chicken curry recipe

Chicken Curry Recipe

By Swasthi on September 14, 2023, Comments, Jump to Recipe

Make a full-flavored tasty Chicken Curry with this easy recipe. Tender & succulent pieces of chicken swimming in a super flavorful & delicious curry sauce, is the ultimate comfort food for a curry lover. This post will teach you how to make a basic Indian Chicken Curry at home with pantry staples. I also share tips & tricks to customize it further to your palate.

chicken curry recipe

All you need is some fluffy steamed rice, Turmeric rice, Jeera rice, Naan, Chapati or artisan bread to enjoy this.

What is Chicken Curry?

Chicken Curry is a traditional Indian dish made by simmering chicken pieces with plenty of spices, herbs, onions and tomatoes. It is believed to have originated in India & now made and enjoyed all over the world.

Also known as curried chicken, this dish is popular across the Asian countries and variations exist with different names.

Indian cuisine is diverse so there are again numerous ways to make an Indian Chicken Curry. While spices, herbs and onions are a staple in every version, some recipes use ingredients like tomatoes, yogurt (curd), coconut, poppy seeds or nuts to enhance the taste.

About this recipe

I have grown up eating many kinds of Indian Chicken Curries from various regions as my Mom was a food enthusiast. So making a good Chicken Curry is something I learnt from my Mom.

I have shared a lot of Chicken Curry & Lamb Curry recipes on this blog which are our family favourites. But this recipe is the most basic version and a great one to start with if you are a novice.

This recipe uses the most basic ingredients in the traditional form & requires no fancy ingredients like canned tomatoes, stock or any sort of cream. But feel-free to use what you have on hand depending on where you live. Ex: replace the fresh tomatoes with canned.

If you are a beginner please read the full post including Pro Tips, ingredients & substitutes and possible variations sections below before you try the recipe.

Authentic Indian Curry Does Not Use

  • Canned tomato puree
  • Cornstarch or
  • Any kind of stock or broth

So this recipe does not use any of the above mentioned ingredients & will give you a real Indian chicken curry with a burst of flavors & deliciousness. However feel free to use canned tomatoes but do adjust the spices. You can also use stock for flavor, especially if you are using boneless chicken.

More similar recipes
Chicken Bhuna
Chicken Jalfrezi
Butter Chicken recipe
Chicken Korma
Chicken Tikka Masala
Methi Chicken

How to make Chicken Curry (Stepwise Photos)

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in heavy bottom pan. When the oil turns hot, add

  • 1 small bay leaf (or 1 sprig curry leaves)
  • 2 inch cinnamon piece
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 green cardamoms. (All of these are optional but recommended)
saute dry spices in hot oil

2. Add 1 cup very finely chopped onions and 1 chopped green chili pepper. Saute the onions till they turn golden. To speed up, I used another tbsp of oil here and this is optional.

frying onions in oil

3. Add 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste. Make sure the onions turn golden before adding ginger garlic.

frying ginger garlic paste

4. Saute ginger garlic for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the raw smell disappears completely.

sauteed onions to make curry

5. Add ½ cup tomatoes (chopped or mashed or pureed). Also add ¼ teaspoon turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt.

cooking tomatoes for simple chicken curry recipe

6. Next fry until the tomatoes turn completely mushy and the raw smell has gone.

7. Add 1 teaspoon red chili powder and ¼ cup whisked yogurt (curd). Check the tips section below to know tips on how to prevent yogurt from splitting in the curry. To substitute yogurt, you can soak 12 cashew nuts or almonds or 3 tablespoons white poppy seeds in ½ cup hot water for 30 minutes. Blend it to a smooth paste & add here.

adding spice powder and cashew paste

8. Saute on a medium flame until the mixture becomes thick and begins to smell good. Optional – If you do not like chunky onions in your curry, then cool and blend this with water to a smooth puree.

onion tomato masala in a kadai

9. Add the following ingredients

  • ½ kg chicken (about 1 lb)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves or mint leaves.
adding garam masala to make chicken curry

10. Saute for 3 to 4 mins or until the chicken turns pale.

saute chicken with onion tomato masala

11. Cover and cook on a low flame for about 3 to 4 mins so the chicken absorbs the flavors. Meanwhile, heat 1 cup water in a separate pot. You can also microwave the water in a cup for 1 min.

cook covered on a low heat

12. Pour ½ to ¾ cup hot water or as needed. Using cold water often makes the meat tough & hard.

adding hot water to make chicken curry

13. Make sure you use just enough water to partially cover the chicken. Cover and cook on a low to medium heat until soft tender. It took about 10 mins for me. This may vary depending on the age of the chicken or the size of the pieces. Do not cook on a high temperature.

