Fiery Keto Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) Recipe
A fiery keto butter chicken curry or “Murgh Makhani’ recipe that is every bit as rich, flavourful and buttery as the original, without the sweet and all of the heat.
Tender homemade ‘Tandoori’ chicken simmered in a rich curry gravy of tomato, cream, butter, and authentic Indian spices.
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Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Not too sweet, perfectly spiced and with a healthy heat level you can customize to your liking
- A low carb alternative to take away restaurant butter chicken than has no added sugars, additives, or carby fillers
- Traditional Indian cooking methods are broken down into simple steps to help you master this or any Indian curry you want to make
- The chicken is cooked ahead locking in flavour, it then becomes very tender simmering in the rich makhani gravy
What Is Butter Chicken?
Unlike some of the traditional Indian chicken curries, butter chicken or “Murgh Makhani” is actually not all that old.
It popped up sometimes in the 1950’s as curry of leftover Tandoori chicken simmered in a rich, buttery, tomato and cream gravy. It quickly gained popularity because well, it’s delicious.
Is Butter Chicken Sweet or Spicy?
Originally butter chicken was prepared in both sweet and spicy varieties. However in recent years it seems that most restaurants sell very sweet and creamy versions of this recipe. In my opinion, it’s gotten too sweet which is probably why I never order it.
This keto version is not sickeningly sweet, it has no added sugar. It’s savory, creamy, rich, and if you want fiery.
The only sweetness in this recipe comes naturally from the onions, tomatoes, and ginger and that is plenty. It’s a perfect balance.
Servings, Nutrition, and Net Carbs
The wonderful thing about curry, is the size of the batch is only limited by the size of your biggest pot.
Generally I use 8-10 large bone-in chicken thighs for this recipe and it makes at least 6 hefty servings for a big guy like me.
Is butter chicken keto friendly?
Many restaurant version of this curry contain thickeners, sugar, and even food dye.
This version of the recipe has none of that, and only 7g of net carbs per serving!
Assuming 6 servings:
477 kcal | 28g fat | 7g net carbs | 45g protein
What Type of Chicken is Best for Butter Chicken?
For all types of curry, bone in, skinless chicken thighs are going to give you the most amount of flavour, and are generally inexpensive compared to chicken breast.
If cooked properly, the meat will pull right off the bone anyways, and the bones add a depth of flavour to the butter chicken gravy that can’t be matched.
Leaving the skin on when making a curry changes the consistency and flavour of the gravy. Chicken skins are better served for roasting or making in keto nacho chips.
Of course if you so choose, boneless skinless thighs are a great choice if you don’t want to fuss with the bones while eating.
Chicken breast can be used, but it will not be as moist, tender, or flavourful as simmered dark meat cuts.
Which Canned Tomatoes Should I use for Keto Butter Chicken?
Whole or stewed canned tomatoes, blitzed to a puree with a food processor or right in the can with an immersion blender are a perfect choice for this keto butter chicken recipe.
While crushed canned tomatoes can be used, it is generally much more concentrated with tomatoes and add a stronger tomato flavour, and frankly many more net carbs than are necessary to achieve the flavours we need here.
Just take a can of whole, diced, stewed tomatoes, carefully blitz it to a pulp with an immersion blender, and you’re good to go.
Instead of Canned Tomatoes
In place of canned tomatoes 4 tablespoons of tomato paste or even fresh tomatoes can be used.
If you are using fresh tomatoes, your sauce will not be as vibrant red, the flavour will be more muted, and it will need to simmer longer to soften.
Consider roasting, peeling, and pureeing them before adding them to the curry.
Does Keto Butter Chicken Have Butter in it?
Yes, a whole whack of it. It’s not called butter (makhani) chicken (murgh) for no reason!
Even if oil or ghee is used to fry and prepare the gravy, I like to finish the sauce by adding a few tablespoons of butter right at the end to melt in a make the makhani gravy a bit richer.
