Home-Style Chicken Masala (Indian-Spiced Chicken Stew)

It’s no secret that I love Indian food.  Love may even be an understatement.  Truthfully, I am obsessed with the cuisine!

Sure, I enjoy the typical restaurant fare: chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, and even heaps of naan slathered with ghee (clarified butter).  Yes,  I admitted it.  I love ghee.  But, that’s not the point…(**quickly changes topic**)

What I’m trying to say is that the restaurant stuff is good, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the rustic and inventive food served in the Indian home.  There is absolutely no comparison.

The curries my mother-in-law (Maa) and my father-in-law (Baba) create aren’t just food.  No way.  If you could just have one taste, you’d understand; these curries are love.

Home-Style Chicken Masala

This is a very simple recipe, really.  It doesn’t take long to throw together, and is quite forgiving.  You can toss in any stray veggies laying around in your refrigerator, and substitute the chicken with any protein you desire (mushrooms are an excellent vegetarian option!).

This dish reminds me so much of the hearty beef stews I grew up enjoying…and believe it or not, I don’t even miss the beef (for the record, we don’t consume beef in our household; so even if I did miss the beef, I’d have to get over it rather quickly).

Because not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy an authentic meal in an Indian household, I thought I’d share a home-style recipe here, on my blog.

This recipe, although not quite the same, is very similar to a recipe Maa would make for me while I was in India.  Occasionally my stomach would get a little upset, and even the thought of spice would make me nauseous.  She would make this curry–similar to a stew–because she considered it to be more “bland.”

Now, don’t be confused by the word bland.  This curry is anything but bland.  It’s just not all that spicy (hot)–but, you can definitely  add chili peppers if you’re feeling a little wild or adventurous.  This curry also doesn’t include any fancy whole spices (cinnamon, clove, cardamom, ect…) or any cream.  Although, I do toss in a bay leaf–for good measure.

I made this curry using skinless and boneless chicken thighs. In India, you’d make this curry using a whole–cut up–chicken; but I didn’t have one on hand.  The meat–whether you are using chicken, lamb, or even fish– is usually cooked on the bone, as this lends incredible flavor to the gravy.

Because my chicken thighs were boneless, I added chicken stock–instead of water–to thin out the curry.  This simple substitution really adds a lot of flavor that the curry would otherwise lack.  If you do use water, rest assured.  Your curry will still taste good; it just might be a little flat–for lack of a better word.

To get started, I heat up a little oil in a dutch oven and toss in some cumin seeds.  Aside from adding a little flavor, the seeds also let me know when the oil is hot enough to add the onions.  Once the oil reaches the desired temperature, the seeds will begin spluttering and popping.  Garlic, ginger, and a few spices get added to the cooked onions to make a wonderfully fragrant–and dry–“curry paste.”

Once everything is well cooked and fragrant, tomatoes are added.  I also add a small amount of either chicken stock or veggie stock to help deglaze the pan.  At this point, the curry will look something like this:

The photo is a little blurry, the hot steam coming off the curry was keeping me from getting a crisp shot, but you get the idea.

If you’re really going for a rustic presentation, you can continue to cook this until the tomatoes completely break down; but what I like to do is to dump the mixture in my blender (remove the bay leaf).  I just prefer the masala to be a little smoother and less chunky.  Either way, it’ll all taste about the same.

At this point, I’ll leave the blended gravy to the side; and toss a little oil back into my dutch oven.  I sear the chicken.  Once it has nice color, I dump the gravy and a little chicken stock back into the dutch oven–right over the chicken.  Then I give it all a little stir.

I toss the bay leaf back into the pot, and add any vegetables I want to use.  This time I used a whole package of mushrooms, 3 sliced carrots and about one cup of frozen peas.  I also have a little taste and adjust the salt/black pepper.

Although this curry can be cooked relatively quickly, I love to cook it low(er) and slow(er).  I turn my flame to medium, toss the lid back on the pot and let it all cook one to two hours–checking every 30 minutes and adding additional stock, if needed.  I like to cook it this way because it ensures the chicken is nice and tender.  It’ll fall apart, actually.  It also helps to develop the unmistakable “curry” flavor.