14. Lastly check whether the chicken is done by pricking it with a fork. It must be soft and should fall off the bone easily. Taste the curry and add more salt if need. Also add ½ teaspoon more garam masala if you feel the curry is low on flavor.

When the curry reaches a desired consistency switch off the stove. Add some coriander leaves for garnish. Keep covered until you serve.

Garnishing chicken curry with coriander leaves

Serve chicken curry with rice, turmeric rice, jeera rice, ghee rice, naan or chapathi. Also have a simple raita & onion salad or kachumber to go on the side.

chicken curry

Pro Tips

  • Fine chop the onions so they cook down to a jammy texture in the curry. This also helps to cook the onions faster. You may use a chopper or food processor for that.
  • You can use chopped tomatoes or pureed tomatoes. I prefer to peel and deseed the tomatoes if using them in chopped form. If you want to use canned tomatoes or passata, you will need higher amount of ground spices.
  • The specialty of this chicken curry is to slow cook on a low heat. Do not hurry up to finish the dish. A slow cooked dish is worth the effort as it really stands out in taste & flavor. A chicken curry prepared on a high heat yields a hotchpotch curry and not the one that you will really love & enjoy.

Ingredients & Substitutes

Choosing chicken: You can make this curry with boneless or bone-in chicken. But bone-in chicken yields the best curry due to the marrow goodness. Bone-in chicken also thickens the curry without adding any thickener.

Most traditional Indian households use the whole chicken that is cut to equal sizes. The curry is made with all the pieces – thighs, breasts etc. But if you are choosy you can use whatever you like. This kind of whole chicken that is cut up is known as curry-cut chicken.

Whole spices: Whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms impart additional flavor to the curry. While they can easily be left out if you do not have I advise giving them a try whenever possible. You will find the flavors of the curry more robust and intense.

Since ground spices oxidize overtime (during their shelf-life) whole spices boost and impart the flavors slowly as your curry simmers.

Garam masala: Garam masala is an Indian spice blend made by dry roasting whole spices & grinding them. The key ingredient to make a good chicken curry is a good garam masala or a chicken masala.

I use this homemade garam masala or this biryani masala. You can also use store bought garam masala for convenience. Also note that every brand is different and you have to adjust the quantity depending on the strength and aroma of the garam masala.

Substitute: A good substitute to garam masala is a meat masala, biryani masala, kitchen king masala or Curry Powder. You can again choose something good from a popular brand. But please note that a curry powder does not have the same aroma & spice level as the garam masala powder.

Taste enhancer or thickener

Traditional chicken curry is made without any thickening agents. To enhance the taste & give the curry sauce a thicker feel, ingredients like coconut, yogurt, nut paste or poppy seeds are used in smaller quantities.

Back home in India, my Mom would always use white poppy seeds paste to make this chicken curry. Since poppy seeds are banned in the country I live, I either use yogurt, coconut or nut paste & a lot of times just nothing.

So feel free to use fresh yogurt if you do not own a blender to make a paste of coconut or nuts. Here is how to use yogurt:

Using Yogurt in Curry

Most often thick yogurt with lesser whey, won’t split in the curry but however for unknown reasons it may sometimes happen. So these tips will help you prevent that.
Simply whisk the yogurt with a fork until smooth. Temper the yogurt first by adding 2 tbsps of onion tomato masala (made in the recipe) to it. Mix it well. Lower the flame completely and pour the yogurt to the pan.

Yogurt that is not sour and has lesser whey works well in this recipe. So you can use Greek yogurt or even homemade yogurt.

If your yogurt is too runny and has a lot of whey, simply strain it in a cheese cloth and then use. Too much of whey will always split the yogurt in the chicken curry.

Variations

To make a Smooth Curry Sauce, simply cool the onion tomato masala and blend it with 1 cup water until smooth. You don’t need to fish out the whole spices.

