Chicken Masala Recipe
Chicken Masala is an Indian dish of flavorsome chicken coated with a delicious, spicy and thick masala (sauce). This classic and comforting dish comes together under 45 mins and makes for a satisfying meal. Serve it with steamed rice, flavored rice like Jeera rice or Turmeric rice. It also goes well with Chapati, roti and Naan. If you want to extend your menu, include Raita or Lassi.
About Chicken Masala
In the generic Indian lingo, Chicken Masala simply translates to chicken cooked with spices, where the word “masala” means spices. However in reference to this particular dish, Chicken Masala is a North Indian dish where chicken is cooked in a spicy onion tomato masala.
A basic masala is prepared by sautéing onions, tomatoes, spices and herbs. Marinated chicken is sautéed and cooked in this masala. The resulting dish is delicious & aromatic with a thick masala/sauce coated over succulent chicken.
Chicken Masala is a simple version that requires much basic ingredients and does not use any cashews, yogurt, coconut or cream like a Butter Chicken. The masala (thick sauce) in this dish is unique in its own way. It is delicious, super flavorful & has a texture.
This North Indian Murgh Masala is one of those dishes often featured on the restaurant menus like Chicken Bhuna Masala, Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Butter Masala. While the other dishes take time to cook, this one is extremely simple and can be made even by beginners with little effort.
If you order this dish often in regular Indian restaurants & Dhabas, you are likely to see oil floating over the chicken and it tastes super hot/spicy. However the premium places customize the spice level for you along with the consistency of the masala – dry, semi-dry or gravy (saucy).
The authentic version of chicken masala uses whole spices like bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms & cloves. They infuse deeper flavors slowly as the chicken cooks. However feel free to skip them if you do not prefer.
In this post I show how to make a semi-dry version that has a thick masala. If you prefer a drier version, simply cook down the dish a little longer to evaporate some of the moisture. To make it more saucy (with gravy), you may add some hot water while cooking or follow my pro tips section for more ideas.
My recipe makes for a less oily version because that’s how we prefer. You are free to use more for a layer of spiced oil floating over the final dish. You may use 4 tablespoons of oil for that.
If you prefer to make the dish creamy, you may add some heavy cream (whipping cream) or homemade nut milk or coconut cream at the finishing stage. But note that this dilutes some of the flavors, so I suggest increasing red chili powder and garam masala by ½ tsp each.
Alternately you may add some cashew or almond paste for more thicker saucy consistency. I share more ideas & tips on making a saucy dish in the pro tips section below, after the stepwise photos.
Do remember 2 crucial steps to make a yummy chicken masala – 1. Cook the dish on a low heat so the chicken gets time to soaks up all the flavors. 2. Use hot water if required to bring the dish to a consistency.
How to make Chicken Masala (Stepwise Photos)
1. To a mixing bowl add the following ingredients to marinate the chicken. This step infuses flavors and tenderizes the chicken.
- 1.1 lbs. (½ Kg) chicken (use bone-in for flavor or boneless)
- ¾ teaspoon ginger & garlic paste
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala or chicken masala
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (or less spicy chili powder or paprika)
If you want you may also add 2 tablespoons yogurt. I have not used it here.
2. Mix well to marinate and set aside for about 45 mins to 1 hour. You can also refrigerate overnight.
Make Onion Tomato Masala
3. Heat a pot with 2 tablespoons oil and add the whole spices. 1 small bay leaf, 2 green cardamoms, 2 cloves and 1 inch piece of cinnamon. If you don’t like or have toddler for meal, leave them.
4. Add 1 to 2 chopped green chilies (optional, leave out for kids) and 1 cup fine chopped onions.
5. Saute onions on a medium flame for 5 to 6 mins. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to saute until they turn completely golden. Add ¾ teaspoon garlic ginger paste and saute for a minute, until aromatic & the raw smell of ginger garlic goes away.
6. Pour ½ cup tomato puree or chopped tomatoes (deseeded). Then add ½ to ¾ teaspoon red chili powder, ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala and ½ tsp salt.
