An easy Indian chicken masala dish that you can make at home with a few pantry staples makes for a great weeknight meal along with rice or flatbreads.
Hello and Happy New Year! I am here with my first recipe in the new year and this is an easy but delicious one. Everyone loves a good Indian chicken curry. Most of us are daunted by the seemingly endless list of ingredients and the process involved in making it though. But I’m here to tell you that by stocking up on just a few pantry staples, you can be on your way to a delicious dinner in no time at all, even on a busy weeknight.
Whenever you visit an Indian restaurant, there will be a few terminologies on the menu that might confuse you a little bit. There will be chicken curry, chicken masala, chicken roast, chicken fry, and so on. Chicken masala and chicken curry are almost similar in preparation, the only difference being that in chicken masala, the curry sauce has been reduced so that it is very thick and coats the chicken pieces thickly. Usually we eat chicken masala along with soft flatbreads like chapatis or with rice and another curry like a simple dal curry.
You might have read in several cookbooks and blogs about the benefits of marination, slow cooking and an aromatic tadka of whole spices in oil. While all these methods add a ton of flavor to the dish, it is possible to employ certain shortcuts and end up with an easy chicken curry that is delicious and quick to make any day.
A few pantry staples that you might consider stocking up on are
- Oil – any neutral vegetable/seed oil will work, but my favorite is organic, virgin coconut oil.
- Cumin seeds – I have skipped adding whole garam masala spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise and bay leaves in this recipe, but I feel that cumin should not be left out. It is a good idea to stock up on cumin; it’s great to use in curries, stir fries and chutney.
- Kashmiri red chili powder – great for adding color to a dish without too much heat. It will still be spicy, but much lesser than several other Indian red chilies.
- Coriander powder – great spice for adding depth of flavor to several Indian dishes.
- Garam masala powder – homemade is the way to go, but pick up a bottle of good quality garam masala at the store.
- Turmeric powder – the West is waking up to the many benefits of consuming turmeric regularly. But remember, a little goes a long way.
- Black pepper corns – freshly cracked black pepper is usually more aromatic and flavorful when used in Indian dishes.
- Tomato paste – a spoonful of tomato paste added in this recipe will reduce the cooking time than if you were using fresh tomatoes. I think it is a fair trade-off. Stock up on organic tomato paste when they are on sale (I freeze them in ice trays and store in a ziplock in the freezer).
- Onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies – there really is no shortcut here because this is what forms the base of most Indian curry/masala dishes. You can grind a large quantity of fresh ginger, garlic and green chilies, then freeze them in ice trays, and store in the freezer in an airtight bag or container. It’s a simple weekend project!
- Fresh cilantro – the most commonly used Indian herb and perks up any dish.
- Fresh lime – squeeze a bit on top of your dish for tanginess or serve at the table for guests to use as needed.
These ingredients will help you to quickly whip up any Indian dish either vegetarian or meat-based right at home.
Follow the recipe below to end up with restaurant style chicken masala at home.
- Oil - 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
- Red onion - 1 large, finely chopped
- Ginger - a thick 1" knob
- Garlic - 3-4 large cloves
- Green chilies - 1-2, chopped
- Tomato paste - 1 tbsp (see Notes)
- Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp
- Red chili powder - 2 tsp
- Coriander powder - 1 tsp
- Garam masala powder - ½ tsp
- Chicken - 1 lb (boneless thighs cut into small pieces)
- Cilantro leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped
- Salt - to taste
- Black pepper - ½ tsp, freshly cracked
- Lime juice - 1 tsp, freshly squeezed
- Before we begin, make sure you have everything prepped and ready to go. Chop the onions and make a paste out of ginger, garlic and green chilies. I usually have the paste prepped and ready in the fridge. You can also use a tablespoon of store-bought paste instead.
- Heat oil in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Add cumin seeds and let them crackle.
- Add onions and saute on medium-high till they are lightly browned. Add the ginger-garlic-chili paste and saute for a few seconds till the raw smell goes away.
- Add the tomato paste and saute for a few seconds till you can see the oil begin to separate at the sides. (See notes on how to use a fresh tomato.)
- Now add the turmeric, red chili, coriander and garam masala powders. Mix to combine and stir for a few seconds.
- Add the chicken pieces and chopped cilantro. Mix to coat well with the masala. Cook on low heat for a couple of minutes, stirring now and then to keep it from sticking.
- Add a cup of water and salt to taste. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 10-15 minutes (it will take longer for bone-in pieces).
- Open the lid, check seasoning and stir in freshly cracked black pepper. At this point, you can serve it as a curry or reduce it further till the masala is very thick and coats the chicken pieces.
- Stir in a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice at the end and keep the dish covered till you are ready to serve.
- Serve hot with rice or chapati along with raita (seasoned yogurt), slices of red onion and wedges of lime.
2. Add Kashmiri red chili powder to give a nice red color to the dish.
3. You can use chicken drumsticks or other bone-in pieces, but the cooking time will vary.
Impress your family and guests with this easy chicken masala with tender chicken pieces coated in a thick, spicy masala that is absolutely scrumptious!
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Do you love cooking Indian cuisine? Do you have a go-to chicken recipe? Do give this everyday chicken curry recipe a try and let me know how it goes.
Here are more Indian chicken dishes from the blog.
- Spicy South-Indian chicken roast
- Mangalorean chicken ghee roast
- Chicken mushroom korma
- Chicken curry with coconut milk
- Chettinad chicken curry
- Chicken tikka masala
- Hyderabadi dum ka murgh (slow-cooked chicken curry)
- Achari murgh (chicken in pickling spices)
- Murgh saagwala (chicken in spinach gravy)
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I am sharing this over at Fiesta Friday.