Simplest Chicken Curry

Mallika Basu - Simplest Chicken Curry

Posted 24th September 2006

Over lunch, I asked my Tory A-list, mom of two colleague if she cooked Indian food. She told me about her favourite recipe. It involved lashings of every imaginable masala combined with pineapple and yoghurt. I had a vision of my dead grandmother churning in her grave.

My colleague isn’t alone. I come across many people who have developed “Indian” recipes that couldn’t be further away from the country if they tried. They involve the most odd, mumbo jumbo combinations of herbs, spices, fruits and nuts imaginable.

Chucking all your Indian spices into a pot does not a curry make. The best chicken curry recipe I have found, is actually the simplest, and it perfectly demonstrates the transition of ingredients that is so fundamental to Indian cooking.

So here is my world’s simplest chicken curry recipe. Three spices only and an end result that will have you licking your plate clean, over and over again.

Feeds 2:

4/5 skinless chicken thighs/drumsticks (500gms)

1 medium onion

3 cloves of garlic

1 and a half inch stick of ginger

1 level teaspoon of chilli powder

Half teaspoon of turmeric powder

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Half teaspoon of garam masala

2 tablespoons oil

Pinch of sugar

Salt to taste

Peel the ginger and garlic and blitz with the onion in a food processor. I do this to save time, but you could chop them finely if you wanted. Heat the oil in a non-stick pot. When it sizzles around a wooden spoon, add the sugar. This caramelises to give the curry a lovely red appearance, without the need for added food colour.

As soon as the sugar caramelises add the onion mixture and cook it on high heat for 10 minutes. You have to watch this because it shouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If it does add two tablespoons of hot water and scrape to release.

When the mixture changes colour to a pale golden, add the turmeric, chilli powder and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir for another five minutes and then lower the heat and simmer. Add another few tablespoons of hot water if the masala starts getting stuck

Now you are cooking the spice paste, i.e. masalas. Wait until you see the mixture giving out oil. Little holes appear and oil comes out from the sides as well. Add some more water if it starts sticking.

After 5 minutes, add the chicken. Whack the heat up high and cook, stirring the chicken vigorously to incorporate the masalas. The raw pungent smell of the spices should have given away to a lovely aroma that makes you very hungry! After five minutes, add enough water to cover the chicken, lower the heat to medium and stir from time to time until the chicken is cooked through. This takes a good 20 minutes to half an hour. You will know when it’s ready, because the chicken meat will separate from the bone.

When the chicken is cooked, stir in the garam masala and salt to taste. Sprinkle with some fresh coriander leaves to serve. This is just lovey spooned over rice.

64 responses to “Simplest Chicken Curry”

  1. Trussy says:

    We can either stagnate in the comfort zone of what has always been done or incorporate new and exciting ideas into cuisine.

    In our new innovation (which contains pineapple and is almost day-glo with turmeric), we capture the nature of India as it blasts forward into the 21st century full of life and vigour, taking influences from international cuisine.

    If we just carried eating what our grandmothers approved of I would be tucking into a plate of gristle and dripping for my tea…

  2. susan says:

    as a child of the raj I grew up on chicken, sultanas, apples and curry powder and it must have been the last proper dishmy mother cooked for my father before she died. I loved it at the time but it seems awful now. I am really looking forward to your quick chick. curry and shall observe your excellent advice about preventing the whole place reeking of curry

  3. […] And then next week, try cooking one at home. […]

  4. annarovita says:

    Thanks for saying that and having it on the Internet so I can just point. I mean I visit Chowhound here in the States and there’ s been a recent thread about the infamously touristy Indian food places on the Lower East Side of New York City. So there is a sludge-curry house invasion version I don’t know what number it is, but it’s all wretched. Say that out loud on Chowhound and the powers that be there (all hired hands from the corporate food-racketeering industry) will hound you down. When you dare say “go to the mom-and-pop shops in the suburbs”, you get some (non-Indian) telling you (well, I grew up on dahl and rice, with curried meats) what good curry is all about.

