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 is what makes this chicken curry uniquely delicious & flavorful.
How to make chicken curry
1. Heat 2 tbsps of oil in a kadai or heavy bottom or nonstick pan. Saute cinnamon, small bay leaf, 4 cloves, 3 cardamoms in hot oil just for a min to turn them fragrant. You can also use shahi jeera or cumin if you like.
2. Add 1 cup very finely chopped onions and slit green chilies. You can also use onion paste or grated onions. Stir well and fry until the onions turn golden.
3. Make sure the onions turn golden before adding 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste. At this stage i used another tbsp of oil and this is optional.
4. Saute ginger garlic until the raw smell disappears completely.
5. Add deseeded finely chopped and mashed tomatoes along with turmeric and salt. You can also use tomato puree or grated tomatoes.
6. Next fry until the tomatoes turn completely mushy and the raw smell has gone.
7. Add ¾ to 1 tsp red chili powder and 3 tbsps thick curd (yogurt) or cashew paste from 10 cashew nuts. There are a few readers who mentioned in the comments below they made without yogurt or cashew paste yet it turned out delicious.
So you may want to skip it. This time I have used cashew paste. To make the cashew paste, soak 10 cashews in half cup hot water for 30 minutes. Blend them together to smooth milk.
8. Saute on a medium flame until the mixture begins to smell good. Take care not to burn the mixture. At this stage the raw smell of the ingredients must go away completely.
Slow cooking chicken curry
9. Add ½ kg chicken (about 1 lb), 1 tsp garam masala powder and handful of coriander or mint leaves. (You can also use 1 tsp of this biryani masala and ½ tsp of this garam masala. You can use any readymade good masala.)
10. Saute for 3 mins or until the chicken turns pale.
11. Cover and cook on a low flame for about 3 to 5 mins for the chicken to let out moisture. While it gets cooked, heat 1 cup water in a separate pot. You can also microwave the water in a cup for 1 min.
12. Pour hot water as needed. Using cold water may turn the meat tough or hard.
13. Make sure you use just enough water to partially cover the chicken. Cover and cook on a medium heat until soft tender. It took about 10 mins for me. This may vary depending on the age of the chickn or the size of the pieces.
Avoid cooking at high temperature. If using country chicken i.e naatu kozhi / kodi then add a small piece of betel nut. Pressure cook on a medium heat for 4 whistles.
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 adjust the salt. If needed add ½ tsp 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. 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.
Tips to make best chicken curry
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 sweep 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. 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 banned in Singapore I either use yogurt or cashew paste here.
So feel free to use fresh curd or yogurt if you do not own a blender.
5. 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.
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.
Can I make this chicken curry creamy?
Yes you can make this chicken curry creamy by adding 4 tbsps of cream or thick coconut milk towards the end.
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- ½ kg chicken or 500 grams or 1 pound (preferably bone-in)
- 2 to 3 tbsp Oil
- 1 cup onions or 3 medium onions (fine chopped or grated or paste)
- 1 to 2 green chilies slit (skip for less spicy)
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste or minced ginger garlic
- ½ cup tomatoes finely chopped or puree (deseeded)(2 medium tomatoes)
- salt as needed
- ½ to 1 cup hot water or coconut milk
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves chopped or mint leaves
Spice powders (or use curry powder as needed)
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder or haldi
- ¾ to 1 tsp red chili powder or smoked paprika (½ tsp for less spicy)
- 1 tsp garam masala (½ tsp more if needed, adjust to taste)
- ¾ tsp coriander powder (optional)
Whole spices (skip if you don’t have)
- 1 bay leaf small or tej patta or curry leaves
- 4 cloves or laung
- 2 inch cinnamon or dalchini
- 3 green cardamom or elaichi
For taste (optional)
- 3 tbsp curd or yogurt or 10 cashews or 3 tbsp poppy seeds (ground to smooth paste)
How to make the recipe
- 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 mashed tomatoes or puree, 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 or just curry powder.
- On a low heat, cook until the mixture smells good and the raw smell goes away.
- Add chicken and coriander or mint leaves. Fry till the chicken turns white or pale in color. This takes around 3 mins.
- In a separate pot, heat up 1 cup water. Using cold water most times toughen 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.
- Lastly add coriander leaves, cover and off the heat. Serve chicken curry with basmati rice, chapathi or jeera rice, ghee rice or pulao.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
- You can also skip the whole spices if you do not have. But using them will add a more intense flavor to the curry.
- Adding cold water to chicken sometimes makes it hard or tough. So use hot water.
- The 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.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.
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.