The Basic Indian Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry by Meeta K. Wolff

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes plus marination overnight

Serves: 8


  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8-10 chicken drumsticks and thighs, skinned
  • 2 tablespoons rape seed oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 large onions, finely chopped
  • large thumb size ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 4 cardamom pods, cracked
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 800g fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 small red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Handful of coriander, chopped


  1. For the marination mix together the yogurt, buttermilk, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin. Prick the chicken pieces with a knife. Place the pieces in a large dish and pour the marinade over the chicken. Make sure the pieces are nicely coated then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Bring the chicken to room temperature. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic, ginger and sauté gently until transparent. Add the 3 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoon coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. Continue to sauté the onion mixture until golden and caramelized. Add the tomato paste and the chopped tomatoes. Mix well and allow the mixture to simmer until the oils begin to separate - about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Once the mixture comes together add the chili, turmeric and salt and simmer for another few minutes, then add the chicken, reserving the marinade.
  4. Cook chicken in the masala for a few minutes. Pour about a cup of water to just about cover the the pieces. Simmer uncovered for 40-45 minutes, adding the marinade to the mixture 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time. The chicken should be cooked to the bone and the gravy should be thick. Adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed spiced basmati rice.


The Indian kitchen is a treasure of spices and we use the colorful palate to create aromatic and explosive curries. We’re not about the heat but about the art of blending a mixture of spices together to bring out intriguing flavors. In my Indian Spice Guide I talk you through the basic spices used in Indian kitchen, the complementary spices and the aromatic secondary spices.

Cooking fluffy, scented rice to accompany the curries is as important on the Indian dinner table as the curry itself. Indians use the elegant long grained basmati rice, adding whole spices like cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks or bay leaves to gently perfume it or golden fried onions, peas and coriander leaves for more flavor. Check out Rosa’s helpful guide to cooking the perfect steamed basmati rice

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