This butter chicken recipe is your ticket to a heavenly Punjabi-style chicken curry. This rich and satisfying dish is full of pungent, aromatic spices that make it flavorful and warming without being too hot. It is incredibly easy to make and far better than any takeout.
Try this butter chicken recipe for a divinely delicious Indian dinner. How does tender, juicy chicken bathed in a sumptuous creamy tomato sauce sound? This savory, sweet, and spicy masterpiece, also known as murgh makhani, is going to knock your socks off!
In this homemade version of murgh makhani, I’ve toned down the amount of butter to make the dish less greasy. Don’t worry though — it still has all the richness and flavor you’d expect.
What is a Punjabi Butter Chicken Recipe?
Also known as Murgh Makhani, this popular curry dish comes from the Indian state of Punjab. In fact, it was created by chance when leftovers were combined to make something new. Although the original uses copious amounts of butter, I’ve toned that down using the yogurt marinade and tomato to create an amazingly luscious curry.
Tender pieces of chicken are cooked in a creamy tomato sauce with plenty of warm spices. And while curries are known for being spicy, this dish has just the right amount of heat without burning your tongue.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Chicken – Choose breast meat, tenders, or thigh filets to eventually cut into bite sized pieces.
- Yogurt – Plain Greek yogurt gently and effectively tenderizes the chicken and keeps it juicy. Regular yogurt is acceptable too.
- Garlic & Ginger – These zesty herbs deliver a spectrum of vibrant heat and pungent flavor.
- Garam Masala – Packs a potent punch of fabulous flavors and intoxicating aromas. It turns up the spice without turning up the heat too much.
- Spices – Warming spices like turmeric, cumin, and cayenne add a hint of heat and complexity to the flavor profile
- Lemon Juice – Adds a pop of vibrancy and acidity.
- Oil – Choose an oil with a high smoke point, like peanut or coconut.
- Tomato Sauce – Forms the base of the sauce and brings a bright, tangy flavor to the table.
- Sugar – Adds a bit of sweetness and accentuates the other spices.
- Salt – Highlights the flavor of the other ingredients.
- Heavy Cream – Transforms the sauce into a rich and creamy work of art.
- Butter – Harmonizes the flavors of the dish while adding another layer of richness.
- Cilantro – Offers a splendid splash of color and a fresh, grassy pop of freshness.
HOW TO MAKE PUNJABI BUTTER CHICKEN RECIPE
- Marinate the Chicken. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Toss in the chicken, cover the bowl, and place in the refrigerator. Marinate for an hour, overnight, or up to 24 hours.
- Cook the Chicken. Use a large fry pan or wok to heat the oil over high heat. Cook the marinated chicken for about 3-5 minutes or until it is white all over. The marinade prevents it from browning.
- Start the Sauce. Stir in the tomato sauce, sugar, and salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. The sauce will start to thicken and reduce.
- Add Cream & Butter. Season with a bit of salt if needed. Carefully stir in the heavy cream and simmer for an additional 5 minutes before removing the pan from the heat. Swirl in the butter, making sure that it gets melted and incorporated into the sauce.
- Serve and Enjoy. Top it off with a garnish of cilantro leaves and an extra pinch of garam masala. Serve this dish over rice and with a side of Garlic Naan Bread.
- Rice for serving – This Punjabi style butter chicken tastes delicious with just about any rice variety. Basmati is the most common, and there’s even a brown basmati that’s incredibly fragrant. Regular white, brown, or jasmine will work just as well.
- Adding vegetables – Feel free to include things like sliced carrots or squash to the pan once the chicken is cooked.
- Storage – Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Freezing – This curry should freeze just fine, but the texture may become a bit grainy. If that happens, add a bit more cream when reheating. Store in an airtight container or freezer-safe ziploc bag for up to 3 months. Then, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- Reheating – Simmer leftovers on the stove until warmed through, adding a splash of cream if needed to thin out the sauce. Or microwave in bursts, so you don’t dry out the chicken.
What Does Butter Chicken Taste Like?
This butter chicken recipe makes a rich and savory dish, with a touch of sweetness. The heavy cream and butter give the dish a richness that is perfectly balanced with the tomato sauce. Toss in a few key spices like turmeric, ginger, and garam masala and we have a creamy curry-like murgh makhani that is savory and sweet with a gentle whisper of heat.
What is the Difference Between Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala?
The primary difference in the two is the level of creaminess. Heavy cream and butter transform the butter chicken recipe into a lavishly rich sauce. Tikka masala, on the other hand, is tangier, spicier, and a bit more earthy than butter chicken.
As far as similarities, both of these Indian dishes start with chicken that is marinated in yogurt and spices. Both contain potent, aromatic spices like ginger, garlic, cumin, and more. Finally, both of these amazing entrees use tomato sauce as a base for the sauce.
What Do You Eat With Butter Chicken?
Serve murgh makhani with a steaming plate of basmati rice and a side of naan. You can try out my recipe for Garlic Naan Bread or Roti Indian Flatbread (Chapati). Or, find some in the bakery or freezer section at your local supermarket.
Regular old steamed vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or squash are also great ideas. They help balance out the richness of the sauce while adding texture, flavor, and color.
This recipe post, originally published on Silk Road Recipes October, 2020, has been updated with new content, photos and/or video in February, 2023.
Butter Chicken (Punjabi-Style)
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast meat (See Note 1)
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 2 tsp garam masala seasoning (See Note 2)
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 8 oz tomato sauce (See Note 3)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- Cilantro for garnish
- Garlic Naan Bread
- Combine Marinade ingredients with the chicken in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, overnight, or up to 24 hours.
- Heat the oil over high heat in a large fry pan or wok. Add the marinated chicken and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is white all over – it doesn’t really brown due to the marinade.
- Add the tomato sauce, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Sauce will thicken and reduce.
- Season with salt if needed. Stir through the cream and simmer another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to melt into the sauce.
- Garnish with cilantro leaves and a pinch of some more Garam Masala. Serve over rice and with garlic naan bread. (See Note 4)
- I like to use chicken breast meat, the chicken tender strips or thigh fillets, cut into bite size pieces.
- Use more or less Garam Masala depending on your taste for heat. This is not a very hot dish, the spice blend is more flavor than heat. I think sometimes people confuse spicy with heat and there is a difference! 🙂
- I use Tomato Sauce in this recipe and have also used Tomato Passata, both work well in this. Tomato Passata is uncooked tomato puree that has been strained of seeds and skins. It is not cooked, where Tomato Sauce is cooked and often has other ingredients such as carrots, onions, sugar and garlic. If you want little bits of tomato in the sauce passata works well. Smoother go tomato sauce.Passata is readily available in most supermarkets, usually alongside pasta sauces. It costs just a little more, sometimes the same, as canned tomatoes. If you can’t find it, puree canned tomatoes. (Australia, from what I understand don’t use what you call Tomato Sauce!).
- You can pick up frozen baked naan at most supermarkets or Trader Joe’s if available near you.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.