Butter Chicken: From Delhi to the Bay Area

Before I moved back to the Bay Area, I lived in Dubai, UAE for 10 years. And although there were many amazing Arabic restaurants, it seemed that there were many more Indian and Pakistani ones, mostly due to the huge expat populations from those countries who reside in the UAE. You could often smell the aroma of different spices wafting through the mall food courts or from storefronts on the street. And no matter if the restaurant was Indian, British Indian, or Indian Fusion, the one dish that was consistently on all the menus was butter chicken or murgh makhani. Although there is some controversy about the origins of butter chicken, the most popular origin story I have found is that a Hindu Punjabi chef, Kundan Lal Gujral, founded the Moti Mahal Restaurant in New Delhi in the 1950’s after Partition. There wasn’t proper refrigeration at the time, so to preserve his unsold chicken tikkas, he added them to a spicy, creamy, buttery, tomato gravy. This dish became hugely popular and Moti Mahal became a famous foodie destination which is still there today. Even celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay visited the original Moti Mahal restaurant in New Delhi to taste the food.


After I moved to the Bay Area, I found that there was not an Indian restaurant on every corner that could deliver me steaming butter chicken with piping hot fresh naan. (I do realize that this may be the case in some neighborhoods in the South Bay, but alas I live in the East Bay where they are not as plentiful). I did my Yelp research and found great restaurants in the Bay Area, like Dosa or August 1 Five, but it was really far (and expensive) to keep travelling and eating out to satisfy my butter chicken fix. Instead, I turned to Google and found many recipes to try at home.

After numerous trial and error of different butter chicken recipes, I found the winner. Not only is it delicious and super easy (as it uses a slow cooker), but it also closely resembles what you get in the restaurants – if not better and healthier! You can buy all the ingredients at your local grocery store, although for the spices, I recommend going to an Indian grocery store to get them cheaper and fresher. There are luckily many in the bay area and online delivery as well. After you get all your ingredients, just put them in the slow cooker and let it do all the work for you. Now all of the delicious aromas are coming from your kitchen instead of from a restaurant. I have made this dish for many occasions and for many types of people, and it is always a hit. Feel free to adjust any of the spices to your liking, although this combination is what my family likes best. Serve it with basmati rice or naan.

The comfort of food from home is a recurring conversation among international folk read more here.

Easy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken/Murgh Makhani Recipe

Butter Chicken

cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 medium red onion, finely chopped

For sauce:
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, finely grated
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup plain yogurt (greek ok too but I prefer this one)
1 can coconut milk (I like this one)
2 tablespoon red curry paste (I like this one)
1/4 cup milk (lowfat ok too) or heavy cream if you want creamier
1 scant tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (to taste)
2 tablespoon salted butter


  1. Spray liner of slow cooker with cooking spray and add chopped onion
    2. Chop chicken thighs into bite-size pieces and put on top of chopped onion. Sprinkle with salt if desired.
    3. Mix all the remaining sauce ingredients in separate bowl. Whisk together and pour over the chicken. Mix all together in slow cooker.
    4. Add 2 tablespoons of cold butter on top. Cover and cook on high for 3.5 – 4 hours.
    5. When done, mix together slowly with a spoon. (It is ok if it looks a bit curdled, it will become thick and creamy). Add chopped coriander and stir. Serve immediately.

If you liked this recipe you can check out more at: www.pantrydiva.com

Please comment below if you have tried my butter chicken recipe, would love to hear how it turned out!

About Archana Patwardhan

My family moved from across the world to the Bay Area when I was a toddler, and the travel bug never left me! After college, I moved to New York City in search of adventure where I worked in the fashion industry and met my future husband. After getting married on the beautiful beaches of Goa, we moved to Dubai, UAE for almost ten years. There, I started my food blog, had both of my children, and had the opportunity to travel to many exotic places. After nearly a decade away, this California girl was ready to move home! It has been fun seeing how much I have “changed” after so much time abroad, and am enjoying readjusting and rediscovering the Bay Area all over again.

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