Butter chicken (murgh makhani) is one of the most famous curries in the world and is renowned for its delicious and creamy sauce. Here is a pure homemade variation which is slightly healthier and can be made from a supermarket trip away of buying fresh ingredients.
As with most spicy curries, this butter chicken recipe is great for batch cooking and meal prep, which you can freeze or reheat on weeknights to serve with rice, naan bread or flat bread.
I love this recipe because you do not need to use store bought butter chicken pastes, and by using fresh ingredients, you will notice and appreciate the difference.
You do not need any fancy ingredients. Just get the spice mix right for the chicken and sauce, and use a high speed blender for the sauce. It can be cooked in one-pot and left to slow cook which is perfect for weekend cooking.
Why you might love this butter chicken recipe?
- Tastes authentic and can be made healthy.
- Perfect for batch cooking or meal prep.
- You can use the sauce for other recipes, in case you are looking for something meat-free.
If you like spicy chicken, why not try:
- Quick Chicken Saag Recipe
- Easy Jerk Chicken Bowl Recipe With Mango Salsa
- Cheesy Chicken Buffalo Pasta Recipe
- Chicken Burrito Bowl Meal Prep
How to make butter chicken?
1) Main ingredients:
Chicken Breasts or Thighs: You can opt for boneless chicken breasts or thighs with this recipe. Personally I do prefer boneless chicken thighs as they taste better and brings the best out of this dish. However, you can cut chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks which is more macro-friendly and good for batch cooking.
Chicken Marinade: For the chicken marinade you will need to combine these ingredients in your mixing bowl.
- Greek Yogurt
- Garlic and Ginger Paste
- Red Chili Powder
- Garam Masala
- Lemon Juice
- Salt and Black Pepper
Cover and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Butter Paste/Sauce: The key to this dish is the butter sauce which needs to be blended into a paste. The good news is that you can easily buy these ingredients from your supermarket. You will need.
- Red Onion
- Garlic and Ginger Paste
- Fresh Tomatoes
- Cashew Nuts (optional)
- Red Chilli Powder
- Garam Masala
You can make and prep this sauce, and use it for other recipes in case you do not want to cook chicken. If you are looking for a meat-free option you have options like tofu and paneer.
Finishing touches: Once you combine the chicken and butter sauce, traditionally you will need to use fenugreek leaves to complement to taste.
2) Step by Step Method:
Allow the chicken to marinate: Combine all the ingredients for the chicken in a mixing bowl and I suggest allowing this to marinate overnight or at least 4 hours – however 1 hour should be okay if you have no time.
Blend the butter paste: You will need to cook the ingredients in one-pot first. I suggest using either a high speed blender or hand blender to turn this into a smooth paste. This is now your main curry sauce which also can be used for other recipes!
Add the chicken and butter paste: Technically, this is a one-pot recipe because now you can add the chicken and butter paste to allow your butter chicken curry to cook on low heat. However, before you add the chicken and butter paste, add more butter and red chilli to complete this signature dish! And of course, fenugreek leaves and coriander leaves to garnish.
- How to keep it low-carb: Butter chicken is often consumed with naan bread or rice but
- How to make it less spicy: Reduce the red chili powder if the chicken marinade and butter paste if you feel this recipe is too spicy.
Can you reheat butter chicken? Is it good for meal prep?
Butter chicken is a brilliant recipe for batch cooking or meal prep because all the ingredients are made fresh and can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. As it has been allowed to set in the fridge, you might taste more of the flavor because the spices have fully settled. You can simply reheat it in the microwave or stove top until piping hot throughout.
Can you freeze butter chicken?
You can safely freeze butter chicken for 3-4 months by using an air-tight meal prep container or freezer bag. If you can to freeze butter chicken, it is best advised to do so sooner than later for the best results. Read this meal prep storage guide for more information about storing and reheating food safely.
Can you freeze the sauce and chicken separately?
