Pretty Dishes

Indian Butter Chicken
April 17, 2010, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Butter Chicken, sometimes called Tikka Masala or Chicken Makhani, is my favorite standby Indian dish. It’s smooth and creamy, full of flavor, and hard to screw up. It lends itself easily to whatever level of spiciness is desired (in my case, not much). I have yet to visit an Indian restaurant that doesn’t have it on the menu, and it’s even popular enough that you can pick up the premixed sauce at most grocery stores in the ethnic foods aisle.

Before you do that, though, I would instead encourage trying this fantastic homemade version from I have tested a couple of recipes and this is by far the best. I toned down the spices when I made it, so mine just had a little kick. I served it on jasmine rice and topped it with cashews and chives, which I think really enhance the dish. I also grilled eggplant slices and warmed up some garlic naan to round out this excellent meal.

(I had bookmarked a tikka masala recipe from Pioneer Woman’s site as one to try, but I think this recipe is too good, so I’ve removed that one from my links.)

Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

I’ve listed the full measures from the original recipe, but if you are sensitive to spice as I am, cut those amounts roughly in half and then season to taste at the end of cooking. This recipe makes four servings.

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1 cup tomato purée
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot and onion until soft and translucent. Stir in the butter, lemon juice, garlic paste, garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato purée, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the half-and-half and yogurt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, and season the chicken with the garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the reserved sauce, and simmer until the liquid has reduced and the chicken is no longer pink. Stir the cooked chicken into the reserved sauce.

Mix together the cornstarch and water, then stir into the sauce. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.


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