First saute the chicken for a few minutes until pale, then simply strain the puree to the chicken and let simmer until you see traces of oil over. Add more hot water if you want to adjust the consistency.

Make Creamy Chicken Curry

You can make this chicken curry creamy by adding 4 tbsps of heavy cream, cooking cream, thickened cream or thick coconut milk towards the end. Also note that adding a lot of it will alter the flavor profile and may turn your dish bland.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

chicken curry

Chicken Curry Recipe

Simple Indian chicken curry made delicious, spicy and hot with minimum ingredients. This is a basic recipe that can be tried even by beginners. It pairs great with rice, roti or paratha.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Jump to Comments

For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings3 people
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

  • ½ kg (1.1 lbs.) chicken (preferably bone-in, boneless is okay)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup (3 medium) onions (fine chopped)
  • 1 to 2 green chilies (slit, omit for less spicy, Thai or Indian chili peppers or serrano peppers)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste or ¾ inch ginger, 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ cup (2 medium) tomatoes (pureed or finely chopped)
  • ¼ cup yogurt (or 1½ tbsp cashew butter or 12 cashews powdered & pureed with ¼ cup water, refer notes)
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust as needed)
  • ½ to 1 cup hot water (or light coconut milk)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves or mint leaves finely chopped

Spice powders (or use Curry Powder as needed)

  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder or smoked paprika (½ tsp for less spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (½ tsp more if needed, adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder

Whole spices (omit if you don't have)

  • 1 bay leaf or 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 inch cinnamon piece
  • 3 green cardamom


Instructions

Preparation

  • On a medium flame, heat oil in a deep pan. Add the whole spices – bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves & green cardamoms.
  • Stir in the chopped onions and chilies. Saute until deep golden in color, for 7 to 8 mins. 
  • Add ginger garlic paste and saute till you get a nice aroma, for about a minute.
  • Then add tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Mix well and cook until the tomatoes turn soft & mushy.
  • Turn down the heat to low, Stir in the yogurt (or cashew paste), red chili powder, garam masala & coriander powder.
  • Cook on low heat, until the mixture smells good and aromatic.
  • Add chicken and coriander leaves. Fry on a medium heat till the chicken turns white or pale in color. This takes around 3 mins.
  • Cover and cook on a low heat for 3 to 4 minutes. This step is very important as the chicken absorbs all the flavors of the spices.
  • Meanwhile in a separate pot, heat up 1 cup water. Using cold water most times toughens the chicken so it is good to use hot water.

How to make Chicken Curry

  • Pour hot water just enough (about ½ cup) to make a thick gravy. As you cook, chicken lets out plenty of moisture, depending on that add more water. Check the pictures in the post for consistency.
  • Cover and cook on a medium flame till the chicken is soft cooked and the curry/gravy turns thick. When the chicken is cooked completely it will fall off the bone easily. 
  • Taste the curry & add more salt if needed. You can also add another ½ tsp garam masala at this stage if you feel it is less in flavors.
  • Lastly garnish with coriander leaves, cover and off the heat. Serve chicken curry with butter naan or jeera rice.


Notes

  1. You leave out the whole spices if you do not have. But they add a more intense flavor to the curry.
  2. To prevent yogurt from splitting, add it to a bowl and whisk it well with a fork. Add 2 tbsps of onion tomato masala (made in the recipe) and mix it well with yogurt. Then lower the flame completely and pour the yogurt to the pan.
  3. To substitute yogurt, use 1.5 tbsps cashew butter or soak 12 cashew nuts or almonds or 3 tablespoons of white poppy seeds in half cup water for 30 minutes. Later blend it with 4 to 6 tablespoons water in a small grinder to make super smooth milk.
  4. If you don’t like chunky curry with onions and tomatoes then blend the onion tomato masala with half cup water in a blender.  
  5. Adding cold water to chicken sometimes makes it hard or tough. So use hot water.
  6. This chicken curry can be cooked in coconut milk instead of water. Do not pour cold coconut milk. Heat up and add.
  7. Please choose a good garam masala for the recipe especially if using store bought. Some brands sell really pungent garam masala. Use it with caution.
  8. You can also use 3 to 4 tbsps of cream or thick coconut milk towards the end if you prefer. Just add it towards the end and turn off.

Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.

For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Chicken Curry Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 417 Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Fat 26g40%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Cholesterol 126mg42%
Sodium 143mg6%
Potassium 521mg15%
Carbohydrates 10g3%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 33g66%
Vitamin A 705IU14%
Vitamin C 10.4mg13%
Calcium 65mg7%
Iron 2.7mg15%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

© Swasthi’s Recipes

If you are using naatu kodi / kozhi (country chicken) you can make this chicken curry in a pressure cooker and cook for 4 whistles on a medium flame.

Chicken Curry Recipe

About Swasthi

I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me

Follow Swasthi’s Recipes

Comments

Recipe Rating




599 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

5 stars
Swasthi, this is such a tasty recipe… I used the coconut milk recipe and then let it cook down and was amazed at just how flavoursome this curry is. Amazing, thank you…
My wife and daughter loved it too, which is always good…

Very nice,,,,need to be like you

5 stars
One of the simplest and best chicken curry recipes I have ever tried!

5 stars
this looks good gimme some

5 stars
Thank you for this recipe. I discovered it one night when I wanted to make a chicken curry without coconut milk. It is absolutely delicious and so flavoursome.

5 stars
Really easy, not too time consuming, stuck to the recipe, had all the ingredients except cardomon pods and fresh coriander but all usually supermarket staples. Would maybe omit a clove next time – the green chilli was not spicy am wondering if this was an effect of the clove as I bit into one and had that slight numb feeling?

I used the cloves but omitted green chilies. Instead used 1 tsp of paprika as instructed with 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper for a kick. You might want to consider cayenne pepper or chilli powder for heat. But be careful of chill powder though.

5 stars
Fantastic recipe. Took this to friends, one of whom is of Indian descent. (Foolish or brave?!)
They loved it and even asked for the recipe. This is becoming a favorite in our home!

5 stars
Fantastic recipe, we are over the moon about it. We love Sichuan food, our favourite being Mala La Zi Ji. We were in Singapore in November, in transit from Durban to Zigon, but did not have a chance to taste any food. We will definately try some of your other recipes

4 stars
Njoyed reading all the steps of this Chicken Curry, very straight forward and easy to follow. The outcome, so delicious and flavorful without any extras. I used homemade rooster broth instead of water and I had to let it cook an hour since I used one of my roosters instead of (store bought) Chicken 🐔

5 stars
Detailed and easy to follow, this worked great as a foundational recipe for curry!

5 stars
Absolutely love this. I’ve made it twice, once with bone-in thighs and once with boneless, and both times it was delicious. Easy to make and very tasty. Sauce was initially too thin, so I added ground almonds and that worked a treat.

5 stars
Fabulous recipe! I’ve just come back from holiday in India, so enjoying the lovely fresh flavours of this authentic recipe.
One query, can I freeze it?

5 stars
Hi, love this recipe. So tasty and great for my first time! Would definitely cook this again. However, there is no amount of curry power (as a substition for spices) indicated. Please clarify. Thank you!

Hope to hear from you soon!

Hi and thank you for all your delicious recipes! Truly authentic and tasty. Would I be able to make this curry in the Instant Pot? I’m thinking of trying it out tonight, about 8-10mins on high pressure after adding the water?

5 stars
I make this recipe almost every week. My kids love it. I am their hero, thanks to this recepie.😀

5 stars
I.make It every week. My kids love it

Hi I am excited to try this recipe , but I’m allergic to garlic . Will it affect the taste without it ?

5 stars
So tasty, we loved this curry. So much better doing it all from scratch. I do usually cheat with curry paste but this was just beautiful. Adding hot water instead of cold to avoid drying meat is a great tip. 😊

I made this today, absolutely beautiful and the fragrance filled. Thank you!

5 stars
Second time of making this, I didn’t use the hard spices either time as I didn’t have any to hand, also used medium curry powder as well as garam masala, tastes as good as something I would order from an Indian takeaway without the added grease, thank you, will become a regular recipe in my house.

Hi, I’m comparing this recipe and the chicken masala recipe. They are almost the same, but the chicken masala recipe calls for the chicken to be marinated where as this recipe does not. Can the chicken in this recipe also be marinated in yoghurt and spices?