Makhani Chicken (Butter Chicken masala)

Each of my recipes has a story of where and how I came across it and this one is no different!

Our friends invited us for lunch at Gilanis Restaurant during our recent trip to Nakuru, Kenya where I went to school and you guessed it, served us loads of food.

A myriad of dishes was presented, but the final one that arrived with bells and whistles (and rightly so!) was Makhani Chicken. I would like to add that this translates to Butter Chicken very much ordered and loved by the diners in the UK and worldwide. Again there are many individual ways that this is made, this of course is the take of the Chef in Nakuru.

As per usual, I was keener to get the recipe than enjoy the food.  After lunch, I cornered the Chef who happily shared the process of the recipe. 


Stage 1

  • 1 lb boneless chicken
  • 2 tbs plain yoghurt
  • 2 tbs cooking oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tbs ground dry coriander
  • 1 tbs tomato puree
  • 2 tsp chillie flakes
  • half tsp bicarbonate of soda (optional)
  • or ready Tandoori Masala
  • 1 tbs butter

Stage 2

  • 2 tbs Butter
  • 1 tbs oil
  • 6 ozs finely chopped/grated onions
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbs tomato puree
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • half tsp red chillie powder
  • 2 tsp dry methi (fenugreek)
  • 3 tbs single cream or half cup milk

Stage 3

  • Tarka
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs grated or very finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp whole cumin
  • One sliced green chillie (optional)


  1. Wash chicken pieces and drain in a colander for 10 mins.
  2. In a bowl add all the ingredients from Stage 1 except the butter, mix well with a spoon and marinate overnight or for 2-3 hours.
  3. Or use ready Tandoori masala to marinate the chicken, keep the butter for the next stage.
  4. Heat a frying pan or griddle and spread a layer of butter on the pan.
  5. Place individual pieces of chicken into the frying pan keeping them an inch apart – (do not overcrowd), brown the chicken on one side, turn over and brown well on the other side keep the chicken slightly under-cooked. This may need to be done in two batches depending on the size of the pan.
  6. Remove cooked chicken into a dish and keep covered for later use. (can be frozen when cold).
  7. For the masala, add the butter and oil into a pan, add the onions and cook until colourless do not brown, add the ginger, garlic and cook together for 2 minutes, then add tomato puree.
  8. Cook together on low heat, add salt and chillies, bhun until oil seeps out of mixture.
  9. Add the pre-cooked chicken pieces to the masala, add 2 tbs water and stir once, then cook covered on low heat for 3-5 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked, add another tbs of water if it starts sticking to the bottom and bhun again.
  10. Add the cream/milk and methi (fenugreek), mix well once and keep uncovered on a low heat until cream/milk has dried and the butter/oil separates, so the masala is fully bhuned – this is an important stage.
  11. Remove into a serving dish.
  12. Finally for tarka (tamper), add butter (it is Chicken Buttery after all!) into a small frying pan, add the ginger, cumin and green chillie if using.
  13. Heat the frying pan until mixture sizzles and splutters, pour over the cooked chicken and serve with fresh rotis or naans.

This dish is not suitable to be served with rice as its quite dry and doesn’t have enough liquids for the rice to soak up.


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About Me

I am Sabiha Khokhar, born in Kenya now living in London – a busy working mother, wife, published author and passionate cook. Despite having many interests in life, my greatest joy is FOOD!

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