What to Serve With Keto Butter Chicken
To make it a meal, butter chicken is traditionally served with rice, roti, or other flatbread, and a vegetable side dish.
For keto butter chicken some great low carb choices are cauliflower rice, simple sautéed cabbage, or even a low carb tortilla to mop up that succulent gravy.
Make it a Meal with these low carb Indian sides
How to Make Spicy Keto Murgh Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)
Part 1: Mix Butter chicken masala
This spice mix (masala) is used throughout the recipe so get a batch ready ahead of time.
- In a bowl, combine dry spices, paprika, turmeric, cayenne (chilli powder), garam masala, coriander powder, black pepper, cumin.
Part 2: Prepare the ‘Tandoori’ Chicken:
Technically you could skip this step and simply add the raw chicken to cook simmering in the gravy, this extra bit adds so much flavour and makes the chicken so tender it is well worth it.
I don’t have tandoor oven so we will have to stick with either the grill (BBQ) or a conventional oven for this ‘Tandoori’ chicken.
- In a large bowl, mix ½ cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt, and 4-5 tablespoons of the butter chicken masala. The colour of the yogurt should be a deep red or orange, and should taste quite strong. If the colour is pale, add some more masala.
- Add skinless chicken to the bowl and combine well ensuring each piece is well coated. Allow to marinate for minimum 30 minutes, but 2 hours and up to overnight is ideal.
- Once marinated, cook chicken using either a grill or on a baking sheet in the oven.
On the BBQ:
- Heat the grill to medium high and brush with oil to prevent sticking.
- Lay out chicken on the hot grill and cook for 5-7 minutes per side until each side has some colour. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
*Note: if chicken isn’t fully cooked at this point its ok as it will finish cooking in the curry gravy*
In the oven:
- Heat oven to 400°F [200°C].
- Space marinated chicken evenly on a foil lined baking sheet and cook for 25-30 minutes or until just cooked through.
Part 3: Make the Makhani Curry Gravy
If you are cooking the chicken in the oven you can start this while it cooks.
- Heat oil/butter/ghee in a large deep pot over medium heat.
- Once hot add whole cardamom pods, red/green chilies, whole cloves, and panch phoran to the hot oil to cook until the seeds darken, pop, and sputter (it happens quick!)
- Once the spices are cooked, pile in finely chopped onions, minced garlic and ginger. Salt well and saute until the onions begin to turn brown. (8-10 minutes)
- As the onions brown, add water 1-2 tablespoons at a time let it fry off before adding more. This water frying is key to breaking down the onions into the gravy. Repeat the water frying until the onions have achieved a golden brown colour and are limp, soft, and beginning to break down.
- Next add in 3-4 tablespoons of the butter chicken masala and combine well. This will dry up the onions quickly so add some more oil/butter/ghee as well.
- Continue water frying a few tablespoons at a time until the onions and the spices have formed a thick rich paste. Too much water at once will slow the cooking and boil the mixture which is not what we want.
- Separately, in a small bowl, mix ground almonds/almond flour with ½ cup plain yogurt (this prevents the yogurt from splitting once it’s added to the gravy).
- Puree 14oz (half a large can) of whole, stewed, or diced tomatoes (I just stick the immersion blender right into the can), and add to the pot along with the yogurt, combine well. Allow the pot to come to a rapid simmer, reduce the heat and cover. Gently simmer for 15-20 minutes to tenderize the tomatoes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
Part 4: Finish the Curry
- Next add the cooked tandoori chicken and any drippings. Combine well and allow the curry to simmer to reduce and penetrate the chicken, the longer the better.
- Ten minutes before finishing, add in heavy cream and butter, combine well and continue to simmer.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro, and chilies and serve with your favourite low carb side dish.
