My Masala Chicken

Serves: 4 people

Difficulty: Moderate

Ever since I was a little girl I remember my mum’s chicken curry. It was delicious and the scents of aromatic spices filled the house.

When I started cooking it I changed the recipe slightly, but my mum loves mine so I guess it must be pretty similar. When you make yours you can add as many chillies as you like. I know it seems like the ingredient list is endless but trust me, this recipe is worth buying all the spices for as I am sure you will make this again and again!


  • 8-12 chicken legs/thighs on the bone, skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons thick plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, coarsely crushed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
  • 2-3 onions, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inches root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 green chillies, finely slice 3 of then, and stab the remaining 3 with a knife
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 200 g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon


1. Firstly marinade the chicken. In a large bowl mix together the yogurt and turmeric. Add the chicken and rub all over massaging it into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours if you have time (overnight would be ideal).

2. Remove the chicken from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while you start the masala. Gently heat the vegetable oil in a large pan (enough to fit the chicken pieces) and add the cloves, green cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon stick.

3. Once they start sizzling and the green cardamom begins to turn white add the crushed cumin seeds and coriander seeds.

4. Once they begin to sizzle add the onions. Stir well and allow to cook until they have turned soft and are starting to turn golden brown.

5. Add the garlic, ginger and all the chillies and allow to cook for a further minute.

6. Stir in the coriander powder, cumin powder and chilli powder and add a few tablespoons of water to prevent the spices from burning.

7. Allow the masala to cook, leaving the spices to release their essential oils and aromas. This will take a few minutes and you will start to see a little oil rising to the surface. Stir often until it looks like all the masala has released most of its oils, adding a little more water if it starts to stick.

8. Add the chicken pieces.

9. Stir well and allow them to seal in the masala before adding in the chopped tomatoes and sugar. This should only take a few minutes.

10. Top with enough water to just cover the chicken. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook for at least 45 minutes – 1 hour. Every 10 minutes or so, stir the masala chicken (carefully or the chicken will fall off the bones) to ensure nothing is sticking to the base of the pan.

11. Once the chicken is cooked through and the essential oils have risen to the surface, stir through half the coriander.

12. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar.

13. Squeeze in the lemon juice.

14. Serve with more fresh coriander sprinkled on top, and with some Pilau Rice.

Anjali’s Tip: If you find that there is too much chilli heat once it is cooked, you can stir through some thick plain yoghurt before serving.

Karen| March 26, 2016 at 8:00 am

Hi can you use chicken breast instead?.

    Anjali| April 10, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Hi Karen. You can certainly use chicken breast instead. As there is not as much fat on breast I suggest you cook it for less time and make sure there is plenty of sauce so it doesn’t dry out. Happy Cooking!

kevin| April 1, 2016 at 8:56 pm

I made this super delicious Chicken at home yesterday. We had a lot of fun shopping for the variety of wonderful ingredients. Cooking Indian food is my new obsession. It was easy to follow Anjali’
Instructions. She is one of the top Indian cooks in the world!

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