Weeknight Cooking: Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

Before we begin, please be aware that there is a Boxer Short Advisory on this dish. That is, if you are wearing boxers while eating this dish, rest assured, they are being roxored.


This is an Indian dish with a tomato base. The sauce of the dish is both sweet and savory, and very satisfying.

The first question I received about this dish is the one that I always receive about Indian food: Is it spicy?

The answer: Not so much. In fact, this is less spicy than the Chicken Curry with Golden Raisins dish that I shared a while back. Like most Indian dishes, the spice level can be changed by the person preparing the dish. I do not add extra spice, but the chef is more than welcome to change that according to their taste preference.

I was really concerned about this dish because the list of ingredients is very, very long, but if you take a second to read it through, most of the list is spices. And of the spices, a lot of those are repeats. To abate some fears of a long and unmanageable recipe, I have taken the liberty of bolding the items that are not spices.


Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon peanut oil (repeat!)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 teaspoon garam masala (repeat!)
1 pinch cayenne pepper (repeat!)

As you can already see, the list has been cut in half because of the spices.

In a large pot (I used a frying pan so I could take pictures more easily), saute shallot and onion in peanut oil until translucent (about 2 minutes).


Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Allow to cook for 1 minute.

Quick note about the paste: I couldn’t find ginger-garlic paste at the supermarket, so I just used 1/2 Tablespoon of ginger paste and 1/2 Tablespoon of garlic paste.


Add tomato puree, half-and-half, and yogurt. Stir to combine, then turn the burner down low. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.


While the tomato sauce is simmering, take out another frying pan and heat up another tablespoon of peanut oil on medium heat. Add chicken and cook for about 5 – 7 minutes.
Reduce heat and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne.


Stir in about 1/3 of the sauce and simmer until liquid has reduced and chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Pour the rest of the sauce into the chicken.



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