Chicken Kurma is a delicious South Indian curried dish made with chicken, whole spices, ground spices, coconut and herbs. This chicken kurma is a classic dish made often in the traditional South Indian homes. Kurma with Ghee rice is a hugely popular combo you will find everywhere in South India. Right from small budget places to upscale restaurants & households this is always there on the menu. Apart from this chicken kurma, vegetarian versions like Vegetable kurma, paneer kurma and Aloo kurma are also very popular. These are also served with Pulao, Biryani, roti or Parathas.
Kurma is a South Indian word for “Korma” and is very different from the Mughlai Korma in the preparation method and techniques. Both taste very different as the ingredients used are also different. So a kurma is not the same as Korma.
South Indian kurma has coconut as the key ingredient, sometimes poppy seeds are also used. Ingredients like roasted chana dal and cashews are used as a thickener in the new-day versions. But the base of the North Indian Mughlai korma is fried onions/ golden onions which are ground and added. Yogurt is used to a large extent and no coconut goes into this.
This South Indian chicken kurma is very simple, tastes delicious and easier than the Chicken korma. Fresh coconut is ground with poppy seeds to impart a rich and creamy texture.
Since I have access to fresh coconut, I use the grated one in the recipe. Feel free to substitute it with canned coconut milk. My mom always used poppy seeds along with fresh coconut to make our kurma. I replace the poppy seeds with cashews here. If you have cashews use them else simply skip completely and use a bit of coconut milk.
A small amount of yogurt is added to the dish to impart creaminess as no cream is used in the recipe. To make it dairy-free you may skip the yogurt.
How to Make Chicken Kurma (stepwise photos)
1. You may skip this step if using store bought coconut milk. Add ¼ cup grated coconut and 8 cashews to a grinder jar. Optionally you may add ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds.
2. Pour water just as required to make a thick paste. (If using poppy seeds as a replacement to cashews, first make a fine powder of the seeds in your grinder. Add coconut and little water make a smooth paste.)
3. Pour 2 tablespoons oil to a hot pan. Add the whole spices. 1 star anise, 1 small bay leaf, 2 to 3 green cardamoms, 4 cloves, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 inch cinnamom piece.
3. When the spices begin to sizzle add 1 cup chopped onions and 1 slit green chilli. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt and saute on a medium heat until golden.
4. Add 1 ½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste and fry until the raw smell goes away, for 1 minute or so.
5. Lower the flame. Add 1 pound (½ kg) chicken, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon turmeric.
6. Fry the chicken on a medium high heat until it turns white in color.
8. Add 1/3 cup fine chopped tomatoes (1 medium). Stir fry until the tomatoes turn soft and mushy.
9. Add 1 teaspoon garam masala, ½ to 1 teaspoon red chili powder and mix well.
10. Fry for about two to three minutes.
Make Chicken Kurma
11. Add the ground paste (or coconut milk), 8 to 10 chopped mint or 1 sprig curry leaves.
12. Optional – Turn down the heat and add 1 tablespoon whisked yogurt. (To prevent the yogurt from splitting, you may simply whisk the yogurt in a bowl first and then whisk it with 1 tbsp of the kurma mixture in the pan. Add that back to the pan.)
13. Mix and stir fry until the yogurt blends well with the chicken and the masala begins to smell aromatic. This step takes about 3 minutes. You may adjust the color of the dish by adding little more chili powder at this stage.
14. Pour hot water. Start with ½ to ¾ cup hot water and add more if required as you cook. Avoid adding lot of water at one time as sometimes chicken oozes out plenty of moisture. So you need to add water cautiously here.
15. Cover and cook on a low to medium flame till the chicken turns soft & tender. Taste test and add more salt if required. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon garam masala powder to finish off.
Serve chicken kurma with ghee rice, plain rice or any biryani varieties or chapathi.
You may sprinkle coriander leaves if you want.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
To Grind (optional, refer notes for substitute)
- 8 whole cashewnuts or 1¼ tbsp poppy seeds
- ¼ cup thick coconut milk or grated fresh/frozen coconut
- ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
For the Kurma
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds or shahi jeera or jeera
- 2 green cardamoms
- 4 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 1 cup onions , finely chopped
- 1 green chili slit
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt (more to adjust)
- 1 ½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 lb chicken (½ kg bone-in or bone-less)
- 1 medium ripe tomato
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala (refer notes) + 1/4 tsp
- 1 sprig curry leaves or 8 pudina/mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon yogurt , thick / curd (optional, refer notes)
- 1 sprig coriander
- If you want to skip making a kurma paste simply use about ⅓ cup canned coconut milk. Grind together coconut, cashews & fennel seeds with a few tablespoons water to a smooth paste. Keep this aside (optionally if using poppy seeds, powder them first. Add coconut and blend to a smooth paste with little water.)
- Chop onions & tomatoes finely. Set aside.
How to Make Chicken Kurma
- Heat oil in a pan. Add the whole spices. Once they begin to sizzle add the onions and green chilies. Sprinkle salt and saute them until golden.
- Add ginger garlic paste and fry until it turns aromatic, for about a minute.
- Add chicken, turmeric and little more salt. Fry the chicken on a medium high heat until it turns white or pale in color.
- Add tomatoes & stir fry until the tomatoes are softened and broken down.
- Time to add in chili powder and garam masala. Stir and fry for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add curry leaves or mint and coconut paste (or coconut milk) and yogurt. Stir and fry until the mixture begins to smell aromatic, for 2 to 3 mins.
- Pour ½ cup hot water and mix well. Chicken oozes out water as it cooks, so add more hot water as you cook if required.
- Cook covered till the chicken turns completely tender and soft. Taste test and adjust the salt. Towards the end add ¼ tsp garam masala. Switch off the stove.
- Transfer chicken kurma to a serving bowl. Best to serve after 30 minutes. Garnish with coriander or mint leaves just before serving.
- Skip making the kurma paste and use 1/3 cup canned coconut milk.
- Half cup whisked thick curd (yogurt) can be used instead of poppy seeds and coconut paste. The taste does alter but it works good as a replacement to ground paste. If you want to add it, take it to a bowl and whisk well until smooth. Then add a few tbsps gravy from the pan and mix well. Reduce the heat completely and pour this to the chicken kurma.
- Store bought garam masala can be used. For a chicken kurma a mild garam masala works great. Adjust the quantity as needed. If your garam masala includes red chilies, skip using red chili powder from the recipe.
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
Chicken Kurma Recipe first published in February 2015. Updated & republished in May 2022.
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
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