Indian Murgh Makhani/Butter Chicken

Cue the Bollywood music and don your brightest sari, kiddies – we’re headed to one of my most favorite culinary locales for today’s post!  I can hardly go a month without desiring that wonderful tummy-warming spicy garlicky deliciousness, filling every fiber of my being with the need to feed untillll… I go broke.  Ordering any kind of food, but ESPECIALLY Indian food, is NOT cheap; especially if you like to mix all sorts of different flavors together when you order.  And if you have an obsession bordering on psychotic for garlic naan.  So what’s the solution?

I had tried cooking my favorite dish, murgh makhani (or butter chicken for the lingually challenged) before and it did not turn out AT ALL like I wanted, or like it should have.  I chalked it up to my lack of a tandoor/clay oven, although after a quick search on Amazon I just realized this thing is not very expensive:

Well, there goes more of my paycheck.

Anyway, it IS possible to get that delicious flavor without a clay oven.  The trick was concocting the right recipe with the best flavor profile.  Not to toot my own horn, but I think this recipe is pretty damn bomb.  Toot, toot.

Niagara falls in my mouth

Niagara falls in my mouth

Murgh Makhani!
serves 4 hungry hippos


1 lb chicken breasts and thighs, boneless and skinless (I myself prefer breasts, but thighs are needed so the dish isn’t dry – you could do all thigh if you prefer)
1 lime
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. red chili powder (feel free to + or – as needed- some like it hot!)
1c. plain greek yogurt (plain regular yogurt will work too, but you won’t have that nice tang)
4 Tbsp. garam masala
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 Tbsp. curry
1 large vidalia onion, chopped
1 head garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. ginger powder (or 3 tsp. fresh ginger, grated into a paste)
1 8 0z. can tomato paste
1 c. chicken stock
1-4 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. celery seed (or kasuri methi/fennel)
1-2 whole red chilis, with seeds (or 1 tsp. red chili flakes)
3 Tbsp. ghee (or clarified butter)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. coriander leaves, fresh (this is a garnish – you can omit if needed)
1 package store-bought naan (doctored however you want – I like to put garlic powder and butter on mine)


Chop up the chicken thighs and breasts into bite-sized pieces.  Mix together with the lime juice, salt, and red chili powder in a bowl.  Cover it and let it marinate anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight (in the fridge if that’s the case) – the longer it marinates the more flava flav you’ll get!

hopefully not this kind

Whenever you’ve decided the lighting, atmosphere and pheremones are right, pull that chicken out of the fridge and mix in the yogurt, garam masala, curry, cumin, and turmeric.  Let that marinate while you prep what comes next.

Chop up the onion and garlic.  Now, I’m a big fan of chopping things by hand – it’s sort of my therapy.  However, sometimes you are just too.damn.hungry. to deal with all that nonsense.  I LOVE this little doodad that my mom bought a few months ago – it makes chopping a breeze if you’re in a rush:

KitchenAid Pro Food Chopper

Be it by hand or by chop-genie, now that your onion and garlic are all torn asunder, start heating up the olive oil on high in a sautoir pan or deep enough pan to hold a fair amount of liquid.  A dutch oven will work, too.  We’re not picky here in Indian fairy tale land.

a typical sautoir pan (cuisinart chef’s classic saute pan)

When the pan is nice and hot, throw in the onions and fry up until they are a nice golden brown caramelized color.  Then, add the garlic and the ginger powder or paste.



Let that cook another minute or so and then add the chicken to the pan.  You want to try and remove as much of the marinade as possible from the chicken so it gets a nice sear.  I do this by squeezing it through my hands like toothpaste.  There is no glorified way to do this that I can think of – if you can, please leave a comment!  Toss the chicken around until it starts to turn white on the edges.  Add the tomato paste, chicken stock, celery seeds or kasuri methi, whole red chili peppers (or the flakes) and the rest of the marinade.  Bring that to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium.  Cook until the sauce has reduced and the chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes – you can add corn starch to thicken if the gravy is still too runny for you.

bubble bubble toil and trouble

bubble bubble toil and trouble

Melt down the ghee or clarified butter.  Lightly pour and stir the ghee into your butter chicken.  Heat up your naan.  Drool, wash off your face, dig in, rinse, repeat.

full bellies guaranteed

full bellies guaranteed


You’re gonna want something sweet and cool to balance the spicy deliciousness of the butter chicken.  Like I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of super-sweet wines, so if you are I’d recommend going with your favorite.  One that I’d recommend that has a nice balance to compliment this Indian intensity is… tabla roll, please…

2011 Barth Riesling – Allure, Semi-Dry

Barth’s Allure Riesling, about $16/bottle.  Its floral with a hint of ginger and lime (perfect for the flavors in the dish!) and a nice minerality to balance out the sweet.

Chill the bottle and call the family for an Indian retreat!

Bon appetit,

2 thoughts on “Indian Murgh Makhani/Butter Chicken

  1. Pingback: Garam Masala Rubbed Cornish Game Hens with Maple-Tamarind Glaze | Wine to Walnuts

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