Butter Chicken (River Cottage Murgh Makhani)

Indian Spices

This is the best chicken curry I’ve ever tasted and I’ve cooked it quite a few times now.  It’s the curry you make when you want to impress people who won’t eat lamb. Murgh Makhani is the authentic version of the more familiar “chicken tikka masala”. By all accounts, the dish was created at the “Moti Mahal” restaurant in New Delhi as a way to use up the marinade left over in the trays used to prepare chicken tikka. I can’t promise that this recipe is as good as you’d get in the Moti Mahal, but it’s definitely worth trying.

The recipe is adapted slightly from the River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I’ve changed how the chicken tikka is prepared and altered the spicing a little. The result is creamy, rich and spicy. Some plain basmati rice is the only accompaniment you’ll need for this.

Main Ingredients

  • 6 large, free-range chicken breasts
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp fenugreek leaves
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Tikka Marinade Ingredients

  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tsp of the following: chilli powder, sweet paprika
  • 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp of the following: ground coriander, ground fenugreek
  • 2 tsp mixed spice (or 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon and ground ginger)
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp groundnut/sunflower oil

Tomato Gravy Ingredients

  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 175ml water


  1. The first step is to marinade the chicken. Mix the salt, chilli powder and paprika with the lemon juice in a large bowl and add the chicken breasts. cover and leave to marinade for 30 minutes. (If using “bone-in” chicken, make some slashes before adding to the marinade.)
  2. Mix the remaining marinade ingredients and coat the chicken breasts. Cover tightly with cling film and leave overnight.
  3. Put all of the ingredients for the tomato sauce in a saucepan and bring up to a gentle simmer. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes before straining to remove the whole spices. Cover and set aside.
  4. Transfer the chicken pieces, along with it’s marinade, to a roasting tray. Cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven at 220°C for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 200°C and leave for a further 20 minutes.
  5. Now it’s time to complete the dish by making the makhani sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the ground cumin. Sizzle gently for a minute before adding the tomato sauce and simmering for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients. simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cooked chicken along with it’s sauce/marinade. Simmer until the chicken is warmed through and.

Serves 6.


  • Difference between this version and that contained in the River Cottage Meat Book – Hugh does his marinade in one single step. I prefer to do a two-step (with chilli and lime juice first) because it’s always worked for me and makes the chicken really succulent, even chicken breast fillets. I also use fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) instead of ground fenugreek as it looks good in the finished dish. Hugh also strains his tomato sauce to give a smoother result but I like a bit more texture in the sauce.

6 Responses to “Butter Chicken (River Cottage Murgh Makhani)”

  1. 1 Kelly March 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I am looking forward to making this, I have made your chicken saag and Southern Indian curry, and I have to say they are superb. Delighted to have come across your blog.

  2. 3 anita foster June 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I’ve never made Butter Chicken from scratch before, I usually just but a jar of Patak’s Butter Chicken sauce but NEVER again! Just made your recipe & must say its delicious & so easy too! I had to use a splash of distilled vinegar instead of lemon juice as I forgot to get some & thought it would work & it did.Also couldn’t get Fenugreek leaves but had ground Fenugreek in my cupboard so used that. To save time I also made my tomato gravy the day before without sieving as the sauce would be a bit too thin for my liking & I also prefer a chunkier sauce.
    All in all, a great recipe & definitely be making it again! So glad I found this blog as its great! Thanks!

  1. 1 Chef Answers Your Questions About Grilling Chicken | Grills Gone Wild Trackback on March 7, 2011 at 5:15 am
  2. 2 The Big 8 - The only curry recipes you'll ever need! | Toasted Special Trackback on August 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm
Comments are currently closed.


%d bloggers like this: