Butter Chicken
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Butter Chicken: Brief details of Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken, a dish that has transcended borders and captured the hearts (and taste buds) of millions around the globe, holds a special place in the pantheon of Indian cuisine. Its rich, creamy sauce infused with aromatic spices and tender chicken pieces has made it a beloved favorite not only in India but also in countless Indian restaurants worldwide. In this culinary odyssey, we’ll delve into the origins, evolution, and enduring popularity of this iconic dish, exploring its cultural significance and the nuances of its preparation.

Origin and Evolution of Butter Chicken

The origins of Butter Chicken can be traced back to the bustling streets of Delhi, India, in the 1950s. It is said to have been invented almost by accident at the famous Moti Mahal restaurant by Kundan Lal Gujral, a visionary chef and restaurateur. Legend has it that Gujral, faced with the challenge of repurposing leftover tandoori chicken, concocted a velvety tomato-based sauce infused with butter, cream, and a medley of spices to revitalize the dish. The result was a culinary revelation that would soon become a sensation.

Initially dubbed “Murg Makhani,” which translates to “buttery chicken,” the dish quickly gained popularity not only among locals but also among foreign diplomats and dignitaries visiting Delhi. Its irresistible combination of smoky tandoori chicken and luscious sauce proved to be a winning formula, earning it a permanent place on the menus of Indian restaurants across the globe.

Over the decades, Butter Chicken has undergone various adaptations and interpretations, each reflecting the culinary preferences and regional influences of its creators. While the basic elements of tender chicken and creamy tomato sauce remain constant, subtle variations in spices, cooking techniques, and additional ingredients have given rise to a diverse array of Butter Chicken renditions, each with its own unique flavor profile.

Preparation of Butter Chicken


At its core, Butter Chicken is a harmonious fusion of Indian spices and creamy indulgence. While recipes may vary, the essential ingredients typically include:

  • Chicken: Traditionally, boneless chicken pieces, preferably thigh or breast, are used. These are often marinated in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, and spices such as garam masala, turmeric, and chili powder before being cooked in a tandoor or oven for added flavor.
  • Tomato Base: A rich, tangy tomato sauce forms the foundation of Butter Chicken. Tomatoes are simmered with aromatics like garlic, ginger, and onions until they break down into a thick, velvety consistency.
  • Butter and Cream: True to its name, Butter Chicken owes much of its richness to generous amounts of butter and cream. These ingredients not only add a luxurious texture but also help mellow the heat of the spices, creating a balanced and decadent sauce.
  • Spices: Aromatic spices such as cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and cardamom lend complexity and depth of flavor to the dish. These are often toasted and ground before being added to the sauce, enhancing their fragrance and intensity.

The preparation of Butter Chicken is a labor of love, requiring patience, precision, and a deft hand with spices. While the exact techniques may vary, the general process typically involves marinating the chicken, preparing the tomato base, simmering the sauce until thickened, and then combining the two components to allow the flavors to meld together. The dish is then garnished with fresh herbs and served hot, often accompanied by rice, naan bread, or other Indian staples.

Cooking Method

Marinate the Chicken:

  1. In a bowl, mix the yogurt and lemon juice.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to the yogurt mixture, ensuring they are well coated.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.

Cooking the Chicken:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the marinated chicken pieces and cook until they are browned on all sides.
  3. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Making the Gravy:

  1. In the same pan, add a bit more oil if needed. Sauté the chopped onion until it turns translucent.
  2. Add the minced garlic and ginger, and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the garam masala, ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, and chili powder. Cook for a couple of minutes to toast the spices.
  4. Add the tomato puree or crushed tomatoes to the pan, stirring well to combine with the spices and onions. Allow the gravy to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the gravy has thickened slightly, add the cooked chicken back to the pan, along with any juices that may have accumulated. Stir in the heavy cream and butter, allowing them to melt into the sauce. Season with salt to taste. Simmer the gravy and chicken together for another 10-15 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together and the chicken to cook through.


  1. Once the chicken is cooked and the sauce has reached your desired consistency, remove from heat.
  2. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves before serving.
  3. Butter chicken is typically served with rice, naan bread, or roti
Watch live cooking of “Butter Chicken” on the YouTube Channel: Get Curried

Cultural Significance

Beyond its culinary appeal, Butter Chicken holds profound cultural significance, serving as a symbol of India’s rich gastronomic heritage and its ability to embrace and adapt to diverse influences. As a product of the vibrant melting pot that is Indian cuisine, Butter Chicken embodies the spirit of innovation, creativity, and cross-cultural exchange that defines the country’s culinary landscape.

Moreover, Butter Chicken’s widespread popularity both in India and abroad underscores its role as a cultural ambassador, introducing people from all walks of life to the flavors and traditions of Indian cooking. Whether enjoyed in a bustling restaurant in Delhi, a family kitchen in Mumbai, or a neighborhood Indian takeaway in London or New York, Butter Chicken has the power to bring people together, transcending boundaries of language, geography, and culture.

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The Global Phenomenon

In recent years, Butter Chicken has experienced a surge in popularity on the global stage, propelled by the growing appetite for authentic and exotic flavors. From high-end restaurants to fast-casual eateries, Butter Chicken has become a staple of Indian cuisine menus worldwide, enticing diners with its irresistible blend of spice and creaminess.

Part of Butter Chicken’s global appeal lies in its versatility and adaptability, allowing chefs and home cooks alike to put their spin on the classic recipe. Whether incorporating local ingredients, experimenting with different cooking techniques, or reimagining traditional accompaniments, chefs are constantly finding new ways to innovate and elevate this beloved dish.

Moreover, the rise of social media and food tourism has further fueled the popularity of Butter Chicken, with Instagram-worthy photos and glowing reviews encouraging adventurous eaters to seek out authentic renditions of the dish wherever they go. As a result, Butter Chicken has evolved from a humble street food favorite to a global culinary phenomenon, beloved by foodies and casual diners alike.


Butter Chicken stands as a testament to the enduring power of food to unite, inspire, and delight. From its humble origins in the streets of Delhi to its status as a global culinary sensation, this iconic dish has captured the imagination of millions around the world, transcending cultural barriers and bringing people together one delicious bite at a time.

As we continue to celebrate the rich tapestry of Indian cuisine and the diverse flavors it has to offer, let us not forget the humble origins and enduring legacy of Butter Chicken. Whether enjoyed in a bustling restaurant or homemade with love, Butter Chicken remains a timeless classic, a true culinary masterpiece that will continue to delight generations to come.

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