Chicken Korma at its Best! This Indian Chicken Korma is the ultimate comfort food – made delicious & flavorsome with easier steps. For a Classic Indian meal, serve it with plain steamed Basmati rice, Butter Naan, Roti or Parathas, alongside Lassi or Raita. Chicken Korma also goes well with flavored rice like Ghee rice, Cumin Rice & Turmeric rice.
Korma is a South Asian dish that’s very popular across the world like Chicken Biryani, Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken. In this post I share how to make the best tasting authentic Chicken Korma, the easiest way.
Korma originated in South Asia, & has its roots in the Mughal Cuisine. The English term Korma is derived from the Urdu word “qorma” which means “To Braise”. So basically korma is a dish where meat is braised in fats like ghee, oil &/or yogurt.
Based on this braising technique, you will find zillion versions across the South Asian Countries, made with varying ingredients like spices, nuts, seeds, yogurt, coconut, and fried onion paste.
One ingredient you will never find in an authentic korma is Tomato! Yes! The essential tang in a korma comes from yogurt & tomatoes are never used.
The Authentic North Indian Mughlai Korma from the Awadhi Cuisine is essentially made with a nut and seed paste which contributes to the richness and creamy texture.
Traditionally a paste made with almonds and chironji seeds was used. In the later days cashews made way as a replacement to chironji. The other substitutes like poppy seeds and coconut are also used.
Broadly classified, there are 2 ways a korma is made in India.
- North Indian Korma is made with yogurt, nuts, seeds & brown onion paste. Sometimes you will also see recipes made with boiled onion paste like this Navratan Korma.
- South Indian Korma (known as Kurma) is made with coconut, seeds, sometimes nuts and no brown onion paste. Optionally yogurt is used.
My Chicken Korma Recipe
Chicken Korma is a traditional Mughlai dish where bone-in chicken is cooked with spices, onion paste, yogurt and nuts. My recipe is pretty straight forward and yields a creamy, rich and delicious dish that’s packed with layers & layers of authentic flavors.
I have tried to remain true to the authentic version, except for marinating the chicken (for better absorption of flavors & tender meat) and pan frying the onions instead of deep frying to make it healthier.
For a 100% authentic korma you may check this Mutton Korma.
Now comes the million dollar question:
Why is Chicken Marinated for Korma?
I have tested & retested chicken korma a lot of times without marinating and realized it makes a huge difference in terms of flavor and texture. Chicken unlike red meat, cooks faster and does not get enough time to soak up all the flavors while cooking.
I found the resulting dish was not as flavorful & succulent as the marinated chicken. This step also helps to get rid of the raw meat flavor quickly.
How to Make Chicken Korma (Stepwise photos)
1. To a mixing bowl, add
- ½ kg chicken (1.2 lbs)
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt (or coconut milk)
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic (We usually rub the chicken with turmeric and then rinse off before cooking. Hence the yellow color here.)
2. Next add
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (or paprika)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon salt
3. Mix all of them and set aside until needed. You can also refrigerate this overnight.
Make Korma Sauce/ Gravy
4. While the chicken marinates, go ahead with the recipe. Heat 1½ tablespoon oil or ghee in a pan. Add 2 to 3 cardamoms. I used a bit more here as we like the flavor.
5. Add 1 cup sliced onions (2 medium onions). Saute them stirring often until golden brown & caramelized.
6. This is how the onions look – golden brown & caramelized. Turn off the stove. Add 4 almonds and 6 cashews. Cool this completely.
7. Add the onions and nuts to a grinder or blender jar. Pour ¼ cup yogurt or coconut milk.
8. Blend to a smooth puree. If you do not have a powerful blender, then you may pour half cup water and blend. (remember to skip adding water later for the gravy)
Make Chicken Korma
9. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoon oil to the same pan and spread the oil. Add the following whole spices: (skip if you don’t have)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cloves
- 1 cardamom
- 2 inch cinnamon. I used Ceylon cinnamon so used more. If you are using cassia, just use a 2 inch thin strip. Saute the spices for a min.
10. Add marinated chicken and slit green chilli (optional).
11. Saute on a medium heat until the raw smell of ginger garlic goes away. This takes about 5 to 7 mins.
12. Add the onion paste. Pour ½ cup hot water.
13. Add ¼ teaspoon salt.
14. Add ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala and 1½ teaspoon coriander powder. You can also add little chili powder if you prefer red color korma.
15. Mix well. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cover and cook on a medium heat until the chicken turns tender and is soft cooked.
