Chicken masala curry is a simple and delicious North Indian homestyle curry. Bone-in chicken pieces are cooked in onion, tomato based sauce and is flavored with ginger, garlic and a variety of spices.

Chicken curry is my childhood favorite. My mother and Masis (mother’s sisters) would often cook it for me. Simple and easy recipe to make at home and is perfect for weekday meals. Using mild spices, the flavors and the aroma of this dish pleases everyone. The leftover curry tastes even better the next day. I prefer to slow cook this chicken curry but this can be pressure cooked.

We enjoy chicken curry with steamed white rice, along with dal tadka. It also tastes delicious with plain parathas or tandoori rotis.

What kind of chicken to use

I prefer to use the free-range chickens from local farms because those chickens have more flavor and they have been raised without harmful anti-biotics. For the preparation of this curry, whole chicken is cut into medium size pieces. Combination of bone-in chicken thighs and leg pieces can also be used. Bone in cuts do take longer to cook but they add nutrition and tons of flavor.

How to make chicken masala curry

Clean and wash the chicken pieces throughly under running water. Drain any excess water and pat it dry using a paper towel.

Note: Wash your hands and surfaces after handling the raw meat to avoid cross contamination.

Marinate the chicken

Ingredients for marination

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, yogurt, cumin, coriander, red chili, turmeric powder and salt. I prefer using my hands for rubbing the marinade into the chicken pieces. Make sure all the chicken pieces are coated well with the marinade.

Mix ingredients for marination

Cover and leave the chicken for at least an hour or overnight in a refrigerator.

Marinated chicken

Prepare the curry

Ingredients to make chicken masala curry

Puree the tomatoes and ginger

Using a blender or a food processor, blend the tomatoes and ginger to smooth puree and keep it aside. I prefer to blend the ginger with the tomatoes , to avoid the ginger sticking to the bottom of the pan.

tomato ginger puree

Cook garlic and onions

In a wok over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, once they splutter add the chopped garlic. Let the garlic cook, stirring frequently. Cook the garlic pieces until they are golden brown in color about 4-5 minutes.

Add cumin seeds and garlic

Next, add the chopped onions. On medium heat, cook the onions till golden brown. As onions cooks they will loose the moisture and volume. This can take somewhere about 10-15 minutes. Stir the onions frequently.

Add the chopped onions

Add the tomato puree

On low heat, add the prepared tomato puree and stir to combine. Let it cook for about a minute. After that add the cumin, coriander, red chili, turmeric powder and salt. Stir to combine the spices and let this cook uncovered on low heat.

Keep stirring the masala at regular intervals and scraping the bottom of the wok. All moisture from the masala will evaporate and it will become thick. This can take about 5-8 minutes.

Masala ready.

TIP: This Masala is the base for many North Indian dishes like Rajma, channa masala, Mutton curry etc. I often make a big batch of this masala and store it in the refrigerator for a week. This helps reducing the cooking time for the weekday meal preparations.

Add the marinated chicken

Next, add the marinated chicken to the masala, stir to combine and make sure the chicken pieces are well coated with the masala..

Add the marinated chicken to the masala

Dry roast the chicken masala

On medium heat, dry roast the chicken for about 10 minutes. Keep stirring at regular intervals and scraping the bottom of the wok.

Roast the chicken.

Finishing the chicken masala curry

Lastly, add a cup of warm water and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for salt. Bring it to a boil and cover with a lid. Cook the chicken on medium heat for about 30-40 mins or until tender. Remove the lid and insert a fork in the chicken, it should go in easily and juices should run clear. Chicken masala curry is ready !

NOTE: Darker meat such as chicken legs and thighs take longer to cook because they have higher fat content. If you poke the chicken pieces and juices run clear chicken is done. If it has a pinkish color, it needs more time to cook. The internal temperature of the cooked chicken should be 165°F.

Add water and let it simmer.

TIP: Add less water for a thicker consistency.

Garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed white rice, plain parathas or tandoori roti.

Garnish with cilantro. chicken masala curry is ready.

TIP: The chicken curry will thicken as it cools down. While reheating you can add 1/4 cup of warm water, adjust for salt and simmer for 2-3 minutes.