Makhani Chicken is a rich buttery dish. Chicken cooked in a beautiful full flavor curry sauce filled with classic Indian spices.
Chicken Makhani varies greatly from one region to another and by the time it hits my American table I am sure I’ve dumbed it down somewhat. But, I have tried to stay true to the New Delhi version using fresh tomatoes, cream, cashews, onions, and those glorious Indian favorites like kasuri methi leaves, kashmiri red chili, garam masala, and those spices that shouldn’t work but always work so well in Indian curries: cinnamon, cloves, cardamom.
Makhani sauce adds the magic to Butter Chicken. It is one of the most popular Indian dishes in the world and that alone was my inspiration for trying it. This is my version of the sauce. The best thing about cooking is adding your own touches to dishes and Indian food with all its wonderful spices encourages experimenting. How closely it aligns to a classic makhana sauce, I have no idea. I just know that holy cow this rich buttery dish is beyond delicious.
What does it taste like?
The very best description I have ever seen for what does makhana taste likes was written by author Ando Muneno formerly from the Phoenix New Times. He wrote, “It tastes like someone put flavorful, juicy pieces of chicken into a spicy version of the brightest, tastiest tomato soup you’ve ever had.”
How do I get the right consistency?
You want a silky consistency. This is achieved by first cooking the tomatoes down with the garlic and spices. Then you puree the sauce in a blender and strain the puree squeezing out as much of the liquid as you can.
How do I balance the spices?
The best way to balance this many spices is not to stress over it. Follow the recipe below, but as you get more comfortable with the taste of the spices you will learn which flavors you enjoy more than others. If you find the balance too tart add a bit more sugar. There is no exact balance, it is important to taste and adjust as you go.
- 14 large Roma tomatoes
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 3 tablespoons oil divided
- 1” piece of ginger coarsely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves sliced
- 1 green chili chop[ed
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5 – 6 cloves
- 2 – 4 hari elaichi (green cardamom)
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 dried kashmiri red chilli
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons cashews chopped
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 2 pounds chicken thighs with bone and skin
- 1 tablespoon Garam Masala seasoning
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons dry Kasuri Methi leaves
- Salt to taste
- Fresh chopped cilantro optional
- Coarsely chop the tomatoes. Do not worry about size or consistency, they will be pureed in the next steps.
- In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of butter and two tablespoons oil. Add the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chilies, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns. Sauté for a minute or two then add the tomato paste, kashmiri red chili, paprika, bay leaves, cashews, and poppy seeds.
- Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the tomatoes start breaking down. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, in a clean skillet heat a tablespoon of the oil and butter. Add chicken (skin side down) and brown without moving the chicken, about 4-5 minutes. Do not crowd the skillet, work in batches if needed. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Once the curry sauce has cooled enough to handle, remove the cinnamon and bay leaves. Transfer sauce to a blender and puree to a smooth paste.
- Using the same pot the curry was cooked in, melt the remaining butter. Strain the pureed tomatoes into the pot squeezing out as much of the sauce as possible. Discard the seeds and skins left in the strainer. Stir in the garam masala seasoning, chili powder, turmeric, sugar, and 1/2 – 1 cup water until you get desired consistency. Season with salt, to taste. Add the braised chicken. Bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer on low for 30 minutes, or until the oil separates slightly.
- Taste the sauce and add more sugar to balance the tartness of the tomatoes to your taste.
- Mix the kasuri methi and heavy cream into the curry and switch off the heat. Garnish with chopped cilantro.