Utterly, butterly chicken

Butter chicken is typically a curry, made with chicken, garnished with spiced tomato and butter sauce. Its sauce is known for its rich texture and consistency. It is similar to chicken tikka masala, which uses a tomato paste.


By Foodie

Wikipedia says “chicken tikka (masala) is a chicken dish originating in the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal era. The dish is popular in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.” This is garbage. Chicken tikka is an Indian style British dish, having originated in England. However, there is a better version of chicken which actually did originate in India. It is called butter chicken. In India we also know it as murgh makhani.

What is this special dish? It is typically a curry, made with chicken, garnished with spiced tomato and butter sauce. Its sauce is known for its rich texture and consistency. It is similar to chicken tikka masala, which uses a tomato paste.

How to describe butter chicken, one of India’s richest dishes? It is basically succulent chicken pieces wrapped in an utterly butterly (apologies to Amul) combination of cream, tomatoes and aromatic spices. This is a culinary star preparation that tickles palates across the world. Murgh makhani, as known in Hindi, is also one of the most popular Indian dishes recreated around the world. While this iconic dish remains a much-loved favourite on menus across the country, few Indians know about the humble and practical origins of the butter chicken.

The story of how butter chicken came to be invented is almost as interesting as the dish itself. Punjabi cuisine has always been a symbol of a good, rich life, full of incredible flavours. Recipes like butter chicken and ‘sarson ka saag’ that have achieved a cult status globally, are a small reflection of the culinary legacy of the land of five rivers, undivided Punjab.

Mokha Singh Lamba, a Punjabi cook, had started making tandoori chicken in Gora Bazar in Peshawar in a small dhaba. “He had two helpers, Kundan Lal Gujral and Kundan Lal Jaggi, who used to work for him. After Independence, they both migrated to Delhi and started a restaurant in Delhi’s Daryaganj. Their recipe of tandoori chicken got popular, but leftover chicken was a problem as we never had refrigerators during that time. So, to keep it fresh for a long time, and moist, they made tomato gravy and added to tandoori chicken. This way butter chicken came into existence in 1950.

The Moti Mahal, in pre-partition days, was a restaurant in Peshawar founded by Mokha Singh Lamba. Both Kundan Lal Gujral and Kundan Lal Jaggi worked there as servers for some years. Thakur Dass was at his family’s rice and pulses wholesale business just across the road from the restaurant.

The Moti Mahal shut down just before partition. During these difficult times, many refugees moved to areas of India, bringing their various skills and culture with them. Peshawar cuisine was soon to find a new home in Delhi when the chance came to revive the original Moti Mahal in the capital territory. Mokha Singh Lamba, although he was then too old to continue running the restaurant, was happy for the three entrepreneurs to use the original logo and gave his full blessing to the enterprise.

With a growing population of Punjabis in the region, there was a ready-made legion of potential customers who wanted to eat traditional Peshawar fare. The trio began by selling breads and tea but then purchased three tandoors and began serving fish and chicken too.


  • -Cooking time : 50 mins
  • -Butter Chicken Ingredients:
  • -300 gms Chicken breast boneless
    For the chicken marinade
  • · 800g boneless and skinless chicken thighs or breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
  • · 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • · 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • · 1 tablespoon minced ginger (or finely grated)
  • · 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • · 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • · 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • · 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • · 1 teaspoon of salt
  • For the sauce
  • -2 tablespoons olive oil
  • -2 tablespoons ghee (or 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp oil)
  • -1 large onion, sliced or chopped
  • – 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • -1 tablespoon ginger, minced or finely grated
  • -1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • -1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • -1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • -400 g crushed tomatoes
  • -1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to your taste preference)
  • -1/4 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • -1 cup of heavy or thickened cream (or evaporated milk to save calories)
  • -1 tablespoon sugar
  • -1/2 teaspoon kasoori methi (or dried fenugreek leaves).
  • For Curry
  • -2 tbsp Butter
  • -2 tsp garlic paste
  • -1 green chilly sliced
  • -1/2 tsp Cumin powder
  • -1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
  • -1 tsp Salt
  • -6 or 1/2 kg Tomato
  • -10 Cashew Nuts
  • -1 Big tbsp Tomato Ketchup
  • -1/2 tsp Sugar
  • -1/4 cup Water
  • -1/2 cup milk
  • -2 tbsp Cream
  • -1/4 tsp garam masala
  • -1 tsp fenugreek crushed
  • -Finely chopped coriander leaves
  • How to make Butter Chicken
  • -In a bowl take all the ingredients under the marinate head and the chicken pieces.The chicken pieces should be 1″ inch in size. Mix well and keep aside for at least 2 – 3 hrs
  • -Blanch, peel and puree the tomatoes. Keep aside.
  • -Soak the cashew nuts for 2 – 3 hrs in hot water and then strain and grind the cashew nuts into a fine paste.
  • -For the curry, heat the pan and add butter and immediately add the garlic paste.
  • -Now add the sliced green chilly. Also add cumin powder, red chilly powder and salt. Add 1 tbsp water and mix well.
  • -Add the tomato puree and cook till the gravy leaves the side.
  • -Lower the flame and add the cashewnut paste and stir constantly.
  • -Now add the tomato ketchup, sugar and 1/4 cup water.
  • -Meanwhile in a separate pan shallow fry the marinated chicken pieces for 4 – 5 minutes. If overcooked, the chicken will get hard and stiff. Keep aside.
  • -Once the gravy comes to a boil add the chicken pieces. And cook for a minute.
  • -Now lower the flame, add the milk and stir well. Cook for another minute and then add the cream. Mix well
  • -Now add the garam masala and crushed fenugreek leaves. Mix well.
  • -Transfer the chicken to a serving bowl and garnish with chopped coriander leaves, crushed fenugreek leaves and swirls of cream.
  • -Restaurant style Indian butter chicken is ready to be served with naan or tandoori roti. Authentic butter chicken is a very high calorie dish yet very very tasty.
  • NOTE
    -Milk should be at room temperature before adding to the gravy.
  • -Add milk and cream at low flame only.
  • -Add the garam masala only at the end.