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Classic Chicken Curry

Classic Chicken Curry

Chicken curry is a staple in every non-vegetarian Indian household and after a few years of practice, I've got it down to a science. I've tested my recipe below a couple of times and it turns out just like my mom's (the ultimate measure of success). Per my mom's advice, the secret to a fantastic curry is cooking the onions well - letting them cook over medium heat for a full 15 minutes is what makes this curry a standout. 

If you're just getting into Indian cooking, you may not have cinnamon sticks and cardamom. You can skip these two ingredients for now and as you make this recipe more often, add in those ingredients. Tempering whole spices in the oil in a classic Indian technique and it gives this curry the classic, rich taste. My favorite thing with chicken curry is some brown basmati rice and green peas cooked in a little butter and fresh mint. You can also serve this over any other grains or Indian breads like naan or roti. 


Serves 3-4


  • 2 split chicken breasts or 2 lb chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1" piece whole cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 black cardamom or 3 green cardamom (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups or 1 large onion sliced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp grated garlic
  • 1 medium, ripe tomato
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1.5 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro to garnish


  1. Cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces and bring to room temperature.
  2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the black cardamom, cinnamom stick and bay leaf and tilt the pan to let them flavor the oil. Next, add the cumin seeds - they should sizzle and toast immediately.
  3. Add the white onions and mix well. Sprinkle a little salt and cook for 15 mins uncovered and cook and another 5 mins partially covered. Keep an eye on the onions and move them around to keep them from burning; lower the heat a bit, if needed. You should end up with golden brown and soft onions.
  4. Lower the heat slightly. Add the grated ginger and garlic, mix well, and cook for 5 mins. Garlic can burn easily and turn bitter so keep this moving in the pan; if needed, add a tablespoon of water or broth to keep it from sticking to the pan.
  5. Add the chicken and mix well. Next, add in the spices: ground cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and coriander. Cook for 5-6 mins to allow the spices to mix well with the chicken.
  6. Add a cup of water and the tomato. Add in some salt; remember you salted the onions so be careful not to over-salt. Mix well, cover completely with a lid, and let cook for 15 mins.
  7. Remove the lid and let it cook for an additional 10 mins uncovered. If the gravy is not to your liking, add in some more water. Taste and also add in more salt, if desired. 
  8. Finally, add the garam masala, mix well, and turn off the heat.
  9. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice, naan, or rotis!
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