Whether you know it as murgh makhani or butter chicken, there's no denying the absolute deliciousness of this iconic North Indian dish. Which is no doubt why it can be found on Indian restaurant menus the world over.
Tandoori-cooked chicken, bathed in an over-the-top creamy, buttery sauce, tastes like it's fit for a king, but the origin of this incredibly popular dish may be less than royal. It's said it was created to solve a problem — what to do with chicken that was dried out from the intensely hot clay oven.
The solution was to bathe it in sauce, and wow, what a sauce. Ours starts by sautéing onions — and a hot red chile pepper if you want to dial up the heat — in butter, adding garam masala, coriander and cumin and cooking just long enough to let their flavors bloom before adding tomato paste, fresh tomatoes, cream and, yes, more butter.
Garam masala is a blend of ground spices, and while the mix can differ, depending on where it's made and personal tastes, it usually consists of a combination of black peppercorn, fennel, coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg (or mace), cloves, red chiles and bay leaves. You can buy it premade in the spice section at most grocery stores, but for the ultimate flavor-packed experience, I encourage you to make it yourself. The internet is abound with recipes.
Because most of us don't have a tandoori oven in our kitchens, our version of murgh makhani broils the chicken, which had been marinating in yogurt infused with ginger and garlic. The yogurt helps the chicken become nicely charred in spots and, after the broiled chicken is added to the sauce, gives the dish a subtle tanginess.
I love to serve it with basmati rice and warm naan. You'll want to have both on hand to sop up every drop of the sauce.
Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)
While this recipe makes a generous amount, it's even better the next day. I would guess that's true of the day after that, too, but it never lasts long enough in my house to find out. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1 c. full-fat Greek yogurt
• 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
• 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated or finely diced
• 1 tsp. salt, divided
• 2 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-sized, 1 1/2-in. pieces
• 1/4 c. unsalted butter, divided
• 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
• 1 Fresno chile, seeded and chopped, optional
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 2 tbsp. garam masala
• 1 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 tsp. ground coriander
• 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
• 1/4 c. tomato paste
• 2 medium-size tomatoes, chopped
• 1 1/2c. low-sodium chicken broth
• 1 c. heavy cream
• 1/4 c. cilantro leaves
• Cooked basmati rice and naan, for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, garlic, ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and Fresno chile (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cinnamon stick, garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until paste turns a rusty red color. Stir in tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and remove cinnamon stick. Stir in cream. Using an immersion blender (or blender, with the middle plastic piece in the lid removed and the top draped with a dish cloth to prevent splattering), process until smooth. Return to heat and whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Remove from heat and cover (to keep warm).
Place chicken in an even layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Adjust oven rack to about 3 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler on high. Broil chicken for about 10 to 14 minutes, turning at 7 minutes, until charred in spots and fully cooked through.
Stir chicken into sauce and heat over medium heat until hot, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with cilantro and serve with steamed basmati rice and/or warm naan, if desired.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.