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Best Butter Chicken Recipe In 3 Main Steps

Butter Chicken Served with white steamed rice and naan bread

Buttery Chicken Served
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Butter Chicken Yum!

OMG! Butter Chicken is marinated chicken thighs, simmered in a tomato-based buttery curry sauce with a light touch of cream, giving the sauce a silky smooth, rich texture, and served over rice with homemade naan bread as a solid nod to Indian Cuisine.

The colors of this dish just bounce off the plate, and the curry sauce is so flavorful that you cannot wait to jump in and slop up the sauce with a piece of naan bread before you bite into that juicy rich tasting chicken and rice for texture…..I mean c’mon on, so satisficing you just feel good!

Where Did Butter Chicken Come From

If you never heard of Butter Chicken or worse have never tasted it, you are definitely in for a treat. After doing some research, I learned that butter chicken, or murgh makhani originated sometime in the 1950’s in the capital territory of India called Delhi. There is a gentleman named Kundan Lal Gurjal who had fled the political upheaval in another region of India, and chose to operate a restaurant in the city, called Moti Mahal.

It was common practice for the cooks of Moti Mahal to mix leftover marinade juices with butter and tomato and then stew with the chicken that was cooked in a tandoor oven (a circular clay oven). His restaurant became a popular destination for this dish and well as they say, the rest is history. Well good for us right?

What Spices Are In Butter Chicken

As you many have guessed, butter chicken being of Indian descent is spicy forward as all indian dishes tend to be. In this case it is curry centered and to get that depth of flavor you will need some common spices you likely have on hand such as paprika, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and whole cloves,

Some of the unique spices you may need to make a trip to the store to stock up on is green cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, garam marsala, and fenugreek. I have never had a problem finding garam marsala, green cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks at my local store. Fenugreek however is another case all together.

So, fenugreek seeds and leaves are truly a key ingredient in Indian cooking, having a sweet-nutty flavor. While optional in this recipe, I high recommend the use of it because cooked down and combined with aromatics and spices, it transforms and gives a sweetness and depth of flavor to saucy dishes.

Keep in mind, you will need both the seed and the leaves You will not likely find it in stores, because I have tried, and tried to find it. Best bet is to order it online, I order mine from The Spice House actually. It not overly expensive and should last you quite a while.

How Do You Make Butter Chicken

Basically you are making this butter chicken in threes main steps, marinating the chicken thighs, creating the curry sauce, and then assembling them together to allow all of the flavors to meld into yumminess.

Butter chicken ingredients:

Marinade : Yogurt, ginger, salt, garlic and fenugreek leaves (optional, not shown) and boneless chicken thighs,

Sauce: Butter, cinnamon stick, green cardamom pods, whole cloves, fenugreek seeds and leaves (optional, not shown), onion, serrano chillies, salt, garlic, ginger, garam marsala, paprika, turmeric, whole peeled tomatoes, heavy cream and cilantro for garnish.

Butter Chicken In The Making

Keeping it straightforward and simple lets focus again on the three main areas.

Marinade: Whisk the yogurt, garlic fenugreek leaves, ginger and salt in a bowl. Add in the boneless chicken thighs.

Now before I get a bunch of questions about chicken thighs, or chicken breasts, please know you can use whatever you prefer to use. Note though, before you use a chicken breasts, that chicken thighs have more flavor in general and will enhance this butter chicken recipe that I believe you will miss if you sub in chicken breast. Hey, this is a no judgement zone, so you do you. I am just saying….. Ok now back to it!

Set the marinating chicken in the refrigerator for NO LESS than an hour, but you can go over night if needed.

Sauce: Trust me I know the sheer number of ingredients (17) for the sauce can be a bit daunting to honest, but the prep of the ingredients was not difficult and the sauce comes together quite quickly. TIP: Note that the ginger and garlic are in both the marinade and sauce so be sure you have enough grated while you are at it.

  • Start by melting the 4 tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven big enough to stew all of the ingredients, over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, clove, and fenugreek seeds (if using). You want to be moving these spice around and for about 2 minutes until they are fragrant and bit darker than when you started.
  • Add in the onions, chillies, and a generous season of salt and cook this for 8-10 minutes as the onion caramelize.
  • Next up, garlic, and ginger and cook another 2-3 minutes until they have added their flavor to the dance.
  • Now the rest of the spices are added in, fenugreek leaves, garam masala, paprika, turmeric. Stir for about a minute or so and then add in the cans of tomatoes.
  • Take your potato masher and press on the whole tomatoes, gentle to release all of their juices hopefully without wearing it in the process.
  • You are going to let the sauce cook about 45 minutes, uncovered until the sauce naturally thickens up like a ragu sauce would. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard it.
  • Using a immersion blender, take it to the sauce and carefully blend until it is smooth. If you do not have one, you can carefully pour the sauce into a blender to achieve the same thing.
  • Add in the last of the butter, and the cream and let it continue to simmer and marry all of those amazing spices!

Assembly: Pull that marinated chicken from the bowl letting some of the excess drip off.

  • Take a cast iron skillet and heat it up nice and hot on the stove top. you can add a bit of oil if needed to keep it from sticking.
  • Carefully place the chicken into the case iron pan and get a quick sear on the chicken on both sides. Just 3-4 minutes a side. The goal here is to get some beautiful seared textured on the chicken. The chicken will not be done, it will finish cooking in the yummy sauce where it will soak up all kinds of wonderful!
  • Add the chicken to the sauce and let continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes before serving with rice and slices of naan bread.
Butter Chicken served alongside white rice and naan bread
Butter Chicken served alongside white rice and naan bread

Did You Make This Recipe?
If you made this recipe I would love to see it! Tag me on Instagram @food.devoted

Can You Make Any Elements Ahead Of Time

Sure, you can make the sauce ahead of time which I think only enhances the flavor as all sauces tend to do after they sit a day or so.

The chicken can also marinate overnight if needed because there is no acid in the marinade that would break the chicken down and affect the texture.

As for the rice, I would definitely not make ahead of time and keep it fresh for serving.

Looking For Other Flavorful Chicken Recipes?

I KNOW you are going to ❤ this recipe. If you are look for other flavorful chicken recipes that stop you in your tracks, then head over to my BBQ Peruvian Chicken With Creamy Cilantro Sauce Recipe or my Yogurt Marinated Chicken Recipe. You will thank me for the road map to deliciousness!

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