Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)

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Don’t let the name scare you – there’s not really that much butter in this butter chicken; it’s actually pretty healthy, though you wouldn’t know it since it tastes so good! Butter chicken is a very popular dish from North India, and you’ll probably see it on most Indian restaurant menus. The chicken is sautéed in a rich gravy of tomatoes, onions, spices, yogurt, and yes, a little butter! This recipe serves 2 to 3.

Indian Butter Chicken!
Ingredients for the chicken marinade:
  • 1.25 lbs chicken breasts or thighs, skinned, deboned and cubed
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs garlic paste/crushed garlic
Ingredients for the curry (gravy):
  • ½ a large red onion or 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes or 3 medium-sized, chopped
  • 1 green chili, sliced and de-seeded (optional - skip this if you like it less spicy. Also don't use Thai chilies - they are too hot! Serrano peppers work well.)
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garlic paste/crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder*
  • 1 tsp garam masala* (a spice mix used in many Indian dishes - see notes below)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper/red pepper powder - also known in India as chili powder see cook’s notes below!
  • ½ tsp cumin powder*                                 
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds*
  • 1 Tbs ghee (this is Indian clarified butter, available at the Indian grocery store, but you can substitute butter!)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs butter (optional)
Chili Powder & Garam Masala that I use

1. Place the chicken cubes in a large bowl. Add the yogurt, garlic paste and salt. Mix well and let marinate while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Chicken marinating

2. Heat 1 Tbs vegetable oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet. Add the chopped red onions and 1 tsp garlic paste. Stir well and sauté a couple of minutes, until onions are tender (not browned).
3. Add the tomatoes, salt, cardamom powder, garam masala, red chili powder and cumin powder. Continue sautéing until the tomatoes are cooked down and look like this (will probably take 5 minutes):

4. When the tomato-onion mixture is soft, let it cool for a few minutes and transfer it to a blender/food processor. (I use the Ninja and love it for this!). Blend it until it is a smooth paste, like this:

5. Add the ghee (or butter) to the skillet and let it melt. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and bay leaves and let them begin to sizzle (do not brown/burn!).
6. Pour the tomato-onion paste back into the skillet. Now add the chicken and most of the marinade. Add the green chilies. Stir well, cover and let simmer on low for about 15 minutes. (You can take the lid off to stir occasionally).
7. Uncover, stir, and let cook down another 15 minutes. I turned the heat back up to medium at this point. You don’t want it to be too watery, and you want to make sure the chicken is no longer pink in the center.
8. If you would like, you can top it off with another 1 Tbs of butter before serving. The finished curry will look like this:

We love this with Basmati rice, but it is also delicious with hot naan!

*Cook’s Notes*
-   IMPORTANT – the red chili powder in this dish is NOT the chili powder at most American grocery stores used to make chili (the soup) – that has a very different taste and CANNOT be substituted. You want ground red chili peppers. I get my chili powder at the Indian store, but you can substitute Cayenne pepper/red pepper powder. You may want to use a bit less because I think Cayenne may be hotter.
-        Spices like cardamom powder, cumin seeds, garam masala, etc are much cheaper if bought in bulk at an Indian/Pakistani grocer.
-   You may notice butter chicken often looks more red. This is from food coloring. I never add food coloring to my dishes as there is no reason to eat these potentially harmful chemicals.

This recipe was adapted from this butter chicken recipe on the blog In Love with Food:


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