Easy curry leaf chicken slow-cooked in aromatic spices and served with rice or roti. This simple dry curry recipe takes under an hour to make from scratch. Discover how to make this Indian classic dish today.
Curry leaf chicken is the perfect dish to try for newcomers to cooking Indian curry recipes. While there are a variety of interpretations of this dish across the country, this version is a dry curry that has its influences from the South of India.
Just like our Kerala beef fry, this chicken curry is slow-cooked in spices and coconut, and mixed with sautéed ingredients to give it a caramelized edge. Often referred to as ‘dry’ curry because of the relative lack of moisture compared to other curries, this type of curry is easy to make and takes under an hour to make from scratch.
What is Curry Leaf Chicken?
Curry leaf chicken is a popular dish in South Indian cuisine, and features two hallmark ingredients of South Indian cuisine. The first (as the name suggests) is curry leaves. This herb carries a vibrant and pungent taste that is essential for South Indian curries and dals. While it isn’t the dominant flavor in any curry, it does infuse the meat with a robust and rich flavor, and complements the more striking spices in this recipe.
The second signature ingredient is coconut. Whether it’s coconut milk, chunks, or whole, the tropical fruit is everywhere in South India. It’s used in a range of dishes, from chutney to Kerala-style avial, and – of course – curries.
While different regions, cultures, and families all have different takes on curry leaf chicken, the core ingredients of diced chicken, curry leaves, and coconut stay the same. For our recipe, we’ve kept it simple and added only basic ingredients to give you a quick and easy introduction to this amazing dry curry.
Chicken breast or thigh is best here. While thigh does carry more flavor thanks to its fat content, it can be more work separating the meat from the bone. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is much easier to prepare and dice into cubes.
You can use either fresh or dry curry leaves for this dish. The leaves lose flavor when they dry up, so if you’re using dried ones, use twice as much as you would fresh leaves.
Garam masala is a fragrant spice blend originating in North India, but now commonly used across the entire country, as well as Pakistan and Iran. Indian garam masala usually contains a mix of black cardamom, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, and nutmeg. These ingredients are roasted then ground to create a truly unique spice blend.
Store-bought versions are widely available, but I recommend making your own garam masala in bulk to use for all future curry recipes. If you need a garam masala substitute, try curry powder or a blend of allspice and cumin in a 4:1 ratio.
For this recipe, we’ve only added green chili peppers, ginger and garlic to add a little heat and flavor. If you want to add more, spices that work well with curry leaf are cumin, coriander, and mustard seed.
Follow these tips to make your curry leaf chicken even more mouth-watering.
- Don’t forget to temper the spices before adding to the sauce. Tempering is a common technique in South Asian cooking where spices are briefly sautéed or pan-fried in fat (in our case, cooking oil) to release more flavor and aroma from them before we then add them to the sauce. If you’ve never done it before, trust me. It works.
- Got a thin or watery sauce? Thicken the curry by adding thickening agents like cornflour or tomato paste as it cooks. For cornflour, mix one tablespoon with two tablespoons of water, stir, then add to the dish. Add slowly and let it simmer over low heat for at least two minutes before adding any more.
- Make your curry spicier by adding half a teaspoon of cumin or mustard seed to the pan before your temper the curry leaves. This will allow it to works its way into the sauce more effectively before being added to the chicken.
Side Dish Ideas
Perfect side dishes to serve with your curry leaf chicken include rice, bread, and mashed potatoes. Instant pot brown rice, basmati, and simple steamed rice all go well with the curry chicken. All three are easy to cook, but basmati is the best option if you’re after a truly Indian experience.
Naan, roti, poori, and paratha are Indian breads that are perfect side dishes for most dry curries. Mashed potatoes containing vegetables, dried rosemary, cheese, and black pepper also go well.
Allow the curry to cool completely before transferring to an airtright container. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to three months.
Food Safety Tip: Ensure the curry has cooled completely before storing. If it’s still warm or isn’t stored properly, the moisture could encourage bacteria growth.
To enjoy the leftovers, reheat the curry leaf chicken in a pan or skillet over medium heat until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). If the dish is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight first.
How to Make Curry Leaf Chicken
Begin by making the marinade with garlic, garam masala, curry leaves, turmeric, ginger, green chili, yogurt, and salt. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and leave them in the marinade for ten minutes. This is enough time for the boneless chicken to tenderize and absorb the flavor of the spices in the marinade.
Add the marinated chicken, together with the marinade sauce, to a preheated pan. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat. Once the sauce starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer the chicken for ten minutes.
Uncover the pot, stir the curry, and keep simmering until the extra juices in the pot dry out. Add coconut cream and salt when the juices dry out, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add curry leaf sprigs to the hot oil alongside green chilies. Fresh curry leaves burn easily, so stir them frequently until they’re crispy. After taking the chicken off the heat, pour the curry leaf oil over it and stir. Keep some of the sautéed curry leaves for garnishing, and serve with your choice of roti or steamed white rice.
Curry Leaf Chicken
- 2 large boneless chicken breasts diced into chunks
- 2 tbsp coconut cream
- ¼ cup yogurt
- 3 sprigs curry leaves
- 2 green chili peppers deseeded and sliced
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp ginger grated
- 1 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp oil
- In a large bowl, mix garam masala, grated ginger, minced garlic, yogurt, and one sprig of curry leaves. Combine well to form a marinade paste.
- Add the diced chicken. Cover the meat as evenly as possible in the paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
- Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the marinated chicken, as well as any leftover marinade paste, to the pan. Cover and cook until the paste starts to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pot and add coconut cream. Stir well.
- In a small pan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Sauté one sprig of curry leaves and the sliced green chili peppers. Cook until the leaves start to crispy at the edges.
- Add the sautéed curry leaves and green chili to the chicken. Combine well.
- Serve and garnish with remaining curry leaves. Serve as a side dish or with rice or roti.