Chicken Curry in a Hurry

I have to admit. I was dreading putting up this post. It’s almost sacrilege to vary from your mom’s recipe for curry, but I just don’t have 3-4 hours to spend on one dish for dinner. I wanted curry, but I needed to prepare it “in a hurry.” I’ve tried several versions of this dish and am finally satisfied that I’ve gotten as close to the original as possible. I’ve included a lot of notes so you can customize it a bit for you and your family. You’ll also notice that the recipe makes enough for 6-8 portions. I encourage you to make the whole recipe even if you have a family of 4. Why? Because Indian tradition is heavily steeped in hospitality. Indian food is made to be shared with others; so take the extra to work, give it to a neighbor, or invite friends over for dinner.


  • 3 lbs chicken breast, boneless, skinless, and cut into approximately 2 inch chunks
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot (this is a thickener that’s easier to digest…if you don’t have it, use corn or potato starch)
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp coriander
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (divided into 2 T and 1 T)
  • 1 Tbsp Garam Masala (This is a spice blend that you can find in the “fancier” section of the spices in your grocery store. Traditionally the whole spices are used, but it’s easier to keep the blend on hand and it still creates great perfume and flavor.)
  • 3 large onions (or one jumbo and one small), chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, coarsely grated (it helps if it’s frozen)
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, veins removed, and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes, organic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp agave syrup (optional) – you could also use a good pinch of sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)


  1. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Measure in the arrowroot, cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Sprinkle in a generous “pinch” of salt (use all your fingers, not just two) and generous sprinkling of pepper. Mix it all up with your hands until all the chicken is coated with the spices. Measure out the yogurt and just drop it on top. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the curry.
  2. Heat a large pot (like a dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the Garam Masala and let it toast in the pan until fragrant. Add 2 Tbsp of the olive oil. While the oil is heating. Chop up your onions and drop then in the pot. This is what Rachel Ray calls “chop and drop.” Keep the heat on medium so the onions don’t burn. What you want is to caramelize the onions. Sprinkle onion mixture with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the onions begin to soften (2 mins. or so) add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeño. Continue to stir often. When the onion mixture is golden brown (approx. 15 mins. total) add the crushed tomatoes and turn up the heat. Wait for the tomatoes to begin to release their liquid, then add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil. Let the tomatoes and onion mixture simmer for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the chicken mixture. Hold on to the bowl! Stir, stir, stir the mixture in the pot. Put 1/2 cup of water in the bowl that held the chicken and the spices. Swirl it around and add it to the pot.
  5. Stir again, and wait for bubbles to pop through the sauce. Turn the heat to low (about 3-4 on your heat dial) and allow to simmer gentle UNCOVERED for 45 mins. to an hour. The length of time depends on how thick you like your sauce (or Jhol in Bengali).
  6. If desired, stir in the agave syrup or sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and yogurt. It’s traditional to sprinkle cilantro on the top before serving. Both of these steps are optional depending on your taste.

Serve hot over white or brown rice.

While the curry is cooking, consider making the “Spiced Coconut Green Beans.”

The notes I promised are below. Please enjoy this cornerstone dish of the North Indian diet.

* Your kids eat this?

One of them does, yes. However, he doesn’t like “chunks” in his food. To overcome this, what I do is take the softened, cooked onion mixture to before the tomatoes are added and put it in the food processor. Process until broken down to almost a paste. Return the mixture to the pot and go from there.

** What if I don’t have…

  • Arrowroot — use corn starch or potato starch
  • Garam masala — use  several whole cloves, 2 pods of cardamom, a stick of cinnamon, and  a bay leaf. (Don’t forget to take out the bay leaf before serving.)
  • Crushed tomatoes — use three large tomatoes, chopped. You might want to add the tomatoes to the food processor with a little water before adding to the pot unless you’re okay with a chunkier sauce.
  • Fresh jalapeño — Use a dried, whole, red pepper.

***I like my food spicier.

A flavorful mix of spices does not mean heat as well. This recipe is pretty mild and suits the tastes of most people. Here are a few suggestions for adding heat to your liking.

  • Don’t completely clean the jalapeño of seeds and veins before chopping.
  • Break up a dried red pepper into the onion mixture.
  • Add a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Taste after each addition so you don’t go overboard.

Enjoy and share!

4 responses to “Chicken Curry in a Hurry

  1. Love the recipes and finally getting you know you via this virtual world since I have been hearing of you for many years! Congratulations on the blog!

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