Incredibly tasty Easy Chicken Curry in just 30 minutes! This Indian-inspired curry is simplified for weeknight dinners with minimal fuss and very little prepping. This recipe has all the classic flavors you know and love from Indian curries but without the mile-long list of ingredients. It’s also naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and mild enough to be a popular dinner option the whole family will love. This easy chicken curry recipe is perfect for busy weeknights and is made with just a few ingredients, an all-around easy meal.
We’re huge fans of any kind of Thai curry around here, but we’re also all about Indian curries as well. Basically, we’re happy if there’s some kind of curry on the table at least once a week!
This quick chicken curry recipe is Indian-inspired rather than worrying too much about being authentic. It has a relatively short list of spices, but in no way compromises flavor.
From there it has all the usual Indian curry flavors that make it so incredible: ginger, garlic, with that underlying garam masala all coming together in a coconut tomato base.
Usually, you’ll find heavy cream as the creamy component, but to keep things dairy-free we use coconut milk. It’s incredible in Indian curries and I think you’ll love it too. Curries from South India sometimes include it, so it’s not completely off-base!
Watch how to make easy chicken curry
I have a few authentic Indian curry recipes I love. However, I’m lucky if I make them once a year because they’re long and complicated with so many ingredients.
Since we like to keep things simple around here, I finally developed a recipe that satisfies that craving for authentic flavor. But you can make this recipe without spending 1-2 hours in the kitchen. So let’s get straight to cooking!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Chicken – either boneless skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs work well in this curry. I used chicken breasts because it’s what I’ve had most often in Indian restaurants, but chicken thighs which are dark meat, are moister and easier not to overcook. Either option is equally tasty!
- Onion, garlic, and ginger – are the flavor base of most curries, and this one is no exception. Try using a garlic press to speed things up, and peel the ginger with the side of a spoon. You can also use ginger from the tube as well, but be aware of the ingredients if you have allergies.
- Spices – curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala make up the basic blend for this recipe. To keep it simple, just use ground spices from the jar. It’s common in authentic recipes to toast and grind the spices. But for a shortcut, I use ground spices and add them to the garlic-onion mixture to cook briefly instead.
- Diced tomatoes – I like to use fire-roasted tomatoes for more flavor in this recipe, but any canned diced tomatoes will work. I sometimes use fire-roasted diced tomatoes with chili when I want a little heat.
- Coconut milk – is what makes this tomato-based curry a creamy chicken curry. You’ll often find heavy cream added to curries like this, but I find we like the flavor of canned coconut milk better. And it’s dairy-free as a bonus.
- Cilantro – is optional and you can leave it out if you don’t like it. But if you’re on board with cilantro, add a large handful at the end because it adds a nice element of freshness, and we think it takes this curry to the next level. Cilantro is sometimes called coriander leaves.
How to make this recipe step by step
Step 1: Start by prepping the ingredients. Then preheat a large skillet (12″) over medium-high heat.
When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the avocado oil or olive oil along with the onion, garlic, and ginger. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 4-5 minutes or until turning translucent.
Step 2: When the onion mixture is done, add the spices, turn the pan back up to medium heat, and cook for 30-60 seconds.
Step 3: Add the diced tomatoes and a can of coconut milk. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer on low for 6-8 minutes.
Simmering the sauce for a bit is the best way to let the flavors develop without needing to worry about the chicken getting overcooked.
And I think any great curry benefits from 15 minutes or so of simmering. There’s simply no way for the flavors to develop properly by rushing the cooking time.
Step 4: Next add the cubed chicken pieces and mix to combine. Bring the curry back to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally until the chicken is done in the center, 8-10 minutes.
If you run short on liquid, add a touch of chicken broth to bring the consistency you desire.
Step 5: When the curry is done, season to taste with sea salt and black pepper, (add the optional cayenne pepper for your desired spice level) and add the optional chopped fresh cilantro. Stir to combine and serve right away.
Ways to serve this
- This basic chicken curry is incredibly tasty served with steamed Basmati rice. It’s not traditional but steamed Jasmine rice works perfectly too. I just recently started serving this with roasted butternut squash and it’s such a good flavor combination. You can follow my Roasted Sweet Potatoes recipe and use butternut in place of sweet potatoes.
