Basic Chicken Curry

Basic Chicken Curry

The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
476 Calories
28g Fat
10g Carbs
45g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 476
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 6g 28%
Cholesterol 194mg 65%
Sodium 337mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 45g
Vitamin C 12mg 60%
Calcium 63mg 5%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 690mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Indian chicken curry can vary from region to region, even the most basic recipes. What they do have in common, though, is a sauce made with onions, garlic, tomato, and the authentic spices of India such as coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. Some recipes add a creamy thickening agent—such as yogurt, coconut milk, or cream. However, this recipe does not; instead, the thickness is created by grinding the fried onions into a paste and processing the tomatoes with the garlic and ginger pastes. The water added at the end helps balance the sauce's consistency. 

This basic chicken curry is also one of the tastiest, but feel free to use this recipe as a foundation and add ingredients you may prefer (like more spice, or curry leaves, which they use in South India). It calls for whichever type of chicken you favor, white or dark meat, but be sure to remove the skin.

Serve chicken curry with hot chapatis (Indian flatbread), naan, or basmati rice.


  • 1/4 cup vegetable, canola, or sunflower oil

  • 2 large onions, sliced thin

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced

  • 2 tablespoons garlic paste

  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste

  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder

  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

  • 2 teaspoons garam masala

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 kilogram) chicken pieces of your choice, skin removed

  • 1 1/2 cups hot water

  • Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Basic chicken curry ingredients

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  2. Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium heat and fry the onions until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Turn off heat, keeping oil in the pan.

    Onions cooked in a skillet

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  3. Grind the onions into a smooth paste in a food processor. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

    Onion paste in a bowl

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  4. In the food processor, grind the tomatoes, garlic paste, and ginger paste together into a smooth paste.

    Tomatoes, garlic, and ginger paste in a food processor

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  5. Heat the oil in the skillet again and add the onion paste. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and all the spices—coriander, cumin, turmeric, and red chili and garam masala powders. Mix well. (This is called masala.)

    Tomato paste cooking in a pan

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  6. Fry the masala until the oil begins to separate from it.

    Masala cooking in a pan

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  7. Add the chicken to the masala and brown well, about 8 minutes.

    Chicken and masala cooking in a pan

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  8. Add 1 1/2 cups of hot water to the chicken, simmer, and cover. Cook until the chicken is tender, about 15 minutes.

    Chicken curry cooking in a pan with water

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

  9. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with hot chapatis (Indian flatbread), naans (tandoor-baked Indian flatbread), or basmati rice.

    Basic chicken curry

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

How to Store and Freeze Chicken Curry

  • Leftover chicken curry should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and eaten within three to four days.  
  • Curry can be frozen for two months in a freezer-safe container.

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