Low-Calorie Butter Chicken / Murgh Makhani

If there was a poll, “Which recipe do you associate with India?”, (to non-Indians, of course) the top answer would surely be Butter Chicken! Without doubt, it is the most popular chicken recipe from India.

Also called Murgh (chicken) Makhani (butter), it has smokey pieces of succulent chicken lathered in a rich, aromatic gravy. The gravy is mild and not-so-spicy and that’s why it is much enjoyed by people all over the world.

As the name goes, there is butter, lots of it! And some heavy cream to add the richness to the gravy. Hence it may crease your dietitian’s forehead. But you love it nevertheless, except the calories that come uninvited. But hey! You have reached the right place as today I am sharing with you my low-calorie, low-fat version.

Can you guess the secret ingredient for this no-guilt indulgence.

Butter Chicken
Butter Chicken

I make chicken tikkas first. Tikkas are nothing but marinated chicken pieces that are grilled to give them an alluring, smokey flavor and look. Next, is the super silky gravy in which the tikkas are rolled in. The last and the best thing left to do roll up your sleeves and lose yourself in the world of Murgh Makhani!!

This tasty gravy dish is usually served with roti or naan or even goes well with a bowl of steaming hot Basmati rice. Hopefully by now I have got your taste-buds charged up, so lets get cooking!

Butter Chicken with Naan and tikka
Butter Chicken with Naan and tikka
Butter Chicken with Tikka
Butter Chicken with Tikka


Serves 2 really hungry persons


  • 500 gram diced boneless chicken
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 ” piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • Whole spices – 2 cloves, small piece cinnamon, 2 green cardamom pods, all slightly crushed together
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • A pinch of ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder (adjust as per taste)
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi) – found at your local Indian grocer
  • 1/3 cup thick yogurt (I prefer the light Greek yoghurt)
  • 1/4 cup light cooking cream (can be omited)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2 tsp cooking oil + Oil for grilling tikkas, if required
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander for garnish

For the marinade

  • 3-4 tbsp thick yogurt
  • 1 tsp each of ginger and garlic paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1-2 tsp sumac* (see note below)


  • Prepare the marinade: Whisk the yogurt until smooth and add the ingredients under marinade. Coat the chicken pieces in the marinade. Best is, if you can leave it overnight to soak up all the flavours. Also, the lemon juice and yogurt tenderise the meat. If not, 4 hours is good enough or even 2 hours could do the trick.

NOTE: Sumac is a Middle-Eastern spice that has a dark red colour and a mild tangy taste. I use it for its colour in these tikkas. Always better using a spice than food colour, isn’t it? It can be left out if you cannot get your hands on it.

  • Grilling the chicken: Skewer the pieces and grill it either in the oven or BBQ. I just used a cast iron pan.
Chicken Tikka
Chicken Tikka
  • In another pan, take the butter and oil. The oil prevents the butter from burning. Saute the onion, ginger and garlic until fragrant.
  • Add the whole spices and add the tomato paste soon thereafter. Keep stirring throughout to prevent it from sticking or burning.
  • While continuously mixing, add the turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, and kasuri methi. Keep stirring till oil separates from the sides. If it is getting dry, splash some water.
  • Blend together the yogurt and cream and add slowly. All the while keep mixing to prevent the yogurt from splitting. You may completely omit the cream as the yogurt does the trick here. (Yes! U guessed it!)
  • Adjust the seasonings and then add the tikkas. Smear the gravy all over the pieces. Add some water if the gravy is very thick. (Take care not to add too much though.)
  • Lastly, garnish with the lovely coriander and a dash of the cream.


  • Make it vegetarian by replacing chicken with Paneer – Indian cottage cheese.

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Low Calorie Butter Chicken
Low Calorie Butter Chicken

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