Black Pepper Butter Chicken

This quick, tasty recipe is my version of a Punjabi dish, kali mirch murgh makhana. It’s nothing like the fluoro-orange butter chicken of Indian restaurants (which I love!), nor is it as spicy as the amount of pepper, garlic and ginger might suggest.

The yoghurt and lime juice give it a nice tang and the tomato salad adds a great splash of colour. Curry leaves are available from most Asian grocers and also very easy to grow at home; they’re traditional but not essential.

I love the way food takes us travelling vicariously. For an easy authentic (that is fluro orange) butter chicken, and more quick and delicious dinners that’ll take your tastebuds on a world tour, check out my Fresh and Easy Meals.

A glass of pinot noir works wonderfully with the spice in this dish – try one from Soumah in the cool Warramate foothills of the Yarra Valley.

Serves: 4


1 cup natural yoghurt

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup grated ginger

3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, coarsely crushed

650g chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces

125g butter

1 red onion, finely sliced

salt flakes, to taste

2 stems (1/4 cup) curry leaves

2 teaspoons strained lime juice

steamed basmati rice, for serving

Tomato Salad

200g grape tomatoes, quartered

1 Lebanese cucumber, chopped

4 green onions, chopped


Combine yoghurt, garlic, ginger, pepper and cumin.

Add chicken pieces, stir well, cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Make Tomato Salad: combine all ingredients. Set aside.

Melt 100g of the butter in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat.

Add onion and a good pinch of salt, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to colour.

Add chicken and yoghurt mixture and cook for 5 minutes or so over low-medium heat, stirring often, until chicken is just cooked through.

Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a small saucepan, add curry leaves and fry until crisp.

Stir lime juice through the chicken and pour curry leaves and butter over the top.

Serve with steamed rice and Tomato Salad on the side.

Find a print-friendly version of this recipe here as well as a step-by-step video for dhal palak, which makes a great side dish.

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Also read: Chicken Tikka with Yoghurt on Naan

Roberta Muir
Roberta Muir
Roberta Muir loves making it easy for home cooks to explore new cuisines and ingredients and sharing her passion for cooking, eating, drinking and travelling. She’s a recipe writer, cooking teacher, and author of four cookbooks including the Sydney Seafood School Cookbook. Find more of her inspiration at
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