Grilled Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)

If you are new to Indian cooking like I am, this is a very tasty and accessible dish. You get all the goodness of chicken cooked in butter and cream, all the wonderful spices, but without all of the heat that scares a lot of folks away from Indian cooking.

Traditionally, the chicken is cooked in the sauce, not grilled first. But I had the Big Green Egg fired up to cook something else, so I figured I might as well grill the thighs, stash them in the fridge, and then assemble the rest of the dish the next night.

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (full fat)
1 tablespoon garam marsala
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, garam marsala, oil, juice, and salt. Put the chicken in a zip-top bag and cover with the yogurt mixture. Toss to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and put it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is better.

When you are ready to cook, set your grill up for a direct cook over high (450°F) heat.

Remove the thighs from the marinade and arrange on the grill.  Cook about 6 minutes per side, until you get some crispy bits on the outside and the inside is about 180°F. Remove from the heat and set aside.

1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon garam marsala
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 (14.5-ounce can) petite diced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce can) tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream

In a sauté pan with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat and then cook the onions in the butter until soft but not brown (about 5 minutes).

Add the diced tomatoes, garam marsala, salt, pepper, coriander, and cumin and cook until the juice from the tomatoes has mostly evaporated and the tomatoes have started to break down (about 5 minutes).

Add the broth, tomato sauce, and grilled chicken. Stir to combine and cook about 5 minutes.  Put the lid on and cook for 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the whipping cream.

This is traditionally served over Basmati rice, but I put it over a bed of sautéed spinach and red lentils.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆
For my first try at this dish, I was pretty impressed. It’s got a lot of potential. The sauce was rich and fragrant with just enough heat.  But the meat wasn’t as tender as I would have liked and the sauce was thinner than versions I’ve had in restaurants.

Next time I’ll chop the onions finer, and use a larger can of tomato sauce instead of the combination of sauce and chicken stock. I’d cook the chicken covered longer – say 30 to 40 minutes. I might switch to heavy cream, so I can do a little reduction after the covered cook.

One thought on “Grilled Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani)”

  1. The Indian style spices sounds interesting to me. I have never attempted that flavor profile. Now if I can only talk Ms. Goofy into buying me a Big Green Egg.

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