Butter Chicken – The Maharaja Of Makhani

Apr 29, 2015 by

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

India. A feast for the senses. Not sure if life will ever be the same. I know, I sound like a bloomin’ tourist – but I can’t help it.  The hospitality and helpfulness of people – family, friends, strangers just blew me away – when was the last time you went out on a limb to help some random stranger fix their sandal TWICE? Yep, that happened.

Anthony Bourdain

One of the highlights of my trip: Udaipur, Rajasthan. We stayed at the Devigarh Palace, at the suggestion of Mr. Anthony Bourdain might I add, and what an experience.

The whole trip had such an impact that it needed to be internalized some how. Devigarh – an actual palace with intimate spaces and discrete rooftop gardens.  The Aravli hills that tower over Udaipur like the ultimate protector to the palaces to art using natural chalk taken from the Aravali hills to the amazing spirit of the Rajasthanis themselves.

Here are some pix I simply had to share:

I had to keep these moments alive and what better way than to do it with food.  Executive Chef of Devi Garh Leuba, Sanjeev Sharma, agreed to teach me certain dishes that were popular at the palace  and of course with exceeded expectations, he set up the class on one of the ‘secret’ roof-top gardens where we learnt how to make, buttermilk corn chowder, coconut lentil soup and Butter Chicken. My eldest calls the last dish The Legend. Keeping Legend all to myself felt unkind, so here I am sharing it with you.

Butter chicken is little misunderstood in many restaurants outside of India.  Too many places either flood this dish with excessive cream or butter. Firstly – the only reason one would cook with cream in this dish is if there are any nut allergies. Also, whilst this may seem counter –intuitive, the goal is to finish the dish in butter and cream and not OD on it. The key characteristics to this dish are streaky BBQ’d, ‘tandoori’ chicken pieces – preferably thighs and legs for succulence that are finished cooking in a tangy and lightly buttery sauce. I highly recommend eating this with naan or a good hearty bread with maximum absorption capabilities –  to mop up even the faintest of skid marks off the plate. This method is unadulterated and I will indicate where short cuts can be taken, but for my purists, this one’s for you.


Recipe For Butter Chicken – AKA Makhani Chicken




1½ lb. chicken thighs

1 tbsp. ginger & garlic paste

½ tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. paprika


½ tsp. garam masala

½ tbsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. coriander Powder

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves at Kaulustyans or http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/spices/fenulvs.html)

¼ cup Hung Yoghurt or sour cream



1 small onion, chopped

1 tbsp. Cashew nut paste (If not available then cream)

3 tbsp. ghee/ clarified Butter or oil

½ tbsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. coriander Powder

1 cup tomato sauce/or passata

¾ tsp. cumin powder

1 tp. Chili powder

Salt to taste

Pinch of sugar

1 tbsp. yoghurt




Tandoori Chicken

1. Dry roast whole spices and make a powder from it using a spice or coffee grinder (skip this step if using garam masala)

2. Marinate chicken with salt, ginger garlic paste and red chilli powder, leave for half an hour.

3. Beat yoghurt with turmeric, coriander, cumin and whole spice powder/ garam masala. Add the chicken and mix to coat well. Let it marinate for 4 Hrs and then cook in the broiler until cooked through.



4. Heat oil and ghee in pan and sauté onion until lightly browned

5. Add the ginger and garlic paste and cook out raw flavor (keep water handy incase the ginger catches). Add turmeric, coriander, cumin and chili powder and cook with ¼ cup of some water

7. Add tomato sauce and cook further on a low flame until oil separates.  Add cashew paste and cook for another 2 mins. Strain the sauce so that it’s silky


Finishing the dish

8. Add tandoori chicken to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.

9. Take pan out from heat and mix in beaten curd.

10. Let it simmer for 10 minutes on slow fire, finish with kasturi methi and butter.

11. Adjust seasoning and serve with Naan, Roti Or Steamed Rice.



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