- For a veggie, we love the freshness of my Asian Cucumber Salad. It has sweet and sour flavors that pair nicely with this curry.
- If you’re looking for a cooked veggie, my Roasted Carrots, Roasted Broccoli, or Perfect Roasted Asparagus all would be good. For a stovetop option, try my Sautéed Green Beans. They’re lightly flavored with a hint of garlic and they go well with pretty much everything.
- This dish is also very good served with Naan if you’re not gluten-free!
Make sure you don’t overcook it! For this Indian curry, the sauce is simmered together first to meld the flavors, then the chicken is added to the sauce. This prevents the chicken from getting overcooked and dry. My Thai curries call for browning the chicken, then adding it to the sauce later, this also prevents dry chicken. Also, be sure to check the chicken for doneness so it doesn’t get overcooked and stays perfectly moist and juicy.
Sometimes, but you don’t brown the chicken for this curry recipe. Indian curries often add raw chicken to the simmering curry sauce.
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to add the raw chicken to the simmering curry sauce. Just be sure to continue to simmer the curry until the chicken is completely done.
- To store – place any leftovers into an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
- Make ahead – this recipe reheats well if you’re careful not to overcook the chicken. So you can make it ahead as part of meal prep or to make meal times simpler. Just remember it needs to be spread thin to cool quickly, and leftovers don’t keep as long.
- Reheating – place any leftovers into a small skillet or saucepan and reheat over medium heat covered until heated through. If you have leftover rice, heat it with the curry to soften it again.
- To freeze – this curry freezes well because there are no veggies in it. Place it into an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Tips & Tricks
- Don’t skip adding in half the garam masala at the end. It helps you get a nice authentic Indian curry taste! I learned this tip from an Indian cookbook, (wish I remembered the name) that garam masala is a delicate spice, and adding half at the end of the cooking time is a secret for ultimate flavor.
- Curry powders vary widely! I like to use a mild curry powder from Simply Organic Spices. It has great flavor, and if you want to add spice you can add a touch of cayenne pepper to your taste.
- Some Indian curries marinate the chicken in Greek yogurt or plain yogurt to keep the chicken moist and tender. But if you use chicken breasts and be sure not to overcook them, this step can easily be skipped. And by skipping the marinating it keeps this curry dairy free.
Dietary Options & Substitutions
- Dairy-free Whole30, & Paleo – this recipe is dairy-free, Whole30, and paleo. But serve it with cauliflower rice if you’re looking for a paleo or Whole30 side dish option.
- Vegan or Vegetarian – Use a can of drained rinsed chickpeas or cubed-up tofu in place of the chicken.
I hope you enjoy this Easy Chicken Curry! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Easy Chicken Curry
- 1 tbsp avocado oil - or cooking oil or your choice
- 1 onion - 1/4" dice, 2-3 cups
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger - minced
- 1 tbsp curry powder - mild, I used Simply Organic
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala - split, see notes
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 14 ounces canned diced tomatoes - I like to use fire roasted
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts - cut into 1" cubes, or chicken thighs
- 1/2 tsp sea salt - more or less to taste
- 1/4 tsp black pepper - more or less to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro - chopped, optional, we love adding as much as 1/2 cup chopped.
- Start by prepping the ingredients. Then preheat a large skillet (12") over medium-high heat.
- When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the oil along with the onion, garlic, and ginger. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 4-5 minutes or until turning translucent.
- When the onion mixture is done, add the curry powder, cumin, 1/2 tsp garam masala, & the turmeric. Turn the pan back up to medium heat, and cook for 30-60 seconds.
- Add the diced tomatoes and coconut milk. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a simmer on low for 6-8 minutes.
- Next add the cubed chicken and mix to combine. Bring the curry back to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally until the chicken is done in the center, 8-10 minutes. If you run short on liquid, add a touch of chicken broth to bring the consistency you desire.
- When the curry is done, season to taste with sea salt and black pepper, (add the optional cayenne pepper for spice) and add the optional chopped fresh cilantro. Stir to combine and serve right away.