Makhani Chicken

Makhani Chicken

This is my current favourite curry recipe and it is an absolute crowd pleaser. It is based on a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe that came to me via another (now discontinued) blog called Recipe Rifle and I have tweaked it over time to suit my own preferences. However, it is now probably completely inauthentic and I have no idea whether I can even call it makhani chicken, but that is what the original recipe was called so I am going with it. 

It has a rich, satisfying sauce, like a really good tikka masala from a curry house – I love it, my family loves it and it is perfect for a Saturday night dinner at home (probably not one to knock up on a weeknight as it’s a bit heavy on the prep). You could also make this with lamb, or tofu/paneer for a vegetarian dinner. 

A note on chilli – the original recipe called for about three times as many chillies (as do many recipes that I have come across). This is completely down to personal preference, but I found this is way too much heat for me, and for pretty much everyone that I cook for on a regular basis. Also, the heat of even just the standard supermarket red and green chillies seems to vary quite significantly (they also seem to get hotter the longer they languish in the fridge?). I always taste a tiny bit of the chilli that I’m intending to put in any recipe to see how hot it is, and this will dictate whether I add more chilli or less (and whether or not I include the seeds and membranes, as this is where most of the heat comes from). So feel free to adjust the number of chillies to suit your own personal preference / tolerance.


Serves 4-6

For the marinade:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • Half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala 
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 golfball-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1-2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped (with seeds or without – its up to you)
  • 4-6 x chicken breasts (depending on size) or 12 x boneless, skinless thighs/drumsticks (or a combination of both), chopped into large-ish chunks. 

For the sauce:

  • 2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes and their juices
  • thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, squashed
  • 1 fresh chillies, finely chopped (with seeds or without – its up to you)
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 175ml water
  • 125g butter
  • 2tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 4 tsp honey
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek
  • Half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 100g ground almonds
  • Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

Mix together all of the marinade ingredients and marinate your chicken in it for a day / overnight if you can, but to be honest, most of us don’t always have the foresight to do this. I’ve marinated it for just an hour when I’ve been short of time and its still delicious.

Tikka marinade ingredients

When you are ready to cook, preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius. Tip the chicken and all of its marinade into a roasting tin, and cover with tinfoil.

Marinated tikka chicken

When your oven is at temperature, roast the chicken for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until cooked through. Once it is done, leave it to one side to rest whilst you finish the sauce.

Whilst the chicken is cooking, you can make up the sauce. Pour 2 tins of chopped tomatoes into a saucepan along with the ginger, garlic, chilli, cloves, salt and 175ml of water. Simmer on a medium hob for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. 

Tomato sauce base for makhani chicken

Take out another, larger pan (big enough to hold all of your chicken with the sauce), and melt 125g butter in it on a low heat. When the butter starts to foam, add two teaspoons of ground cumin and give it a good stir before turning off the heat. 

Butter and cumin mix

When the tomato sauce has had its time, fish out the cloves and blend the sauce (using a hand blender or food processor), until it is smooth. (I don’t mind the sauce being a little chunky so I sometimes skip this step if I’m short of time / can’t be bothered to add to the washing up pile). Pour directly into the butter and cumin pan and give it a good stir over a low heat to get the butter to emulsify with the other ingredients.  

Makhani chicken sauce

Add the remaining ingredients (2 teaspoons of tomato puree, 4 teaspoons of honey, 150ml double cream, 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek, half a lime, half a tsp ground black pepper and 100g ground almonds) and simmer the whole lot together for about 5 minutes. Give it a quick taste…it should be starting to taste absolutely delicious.

Makhani sauce

Finally, add your cooked chicken in its tikka marinade to the pan, along with any juices / marinade from the roasting tin straight into the sauce. Cook the whole lot for a final ten minutes over a gentle heat, just to let all the flavours meld together. Taste and check the seasoning. Once you are happy with this, scatter the fresh coriander over the top and serve with whatever you want – rice, naan bread, poppadoms, cold beer… and enjoy all the compliments heading your way! This is one delicious dinner.

Makhani chicken

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