Butter Chicken

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Nothing makes a meal in a Punjabi Dhaba more complete than the quintessential Murgh Makhani. I remember longing to eat some butter chicken with Naan when I was a student in Delhi. The aroma from the dhabas was torturous, yeah you read that right – torturous!
Well thats because our pockets were not as deep as we would have wanted them to be!. So we would save some money and then order some of the goodies once or twice a month.

Fast forward to now – I am no longer in Delhi or India. Yet I remember the texture, the aroma and the combination of depths of spice that this dish has. After a few attempts ,I have somewhat mastered the art of making Butter chicken. I Love Julie Sahni’s Recipes and this one sure rocks!

Julie Sahni’s Velvet Buttered Chicken
(from a recipe in Classic Indian Cooking)

Butter chicken


  • Tandoori  Grilled chicken : 16 boneless thigh fillets [ Directions for making tandoori chicken ]
  • 3 cups canned tomatoes in puree measured with puree
  • 4 green chilies seeded (or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper, or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root peeled and chopped
  • 10 tablespoons 1-1/4 sticks butter
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream [substitute with natural yogurt [Dahi]]
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds optional
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed minced fresh coriander leaves


  1. 1. Cut the chicken pieces neatly into halves, so that you have 16 pieces of chicken.
  2. 2. Put tomatoes, green chilies and ginger in a blender or food processor and blend to a fine puree.
  3. 3. Place 1 stick of butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, preferably one with a non-stick surface, over medium heat. As the butter melts, tilt the pan in all directions to coat the surface. When the foam begins to subside, add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and sear until they are nicely browned all over (about 2-3 minutes per batch). Remove them with a slotted spoon into a bowl and put aside.
  4. 4. Add the 4 teaspoons of cumin and the paprika to the butter in the pan and cook, stirring rapidly, for 10-15 seconds. Add the tomato mixture and cook, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened (about 5-8 minutes), stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning.
  5. 5. Add salt, cream and chicken pieces (with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl). Gently stir the chicken to coat the pieces evenly and thoroughly with the sauce. Be careful not to break the fragile chicken pieces. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce and a thin glaze appears on the surface (about 10 minutes). Check and stir often (but only one or two stirs at a time) to ensure that the sauce is not burning.
  6. 6. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) of butter, garam masala, and roasted cumin if you are using it. Turn off the heat, and let the dish stand, covered, for 1/2 hour before serving. When ready to serve, heat thoroughly, check for salt, and fold in the chopped coriander leaves. Serve with rice, pilaf or nan, a tandoor-cooked flat bread which can be found frozen at Indian food markets.

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