Chicken Masala

Difficulty: intermediate

Indian foods have a lot of aromatic spices and this dish is no exception. “Masala” literally means spice. I really like this dish and order a variant of it when ever I go to Indian restaurants, but the biggest issue I have with them are they are drowning in orange colored oil. This is the beauty of cooking at home, you can customize the recipe however you want AND it is cheaper. For the price of one serving at a mediocre restaurant, you can make an entire dinner for four (or four meals meals for yourself). The special ingredient for this recipe is cardamom, its distinct taste gives a floral aroma to the dish. Again, there is no shame in buying the prepared mixes from an Indian store. I recommend Shan Masala.

Lets begin!


1 whole chicken (1.5 kg)

0.5 cup vegetable oil

2 medium onions

2 tbsp ginger garlic paste (or 1 of each)

5 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick, about 3 centimeter (optional)

3-4 cloves (optional)

1 tsp cumin seeds (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp red chili powder

0.5 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp garam masala (according to taste)

200 grams tomatoes, diced or 3 medium tomatoes

1 tsp sugar (if you are using canned tomatoes)

100 ml yogurt, blended to a thin consistency

1 cup water

Chopped fresh green coriander for garnish (optional)



Skin and clean the chicken, cut it into small pieces. If you have the option, go to a Indian butcher and ask them for the “korma” or “karahi” cut. It is a modified 16 piece cut in which the wing tips and neck is discarded, the legs are not cut and each breast is cut into 3 pieces instead of 2. I also discard the rib section because those small bones fall off in the curry and become annoying.

DSC_0005Heat the oil and fry the chicken on high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes until the chicken is completely white with browned edges. This will mean the water is out of the meat. Take the chicken out and set it aside. Many people skip this step and put all the other ingredients on top of the chicken, in my experience the chicken becomes over cooked and breaks apart in the curry.


Chop the onions and add them to the oil. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cumin seeds, and cloves, and fry them until they are golden brown and the spices have enhanced their flavor. This should take about 20 minutes. I used a food processor to chop my onions since I have one, and it decreases the cook time by half. I used too many onions in the picture below and advise against it since it dilutes the flavors.DSC_0014

Now add all the other spices (except garam masala), tomatoes, ginger garlic paste, and yogurt, and give it a quick stir.


Add water and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and let the curry simmer for 30 minutes while covered. Stir frequently to break the tomatoes and make it into a fine consistent sauce. Many people just use a blender but I do not have one, yet.


Add the chicken and cook for another 30 minutes until the dish has cooked and oil has separated from the curry.


The color of the curry should be very orange at this point. Add the garam masala in the last 5 minutes and adjust the quantity according to your taste. The color of the dish should start becoming darker. I suggest taste testing it frequently until you get the spice level according to your palate. You may even end up putting only half a teaspoon.


The cooked meal should look like a pile of diarrhea right now, which is perfectly acceptable in Indian culture. Serve hot in a large bowl and garnish it with fresh coriander leaves to make it look appealing. Serve on top of plain Basmati rice or naan (flat bread).

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