Easy Indian Chicken Curry
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.
Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to post a recipe for an easy, under-an-hour Indian curry, using a similar method…
…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.
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).
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!)
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.
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.
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…
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!)
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.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Easy Indian Chicken Curry
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!)
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).
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.
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)
Related recipe posts:
|Easy Thai Peanut Curry (Vegan)||Chana Masala (Indian Chickpea Curry)||Sambal Goreng Telur (Indonesian Egg Curry)||Baked Chicken in Vindaloo Yogurt Sauce|