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A delicious authentic recipe for Indian Butter Chicken, a classic Indian dish.

Butter Chicken Recipe (Chicken Makhani)

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The best recipe for Butter Chicken, (Chicken Makhani) a classic Indian dish made with tender chicken breast in a fragrant spiced tomato curry sauce enriched with ghee. Vegan-adaptable and GF.


Units Scale
  • 2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 2 teaspoons salt (use 1 teaspoon per pound of chicken)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons ghee

Butter Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon ghee,
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 12 serrano chilies (or sub 1 jalapeno) split in half lengthwise (leave tops intact)
  • 4 fat garlic cloves- finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger finely minced (or use ginger paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds or regular mustard seeds
  • 14-ounce can tomato puree, tomato sauce (or sub 2 medium tomatoes, blended with their juices, roughly 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup water (or veggie broth or chicken stock)
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala spice (see notes)
  • 2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves (optional, but elevates the dish substantially)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 23 teaspoons paprika (do NOT use smoked paprika, if you don’t have regular, just leave it out!)
  • 1 cup coconut cream (or sub heavy cream) or full fat yogurt.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, brown sugar, or honey
  • optional additions: cayenne pepper to taste, pinch turmeric, pinch cardamom, pinch coriander
  • garnish with cilantro

Serve with naan bread,  fluffy basmati rice, cauliflower rice or cauliflower florets and optional raita!


  1. Season chicken (either whole or cut into bite-sized pieces) with salt, pepper and garam masala. Heat ghee over medium heat in a large skillet or dutch oven, add chicken and brown the chicken until golden and set aside. No need to cook through.
  2. Add the remaining ghee to the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and whole chilies and saute 5-6 minutes until deeply tender and fragrant. Add the garlic, ginger, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook until ginger is cooked and golden, about 3 more minutes. Add the spices: garam masala, fenugreek, chili powder, paprika, and cinnamon stick, and toast the spices, for 30-60 seconds to bring out their flavor.  Add the tomato puree plus 1 cup water.
  3. Add the salt and brown sugar, give a good stir. Add the seared chicken. Simmer gently on low heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, allowing all the fragrant spices to infuse the sauce and your home.
  4. After 10 minutes, stir in the coconut cream and simmer gently once more for 3-4 more minutes. For a brighter red hue, you could add more paprika if you like. 
  5. Taste, adjusting the salt and spice level to taste (add cayenne to taste). Feel free to fish out the whole chilies. 
  6. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with basmati rice or naan.


Ghee: This recipe is all about the Indian “Butter” Sauce. The ghee truly makes it. Trust me! If you don’t have ghee- it is easy to make at home – see our homemade ghee.

Coconut Cream– use the thick solids out of the coconut milk can. Light coconut milk will be too runny. You can also use heavy cream or extra thick yogurt in a pinch.

Garam Masala Spice can be made at home- see our Homemade Garama Masala  or find it at your local supermarket – it’s one that we use here on the blog frequently, so perhaps worth investing in or making.

Dried Fenugreek leaves (not seeds or powder!) are worth tracking down, as they elevate Indian dishes substantially! Asian markets usually carry them or they can be ordered here on Amazon.

Vegan: Use coconut oil instead of ghee and coconut milk. The Indian Butter Sauce is delicious over roasted cauliflower or Crispy tofu !


  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 307
  • Sugar: 6.1 g
  • Sodium: 866.3 mg
  • Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated Fat: 11.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 18 g
  • Fiber: 5.8 g
  • Protein: 16.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 48 mg