What is chicken curry?
A polite reminder that Chicken curry is nothing but chicken in a simple tomato and onion based gravy. The word ‘curry’ by no means is a singular representation of Indian cuisine. Every Indian recipe is NOT a curry. Even this chicken curry recipe is not universal. Everyone has a different version of chicken curry, and I make it differently every time.
I thought I will post this chicken curry recipe because it is a reducetarian and inexpensive. The best thing about this simple chicken curry is that you cook potatoes with the chicken, which helps stretch the dish. You can also add other vegetables like cauliflower, bell peppers, radishes, carrots, green beans, or whatever else you like. Clean up is also super easy because you cook everything in one pot…like a stew.
Fun fact: I chanced upon a chicken curry blog posts’s comment thread and realized that many readers were attacking the author because the recipe “didn’t even have curry” in it. These commenters were unhappy because the author didn’t use a “curry powder”. I wanted to write in defense of the recipe, but, unfortunately, the writer had disabled comments on the post. Anyway, another polite reminder: there is no such thing as “curry powder” in India. 😎
How to spot a good chicken curry recipe?
Normally, you want to find a recipe that doesn’t use olive oil, paprika, and doesn’t mention a variety of curry powders like “yellow curry powder” and “red curry powder”. We don’t have anything called curry powder in India. You want to find a recipe that doesn’t look too yellow. Chicken curry is usually tomato-y colored and is cooked over medium heat until oil separates.
Ingredients needed to make chicken curry
Chicken: Most recipes on the internet also recommend using boneless chicken breasts. But traditionally, chicken curry is made with bone-in chicken. Chicken with high-fat content or at least a mix of low and high-fat pieces is preferred. (Most Indian poultry sellers don’t sell chicken by parts, but usually sell the whole chicken.) But it won’t be the end of the world if you use chicken breasts.
Oil: Most of the top chicken curry recipes that you will find on Google use olive oil. However, olive oil is not suited for Indian cooking. It has a very low heating point, whereas most Indian recipes need to be cooked over high heat until we get the characteristic sear and dark color. Olive oil also has a distinct smell, which doesn’t go with Indian food. Although you may want to use it for health reasons, it is not the preferred or traditional cooking oil. I like to use sunflower oil, canola oil, ghee, and mustard oil for cooking chicken curry.
Whole garam masala: You need a mix of whole spices (that have a slight heat, hence ‘garam‘) for tempering the oil. I like to use cloves, peppercorns, cardamoms, bay leaves and dried red chilis, but you can also add cinnamon, whole cumin seeds.
Ginger and garlic: There is no substitute for fresh ginger and garlic. They keep for a long time, so I never use store-bought ginger and garlic paste. You can also use either one of them. Both are not necessary.
Onions: Either red or yellow onions. White onions are not the best choice for this recipe.
Spices: There is no hard and fast rule as to which spices one should you. I like to use equal proportions of cumin powder and coriander powder, and equal proportions of chili powder and turmeric powder. Note: a little sprinkle of turmeric goes a long way. Too much turmeric can ruin a dish.
Tomatoes: You can either use fresh tomatoes or canned puree or tomato paste. There is just one rule with tomatoes in Indian dishes: you want to add it after you have added the ground spices and cooked it for a couple of minutes. Because the juice from the tomato and the acid will make it difficult to cook out the spices, which will leave a raw spice smell and after taste.
Seasonings: Salt and a little bit of sugar to balance the dish. A sprinkle of garam masala powder can also be used to finish the dish, but it is optional.
Cream: Chicken curry is a simple homestyle dish, and we do not normally use heavy cream is home cooking. The use of heavy cream is typically a restaurant thing. Therefore, you definitely do not need to use any cream at all. Coconut milk, however, is used in South Indian chicken curries.
How to make chicken curry
- Marinate chicken pieces with a little bit of salt, lime juice, turmeric powder, and oil. Refrigerate for one hour, but no more than 2 hours.
- Chop ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and green chilies, if using any. Wash and peel potatoes.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add whole garam masala. When they start to splutter, add onions. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Now add chopped ginger and garlic. You can also use paste. And cook for 2 more minutes.
- Now add powdered spices. You can dissolve the spices in a little bit to water before adding to the pan. This prevents the spices from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2-3 more minutes or until the raw spice smell is gone.
- Add tomatoes and cook until soft. If using tomato paste or puree, you have to wait until the raw smell is gone, anywhere between 5-10 minutes.
- Add the chicken pieces to the pan. Add peeled potatoes (optional). Add just enough water to make sure every chicken and potato piece is immersed in water. Stir, cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until everything is cooked and oil has separated.
- Finish with cilantro and garam masala powder.
How to make chicken curry in a pressure cooker?
You have to follow the same steps to make chicken curry in a pressure cooker. The only thing you have to do is use the pressure cooker instead of a pan. And after adding water, just close the pressure cooker lid and cook until 1 or 2 whistles are given out.
What goes with chicken curry?
Literally, anything goes with chicken curry. You can serve it with steamed rice, pulao, tortillas, parantha, naan, roti, pita, or even bread slices.
How long will chicken curry keep? Can it be frozen?
It is safe to eat cooked chicken curry that has been properly stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Frozen chicken curry is safe for upto a week.
Chicken curry recipe
- 500 grams chicken bone-in or boneless
For marinade (optional)
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp oil
- 2 tbsp oil
- 3 cloves
- 4 cardamoms
- 1 whole dry red chilies
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 red onions chopped
- 6 garlic clove chopped
- 1 inch ginger chopped
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 medium tomatoes chopped
- 2 medium potatoes peeled and halved
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp garam masala powder optional
- 2 tbsp cilantro/coriander leaves chopped
- Marinate the chicken pieces with the ingredients listed under "for marinade". This step is optional. You can also directly add un-marinated chicken pieces to the gravy. A lot of recipes require the chicken to be cooked ahead. But cooking the chicken directly in the sauce makes it more soft and juicy.
- Heat oil In a thick bottomed and deep pan or pressure cooker and temper with whole spices.
- When they start to splutter, add chopped onions. If you want, you can add a little salt at this stage to help the onions cook faster. Adding a little sugar instead will make it brown faster. Saute the onions until translucent/browned.
- Add garlic and/or ginger and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
- Now add the powdered spices. You can dissolve the spices in a little bit of water to ensure they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Saute everything over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until the raw spice smell dissipates.
- Now add fresh tomatoes or tomato puree/paste and cook for 2-3 more minutes.
- Season with salt and sugar.
- Add the chicken pieces and potatoes. Stir to coat everything in the gravy. Pour 2 cups of water. Bring everything to a boil. Lower heat, cover and let cook for 10-12 minutes. If you are using a pressure cooker, close the lid and cook until two whistles are given out. You will know the curry is ready when the oil separates from the gravy.
- Add garam masala, stir, turn off the heat and add chopped cilantro.
- Serve with naan, roti, parantha or steamed rice.