Skip to content

Easy Indian Chicken Curry

November 20, 2014

Easy Indian Chicken CurryPin it!

Last winter I posted a recipe for Easy Thai Peanut Curry. It’s not some labor-intensive DIY-curry-paste masterpiece, but I’m proud of it because it’s a fast, simple way to make delicious Thai curry from ingredients I keep on hand, like coconut milk and ground spices. (Bonus for some: it’s vegan!)

I got a few comments after that post about how reminiscent the method was of those used in Indian curries. In fact, I had come up with the recipe when paging through an Indian cookbook. Many north Indian curries start with a blended paste of garlic and ginger — often with water added for easier blending — so instead of using water in the paste, I used some of the coconut milk that I would later add to the curry anyway.

Easy Indian Chicken CurryPin it!

Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to post a recipe for an easy, under-an-hour Indian curry, using a similar method…

Ingredients for Easy Indian Chicken Curry

…and it’s finally here! Of course I can’t blame myself too much for the delay — I’ve only just gotten back into the kitchen (and, you know, chopping things with knives) over the last month or so, after I spent the spring frantically finishing my dissertation, and the summer sitting around resting/heating/icing my wrists from the ensuing RSI.

Easy Indian Chicken CurryPin it!

Luckily, this curry involves very little chopping: the onion gets blended up into a paste, along with the ginger and garlic, so really the only thing that needs to be cut up is the chicken (which I’ve told Paula is now her job).

Ingredients for Easy Indian Chicken Curry

I’ve only made this with chicken, but the curry flavors and sauce are basic and versatile enough to go nicely with just about any starring ingredients. (We tried this curry sauce with our homemade paneer, and that was a treat!)

Easy Indian Chicken Curry with coconut milkPin it!

The curry sauce gets its body from crushed tomatoes, and its creaminess from coconut milk. The coconut milk makes the curry a lot lighter than if you were to add heavy cream (which is something I rarely stock in my kitchen), but I make up for that by using some butter or ghee, for a little hint of the richness you’d get in a butter chicken curry.

Easy Indian Chicken Curry with coconut milkPin it!

And all of the flavor comes from cooking down the paste of aromatics, along with a blend of ground spices — the ones that are often in “curry powder,” plus a few extras, if you have them around.

Making Easy Indian Chicken Curry

Since the aromatics have been blended with a little coconut milk, you don’t really need to add any butter, oil, or ghee to fry them in, so I left all that out the first time I ever made this. Paula and I both enjoyed our meal, but something still tasted like it was missing…

Making Easy Indian Chicken Curry

As we confirmed the second time around, that something turned out to be about 2 tablespoons of butter. (If only every recipe had such a simple fix!)

Easy Indian Chicken Curry with tomatoes and coconut milkPin it!

This has become one of our favorite go-to weeknight chicken-centered dinners. I won’t rehash all of my whining about the cost and mediocrity of most of the restaurants where we live, but I’ll just say this: it’s awfully nice to be able to make our own quick and easy Indian food at home.

Easy Indian Chicken Curry with tomatoes and coconut milkPin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Easy Indian Chicken Curry

(Serves 4)

Active time: 30 min.; Total time: 45 minutes.

~ 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
~ 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
~ ⅓-½ of an onion, peeled and roughly chopped
~ ½ – 1 can of coconut milk (up to about 13.5 oz.), divided
~ 1-2 Tbsp. butter or ghee
½ tsp. each of: ground cumin and coriander
¼ tsp. each of: ground cardamom, turmeric, and chili powder
~ dash each of: ground cloves, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika (optional)
~ salt and black pepper, to taste
~ about 1½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken (I use thighs), evenly chopped in large cubes
~ 1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (14.5 oz.)
~ ¼ tsp. garam masala (optional)
~ squeeze of fresh lime juice, and lime wedges to garnish
~ fresh cilantro, to garnish

Special equipment needed:
~ blender (or food processor)

How to make it:

0. Measure out and combine all ground spices (except the garam masala) into a small prep bowl and set aside. Chop up the chicken and set aside.

1. Add the garlic, ginger, and onion to a blender, along with a few tablespoons of coconut milk to help them blend. Puree until smooth, adding more coconut milk if needed; you can discard any large chunks of ginger that remain.