7. Saute till the mixture turns thick, aromatic and oil begins to separate from the masala.
8. Add the marinated chicken & saute for 3 to 5 mins on a medium to high flame. (If you want you can also sear the chicken in a separate pan or grill or air fry for 5 mins first & add to the prepared onion tomato masala. I haven’t done it here because this is meant to be a simple dish).
9. Cover and cook for about 5 mins on the lowest possible flame. This is when the chicken soaks up the flavors.
10. You will see moisture from chicken begins to ooze out. Stir in a handful of coriander leaves (chopped) & handful of mint leaves (chopped).
11. Cover and cook again until chicken is soft and tender. If you want a gravy or more sauce, pour some hot water or coconut milk (not authentic) & simmer until chicken is tender. Taste test and add more salt and garam masala if required. For more heat add crushed black pepper. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves & 2 to 3 tbsps cream if you want.
Serve chicken masala with rice, roti, naan or paratha along with lemon wedges and onion slices.
- Marinate to infuse and tenderize the chicken. You may skip this step if you are making the dish ahead & let the chicken masala rest for a day or 2 in the refrigerator. If you skip the marinade, use up all the spices meant for marinade while cooking the dish.
- Skinless bone-in chicken is best for this recipe as the dish turns more flavorsome but feel free to use bone-less chicken. If you use boneless chicken breasts, splash some hot water while cooking. This prevents the breasts from drying out.
- Canned tomato puree: If using canned tomatoes, make sure there is no citric acid added to it ex: Mutti pasata.
- Feel free to use almond, cashew, fresh coconut, white sesame or poppy seeds paste. These are not used to make a chicken masala however I mention them as an option and we do add them for other chicken curries. These will help you make more saucy dish as you can cook the dish with more water.
- I prefer to use regular cooking oil for this dish. You may use mustard oil for a pungent dish. Alternately you can add some ghee along with oil at the beginning. this imparts different flavors.
Chicken Masala Recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ kg chicken (1.1 lbs, bone-in or boneless)
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder (mild variety like kashmiri or byadgi)
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala (or chicken masala)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric (or haldi)
- ¾ teaspoon Ginger garlic paste
- ¼ teaspoon salt or as needed
- 2 tablespoons curd (plain yogurt, optional)
- 2 tablespoons Oil
- 1 small bay leaf (optional)
- 2 green cardamoms (optional)
- 1 inch cinnamon piece (optional)
- 2 to 4 cloves (optional)
- 1 cup onions finely chopped
- ¾ teaspoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 to 2 green chilies (Thai/ Indian chilies or serrano peppers)
- ½ cup tomato puree (or deseeded & finely chopped)
- ¾ to ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder (or paprika) (adjust to taste)
- ½ teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
- ¾ to ½ teaspoon garam masala (or chicken masala powder, adjust to taste)
- 1 Handful coriander leaves (cilantro or mint leaves (or both), finely chopped)
- Add chicken to a large mixing bowl. Make sure there is no excess water/ dripping moisture in the chicken. Add ginger garlic paste, turmeric, red chilli powder, salt, yogurt (optional), garam masala or chicken masala.
- Cover & set aside for about 45 mins to 1 hour. It can also be left overnight in the refrigerator.
How to make Chicken Masala
- Heat oil in a pan or pot. Add the whole spices – cloves, cinnamon, cardamoms and bay leaf. (be careful – they can splutter)
- Add green chilies and onions. Saute them on a medium to medium high heat for 5 to 6 mins. Then reduce the heat and saute for a few more minutes until the onions turn golden.
- Add ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute, until the raw smell of the ginger garlic goes off.
- Pour the tomato puree. Then add salt, red chili powder and garam masala as well.
- Saute this very well until the mixture begins to smell aromatic and release some oil. This takes only 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add marinated chicken and saute for 4 to 5 mins on a medium to high flame. Turn the flame to completely low and cook covered for 5 mins. (Alternately you can also sear the chicken with 1 tablespoon oil in a separate pan or grill or air fry for 5 mins first & add to the prepared onion tomato masala.)
- Add coriander leaves or mint leaves and give a good stir.
- Cover the pan again and continue to cook on a low heat until chicken is completely cooked to soft and tender. For a semi-dry chicken masala, you don't need to add water as the chicken gets cooked in its own moisture.
