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Adventures in food for curious cooks.

Chicken Curry.jpg

Mughlai Indian Chicken Curry

Ginger, turmeric and chicken have been simmering in Indian dinner pots for thousands of years. Tonight, let them simmer in yours. Visit the Why Did the Chicken Cross the Globe? series that inspired this recipe.

Serves 4-6.


Muglai Indian Chicken Curry in the Adventure Kitchen, shown with South Indian Vegetable Curry and Jeera Fried Rice.

2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, cut in half through the bone (see notes below)

For the Marinade:

2 Tablespoons Indian chicken curry powder (see notes at bottom)

1 Tablespoon plain whole-milk yogurt

2 teaspoons ginger & garlic paste (see notes at bottom)

1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more if needed to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use more if you prefer a very hot curry, less if you'd like it mild)

For the Dish:

5 Tablespoons canola oil

4 whole cloves

4 cardamom pods

1 3-inch cinnamon stick

4 cups very finely diced or shredded yellow onion (from about 2-3 large onions)

2 teaspoons ginger & garlic paste (see notes at bottom)

2 canned plum tomatoes, crushed, with their seeds and juice

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (and possibly more to taste)

Garnish: 1 Tablespoon minced cilantro



1. Marinate the chicken: combine all the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix to form a paste. Smear the paste all over the chicken parts and allow them to marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot with a lid, over medium-high heat, until nearly smoking. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides in the hot oil, working in batches, to achieve a deep golden brown color. As you work, rest each batch on a plate while you work on the next batch. Adjust the heat as needed to be sure the oil does not begin to smoke and the browned bits that accumulate in the bottom of the pan do not burn. When all the chicken pieces have been browned, set the chicken aside and turn the heat to low.

3. Saute the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon stick in the hot oil for about 2 minutes. Then turn the heat to medium and stir in the onions. Cook for about 20 minutes with the lid askew, stirring as needed, until they have significantly reduced in volume and are a deeply caramelized brown color. Do not allow them to stick or burn to the bottom of the pan.

4. Add the ginger & garlic paste and saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute for another 5 minutes. Stir in the salt and curry powder, then add 1/2 cup of water and return the chicken to the pan along with its accumulated juices. Stir to combine.

5. Put the lid on and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook for 30 minutes at a gentle simmer, briefly lifting the lid periodically to stir and turn the chicken over in the sauce. If the curry seems to be drying out or sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a splash or two of water as needed.

6. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed - you may need another pinch of salt, curry powder or cayenne pepper depending on your preferences.

7. Garnish with minced cilantro and serve.

Ingredient notes: 

Ask your butcher to cut the chicken pieces through the bone for you (doing it yourself with a cleaver may result in shattered bone fragments, which are very unpleasant to encounter while eating!). If you prefer, you can simply use boneless pieces, but note that cooking time will be less.

Indian chicken curry powder is available at Indian markets. Indian-style curry powder from the spice aisle at your local grocery store may be substituted, although the component spices will likely be different. If your curry powder does not contain salt, just increase the added salt in this recipe a bit.

Ginger & garlic paste can be found at Indian markets, or you can simply make it yourself, with equal parts fresh ginger and garlic, peeled and finely grated (on the small holes).

Thank you to Manami Sarkar Sinha-Roy for the original version of this recipe.