Murgh Makhani | Authentic Indian Butter Chicken Recipe — Cooking with Anadi
If you see a butter chicken or paneer makhani recipe that uses onions to bring “body” or “thickness” to the sauce, turn around and run away. But seriously, traditionally, a makhani sauce is made of butter, tomatoes and cream, hence the name “makhan” which is Hindi for butter.
A Balanced & Tangy flavour
Most people either associate the sauce to a spicy Indian curry or an overly sweet dish. This can be made with Tandoori chicken or paneer for vegetarians. When in reality, the sauce should strike the perfect, playful balance between sweet and spicy.
A great time saver and alternative to using fresh tomatoes is using strained, sweet Italian tomatoes, also known as Passata.
It is great for creating a perfectly smooth gravy, since it is already strained and contains no tomato peels.
It is sweet and tangy and is consistent in flavour, so you can guarantee each batch of the sauce will taste the same.
And lastly, it is such a time saver!
Aromatic & Rich Gravy
Butter: I prefer to use unsalted butter so I can have complete control over the flavour of the dish. Butter adds a shine and smoothness to this sauce and is an essential part of, well, makhani (buttery) sauce. You can adjust the amount of butter to your liking, but be aware that the final gravy may not taste the same.
Cardamom: Known as the Queen of all spices due to its extravagant, intoxicating aroma. Usually associated with green cardamom, the flavours are slightly sweet, minty and pine-like and adds a wonderful scent to the sauce once the tomatoes are blended in the food processor. There are also several healing and health benefits from cardamom, you can read more about it here.
Mace: Usually used in Indian cuisine, this spice grows on the outside kernel of the nutmeg. In terms of flavour, it is a much more subtle version of nutmeg and helps enhance the sweetness and spiciness in the sauce.
Cashews: These really help add richness and naturally thicken the sauce. I enjoy roasting the cashews with the whole spices and butter to lightly roast the cashews. *You can omit cashews if you have a nut allergy
Ginger-Garlic Paste: An essential to a ton of dishes, Indian and otherwise. This mixture is made up of 1 part ginger : 2 parts garlic, and helps add a grounded heat, and spiciness to the dish. Since this is a restaurant style recipe, the amount we use is more than usual.
Deggi Mirch: This ingredient is key to add a natural red colour to the gravy without the use of any artificial colours. Made from mild Kashmiri red chilies, they are not too spicy and can be easily found at an Indian grocer. You can also find it on Amazon.
Honey: Although sugar can be an alternative to honey, I strongly recommend using honey. I find the sweetness from sugar is too intense, while honey carries a much softer, smoother sweetness which is much easier to control to reach the perfect level of balance between sweet and spicy in the sauce.
Dried Fenugreek Leaves: Also know as Kasoori Methi in Hindi, these leaves are crushed before adding to the gravy. While bitter in taste when dry, once added to gravy, they “wake up!” and add a beautiful fragrance and sweetness to the sauce.
Garam Masala: Usually added at the the end of the cooking process, this combination of several roasted whole spices add the final touch of warmth and spice to the sauce.
Cream: Traditionally heavy cream is used to finish of the sauce and give it the signature orange colour, I find it is sometimes too rich. Instead, I prefer adding 10% cream, which helps thin out the gravy to my liking.