- To make a gravy dish: Add little hot water or coconut milk at the previous step, after adding coriander leaves. Cook until the gravy turns thick & chicken is cooked through. If you intend to use coconut milk, add more red chilli and garam masala when you cook the tomato puree earlier.
- Your chicken is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches to 165 F. The other way is to pierce the chicken with a fork and should be able to pull out the meat easily from the pieces.
- Taste test and add more salt or garam masala if you want. You can also add 2 to 3 tbsps. of heavy cream or whipping cream. Garnish with coriander leaves.
- Serve chicken masala hot with steamed rice, roti, sliced onion wedges and lemon.
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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This is my go-to recipe for chicken masala. So easy, and absolutely delicious. I’ve made it with and without the coconut milk, with diced chicken and with chicken on the bone, and it never fails. I’ve added spinach to it at the end as well and it’s always delicious. Perfect blend of spices. So good. I keep thinking I ought to try some of your other recipes but this one is just so tasty and easy that I come back time after time. Thank you for sharing it!
Hi Marcia, So happy to know the recipe works well for you. Thank you so much! Hope you like the other dishes too.
I made this with boneless breast and coconut milk for the gravy. I had curry leaves so they definitely went in. This is a delicious dish.
Thank you so much Danee
This was a fantastic recipe! I omitted the mint and it still turned out delicious. I added an entire can of coconut milk at the end to achieve my desired level of thickness. Thank you!
Thank you Fran. Glad to like it.
The recipe calls for cubed, bone-in chicken. How does one cube bone-in chicken?
I edited that to avoid confusion.
First time try was a success. Everyone loved it. I didn’t have coconut milk so I used yoghurt to make the sauce. Highly recommend this for any novice. Just follow instructions to a Tee and you’ll have a prize dish. Thank you from Zambia
Eta, Glad you like it.
I need your masala chicken curry recepie
You can find my chicken curry here
First attempt today, it just turned out fantastic. I cannot wait to try your other recipes. Many many thanks!
Glad you like it Laurent
One of the best recipes thank you for sharing
Glad you like it
Excellent is the word for you!!!
Thank you so much
Tried this recipe and it turned out to be the best ☺️
Thank you Gliffa
It’s the best
Fantastic chicken masala recipe, simple and tasty, just what I have been missing in my life. Cant wait to try more.
Turned out amazing and super tasty!!!
Glad to know Mohana,
Thanks for leaving a comment
Delicious chicken and very easy to make. I would like to crank up the spice a bit. What would you recommend?
Thank you! Increase red chilli powder to 1 tsp and garam masala to 1 tsp (in the cooking process). You want it to be hot, then go with more hot green chilies. Hope this helps
Cooked this tonight and my family approved. Thank you for sharing the recipe. So simple and delicious!!
Glad to know Zai
The recipe is absolutely fantastic. This has saved me in lockdown. As someone who knew zero cooking, your recipes have helped me so much during this lockdown
Glad the recipes helped.
Loved it! I did fry separately to ‘charcoal’ the chicken first before adding to the masala sauce, but otherwise followed your recipe. I also blended the sauce as my partner has trouble digesting onions in full form. I took out the cinnamon sticks first though of course!. And I added cream to the blended sauce. I particularly love the addition of mint as well as coriander and curry leaves, makes for a very refreshing sauce.
Thank you so much for providing awesome recipes with simple steps.
I would like to know how to make more gravy out of this dish. I added 180ml of readymade coconut milk and still, it comes out dry.
You can pour some more coconut milk & some hot water.
Very tasty, precise measurements including for salt. Thank you for a delicious meal ❤
Glad it turned out good.
Cooked this and it’s great would go well with the mutton keema I cooked the other week.
When it was cooked I took 1/4 of it out of the pan then added the coconut milk to the rest. As I cooked 1kg I thought it would be a good way to try both ways.
Well done on your great recipes so easy to follow. Reading them on my laptop music on enjoying cooking and the food tastes great. Can’t wait to try more.
You are welcome! Glad to know your food turned out great. Nice variation! Thank you!
The recipe was easy to cook and the outcome was excellent taste. Thanks from Saudi
You are welcome! Glad to know!