Home-Style Chicken Masala

Serves 6-8 people

  • 6-8 chicken thighs (I used boneless/skinless)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 large red onion- diced
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp. ginger paste
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 3 tsp. ground garam masala
  • 2 tsp. ground corriander
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground chili powder (more or less, depending on how spicy it is.  Mine is quite spicy.)
  • 2 large roma tomatoes- diced
  • 2 tsp. plain yogurt- whisked
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. salt–or to taste
  • about 2 c. vegetables- whatever you have on hand
  • chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water- as needed to thin the curry
  • Using one large pot with a tight fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat and add 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds. Once they begin to pop, add the diced onions and fry until the pieces become translucent.
  • Add the ginger and garlic pastes.  Keep stirring.
  • Add all the quantities of ground spices, and the bay leaf.  Keep frying.  The mixture should be quite dry and begin to stick to the bottom of the pan.  About three minutes.
  • Add the chicken to the pan and cook on high-heat for about 5 minutes, until the chicken has fully browned.  Add any vegetables you are using at this point.
  • Turn the heat back to medium-high and add the tomatoes to the pot.  Add about 1 cup of chicken stock (or water) and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down.  Add the whisked yogurt.  Stir it all together and then bring the mixture to a fierce boil.
  • Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours–checking and stirring every 30 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust the salt-level.  Add additional chicken stock if the curry has become to thick.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve with rice.

Rustic Chicken Masala

I served this fantastic Indian-style stew on top of some simple short-grain rice.  It would be excellent eaten with some homemade chapatis (Indian tortillas)…but sadly, I make terrible chapatis.  Hmph. Maa tried to teach me, but I just haven’t quite caught on.  Maybe someday I’ll get the hang of it…


31 thoughts on “Home-Style Chicken Masala (Indian-Spiced Chicken Stew)

    1. Shari Post author

      haha…I can understand that! Before I bought my Le Creuset, I used a 15 dollar dutch oven from Sam’s Club. And before that, I used a non-stick pot. No matter what you cook it in, it’ll be awesome. 🙂

      By the way, check out your local thrift stores. I’ve found Le Creuset pieces for as low as $2.50!!!

      1. Allison

        Lucky– that’s a nice thrift store find! I already have a ridiculous Pyrex bowl collection from thrift stores, and a thrift store dish-buying problem in general, but have rarely come across anything Le Creuset… I guess they always get snapped up pretty quickly!

  1. notsoskinnycook

    Hi Shari I nominated you for a Versatile blogger award on my blog. If it is okay with you I am borrowing your beautiful picture of your pan seared scallops to link with your bog. Please let me know if this is alright…

  2. Peachie

    This sounds amazing. Thank you for all your recipes. We moved to a small town a couple of years ago and it does not have an Indian Restaurant. Your recipes make it easy to make yummy Indian food. THANK YOU!

    2 questions – Would it be okay to leave the yogurt out in this recipe? (We don’t eat dairy) Do you think the recipe would work in a crock pot?

    1. Shari Post author

      yes, and yes! 🙂 In fact, I skip yogurt a lot of times too. I’ve never made it in a crock pot, but I’m absolutely sure it would work. 🙂 Give it a try!

      …and you’re more than welcome for the recipes. Is there any dish you’d really like to know how to make?

      1. Peachie

        You are a doll to ask that question. I searched your site looking for our favorite dishes and found most of them (and also got extremely hungry in the process). You mention Dal Makhani in one of your post and it has lentils only. I remember a dish by that name with Lentils and kidney beans and it is one that I miss. I haven’t tried to make it as we no longer eat dairy. Do you think it would be possible to make it dairy free? We can get dairy free creme and “butter” and maybe that would work. Any suggestions would be helpful. THANK YOU. You’re awesome! Mary

      2. Shari Post author

        I actually toss a few kidney beans in with my lentils… thanks for reminding me of that recipe. I’ll get it posted soon! 🙂

  3. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen

    Definitely trying this. I’m having a craving for indian spice at the moment. We don’t have a very strong Indian culture in Ireland so getting an authentic meal in a restaurant is close to impossible as they tend to pander to our Western tastebuds. Can’t wait to try this.

    1. Shari Post author

      This curry is definitely authentic! In my opinion, the authentic Indian cuisine is much more tasty, filling and nutritious than the stuff you get at a restaurant. I hope you make it, and I hope you love it! 🙂

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  5. Fiona

    Lovely recipe, thanks very much for posting it. I did mine in the slow cooker for 6 hours after browning the chicken and used a tin of tomatoes because I’m lazy! This meant no need for extra stock or water but I still put in a stock cube, even though my chicken was on the bonce. I’ll definitely be making it again.

    1. Shari Post author

      I’m so happy to hear that the recipe worked for you! I love your idea of cooking it in the slow cooker, I may have to try that.

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  7. krrpa

    Hey, I was desperate to cook something for my husband today and landed on your recipe! Thanks so much for the same! The taste is excellent. I have to say I changed a few things but it was yum! Do you have other simple recipes as these? I’ve only recently started cooking so still finding my bearings 🙂 thanks once again! Look forward to more yummy stuff.

    1. Shari Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe! Check out my recipe index (you can find it on the menu at the top of the page) for other quick and easy recipes.

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