Skip the take-out and make this quick and easy chicken Madras recipe at home instead. Comes together in just about 30 minutes, so it makes a perfect weeknight dinner.
Why you’ll love this chicken madras recipe
Madras curry originates from the Indian city of Madras (which is now called Chennai). It is typically a spicy, bright red, tomato-based Indian curry. It’s perfect to warm you up during the colder Winter months!
I must confess though, that I don’t do really spicy well. When you make Madras chicken curry at home, though, you can easily control the spice level.
This easy Chicken Madras curry recipe is a simplified version for home cooking and I think you’ll love how easy it is to make a delicious Madras chicken curry at home! You’ll also find this recipe provides lots of options so you can customize your curry to the ingredients you have and/or you spice level preference.
Made without coconut milk and without base gravy, this chicken curry is both dairy free and easy to enjoy anytime, with just pantry items. You’ll also love that there’s no need to brown the chicken. Simply add it to the sauce to simmer until cooked.
Chicken – you can start with uncooked boneless chicken breasts or boneless chicken thighs. Use what you have or prefer. If you have left-over cooked chicken that you would like to use, go ahead and cut it up and add it to the pan at the same time as with the uncooked chicken. You will need a little less simmering time if the chicken is already cooked.
Madras Curry – you can use either Madras Curry Paste (I love Patak’s™) or Madras Curry dried powder spice. Adjust the amounts to taste and to which type you are using. I have included adjustments in the Recipe Card.
I find Madras curry paste a great addition to my pantry. I use it anywhere I want a touch of Indian flavour, such as my Mulligatawny Soup.
Passata or Crushed Tomatoes – you can use either bottled tomato passata (tomato puree) or canned crushed tomatoes. Use what you have or prefer. I used Passata here.
Garlic and Ginger – you can replace the garlic cloves and ginger with bottled garlic ginger paste, if you happen to have that on hand (it’s quite regularly used in Indian cooking).
Additional Spices – I have found Indian cooking to be quite forgiving of a missing spice or of using substitutions. Use what you have and skip what you don’t. I’ve offered some substitution suggestions in the Recipe Card, as well.
Making Chicken Madras: Step-by-Step Photos
First Steps: Start by using a food processor to make a bit of a paste with onion, garlic and ginger (you can also just finely chop them by hand, if you like). Then heat some oil and cook the onion mixture until softened and starting to colour.
Add the Madras curry paste (or powder), tomato paste, spices, a splash of water and the chicken. Stir to coat the chicken in the wonderful spices.
Next Steps: Add the passata (or crushed tomatoes) to the pan and simmer it all together until the chicken is cooked, about 10-15 minutes.
Finish the curry by adding the final ingredients – kasoori methi, garam masala, and a squeeze of lime juice.
This is one of those recipes that seems to benefit from a little mise en place (gathering/measuring ingredients before starting to cook). It only takes a few minutes and as you build the curry, it is much more enjoyable to just add the ingredients that are at the ready, rather than seeking them out at each step.
I love making Indian curry dishes, as they are great opportunity to get a bit creative and to customize a curry exactly to your taste. So feel free to add or subtract as you like.
If you enjoy cooking Indian dishes like this chicken madras, you might want to consider adding some common Indian cooking ingredients to your pantry. You can often find them in a bit of a “kit”. I recommend …
Kasoori Methi, as it just adds that missing piece to Indian dishes. Kasoori methi (or fenugreek leaves) can be found fresh is some specialty markets or dried. I use dried, myself. Kasoori Methi is usually either stirred in at the end of cooking an Indian curry or they can be used as a garnish. A substitute for Kasoori Methi would be a bit of chopped, fresh celery leaves.
Kashmiri Chili Powder is another great Indian curry ingredient. Kashmiri chilis (and chili powder) are milder, so I find it much easier to control the heat to individual taste. Kashmiri chilli powder also bring a bright red colour and aroma to an Indian curry. A substitute for Kashmiri Chili Powder would be paprika (either sweet or smoked) and a touch of cayenne.
And finally, I like to keep a jar of mango chutney in the fridge. I stir a bit into the finished curry, to add a fruity/sweet note. You can also use it as an accompaniment “on the side”. Beyond Indian food, mango chutney is great with many meat dishes or with cheese.
Mango Chutney is easily found at most grocery stores. For the Kasoori Methi and Kashmiri Chili Powder, check out an Indian grocery store, if you have one locally, or try Amazon or other online sellers. The dried leaves and spice is available in smaller packages and it keeps a long time.It’s a great, investment if you are looking to up your Indian curry game :)
How to Serve Chicken Madras
I love to serve Chicken Madras with a bit of basmati rice and some warm naan on the side, for soaking up the delicious sauce! A side of raita is a nice, cooling addition to the plate, especially if you’ve made a spicy version. Mango chutney is also often served on the side of Indian curry dishes. For garnish, cilantro and/or lime slices would be good.
Making Ahead, Storage and Freezing
Chicken Madras will do well making ahead and re-heating to serve. If it thickens up a bit, just loosen it when re-heating with a splash of water.
Leftover chicken madras will keep in the fridge for about 3 days. For longer storage, it will freeze well up to 3 months.
Get the Recipe: Quick and Easy Chicken Madras
- 1/2 medium onion, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or a pinch of ginger powder
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil, or similar neutral cooking oil or ghee
- 1 Tablespoon Madras Curry paste, or 1 tsp Madras curry powder
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, or 1/4 tsp paprika with a pinch of cayenne *see Note 1 below
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 - 1 1/3 cups Tomato passata, or canned crushed tomatoes
- Chicken breasts, 2-3 or chicken thighs (5-6), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1-2 Tablespoon kasoori methi, or a bit of chopped celery leaves
- 2 teaspoon mango chutney, or 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- Cilantro, chopped
- Additional salt, as needed
- Add the onion, garlic and ginger to a food processor. Process until fine and mixed well. (Alternately, simply very finely chop by hand).
- Heat oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring, until softened and starting to colour, about 3-4 minutes. Add the Madras Curry Paste and tomato paste, stir to combine and cook, stirring, for 30-45 seconds. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, salt and cook, stirring in for 15-30 seconds, then add the water. Stir to combine and cook, stirring, an additional 30-45 seconds. Add the chicken and stir to combine it well with the spice mixture. Cook for 1 minutes, then add the passata and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. *If curry gets too thick, you can thin it with a bit of additional water.
- To finish the curry, stir in the garam masala, lime juice and kasoori methi, mango chutney (or brown sugar). Taste and add additional salt, as needed.
- Serve garnished with chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges, for drizzling. Nice with basmati rice, naan and or additional mango chutney, on the side.
Check out the Quick and Easy Chicken Madras Web Story