Chicken curry recipe for beginners. This detailed post on how to make chicken curry at home will guide you to make the best dish using pantry staples. This is one of the easiest that even a novice or a bachelor can cook with an amazing outcome. It not only tastes delicious but is also very flavorful with soft, tender & succulent pieces of chicken. Serve it with butter naan, tandoori roti, jeera rice or plain basmati rice.
I have grown up eating many kinds of Indian chicken curries from various regions as my mom is a food enthusiast. We would get to eat them during the weekends with rice & jowar roti.
So making a good chicken curry is something I learnt from my mom. I have shared lot of chicken curry recipes on the blog which I make for my family.
But this post on a basic chicken curry was something I thought will be helpful for the newbies. I have kept the recipe very very simple & have not used any fancy ingredients like canned tomato puree, stock or any sort of cream. There is no blending & grinding work involved.
So even if you are a novice with just a basic kitchen set up, just go ahead and give this recipe a try. I am sure you will cook an awesome chicken curry!
The entire dish is slow cooked, that’s what makes this chicken curry uniquely delicious & flavorful.
How to make chicken curry
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)
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.
3. Add 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste. Make sure the onions turn golden before adding ginger garlic.
4. Saute ginger garlic for about 2 to 3 minutes or until the raw smell disappears completely.
5. Add ½ cup tomatoes (chopped or mashed or pureed). Also add ¼ teaspoon turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt.
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.
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.
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.
10. Saute for 3 to 4 mins or until the chicken turns pale.
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.
12. Pour ½ to ¾ cup hot water or as needed. Using cold water often makes the meat tough & hard.
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.
Serve chicken curry with rice, jeera rice, ghee rice or chapathi. Also have a simple raita or onion wedges to go on the side.
Authentic Indian curry does not use
- Canned tomato puree
- Curry powder
- 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.
1. Choosing chicken
You can make this curry with boneless or bone-in chicken. But bone-in chicken yields the best curry as the juices from the bones seep to the curry. So 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.
2. Whole spices
To begin with I do temper the whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves & cardamom. If you do not have these you may skip. But the flavor from the whole spices is much more intense than the ground powders so I use them.
3. Garam masala – ground spice powder
Garam masala is an Indian spice blend made by dry roasting the spices & pounding them. For this chicken curry recipe you will need a very good spice powder.
I have used this homemade garam masala. However you can also use any store bought powder that is of good quality & aromatic.
Substitute: A good substitute to garam masala is a 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.
4. Onions & tomatoes
I have used chopped onions & tomatoes here. Some regions use them by grating or pureeing. However it is up to you to make a choice.
5. Taste enhancer or thickener
Traditionally chicken curry was made without any thickening agents. To enhance the taste, one of the ingredients like coconut, yogurt, nut paste or poppy seeds paste were used.
Back home in India, my mom would always use poppy seeds paste for the chicken curry. Since poppy seeds are in the country I live, I either use yogurt or cashew paste here.
So feel free to use fresh yogurt if you do not own a blender. Here is how to use it.
Using yogurt in curry
Most often thick yogurt with lesser whey in it, won’t split in the curry but however for unknown reasons it may sometimes happen. So these tips will help you if you want to prevent that.
- Simply whisk it 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. Ten 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.
The specialty of this chicken curry is slow cooking. Do not rush or be in a hurry to finish up cooking quickly. A slow cooked dish will be worth the effort as it really stands out in taste & flavor.
A dish prepared on a high flame will yield you only a hotchpotch curry and not the one that you will really love & enjoy.
Make creamy chicken curry
You can make this chicken curry creamy by adding 4 tbsps of cream or thick coconut milk towards the end.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ kg chicken (500 grams or 1 pound (preferably bone-in))
- 2 to 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 cup onions (3 medium onions) (fine chopped)
- 1 to 2 green chilies slit (skip for less spicy)
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste or minced ginger garlic
- ½ cup tomatoes (2 medium tomatoes, pureed or finely chopped)
- ¼ cup yogurt (substitute with 12 cashews or 3 tbsps poppy seeds, refer notes)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust as needed)
- ½ to 1 cup hot water (or coconut milk)
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves or mint leaves finely chopped
Spice powders (or use curry powder as needed)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon 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 (skip if you don’t have)
- 1 bay leaf or 1 sprig curry leaves
- 4 cloves
- 2 inch cinnamon piece
- 3 green cardamom
- First heat oil in a deep pan, then add whatever whole spices you have – bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves & green cardamoms. Fry them till you get an aroma, just for a min.
- Add chopped onions and chilies. Saute till the onions turn deep golden in color.
- Next add ginger garlic paste and saute till you get a nice aroma. This just takes about a minute.
- Then add tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Mix well and cook until the tomatoes turn soft & mushy.
- Pour yogurt (or cashew paste), red chili powder, garam masala & coriander powder.
- On a low heat, cook until the mixture smells good and the raw smell goes away.
- Add chicken and coriander leaves. Fry 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 to make a thick curry. Do not add too much water. Chicken curry will become runny. Sometimes chicken lets out lot of moisture. So use only as needed.
- Cover and cook on a medium to low flame till the chicken is soft cooked and the curry turns thick.
- 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.
- Cover and cook on a low flame for 3 to 5 mins. When the chicken is cooked completely it will fall off the bone easily.
- You can also skip the whole spices if you do not have. But they add a more intense flavor to the curry.
- 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. Ten lower the flame completely and pour the yogurt to the pan.
- To substitute yogurt, soak 12 cashew nuts or almonds or 3 tablespoons of white poppy seeds in half cup water for 30 minutes. Later blend it in a small grinder to make super smooth milk.
- If you don’t like chunky curry with onions and tomatoes then blend the onion tomato masala with half cup water in a blender.
- Adding cold water to chicken sometimes makes it hard or tough. So use hot water.
- This chicken curry can be cooked in coconut milk instead of water. Do not pour cold coconut milk. Heat up and add.
- 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.
- 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)
© 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.