You can make the butter chicken sauce (paste) separately and this is handy to use for other recipes, in case you do not want to cook chicken. Freeze the paste for up to 3-4 months but ensure you use a freezer page and remove as much air as possible to keep it stored correctly.
Healthy Butter Chicken Recipe
- 500 g Boneless Chicken Breasts cut into small pieces or Boneless Chicken Thighs
- 125 g Greek Yogurt
- Garlic Paste
- Ginger Paste
- 2 tsp Red Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- 1/2 Lemon juiced
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Large Red Onion finely chopped
- 1 tsp Garlic Paste
- 1 tsp Ginger Paste
- 4 Fresh Tomatoes chopped
- 25 g Cashew Nuts
- 1 tbsp Red Chill Powder
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- 1 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
- 1/2 cup of Water
For the Chicken + Paste:
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1 tsp Red Chilli Powder
- 1/4 tsp Kasuri Methi optional
- Chopped Coriander to garnish
This all can be made in one-pot but follow these steps below for an easier process:
- Add to your mixing bowl: chicken, yogurt, garlic paste, ginger paste, red chilli powder, garam masala, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Stir to combine and allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight or at least 4 hours - however 1 hour should be okay if you have no time.
- Add olive oil to your pan, and shallow the chicken pieces until they are cooked on the outside, which should take 5 minutes on each side.
- Keep the cooked chicken aside and cover while you prepare the paste.
Paste - note: you will need a blender
- In the same pan, add olive oil again, and add butter too.
- Add the red onions, garlic paste and ginger paste, and sauté until golden.
- Add the red chilli powder, garam masala, ground cumin and ground coriander.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cashew nuts, and stir to combine.
- Allow the simmer by adding water.
- Once it has been cooked and cooled down, place it into a blender and blend until it forms into smooth paste.
Combine Chicken and Paste
- To the same pan, add the butter and red chilli powder.
- Add the paste to the pan, followed by the chicken pieces.
- Cover and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the kasuri methi and garnish with chopped coriander.
- Serve with rice, naan or a flatbread.
- For meal prep purposes, refrigerate up to 4 days.
- I would recommend using a hand blender for the paste.
- To save time you can prepare the paste in advance, which can be used for other recipes.
- Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes in a mixing bowl.
- For this recipe I have used chicken breasts which reflects the nutritional information.
- Nutritional information excludes rice and only counts the butter chicken.
Frequently asked questions
What is butter chicken and where does it originate from?
According to this book, butter chicken was invented in Delhi from a restaurant called Moti Mahal in 1947. It originates from a very talented and innovative Indian chef named Kundan Lal Gujral, who also happened to invent the famous dishes’ tandoori chicken and dal makhani.
Yes, he is pretty much a culinary legend.
As with most recipe inventions, butter chicken was allegedly developed by mistake and unintentionally thanks to leftover marinated chicken cooked in a tandoor.
The chef wanted to use the marinated chicken the next day for his restaurant, so he could sell it again, rather than throwing it out. However, back then, they did not have enough refrigeration facilities and instead added spicy tomato gravy with butter and cream.
It turned out to be a hit and butter chicken is now famous all around the world.
Is this recipe gluten free?
This butter chicken recipe is gluten-free but do double-check the butter you are using if you are on a gluten-free diet. I used anchor butter and although there is no gluten in their butter or their production facility, they have not done certified tests.
What is butter chicken sauce made of and which spices do you need?
The authentic way to make this is by using spices, tomato, butter and cream. However, I did not use cream.
What can I substitute the chicken with?
You can use marinated tofu or paneer to replace the chicken. It will taste very similar simply because thanks to the sauce.
Spicy Meal Prep is a food blog and resource for busy people and home cooks around the world. What started as a solo blog has now turned into a website of healthy recipes and home cooking tips written by home cooks, chefs and nutritionists around the world. Our mission is to make healthy cooking easy, with realistic recipes that you will actually cook and balanced meals that you can fit into your meal plan.