    Now, I am an incorrigible experimenter in the kitchen: I like my crazy spicy hodge podges but I never call them curry or Indian nor even Indian-inspired or Mexican-inspired. I have too much respect for the real thing, and also want to differentiate the once-in-a-blue-moon slam-bang different taste I personally come up with… That’s really the problem, we call ourselves so hip and chic for having this thing “cultural diversity” but cultures need to be understood and acknowledged before it can be respected. And left alone. I could really enjoy someone else’s hodge podge made with tumeric and coriander, but call it a curry and the door’s shut cuz that’s just ignorant or pretentious or both.

  5. Mallika says:

    You are so right!! If we claim to be so culturally aware surely we should make an effort to figure out the real deal, right??

  6. […] Fuck it. I’m treating myself to some good ass indian food that I’ll make myself. This lady makes it easy for the least inexperienced in the kitchen to make good and authentic indian cusine. […]

  7. parul says:

    you should chill out-at least others are trying to apppreciate our culture-fusion cuisine as well all cultural influences eventually merge/evolve into new ones. there are even dramatic differences in these recipes from various geographic points within the country itself-why not be open to creative new variations?

  8. Carol says:

    I am TOTALLY NEW to Indian cooking and I know this is going to sound dumb, but can you buy garam masala, or do you make it by just mixing the spices dry – I know, I know, DUH but I want to make this – it sounds totally delicious. Thank you,

  9. Mallika says:

    Hi Carol

    Please just buy the garam masala. It’s way too much effort to make it from scratch. You should be able to buy it online or simply by traipsing down to the nearest Indian cornershop.

    Good luck!

  10. Dave says:

    As my Hungarian grandmother used to say, some of the goulash they serve in North America wouldn’t be fit to serve to a Romanian.

    Some curries are similar.

    I must try this one – the simple recipe is intriguing.

  11. […] for dinner I made Chicken Curry from this recipe.  I decided to make the garam masala (literal meaning is ‘hot (or warm) spice’) myself […]

  12. nickie says:

    Greeting from Formentua,
    i am working on a yacht based out of the south of france and have moved down to a small idyllic island off ibiza for the next few weeks. I am the chief stewardess and our chef has had a day off so I took the responsability of cooking for all the crew. I cooked a red thai curry, your chana masala and quick chicken curry. Compliments to you the crew were over the moon!! It made them home sick for English curry houses!! Thanks for helping when i needed maximum taste with little time to spare. Excellent!

  13. Danielle says:

    Boo hoo hoo I am home alone for the next four days, boyfriend is on a trip. Usually when I am by myself I lose all cooking motivation and eat baked potatoes, etc. I think I will make this instead of moping. πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  14. Rena says:

    I made this dish last night. It was one of the tastiest and easiest curries that I’ve found – will definitely keep this one in the repertoire.
    Right now, I’m going to search for more recipes and ideas on your great site.
    Thanks!!! 8^)

  15. Denise says:

    You say “now you are cooking the masalas”. First I understood it as now you’re incorporating the garam masala. Please clarify what you call “the masalas”.

    I can’t eat spicy food but it smells divine and my husband thought I bought a curry sauce. Can’t wait for the boys to try it.

    (It sounds crazy to say I cook it even though I can’t taste it but my MIL made the best garlic bread and she hated it!

    This was so easy, that’s the name of the game these days.

  16. Supriya says:

    Hey Mallika,

    This sound fantastically simple, especially as I am a student in London, dying for something other than rajma and dal, or that does not have Heinz or ‘defrost and heat’ printed on it!!

    Just one question – how do you know when the chicken is done?


