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New Delhi Recipe – Murgh Makhni

Butter Chicken Recipe

Since the Mughal Dynasty ruled the capital city for centuries, food in New Delhi is still heavily influenced by the traditions of the Mughals. One of the most prominent culinary contributions of the Mughuls is the “tandoor” (a clay oven used to cook breads and roast meats) still prevails today.

In the Mughlai style of cooking, dairy products such as “malai” (cream), “paneer” (cheese), “ghee” (clarified butter) or “makhan” (white butter), and yogurt are used to thicken and enrich almost every dish. This method of cooking not only tends to enhanced flavor, but originally evolved because water was scarce and so it was commonly avoided in recipes.

Mughlai food is very flavorful and heavily spiced. The spices used are based on “garam masala” (hot mix), a method where the spices are dry-roasted over low-heat to enhance and add depth to their flavor. Mughlai dishes are popular throughout India due to their spicy flavor and aromatics.

In Mughlai Cuisine, breads are a staple, and there are many to choose from including naan, paratha, puri, chapatti and roti. Breads are served with dishes that have thick sauces that can easily be scooped up.

The go-to dish in New Delhi is “Murgh Makhni” (Butter Chicken), a classic staple of Mughlai cuisine. The butter in the recipe refers to ghee. Basmati rice is an ideal accompaniment, and pieces of naan or roti can be used to soak up the excess sauce.

Butter Chicken is easy to prepare. For best results, dry-roast the spices first and use a mortar and pestle to grind ingredients. To avoid burning, use a heavy-bottom skillet for frying. Here is my favorite recipe for Murgh Makhni.

Murgh Makhni – Butter Chicken Recipe

  • 1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup (120 g) blanched almonds
  • ½ cup (120 mL) plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 g) ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 g) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) garam masala
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 14 ounces (415 g) diced tomatoes
  • 1 ¼ (6 g) teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds (0.9 kg) skinned boneless chicken, cut into large pieces
  • 5 tablespoons (75 g) ghee
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 tablespoons (90 g) cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (60 g) whipping cream


  • Blend ginger and garlic into paste.
  • Grind almonds in food processor or finely chop with knife.
  • Combine paste and almonds in bowl. Blend with fork while adding yogurt, chili powder, ground cloves, cinnamon, garam masala, cardamom pods, tomatoes and salt.
  • Add chicken pieces. Stir to coat evenly.
  • Cover and marinate for a minimum of two hours under refrigeration.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C).
  • Heat ghee in heavy-bottom skillet. Add onion, and fry until soft and brown.
  • Add chicken mixture and fry for two minutes.
  • Mix in cilantro. Place in shallow baking dish and stir with fork.
  • Bake for one hour. If top is browning too fast, cover with aluminum foil.
  • Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Brown the top of the dish by placing under broiler for two minutes.
  • Oil will rise, so tip the dish to remove any extra oil beflore serving.
  • Serve with basmati rice and naan bread.


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