Murgh Makkanwali (Chicken in Butter)

In a book fair during the late ‘80s, I came across Meera Taneja’s Indian Cookery and I bought it immediately because of the way the recipes were written. She had given a slightly different preparation for Murgh Makkanwali. I modified it to suit the ingredients available then and also the facilities in my kitchen. This preparation is different from what one usually comes across in restaurants as ‘Butter Chicken’ which uses leftover Tandoori chicken pieces, whereas Meera Taneja had used fresh chicken.

Murgh Makkanwali (with Khamiri Roti)

Murgh Makkanwali (with Khamiri Roti)

This is a delicate blend of spices and is a special treat for one’s taste buds. I make this very often, and my guests are rapturous in their praise of its flavour. I must warn those who are on weight reduction or low-fat diets that this will not help their cause. The butter and cream together contribute about 800 Calories which means each serving will provide energy of about 130 calories from fat alone. In addition, the protein content is also quite high as the chicken provides 25 g of protein per 100 g of chicken. On the whole this preparation is rich in energy, fat, and protein. Luckily the tomatoes provide some antioxidants 🙂

Murgh Makkanwali is a rather simple preparation with fewer ingredients than many other Indian recipes but the cook has to be both skilled and alert as the temperature has to be careful regulated –otherwise one will end up with a kala (black) murgh makkanwali!


  • 1 kg Chicken, skinned and jointed
  • 2 Green Chillies, deseeded
  • 5-cm-piece Ginger, grated
  • 20 Shallots (Sambar Onion), sliced
  • 250 g Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 T Cumin Powder
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • ¼ C chopped Coriander leaves
  • 5 T Butter
  • ½ C Cream
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste


  1. Pulse the tomatoes, green chillies, ginger, and shallots in a mixer or blender for 10 seconds. Pulse again if required, to get a smooth slurry.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, non-stick wok or kadai. DO NOT brown the melted butter.
  3. Fry the chicken pieces a few at a time on low heat.
Frying chicken pieces on low heat

Fry chicken pieces on low heat

  1. Remove when slightly brown and set aside.
Remove when slightly brown

Remove when slightly brown

  1. To the remaining melted butter in the wok, add the cumin and chilli powder after lowering the heat; stir and do not brown.
  2. Add the tomato slurry and salt; bring to boil, lower heat and cook till the fat separates.
  3. Now add the fried chicken pieces and the drip (fluid collected from the fried chicken in the dish); cover the pieces with the tomato masala, and cook till the chicken is tender.
  4. Add the cream, garam masala, and the coriander leaves; cook on low heat for a few minutes.
  5. Serve hot with chappatis, parathas, khamiri roti, or vegetable pulav.


  1. While frying the chicken, take care to keep the heat low to prevent the browning of butter. If you brown the butter, it will be Gheewali instead of Makkanwali.
  2. Since the cumin and chilli powders are directly added to the butter, you may even remove the wok from the heat so as not to burn the spices.
  3. If the green chilli is very large, use only one.
  4. I always remove the seeds from the chillies (whether green or red) to reduce the heat.

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