Chicken Balti is a delicious curry, with boneless chicken pieces, Indian inspired spicing, chopped tomatoes, bell pepper and spinach.
What is Chicken Balti
Chicken Balti is a dish that originated in the Baltistan region of northern Pakistan. Balti dishes are traditionally cooked and served in a flat-bottomed wok-like pan called a balti, which is how it gets its name. (Of course, you don’t need a special dish to make this dish, as you can certainly make it using a regular cooking pan.)
Chicken Balti has become a popular dish in Britain, as well. The British version of Chicken Balti often includes a thicker, richer tomato sauce and additional ingredients such as spinach, peppers and onions.
Why you’ll love this Chicken Balti recipe
For my version, I’ve borrowed from the British and added fresh chopped tomatoes, chopped red bell pepper and spinach to the mix. I love that this chicken curry brings the vegetables right into the curry. That said, you can make a more traditional Chicken Balti by simply omitting the fresh vegetables.
I have also made sure that this is an accessible Chicken Balti recipe, as I know not everyone has access to all the ingredients that some curry recipes call for. I’ve provided lots of substitution options.
Finally, you’ll have complete control over how spicy your dish is, simply by varying the amount of spices to suit your preferences.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Boneless Chicken – I generally use and prefer boneless chicken breasts, but you can certainly use boneless chicken thighs, if you prefer.
Tomato Sauce – I will typically use passata, but canned crushed tomatoes or canned tomato sauce will both work here, too.
Red Bell Pepper – I’ve specified red bell pepper, as I think the flavour is the nicest in this curry. Orange or Yellow bell peppers are an option, but I wouldn’t recommend green bell pepper, as the flavour is too sharp.
Fresh Tomatoes – any fresh tomato will work, from a whole fresh tomato that you chop up to cherry tomatoes that you halve and add.
Baby Spinach – as noted above, I love the addition of extra vegetables to this curry, so I love adding a couple of handfuls of spinach to the pan. That said, if you don’t have spinach, simply omit.
Fresh Cilantro – fresh, chopped cilantro is a great addition to this curry, so I highly recommend fresh cilantro. Dried cilantro (or coriander spice) would work in a pinch.
Kashmiri Chili Powder – if you love Indian curries, this is a chili powder that you might want to add to your pantry. I got a small box from Amazon. It should also be easily found at an Indian market. A substitute is easily made by combining paprika with a bit of cayenne.
Fenugreek Leaves – aka Kasoori Methi, is another essential if you enjoy cooking Indian food. You can find this as either dried leaves or frozen. It is available in my small town grocery store in the frozen food section. Suggested substitutes are maple syrup, celery leaves or mustard greens or mustard seed. I feel like celery leaves are probably the best option if you happen to have them handy, otherwise just omit.
- Cube chicken and place in a small bowl. Add lime juice and spices. Stir and let stand while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Saute onion and ginger (or ginger paste).
- Add green chilis (or jalapeno) and garlic, then add the spices.
- Add the tomato paste and cook briefly with the spices.
- Add the chicken to the pan and cook with the spices until just cooked through.
- Add the passata and chopped fresh tomatoes to the pan, then add the fenugreek leaves.
- Add the chopped red bell pepper.
- Add the chopped cilantro.
- Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice.
One great variation is to add a few Tablespoons of heavy cream at the end of cooking or stirring in some plain yogurt, for a slightly creamy version.
For a traditional Chicken Balti, you can simply omit the added bell peppers and spinach.
What to Serve with Chicken Balti
Basmati Rice, Chapati, Naan are all great serving options.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Balti
- 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 -1 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri chili powder or mild Indian chili powder, or 1 1/4 tsp paprika + 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
- Juice of 1 lime
For the sauce:
- 1 Tablespoon cooking oil
- 1/2 onion, grated or finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste, or 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 small thin green chili or jalapeno pepper, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teasspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder or mild Indian chili powder, or paprika and a pinch of cayenne
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups passata or crushed tomatoes
- 1 large tomato, roughly chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 Tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves, aka Kasuri Methi
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 handfuls Baby spinach leaves
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges
- This is one of those dishes that benefits from having all your ingredients measured out and ready to go before you start cooking. I like to do this while the chicken is marinating.
- You can control the heat in this curry by adjusting the amount of Kashmiri chili powder or cayenne you put into the dish. When in doubt, use less and add a bit more at the end, if needed.
- Marinate the chicken: Place the cubed chicken in a bowl. Add the chili powder and lime juice and toss to combine well. Cover and let stand while you prepare the other ingredients and start cooking. (or make ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours).
- For the sauce: Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until very soft, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook briefly, then add the ginger paste and cook 30 seconds more. Add the green chili or jalapeno and spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, Kashmiri chili powder, garam masala, salt and pepper) and cook, stirring, for an additional 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and stir into a paste, cooking 30-45 seconds.
- Add the marinated chicken cubes to the pan and cook, stirring, until chicken is no longer pink. Add the passata, chopped tomatoes, chopped red bell pepper and dried fenugreek leaves.
- Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the cilantro to combine, then scatter the spinach over-top and cook, stirring, until the spinach wilts down.
- Taste the curry and add additional salt, as needed.
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Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!