  17. aditi says:

    Hi Mallika..can i skip adding the tomatoes part?i simply cant stand tomatoes

  18. This recipe is amazing. It has been my staple ‘Special’ dinner for a year

  19. Vik says:

    Good site and great easy recipes. I plan to make the Dhansak…very soon!!
    We East African Indians have the easiest, yet delicious most chicken curry recipe and it goes like this:
    In a Pressure Cooker:
    2 chopped onions
    A can of tomatoes
    1 tblspn each of ginger/garlic paste or finely chopped
    2 Green chillies – chopped (use one for mild)
    1tsp – chilly powder
    1tblsp – coriander powder
    1tblspn – cumin powder
    Half tsp – turmeric powder
    1tsp – garam masala
    500-800grams of diced chicken

    Toss all the ingredients in the pressure cooker and mix well. Add half a cup of water, shut the cooker and let it cook away on medium heat.

    30-40 minutes and jobs done. Trust me, just try this. Its a no brainer and the outcome’s delicious.


  20. Sylvia says:

    An Indian lady here won first prize for her chicken curry. When I asked for the recipe she said that the spices, etc. came from India and she couldn’t translate it to English……so this is something I can do without traipsing all over the Universe to get….although I do like me an authentic recipe…sigh~

  21. Lisa says:

    Interesting that this recipe has absolutely no curry in it whatsoever yet it is called a curry!

  22. Mallika says:

    Hi Lisa – it s;lightly depends on how much water you add to the dish. The chicken I use also lets out a fair amount of water – hence chicken “curry”. Hope this helps…

  23. Laura says:

    Great recipes

  24. Michelle says:

    Just made this for our dinner tonight along with your Aloo Saag recipe, both taste divine! Thank you for sharing!

  25. Vince says:

    Made this last week and was very impressed. Intend to have another go tonight. Thank you for the great recipes on this website. I would like to see a ‘print’ button and a print style sheet that omits all of the comments etc though!

  26. Anup says:

    Hi Mallika,

    First of all thanks for this simple recipe, This is the first proper curry cooking that I have ever done in my life apart from egg-omlletes and Maggie-noodles, Last night googled for ‘simple chicken curry’ & I happened to find this page, Cooked it for my wife and she was very very happy, and it came out well too, to my surprise, was very apprehensive as felt something would go wrong feared that maybe the chicken would not get properly cooked or some quantity might be less or more but just kept reading your recipe and gave it a shot, thanks for making a cook out of me, wife’s smile made all the effort worthwhile thanks for fullfilling my wife’s dream πŸ™‚


  27. […] to cut down too much from the lack of necessary spices. I finally came up with this recipe from Quick Indian Cooking. I changed a few things but the basic recipe remains the same. Keep […]

  28. NIC says:







  29. Mallika says:

    Hi Nic

    Thanks so much for trying this! The secret of a good biryani is to cook it with lamb/beef/goat meat and to slow cook the meat and rice together for a looooooong time with many spices, such as nutmeg, mace, black pepper etc. If I were you, I’d start with a simple Chicken Pulao first… hope this helps.

  30. vikrant says:

    it sounds simple and should be done in a jiffy
    gonna try it tonite

  31. Abhinav says:

    I don’t see salt mentioned anywhere. Wouldn’t it require at least 1 tbsp salt?

  32. Mallika says:

    Oops Abhinav, of course it needs salt. Entirely dependent on your taste buds (I consume far too much salt)… Recipe amended now too.

  33. john kerry says:

    great dish.thanks forsharing

  34. Vinny says:

    Wife late, kids ready to eat the furniture and me, husband in charge. I’ve routed around in the cupboards etc… And just about have enough for this, many thanks

  35. Richard says:

    Please could you explain:
    1) what is meant by “now I’m cooking the masala’s”-confused by that whole section.
    2.) how long do you simmer the onion and tomatoe mixture before adding the chicken?

    Thank You!

  36. Mallika says:

    Hi Richard

    The collection of spices is called masala and they need to be cooked thoroughly before you add further ingredients. And it takes about 5 mins for the onion and tomato mixture to form pores. Hope this helps.


  37. Krishnadas says:

    Hahahaaa this is so funny..instead of wham bam thank you mam for the quickest chicken curry ever made people actually do go into depths to battle the cultural stigma..this site is for people in a crunch for time?? i dont think so..

    anyways thank you πŸ™‚

  38. Monica says:

    This recipe is a life saver! My indian mother is expecting me to make a chicken curry tomorrow.. just like hers!! So I think this will definitely do the trick!!

  39. Sam says:

    Made this tonight, it was amazing. Best curry ever, thank you πŸ™‚

  40. Richard says:

    Hi Mallika, thanks for the helpful reply. Made this recipe & my friend who is a curry conniseur said it was one of the best curies he’d tasted! I agree. Making it again today πŸ™‚

  41. Piyush says:

    This is a great recipe for beginners. I’m a college student myself and I love cooking! Just a little addition to your Quick Chicken recipe: get about 10-15 cashew nuts (unsalted, skinned) and ground them to a fine pasty powder. You could use mortar and pestle or a food processor. Add this along with the tomatoes.

  42. Mallika says:

    Hi Piyush, that’s a great idea! I would grind them with a bit of water in a mini handheld food processor and stir them in with the tomatoes. So creamy…

  43. Pansy Potter says:

    Amazingly easy I did this will corriander and lime rice – delish !!

  44. Chris says:

    Hi Mallika,

    Thank you for posting this recipe, I can’t wait to try it!

    The only question I have is when you say add a little water to cover the chicken, can you be more precise please? I am worried about adding too much and making it too watery, or not enough..



  45. It is indeed a simple recipe for curry! I really love that idea of cooking my own curry easily especially in the place where most of these cuisines are not available, that I have to cook Indian recipes by myself. Thanks for sharing.


  46. Annie says:

    Hi I’ve tried to make 2 curries from scratch now but both times ive followed recipe, 2 different recipes but both times have had an awful bitter aftertaste! What am I doing wrong? Really want to make my own home made curry! Thanks

  47. Mallika says:

    Hi Annie, so sorry to hear that! Bit hard to say, but it sounds to me like you are burning the spices/ingredients. Maybe turn the heat lower and try again? Also, make sure you add garam masala right at the end or this can make your dish bitter. Third time lucky?

  48. Viki Gilbert says:

    I have made this a few times -each time for friends who eat curries at good restaurants. They love this recipe and consider it as good if not better then any curry they have eaten!! Thank you so much -it’s the best ever !!
    Ps I increase the quantity using 32 pieces of chicken /no one goes hungry and we have delicious leftovers- yum x

  49. Tim Heard says:

    … I’m going to make this tonight! : )

  50. resep kue kering keju

    Starting out – Quick Indian Cooking

  51. ritika says:

    incredible this one. that halka murgi er jhol.

  52. B says:

    Great recipe, you’re a life saver! Just one quick question – is it okay to substitute garam masala with chicken masala? I’m not really a fan of garam masala.

  53. Tanya says:

    HI Mallika, If i use ginger garlic paste, how much should I add? Would 2 tablespoons suffice?

  54. Mallika says:

    Hi B, thank you! Go for it, just stir it in with the turmeric and chilli powders x

    Hi Tanya, two tablespoons would be perfect! Good luck! x

  55. Steve says:

    Was looking for a simple curry recipe and came across this one. Had nearly all the ingredients already, just needed the garam masala, so popped out and bought some. Made it tonight and I cannot believe how well it turned out, it was absolutely delicious. I can honestly say it was comparable to a basic curry you’d get in an Indian restaurant, I was amazed and it was so simple to make. I added a little natural yoghurt towards the end of the cooking which made it a bit more creamy. Thanks so much for posting this!

  56. soubhik says:

    Absolutely loved it. I tried the receipe today, line-by-line and the outcome was delicious. Thanks for sharing

  57. Meryl says:

    Hi Mallika,

    Tried your simplest chicken recipe today and it worked like MAGIC!

    I can’t believe that just a few ingredients can make a dish to delicious πŸ™‚

    Thank you so much. I can’t wait to try your other recipes.

    Ohh that’s great to hear! Thanks for leavinbg me a comment M x

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  59. Manjunath says:

    I have Prepared my Life’s first Dish using ur method, Tysm πŸ™‚

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