16. You will see traces of oil over the korma when it is done. Taste test and add more salt if needed. Once done, if the korma is too thick, add some hot water to bring it to consistency. Sprinkle some coriander leaves.
Serve chicken korma with rice, jeera rice, roti, naan or paratha.
Ingredients & Substitutes
Onions: Traditionally onions are deep fried until deep golden to light brown. These crispy onions are later crushed to a coarse powder and then simmered along with the other ingredients after the meat has been partially cooked.
You may make the pan fried brown onions like I have shown in this post or follow this fried onion recipe post to make deep fried crispy onions. Deep fried onions impart a much deeper flavor and a slightly coarse texture to the chicken korma.
Alternately you may also use your favorite brand of store bought fried onions.
Nuts: You can use only almonds or only cashews or a mix of both. Alternately you may use almond meal/ flour for convenience. To make the dish nut-free, you may use thick coconut milk.
Yogurt/ Curd: This recipe uses yogurt in the marinade and also in the korma. You can use store bought or homemade yogurt but make sure you don’t use very sour yogurt as it can ruin the dish. To make this dish dairy free, you may use thick coconut milk.
Spices: A traditional Korma uses a long list of ground and whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves, nutmeg, mace, coriander, black cardamoms and black pepper. However I have reduced them to the minimum making sure to retain the best flavours.
Chicken: Usually korma is made with bone-in meat as it makes the best and flavorful dish. I use whole chicken that’s pre-cut (known as curry cut). You can also use boneless chicken or chicken thighs. Avoid using breasts as they can easily dry out if overcooked.
Kewda or Rose Water: Kewda or rose water are artificial flavoring ingredients used in a lot of Korma recipes before finishing. These impart a floral scent (perfume) to the dish. At home, we personally don’t prefer. But if you have, you may use a few drops.
- Bone-in chicken tastes best in this recipe as the juices from the bones seep to the korma and make the gravy delicious.
- Marinating the chicken is optional. It is just done to tenderize the meat. If you prefer to skip the step, add all of the marinade ingredients together to the pan along with chicken.
- A korma curry gets its creamy texture from yogurt and nut paste. Traditional korma recipe does not use any kind of starch to thicken the curry.
- The aroma comes from the fried onion paste, take care to fry the onions evenly.
- If you have a nut allergy just skip the nuts in the recipe and add more yogurt or use coconut milk.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ kg chicken (bone-in) (1 to 1.2 lb)
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt or coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (ground or crushed in equal quantities)
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon garam masala or korma masala
- 1 to 1¼ tsp Kashmiri red chili powder (less spicy variety, minimum ½ tsp)
- ½ teaspoon salt
To saute & blend
- 1½ tablespoon oil or ghee
- 2 green cardamoms
- 1 cup onions sliced (2 medium)
- 6 cashews
- 4 almonds (or substitute with cashews)
- ¼ cup plain yogurt or coconut milk
For chicken korma gravy
- 1 to 2 tablespoon oil or ghee
- 1 small bay leaf (optional)
- 4 cloves (optional)
- 2 inch cinnamon (optional)
- 1 cardamom (optional)
- 1 to 2 green chilies slit or chopped (optional)
- ½ cup hot water (more if needed)
- ¼ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- 1½ teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
- ¼ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (optional, for color)
- 3 tablespoons coriander leaves (cilantro) chopped
- To a mixing bowl, add chicken, 3 tablespoons yogurt, 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste, ¼ tsp turmeric, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp red chili powder and 1 tsp garam masala.
- Mix all of them well. Cover and set aside until needed.
Make Korma Paste
- Heat a pan with 1½ tbsps oil and add 2 cardamoms.
- Add sliced onions and fry them evenly until golden brown. Next add cashews and almonds. Cool these completely.
- Later add the cooled onions and nuts to a blender jar along with yogurt. Blend these to a smooth puree. Set this aside.
How to Make Chicken Korma
- To the same pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat it.
- Optional – Saute whole spices – bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom in oil for a min.
- Add green chilli and marinated chicken. Saute on a medium heat until the raw smell of ginger garlic paste goes away. This takes about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Then add the onion nut puree. Pour ½ cup hot water and mix well.
- Add salt, coriander powder and garam masala. If required you can also add more chili powder for color.
- Mix well & raise the heat to bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cover and cook on a low flame until chicken is cooked to tender & you see traces of oil over the korma.
- Cook further till the gravy reaches a desired consistency. If it is too thick then pour some hot water to bring it to consistency.
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
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
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.
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