Butter Chicken “Chicken Makhanwala”

DSC_1985Butter Chicken- Serves 4

Traditionally butter chicken (known as “Chicken Makhanwala” in India) is typically prepared with butter, heavy cream and sometimes, cashew paste added to thicken the gravy. My home-made version however, has none of the above ingredients. The version I make is made with regular cooking oil, 2% milk and Rajah Tandoori Masala (Spice Mix). I also make a vegetarian version with “paneer”.

I love improvising on my recipes. It’s fun to create a new recipe by adding different ingredients to an existing recipe. I use lots of caramelized onions, tomatoes, fresh cilantro, ginger, garlic and few Indian spices to prepare the base or sauce for my curries. I like to add yogurt or coconut milk for a tangy or smooth flavor depending on the preference of the day. So while I was cooking chicken curry the other day, I added tandoori masala, milk and Kasoori Methi, and omitted the yogurt or coconut milk.

Since tandoori masala is a mixture of different aromatic spices blended together, it adds a nice flavor punch and does not need any more spices. The milk makes it smooth and creamy and kasuri methi rounds off the flavor. Voila, we have a new chicken curry recipe!

Skeptical of how my hubby would react, I presented the curry without “selling” it as butter chicken (one of his favorites). To my surprise, he turned around and said, “Honey you really knocked it out of the park, you made chicken Makhanwala today!

I knew then, I had a recipe that was a keeper. Enjoy!DSC_5691


  • 1.70 pounds chicken thighs (skinless and boneless), cut into 1 inch small pieces.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine (approximately 2 cups)
  • 2 tomatoes pureed (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
  • 3/4 tablespoon garlic, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons tandoori masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala (Optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk ( I used 2%)
  • 1 tablespoon dried kasuri methi
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • salt to taste ( add very little as tandoori masala is salty)


Heat oil in a vessel. Add cardamoms and cloves. Add onions and a dash of salt to it (helps to brown faster) and fry till caramelized. This will take 20- 25 minutes. Fry the onions on high for the first 10 minutes, then  lower the flame to medium and keep frying for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye, as they can burn easily!

IMG_4076Add ginger, garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add cilantro and fry for another minute.IMG_4078

Add tomatoes, tomato paste and let this cook till the oil starts to separate. This will take 7 to 10 minutes.IMG_4094

Add the chicken and a dash of salt. Add tandoori masala and garam masala. Fry the chicken well. The masala should coat the chicken. Keep frying for 5 minutes.

IMG_4096Then, add hot water and cover and cook on medium low for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

IMG_4103After the chicken is cooked, keep on low flame and stirring continously add milk.

Off the gas, crush kasoori methi into it. Mix well.

Check for seasonings and serve hot with rice or “naan” and salad.DSC_1946

Ingredients for cumin rice:

  • 1 cup Basmati Rice
  • 1/4 cup green peas (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds”Jeera”
  • 2 star anise ( this really flavors the rice well)
  • 3 green cardamoms
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 teaspoons Pure Ghee Clarified Butter or canola oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups water.

Method to make rice:

Wash the rice till the water runs clear. Heat oil or ghee in a vessel.

Add cloves, cardamoms, star anise, cumin seeds and green peas.

Add rice and saute well. Add salt to taste and fry till the grains are well coated.

Add 2 cups water and keep on medium high. After most of the water has evaporated, cover and keep on low flame to steam for 5 minutes.

Ready to serve.

For the salad:

  • 1 hot house cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • handful of grape tomatoes,halved
  • juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
  • 1 green chilly (Thai hot), chopped fine -Optional
  • salt and sugar to taste


  1. You can also cook the rice in a rice cooker, after frying the rice, transfer the mixture to a rice cooker, add water and cook.
  2. Tandoori masala is salty so go easy on the salt.
  3. I usually like to cook with chicken thighs, the meat is soft and tender.
  4. Green cardamoms and cloves are optional in the chicken, if using make sure to remove it before serving.
  5. I like to grate fresh ginger and garlic by using this handy Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater.

I have uploaded a video modeling for an ad I shot years ago. I used to model in India and did some television commercials. I found the advertisement on Youtube. The ad is for “ghee” or clarified butter and since I have used ghee to make the cumin rice, I thought it would be fun to share.


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