History of Butter Chicken: The Most Loved Indian Curry

History of Butter Chicken: The Most Loved Indian Curry
Blog Summary

Who wouldn’t like a thick, velvety smooth, creamy, rich butter chicken masala? Of course, if you’re a vegetarian! But wait, there’s always paneer and other veggie options too. If you’re a lover of Butter Chicken just like us, this blog will give you some interesting info on the dish's history along with a traditional recipe!


Have you ever wondered where the popular Butter Chicken originated? For decades, this creamy, rich, and savoury dish has tantalised taste buds and has rightfully earned the distinction of being one of the most popular Indian curries.

From humble beginnings in India's Punjabi region to global acclaim, the history of Butter Chicken is a riveting story of spices, tradition, and change.

Gather around, foodies, as we dig into the fascinating history of this delectable dish and discover why it has grabbed so many hearts. Prepare for a flavour-filled journey that will leave you wanting more!

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What Makes Butter Chicken A Favourite Among Indian Foodies?

Butter Chicken A Favourite Among Indian Foodies

As mentioned already, butter chicken is a fan favourite among many Indian foodies. We tried to find specific reasons why this dish is loved by people across the country and came up with these:

  • Creamy sauce: The dish is recognized for its rich and creamy tomato-based sauce, which is created with butter, cream, and a blend of spices like garam masala, cumin, and coriander.
  • Aromatic Spices: Aromatic spices such as ginger, garlic, and green chilli give the dish a distinct and savory flavour.
  • Versatility: Butter chicken can be served with a variety of side dishes, such as rice, naan bread, or roti, making it a versatile dish that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
  • Tender Chicken: The chicken is marinated and then cooked slowly in the sauce, resulting in tender, juicy meat that slips off the bone.
  • Popularity: Butter chicken has become a mainstay of Indian cuisine, and it is widely available and easily accessible in Indian restaurants worldwide, making it a favourite of many individuals who appreciate Indian food.

    History Of Butter Chicken

    History Of Butter Chicken

    Butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani, is a popular dish originating from India. It is believed to have been created in the early 1900s in Delhi by the Moti Mahal restaurant. 

    The dish features marinated chicken cooked in a creamy tomato-based sauce, with spices like garam masala, cumin, and coriander, and is typically served with rice or bread. The rich, buttery sauce gives the dish its name, and has become a staple of Indian cuisine, enjoyed by people all over the world. 

    The history of how butter chicken was created is nearly as captivating as the dish itself. The Moti Mahal restaurant, established by Mokha Singh Lamba in Peshawar, was once a thriving establishment where Kundan Lal Gujral and Kundan Lal Jaggi both worked as servers. 

    Unfortunately, the restaurant had to close just prior to partition. During this tumultuous time, many refugees migrated to India, bringing their talents and cultural heritage. 

    At some point, Mokha Singh's health declined, and he eventually sold the shop to Gujral, who renamed it Moti Mahal. Gujral, a smart businessman, noticed that the Tandoori Chicken left hanging on skewers above the tandoor throughout the day would dry out if not sold. 

    He then had the brilliant idea of creating a simple sauce made of tomatoes, butter, cream, and spices to soak the Tandoori Chicken pieces in, restoring their moisture and making them enjoyable again. This is how Butter Chicken was born.

    Peshawar's culinary tradition was soon given new life in Delhi when the opportunity arose to reopen the original Moti Mahal in the capital. 

    The dish has evolved and adapted to local preferences throughout the years, with versions developing in various regions of India and worldwide. 

    However, the core ingredients and cooking procedure remain the same: soft, juicy chunks of chicken are marinated in a yoghurt and spice mixture before being slowly cooked in a thick and creamy tomato-based sauce.

    Butter chicken is now easily available throughout many countries with a South Asian diaspora, including Pakistan, India, and many more.

    Evolution Of The Dish Throughout The Years

    Evolution Of The Dish Throughout The Years

    Kundan Lal Gujral, the owner of Moti Mahal, a Delhi restaurant, developed the first butter chicken dish in the late 1940s. The dish featured marinated chicken cooked in a thick tomato and cream-based sauce seasoned with cumin, coriander, and garam masala.

    The original recipe was a breakthrough, quickly becoming a staple of Indian eateries worldwide.

    The recipe for butter chicken changed and became more refined throughout the years. Chefs began experimenting with various ingredients and cooking methods to improve the flavour and texture of the meal.

    For example, some chefs began to marinate chicken in yoghurt, which helped to soften the meat and give tanginess to the flavour. Others began to thicken the sauce with cashews and almonds, which brought smoothness and nuttiness to the flavour profile.

    The evolution of butter chicken continued in the 1990s and 2000s, as Indian cuisine achieved worldwide prominence. This spawned a new generation of Indian chefs who used their creativity and culinary talents to produce new and inventive cuisine.

    Some of these dishes were influenced by traditional Indian cuisine, while others were entirely new. As a result, the butter chicken recipe evolved and got more complex and intricate.

    Whether you prefer the traditional recipe or a more modern rendition, there is no disputing this classic Indian dish's ongoing popularity!