2. In a large pot or deep pan, heat the butter or ghee to melt it, then add the garlic/ginger/onion mixture from the blender and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until much of the liquid has evaporated and the paste is fragrant. (Don’t wash the blender yet!)

Making Easy Indian Chicken CurryMaking Easy Indian Chicken Curry

3. Add all of the ground spices (except the garam masala) to the pot, and stir well to cook them into the paste for about 2 minutes. Then add the chicken, turn the heat up to high, and stir often to coat the pieces of chicken in the spices for about 5 minutes, as you “sear” the chicken around the outside of each piece (although you won’t really be searing or browning the meat because of all the moisture from the coconut milk and onions, but you’ll at least be giving it a head start in cooking).

Making Easy Indian Chicken CurryMaking Easy Indian Chicken Curry

4. Meanwhile, unless you’re using a can of very finely crushed tomatoes, pour the can of diced tomatoes into the blender and pulse until you get a thick smooth sauce, with no large chunks of diced tomatoes (or to your preferred consistency). After the chicken has been cooking for about 5 minutes, add the tomato sauce to the pot, lower to medium heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Making Easy Indian Chicken CurryMaking Easy Indian Chicken Curry with coconut milk

5. Once the chicken has cooked through, add the garam masala, give it a stir, then taste the curry sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more salt/chili powder/etc. if necessary. Then turn the heat down to low, and stir in the rest of the coconut milk (use the entire can for a creamier orange curry, or only about half a can total for a more tomato-y curry, with just a little richness). Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat.

6. Garnish with fresh lime juice and torn fresh cilantro, and serve warm with basmati rice and/or naan.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Easy Indian Chicken Curry with tomatoes and coconut milkPin it!

Related recipe posts:

Easy Thai Peanut Curry Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry) Sambal Goreng Telur (Indonesian Egg Curry) Baked Chicken in Vindaloo Yogurt Sauce
Easy Thai Peanut Curry (Vegan) Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry) Sambal Goreng Telur (Indonesian Egg Curry) Baked Chicken in Vindaloo Yogurt Sauce
29 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2014 9:28 am

    so pretty! I love curry!

  2. November 20, 2014 11:42 am

    Looks delicious!!!

  3. November 20, 2014 12:48 pm

    This is fantastic Allison! Putting this on my list to make within the next week for sure. I love curries and can’t seem to be getting enough Indian food lately. Have you ever made chana dal? I’m stuck on it these days. Nice to see a post from you! :)

    • November 24, 2014 8:18 pm

      Love this curry Allison! But replying here cuz I’m always excited to see Seana and am so with you Seana – I’m also stuck on chana dal – which is fast, cheap, nutritious, and SO tasty. One of my favourite go-to meals. Not quite as special as this chicken curry but still – so good. ;)

      • November 29, 2014 11:28 am

        Thanks to both of you for your comments! Yes, I love all kinds of dal, including chana dal, but I don’t actually make it very often. (Something about the planning ahead involved in soaking… although I guess if I can manage to remember ahead of time to soak pinto beans or dried chickpeas overnight, then I could probably manage to plan ahead and soak chana dal for an hour or two…). I just more often reach for smaller, faster-cooking lentils like yellow split peas or red lentils. Anyway, I recently bought my first slow cooker, and chana dal seems like a perfect thing to try making in it!

  4. November 20, 2014 2:15 pm

    Wow, yum! I love curry but I would much prefer to make it myself than continue eating the mediocre stuff around me. Can’t wait to try!

    • November 29, 2014 11:30 am

      Yes, I totally agree! (Although I’ve lived in some cities with some pretty amazing restaurant curries… but since Santa Barbara is not one of those places — in my opinion — it’s wonderful to be able to make it myself at home.)

  5. afracooking permalink
    November 21, 2014 3:17 am

    Yum, what a heartwarming dish for cold days! Looks so fragrant and tasty!

    • November 29, 2014 11:31 am

      Thank you! Yes, it’s a really warming dish for cold weather! (And I expect that now that we’ve gotten somewhat addicted to it, we’ll also keep on making it right through the summer — it’s not like it requires the oven or heats up the whole house. :)

  6. November 21, 2014 9:55 am

    This is beautiful. I have the same pot as you, same color too :) I love all of the spices here and how colorful it is. This is a great go-to dish. Thank you. I hope you’re doing well!

