Butter chicken – a healthy Indian curry recipe

Friends often ask me ”how come you’re so disciplined when it comes to making home-made dinners?'”  In response I explain that it’s because I typically have 10 to 20 of my favourite dishes on rotation at any one time. I try a new recipe every week or so. If it’s a winner then I’ll add it to the rotation, if its average won’t cook it again. And, when I get bored of a recipe or a key ingredient is out of season I’ll drop that recipe for a while. The good thing about this is that repetition imprints the recipes to my memory and it becomes easy to plan ahead (with less reliance on cookbooks). Also the more I cook a given recipe the more I have confidence I have to experiment – by adding my own twists.

Butter chicken - a healthy Indian curry recipeHere I’m sharing an Indian curry that is a regular on my rotation – Butter Chicken or Murg Makhani. I love this curry because it’s packed with health promoting ingredients like tumeric, garlic, ginger and natural yoghurt. And the double marinating means that it’s also jam packed with flavour.

Butter chicken - a healthy Indian curry recipeThis recipe, like some others on my blog, comes from a magazine cut out, that until now has been stored in my ‘to cook’ folder. The brains behind the recipe is Melbourne chef and food writer Karen Martini. Her recipe is so good the only change I make is to replace the vegetable oil with much healthier coconut oil or ghee.

If you’re looking for a new curry then this is worth a try. And do check out (her philosophy is all about fresh, seasonal produce).


The quantities here would serve a family – so adjust accordingly. Or make the whole amount and have leftovers the following day (or freeze half). And note with the chicken it’s all about quality – if you can afford organic great, otherwise choose at least free range chicken.

  • 1.5kg chicken thighs – boneless & skinless
  • 2 limes (if limes are out of season use fresh lemons over bottled lime juice)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 80g almonds
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 5 cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 tbsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup (250ml) plain yoghurt
  • 2 long red chillies, split
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
  • 2 brown onions, finely sliced
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 400g tomato purée (or canned tomatoes)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 litre chicken stock (home-made if possible)
  • 3 tbsp butter, soft but not melted
  • Fresh coriander leaves


  1. Home- made chicken stock takes this curry to another level. Consider buying a whole chicken instead of just thighs. Use the meat for the curry and (while the meat is marinating) use the carcass to make stock. Then when it comes to cooking just add the breasts after the thighs (as the cooking time is shorter). Here’s my recipe for easy home-made chicken stock.
  2. It’s easy to substitute half or all of the chicken for vegetables – aubergine/eggplant, peppers, peas, cauliflower and okra would all work well. You could even throw in a few lentils.

Steps to prepare

  • For the first stage marinade add the lime (or lemon) juice, salt and chilli powder to a bowl. Cut each chicken thigh in half then add them as well. Cover and place in the fridge.
  • Fry the almonds, bay leaves,  cloves, peppercorns, cardamom & cinnamon in a pan over a medium heat.
  • Regularly shake the pan and cook until the spices are fragrant and the nuts are starting to brown.
  • Ground the nuts and spices into a fine powder using a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar.
  • Add the ground cumin, coriander and turmeric to the spice mix. Then split the spice mix into two batches.
  • Mix one batch with the natural yoghurt and then add this as a second marinade to the chicken. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least one hour (or as long as overnight).
  • Butter chicken - a healthy Indian curry recipeHeat the coconut oil or ghee in a large pot over medium heat. Add to the pan the chopped ginger, garlic and onions, as well as the remaining spice mix. Fry until golden brown.
  • Butter chicken - a healthy Indian curry recipeAdd in the chicken and marinade and cook for a two to three minutes.
  • Throw in everything else (tomato purée and paste, stock, fenugreek and chillies). Bring to the boil and simmer on a low heat for 40 to 50 minutes. Alternatively pop in the oven at 160C for a similar amount of time in an oven proof dish or pot.
  • Butter chicken - a healthy Indian curry recipeThe curry is ready when the chicken is tender and the sauce has reduced by half.
  • Finally heat the butter in a separate small pan until it’s starting to turn brown. Then pour the melted butter over the chicken curry.

Butter chicken - a healthy Indian curry recipeServe with all things Indian – poppadoms, fresh coriander, rice, naan bread and if you can some spicy kasundi.

By Laura (Feast Wisely)

Other recipes you might like:


12 thoughts on “Butter chicken – a healthy Indian curry recipe

  1. I agree about the recipe rotation- that’s how I tend to cook too. But then I somehow lose track of that favorite recipe I was obsessively making last winter and want to try again- so I’ve started to keep a list of the hits to refer back to when inspiration runs dry. 🙂

    LOVE your curry combination. The almond addition is intriguing! I made a hot curry powder recently- There are infinite curry combinations!

    • Thanks for the feedback. I just checked out your hot curry powder post – I will be making that soon. My husband just returned from a trip to see his family in India and he came back with tons of the freshest spices…..certainly agree that store bought curry powder is not a match for a home-made version…..

  2. Wow! Fresh spices from India- soooo jealous! That sounds amazing. I’ll to have be content for now with my local Bulb Bark selection. Even somewhat stale spices sort of revive when you toast them before grinding but I imagine there is just no comparison to fresh!

  3. Ahaha! I’m back again! Having now made the AWW’s butter chicken, I can say that the recipes are very similar! But I’m a little disappointed mine doesn’t use almonds like yours does, or peppercorns (as I love, love, love pepper but hold back for all the others who eat with me). Adding almonds would add a delicious bit of crunch. I think I may have to look at adding them to the recipe I used next time, to see how they go. 🙂

  4. P.S. Did you think adding the ground almonds improved the texture? A lot of people have been telling me ground nuts can help thicken a sauce without drying it out too much.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s