Keto Butter Chicken
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Baking sheet
- Cooking foil
- small and large mixing bowls
- large pot with a lid
- Immersion Blender
Butter Chicken Masala (Spice Mix)
- 4 tablespoons Paprika heaping
- ½ teaspoon Cayenne adjust to your spice tolerance
- 3 tablespoon Garam masala heaping
- 1 ½ tablespoon Turmeric heaping
- 1 teaspoon Coriander powder heaping
- 1 teaspoon black pepper heaping
- 1 teaspoon cumin heaping
- 8 large chicken thigh
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 4 tablespoon Butter chicken masala from above
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Butter Chicken Gravy
- oil/butter/ghee for frying
- 4 whole cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon panch phoran optional
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger minced
- 1 cup water for water frying
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoon ground almonds/almond flour
- 14 oz canned tomatoes pureed/blended
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- fresh cilantro garnish
- salt to taste
Butter Chicken Masala (Spice Mix)
- Start by preparing the butter chicken masala (spice mix) which will be used throughout this recipe.
- In a small bowl, combine paprika, cayenne, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and black pepper, set aside.
Easy Homemade Tandoori Chicken
- In a large bowl combine plain yogurt, lemon juice, and enough of the butter chicken masala to turn the mixture a deep red. It should taste quite strong. Salt to taste.
- Add skinless chicken thighs to the bowl with the yogurt mixture and toss to coat. Use your hands to make sure every part of the chicken is well coated. For best results marinate for at least 30 minutes (2 hours or overnight is ideal) before either grilling or baking the chicken.
Tandoori Chicken Grilling Instructions
- Heat grill to medium-high heat and brush with oil to prevent sticking.
- Evenly space marinated chicken on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes per side until the outside has some colour. If the chicken is not fully cooked at this time then it will finish cooking in the gravy.
Tandoori Chicken in the Oven
- Preheat oven to 400°F [200°C]
- Space marinated chicken out on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes. Remove and set aside. Get started on the curry gravy while the chicken is cooking.
Butter Chicken Gravy
- Heat oil/butter/ghee in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot add in cardamom pods, whole cloves, whole chilies, and panch phoran. Cook until spices darken slightly and panch phoran begins to pop and sputter. It will happen quickly!
- Next add in thinly sliced onions, minced garlic, minced ginger, and whole chilies. Fry for 8-10 minutes until the onions begin to brown and turn translucent. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Add oil as needed.
- Next begin to water fry the onions by adding water to the onions 1-2 tablespoons at a time. Do no drown them. Once the water fries off, add some more stirring until the onions start to break down, repeat until the onions turn a deeper brown in colour and have broken down. 10-15 minutes.
- Add the butter chicken masala (Spice mix) to the onions and continue to fry. Adding the spice will dry the onions quick to add some more oil/butter as well. Let the spices cook for around 1 minute. Once the spices have cooked, continue water frying, repeating until the onions and spices have formed a thick paste.
- In small bowl mix plain yogurt and ground almonds/almond flour and mix well (this prevent the yogurt from breaking while cooking).
- Puree canned tomatoes and add to the pot along with the almond and yogurt mixture. Stir while bringing the pot to a rapid simmer, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Finishing the Curry
- Add the cooked tandoori chicken and any drippings to the pot with the gravy and combine. Cover and simmer for at least 15-20 minutes until the chicken is fork tender. The longer you simmer the better.
- Next add the heavy cream and simmer uncovered for 8-10 minutes until the gravy has thickened to your liking.
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5 Tips to Master This Recipe
- Season as you go: Every time you add new ingredients to a curry they need seasoning to achieve their full flavour, season appropriately tasting as you go.
- Don’t rush the onions: Breaking down the onions by sautéing and water frying until they breakdown into a gravy is essential to not only this curry, but any Indian curry.
- Toast/Temper/Cook All Spices: This goes for every recipe, but always cook your spices to not only improve the flavours, but to help the flavour mellow and distribute throughout the dish.
- Simmer: Simmering curry is essential to building flavours and tenderizing the meat appropriately. Curry should simmer for at least 20 minutes but the longer the better.
- Add delicate herbs at the end: Use fresh herbs like cilantro as a garnish, it doesn’t need to be cooked much and cooking too long will mute the flavours.