    The Traditional Recipe For Butter Chicken

    Cuisine: North Indian/Mughlai

    Time: 75 mins

    Servings: 2

    Calories: 729 kcal


    • Mustard Oil - 1.50 tbsp
    • Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder - 0.63 tbsp
    • Hung Curd - 0.25 cup
    • Coriander Powder - 0.31 tsp
    • Cumin Powder - 0.63 tsp
    • Kasuri Methi - 0.30 tsp
    • Garam Masala Powder - 0.31 tsp
    • Salt - 0.30 tsp
    • Ginger Garlic Paste - 0.60 tsp
    • Lemon Juice - 1.00 tsp
    • Chicken Thigh & Leg Boneless - 400.00 grams
    • Tomato - 250.00 grams
    • Dried Kashmiri Red Chilli - 3.75 no
    • Salt - 0.30 tsp
    • Cashew (half) - 50.00 grams
    • Ghee - 1.50 tbsp
    • Ginger Garlic Paste - 0.60 tbsp
    • Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder - 0.63 tbsp
    • Salt - 1.20 tsp
    • Sugar - 1.00 tbsp
    • Cardamom Powder - 0.15 tsp
    • Milk - 175.00 ml
    • Butter - 1.00 tbsp
    • Fresh Cream - 1.50 tbsp
    • Kasuri Methi - 0.60 tbsp
    • Garam Masala Powder - 0.31 tsp
    • Lemon Juice - 0.50 tsp
    • Chaat Masala Powder - 0.25 tsp
    • Butter - 1.00 tbsp


    Step 1: Heat mustard oil in a pan, then remove it from the flame and add Kashmiri chili powder. Let it cool. 

    Step 2: In a bowl of hung curd, mix in the powdered spices such as cumin, coriander, kasuri methi, and garam masala. Whisk well and add the chili oil. 

    Step 3: Cut 800 grams of boneless chicken thigh into small pieces, then add salt, ginger-garlic paste, and lemon juice to the chicken. 

    Step 4: Mix the marinade into the chicken, then refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. 

    Step 5: In a pressure cooker, combine tomatoes, cashew nuts, kashmiri red chilies, salt, and water. Cook for 6 whistles on a medium-high flame, then release pressure and let the mixture cool. 

    Step 6: Blend the mixture into a fine puree and strain to get a smooth gravy base. 

    Step 7: To make the gravy, heat ghee in a heavy-bottom pot and cook the ginger-garlic paste until fragrant. Add Kashmiri red chili powder and stir well. 

    Step 8: Add the gravy base, salt, sugar, and cardamom powder. 

    Step 9: Pour in the milk and bring to a gentle boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. To finish the gravy, add cream, butter, kasuri methi, and garam masala. 

    Step 10: Grill the chicken on a high heat for 10 minutes per batch, flipping occasionally, until it has char marks. 

    Step 11: Transfer the chicken to a bowl and smoke it using a piece of coal by adding melted butter to the smoldering coal for 2 minutes while covered. Finish the chicken with lemon juice, melted butter, and chaat masala. 

    Step 12: Add the chicken and any leftover juices to the gravy, then simmer for 2 more minutes. Serve hot and garnish with fresh cream and melted butter.

    Nutritional Information:

    Protein- 35 g

    Fat- 57 gm

    Carbs- 24 gm

    Sugar- 14 gm

    Fiber- 3.3 gm

    Looking for an easier but tastier butter chicken recipe?

    Yes, the traditional butter chicken recipe can taste absolutely delicious! But it’s not really an everyday recipe as it takes a lot of time and effort to cook this. But guess what? That shouldn’t be the case if you are craving a butter chicken every now and then!

    With Cookd’s Butter Masala Gravy, you can now make your favourite butter masala in just a few minutes!

    Here’s how you can do it:

    Step 1: Heat the oil in a skillet, then add Cookd's butter masala curry paste and cook for a minute.

    Step 2: Mix the boneless chicken cubes with the paste.

    Step 3: Stir in the water and cook the gravy for 5 minutes.

    Step 4: Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fresh cream, butter, and coriander leaves. Garnish with fresh cream, butter, and coriander leaves before serving hot.

    That’s it, done!

    Tap here for the recipe video for our effortless butter chicken masala recipe!


    And there you have it, a delicious journey through the history of Butter Chicken. 

    From its origins in Punjabi India to its worldwide popularity, this dish has undergone a fascinating evolution that has only served to enhance its flavour and appeal. 

    Whether you like your butter chicken sweet and tangy or prefer the spicy version - Butter Chicken is a true masterpiece of Indian cuisine that will continue to entice taste buds for generations to come. 

    So, the next time you indulge in this creamy and rich delight, take a moment to appreciate its rich heritage and the love that has gone into every bite. 

    And don’t forget to include Cookd’s Butter Masala Gravy in your delicious gravies!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

    1. Where did butter chicken originate from?
    Butter chicken is of Indian origin and was first made by a chef at Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi in 1947.

    2. Is butter chicken Indian or Pakistani?
    Since butter chicken is very popular in both India and Pakistan, the origin of the dish can be confusing. But here’s your answer: butter chicken is INDIAN. It first originated at a restaurant in Delhi in the late 1940s.

    3. Is butter chicken Mughal?
    Popular Mughlai cuisine dish Butter Chicken is a variation of Shahi Korma. It has a thick gravy consisting of nuts and onions, which the Mughals used to appreciate in every dish they cooked.

    4. Who started butter chicken in India?
    The Punjabi Hindu immigrants from Peshawar- Kundan Lal Jaggi and Kundan Lal Gujral, who also founded the Moti Mahal restaurant in the Daryaganj neighbourhood of Old Delhi, invented butter chicken in the late 1940s.

    5. Who invented butter chicken in Mumbai?
    Butter chicken was brought to the city by Prahlad Singh Kohli's Pritam restaurant. The restaurant was popular among Bollywood celebrities like Sunil Dutt and Yash Chopra.