish with cilantro, serve with basmati rice or naan. I happened to have a tomato chutney on hand, (weird, right?) so I got real authentic, real fast.

indian butter chicken recipe