    • November 29, 2014 11:35 am

      Thanks, Amanda! I am doing well, other than residual tendinitis (which is why I’m still only posting every other week — and why I’ve been downright pathetic about responding to comments and visiting other blogs I love, like yours!).

      This curry is definitely going to be a keeper as a go-to dish. And that’s awesome you have the same pot. Not sure if you can tell but it’s Lodge (not Le Creuset), which is how we could afford it! I never owned a Dutch oven before this one, but I absolutely love cooking in it. And it’s super easy to clean — or so Paula tells me, since it’s too heavy for me to wash it, until my arms get better.

      • November 29, 2014 12:01 pm

        Yes! Same pot. Easy to clean but too heavy! Glad you’re doing okay but for the tendonitis. No worries about slowing posts and comments. Sometimes life happens. In just happy to see what you’re cooking when you’re around! Happy thanksgiving!

      • November 29, 2014 12:05 pm

        Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! :)

  7. November 23, 2014 4:35 am

    okay, so that looks delicious, allison: it’s early in the morning as i’m writing this, and you’ve got me super hungry for curry: that’s saying something for 6:30 am. :) beautiful! definitely will try this: i mope around feeling really sorry for myself b/c no one likes indian food in this house but me, who loves it, and never gets the opportunity to make it. thank you!

    • November 29, 2014 11:42 am

      Thanks, Shannon! Haha, the perils of reading food blogs at 6:30am… but to me, a morning curry craving still sounds better than reading some irresistible-dessert blog post at midnight, right before (originally) planning on going to bed! (Yep, both of these things have happened to me.)

      That IS pretty sad that no one else like Indian food in your house… Maybe you just haven’t found the right dish to win them over yet?! (Have you tried crispy dosa filled with lightly spiced potato curry?? I’m not sure I know anyone who could resist what’s basically mashed potatoes inside a crunchy crepe…)

      Anyway, I feel your pain a little bit because I had to make a lot of adjustments to my Indian curry-making once I started dating Paula, not because she didn’t like Indian food, but because she hates the texture of chunks of onions, and I never used to dice them very finely, like for chana masala, or dal… but now we’ve found some workarounds for that, like how we puree them in this recipe.

  8. November 27, 2014 3:28 am

    Wow, this looks wonderful! I love curry and this recipe sounds amazing :) I am hungry and craving curry now!

  9. December 1, 2014 1:00 am

    Somehow I’ve always been convinced I dislike curry, but photos like these make me think otherwise. I DO think I’ll love this recipe–and maybe the peanut curry as well (I lurve peanuts so much)! Thanks for sharing, I’ll need to try my hand at the curry train again soon!

    • December 1, 2014 5:04 pm

      Thanks for commenting!

      Hm, if you haven’t liked curry in the past, maybe it’s because of one spice in particular, of the spices usually included in curry powder? (If it’s fenugreek or something else that I’ve skipped here, then you’d definitely be in luck! Otherwise, you might try smelling each spice before you add them to see which is the culprit, and leaving that one out…)

      I honestly can’t even imagine not loving curry, so I do hope you’ll give this a try (and/or the Thai peanut curry recipe), and I hope you find a version that you enjoy! :)

  10. December 1, 2014 10:23 am

    this looks so yummy!!

  11. Larry a Wells permalink
    December 3, 2014 9:06 pm

    I made it tonight and followed the recipe exactly. It was super! Thanks. (I served it with rice that had been cooked with turmeric, a cinnamon stick, some cardamom pods, and lemon juice and zest. They worked well together.)

    • December 4, 2014 10:04 am

      Yay, I’m happy to hear that you tried it & liked it! That rice sounds delicious. I’m usually so lazy with rice, the most I ever do is throw in turmeric/cumin and/or a bay leaf, but I can imagine the lemon juice and zest especially making a big difference.

  12. January 28, 2015 4:34 pm

    I’ve been looking allover the internet for a recipe just like this one! Thank you so much!! I will be making this sometime soon (:

  13. June 1, 2015 1:26 pm

    i love it !


  1. Nepali Spiced Almond Chicken and Kale | spontaneous tomato

I love, love, love reading your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: