Modern Masala: Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

McCormick, parent of leading spice and herb company, Schwartz are turning 125 this year and are kicking off a year long celebration, exploring the role of flavours in our lives. The company has recently launched their 125th Anniversary Edition of the Flavour Forecast and the Flavour of Together programme, with the goal of connecting people around the world as they share 1.25 million stories about the special role food and flavour plays in our lives.

To participate, I was asked to create a recipe inspired by one of their Flavour Forecast 2014 trends: Chillies Obsession; Modern Masala; Clever Compact Cooking; Mexican World Tour; and Charmed By Brazil.

For me, it was a no brainer. I chose Modern Masalas to celebrate my heritage, with my version of the popular Indian dish, Murgh Makhani. I love how the subtle spices in the chicken tikka marinade are beautifully set against the silky rich sauce. This recipe also dispells the notion that Indian food has to be full of chillies.

Origin of Murgh Makhani

This delicious dish is believed to have originated from Peshawar, where my Dad’s family lived before the partition.

Famously known as Butter Chicken, the rich creamy dish was invented by Kundan Lal Gujral. He has been credited with creating tandoori chicken during the 1920s, by marinating the chicken in yoghurt and spices, and cooking them in a hot clay oven, known as the tandoor. In an effort to use up the dry bits of chicken left at the bottom of the tandoor, he immersed the chicken pieces in a rich makhani sauce and served this dish in his restaurant, Moti Mahal Deluxe. This sauce lies at the heart of Mughlai cooking and is created with lots of butter, tomatoes and cream.

Following the partition, Kundan Lal fled Peshawar and settled in Delhi’s Daryagunj, where he set up his world renowned restaurant, Moti Mahal (Palace of Pearls). The restaurant continues to serve this dish today.

Murgh Makhani continues to be a popular dish for Indians and non-Indians alike and appears on most Indian restaurant menus around the world. Full of cream and butter, it’s a calorific treat that many of us will reserve for a special occasion.

Selection of Schwartz Spices that went into this dish

Selection of Schwartz Spices that went into this dish

The Spicy Pear Special Spice Blend


This spice blend can be used to marinate meats, poultry, fish and even paneer. You can also use it in your sauces to add an extra oomph to your dishes.

For the purpose of this recipe, the spice blend has been used to marinate the chicken. The cooked chicken pieces are then immersed in a rich buttery sauce to create Murgh Makhani.

  • 5-6 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 whole red chilli
  • 1 black cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  1. Dry roast the above ingredients in a small non-stick frying pan, over a medium flame, for a minute or two, until the aroma has released from the spices. Be careful not to burn any of the spices as this will affect the taste.
  2. Using a coffee grinder, grind the roasted spices into a fine powder. Again, be careful when you are grinding that you do not overheat the spices as it will affect the taste.
  3. Store in an airtight container and use within 4 weeks.
Marinated Chicken Tikka Cooked On A Griddle

Marinated Chicken Tikka Cooked On A Griddle

Tandoori Chicken Tikka

  • 800g boneless chicken, cut into two inch pieces (feel free to use chicken pieces on the bone to add more flavour to the butter chicken dish but make sure you slash the pieces first)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 inch ginger, peeled
  • 3-4 tablespoons Greek yoghurt (enough to coat the chicken pieces)
  • 2-3 tablespoons The Spicy Pear special spice blend (see above)
  • 1-2 tablespoons tandoori masala powder (found in most Asian shops and major supermarkets)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • Pinch kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves found in most Asian shops)
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a food processor, grind the garlic and ginger with a teaspoon of oil until it forms a paste.
  2. Place all of the above ingredients, including the ginger-garlic paste into a large bowl. Combine until the marinade fully coats the chicken pieces. I like to use my hands to mix the ingredients together. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinate overnight. If you are pushed for time, marinate the chicken for a minimum of one hour so that all the flavours have absorbed.
  3. Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to cook
  4. Using a large non-stick griddle pan or frying pan, fry the chicken pieces on both sides until they are cooked. I like my chicken to be slightly charred so that the flavours can infuse into the makhani (butter) sauce.
  5. Drain on kitchen towel and set aside.

NB: The tandoori chicken can be served as a starter, garnished with finely sliced shallots that have been soaked in lemon juice, and coriander leaves. The same marinade can also be used with bone-in chicken pieces, or in fish and paneer. For this recipe, I will add it to my makhani sauce, see below.

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 2 inch ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled and pureed
  • 1-2 tablespoons runny honey (depending on how sweet you want sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander powder
  • Pinch kasuri methi
  • 125ml – 250 ml boiling hot water
  • 100g double cream
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnish with handful of toasted almond flakes and coriander leaves
  1. Heat the butter in a deep bottomed pan over medium flame, until the butter has melted. You may need to reduce the heat to prevent the butter from burning.
  2. When the butter has melted, add the green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and bay leaf. Fry for a minute, being careful not to burn the spices. Add the shallots and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the minced garlic and ginger. Fry for a couple of minutes until the garlic and ginger has sautéed and the shallots have browned.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and dry spices. Fry over medium flame until it has combined well with the garlic and ginger paste and the butter begins to separate from the sauce.
  4. Add 125ml of boiling water to the sauce. You may need to add more depending on how your mixture is looking. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Add the honey, kasuri methi and cooked tandoori chicken pieces into the sauce and mix well. At this stage, check the seasoning of your dish and adjust if necessary.
  6. Add cream and simmer  for five minutes.
  7. Garnish with toasted almond flakes and coriander leaves.
  8. Serve immediately with steamed basmati rice or tandoori naan.

Disclaimer: This post is an entry into the Foodies 100 / Schwartz Flavour of Together Challenge. I was given a selection of Schwartz spices and a supermarket voucher to create this recipe.

You too can share your own flavour stories by creating a recipe inspired by one of the Flavour Forecast trends. Schwartz has pledged to donate $1 to United Way Worldwide and it’s UK partner Focus on Food, for every story shared on the Schwartz websiteFacebook page or other social channels.

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  • Posted February 23, 2014

    Karen Burns Booth

    A WINNER of a recipe Tina and I am an avid Butter Chicken addict! A fabulous Flavour Story post! Karen

  • Posted February 23, 2014


    Lovely story Tina! I’m a huge fan of butter chicken, love the thick sauce and all the spices, it’s so aromatic!

  • Posted February 23, 2014


    My mouth is watering so badly reading this post, Tina. It’s an indulgent treat, but I absolutely adore butter chicken and yours looks truly exquisite.

  • Posted February 23, 2014

    glamorous glutton

    I’m going to try your tandoor recipe when we next fire up the tandoor oven,made by the Glam 20 something. Great recipe, the butter chicken looks fab. GG

  • Posted February 23, 2014

    Nayna Kanabar

    This recipe looks wonderful well created Tina I will try veggie version with maybe potatoes.

  • Posted February 23, 2014

    London Unattached Food

    I love butter chicken! And, I guess I must have the spices to make it now

  • Posted February 23, 2014


    Mmm, fancy using your spice mix to marinade paneer – lovely.

  • Posted February 23, 2014

    Heidi Roberts

    This looks delicious, I love Butter Chicken.

  • Posted February 24, 2014

    Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry

    I would love to try some butter chicken. This looks fab.

  • Posted February 25, 2014


    Oh god, that looks incredible! Bookmarked & pinned to remind me – thank you so much for posting 🙂
    Janie x

  • Posted February 26, 2014

    Deena Kakaya

    Lovely post! I saw your thick red gravy, clean pictures, I’m vegetarian and have loads of paneer in te fridge. You know what’s happening 😉 x

  • Posted February 27, 2014

    Eat Your Veg

    Oh one of my favourite dishes ever if made properly!. Not the nasty take away version. I’ve actually made it a few times following a fabulous recipe I’ve somehow misplaced, but sounds very similar to yours. I’m so bookmarking, this looks heavenly.

  • Posted February 28, 2014


    Tina – I made this for a group of friends on Tuesday. It is absolutely delicious and everyone loved it!

  • Posted March 4, 2014

    Morgan @ Peaches, Please

    Mmmmmm. I love butter chicken. I also like the nice char you’ve gotten on the meat. Delicious.

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