Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken & Butter Tofu)

Posted by on 17/04/2013

Delicious update today, this one has taken me a bit to get ready for you. My family does pot luck dinners every once in a while, usually a holiday. For our most recent one, I decided to bring butter chicken! Of course, I have celiac so it had to be gluten free… and my family pretty much consists of vegetarians so it couldn’t be meat either. Because I wanted to try the classic version at the same time, I made a vegetarian version AND a regular version of butter chicken at the same time.


2 blocks super firm tofu (I also added a cup of black eyed beans to my vegetarian version) / pack of boneless chicken thighs
1/2 a large onion, chopped
about a tbsp of ginger puree
about a tbsp of garlic puree
2 tomatoes, blended smooth
500ml vegetable stock ( I didn’t want to use two separate types of stock, normally you could use chicken stock)
plain Yoghurt – I used a balkan style
Methi leeves or dried Methi leaves ( also known as fenugreek)
2 Bay Leaf
10 almonds
6 clove
peppercorn to taste, I used about 15 in each batch
1 stick cinnamon
8 seeds from cardamon pods
tsp Cumin seed
tsp Coriander seed
tbsp Turmeric
Sea Salt
3tbsp chilli powder
1 lime

Pretty big shopping list for this recipe, so I decided to give it to you up front. Despite the large list, it really isn’t that difficult to make butter chicken! However, there are multiple marinades required to get a really good flavour profile. There are other recipes out there that offer cheap tricks to do it faster, however I like to stick to this one.

    Step 1: Chilli marinade ( 1 hour)

murgh makhani chicken marinating
Chicken sitting coated in the spice rub

Spice Rubbed Tofu murgh makhani
Tofu coated in spice rub

Mix 3 tbsp chilli powder with the juice of one lime, and a teaspoon of salt. Rub this by hand into your chicken. If doing a vegetarian version, sprinkle it on the tofu / beans and toss carefully so that you do not break up the cubes. Cover and let sit in the fridge for 1 hour to marinade.

    Step 2: Yoghurt Spice Marinade

Once you have your protein marinading you can move on to the next step, the yoghurt marinade. This and the butter you add later are the reason why this dish is not vegan, and I am certain they could easily be swapped out with a substitute ( but I did not need to)

Grinding murgh makhani  spices

The Bay leaves, almond, clove, cinnamon, peppercorn, cardamon, cumin, and coriander all get toasted and then ground into a fine powder/paste. This spice paste will help you thicken everything up! Mix this and the turmeric with a cup of yoghurt, and then fully coat your protein item in it before leaving it in the fridge for another hour.

murgh makhani spices in yogurt marinade


When the hour has passed ( or the next day if you made it in advance) it’s time to get cooking. I start off by making a tomato puree ( 2 fresh, large tomatoes in the blender until smooth) and mixing this with 500ml chicken stock. This is set on a side burner to simmer, as I don’t want to add cold liquid to cooking meat if I can avoid it. That would cool everything down and make me wait for the heat again! (Gasp!).

Get your onions, garlic, and ginger ready; and put a large pot on the stove to heat. Carmalize the onions in olive oil, deglazing with stock, until they have reached a lovely brown/caramel colour. At this point you can start searing the chicken pieces one at a time, scraping them off on the edge of the container they are in so that they do not have excess yoghurt on them. Once you have browned the meat, you can then pour in the yoghurt mixture from the bowl. It’s easier to get a good texture on the chicken when you do it this way! This step is not as necessary when working with tofu, I added that all at once as frying/stirring it around too much is just going to risk crumbling it. Add in chopped methi leaves or crushed fenugreek seed at this point, as well as the tomato/stock mixture.


Stir it up, and let it cook down until thick. You will need to stir it occaisionally, don’t want anything to stick on the walls. When the curry has thickened up nice and good, stir in some butter or ghee to finish.

Serve with Naan bread if you can eat it ( lucky buggers) or on rice if you are like me and gluten intolerant.


I garnished with chopped parsley, and found it to be VERY delicious. I’m definitely going to be making this recipe again!


The tofu version was packed in a casserole dish to be reheated in my mothers oven the next day. It was GREAT. The recipe really held up overnight, everything thickened up with the flavour penetrating deep into the tofu cubes. I didn’t actually manage to come back home with leftovers this time- something that is highly unusual with the amount of food we all bring to our potlucks.

Hopefully you find this as easy to make as I did, because the home made version tastes WAY better than a lot of the standard butter chickens you find in every restaurent. Sure, it does take a bit of time to marinade, but you really don’t have to do much to make those marinades!

Sorry for making you guys wait for this one, hopefully you find it as good as I did.

Sean Emerson

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