Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)-Holiday Recipe Club

I am so excited to share this recipe with you. It ranks in the top five of my all-time favorite recipes ever. Recently our Holiday Recipe Club decided to expand to include international holidays. Our first international holiday is Buddha’s Birthday. I had to do a bit of investigating to find out more about this holiday.

I learned that the birthday of  Buddha is celebrated on different dates by various schools of Buddhism. In most of Asia it is observed on the first full moon date of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar (typically May). But in other parts of Asia the day falls a month or more either earlier or later. Whatever the date, Buddha's Birthday is a time for hanging lanterns and enjoying communal meals. Joyous parades of musicians, dancers, floats, and dragons are common throughout Asia.

That brings me back to our Holiday Recipe Club. Our ingredient choices this time were garam masala, tofu and sesame. As soon as I saw the garam masala ingredient, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

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Garam masala is a blend of ground spices common in North Indian and other South Asian cuisines. It normally contains a blend of dried red chili peppers, dried garlic, ginger powder, sesame, mustard seed, turmeric, coriander, malibar leaves, star anise and fennel.

Every time I open the jar, I love to smell its intoxicating fragrance.

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The garam masala is what makes this dish. Don’t try and substitute anything else. If you don’t have it, go out and buy a jar and make this dish. You won’t be sorry.

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Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani)
(Serves 4)

1 tbsp peanut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
¼ white onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 ½ tsp garam masala
1 ½ tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup tomato sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste

1 tbsp peanut oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp garam masala
1 pinch cayenne pepper
¼ cup ground cashews (just grind in food processor until paste forms)
Cilantro for garnish

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. SautĂ© shallot and onion until soft and translucent. Stir in butter, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, 1 ½ tsp garam masala, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in heavy cream. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat, and season with 1 tsp garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce and simmer until liquid has reduced, and chicken is no longer pink. Stir cooked chicken into sauce and return to a low heat.

Mix the finely ground cashews into the sauce. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until thickened. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Printable Recipe

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Thank you again to Erin and our new international co-host Keely for all their hard work on our Holiday Recipe Club.


  1. MMMMMMmmmmmmm......I love butter chicken! This looks amazing! Great use of the ingredients!

  2. So I didn't realize that Buddha's birthday was celebrated on different days. I posted a little Buddha background also.

    Now about the butter chicken, drool, slurp I want some!

  3. I have not cooked with garam masala before. Your recipe makes me want to go get a jar at the store right away. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Ooooh I love butter chicken.. I want this now! I need to go buy some garam masala asap!! I am so glad you were able to participate in this post :)

  5. Another Indian dish that I have never even tasted...but with your endorsement, this must go in my file to try :) It sounds wonderful ~

  6. @Renee
    Please do Renee! You won't be sorry!

  7. @BigFatBaker
    Me too! Thanks for all your hard work!

  8. @Lizzy
    Please do Lizzy! You will love it!

  9. Heaven! I've seen recipes for this before but yours looks super delish and creamy. I didn't know you were in the HRC--I will be doing the cinco de mayo so hopefully we'll be participating at the same time for the next one!

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