The best Indian chicken curry without coconut milk, cream or even tomatoes. This low-calorie curry is made with just 5 basic ingredients and cooked within 30 minutes. An easy healthy chicken gravy that even beginners can cook!
Does the thought of cooking up a curry intimidate you? Or do you think you can get delicious curries only at Indian or Thai restaurants? Then this recipe is for you.
With just about 280 calories, this low-fat, low-calorie curry is so easy to cook and amazingly delicious. Tender juicy chicken pieces are simmered in velvety smooth gravy that has no coconut milk or cream as a thickener. This recipe is the ultimate proof that you don’t need saturated fat to make curry taste good. Exactly like the mutton curry recipe. You’ll have to try it to believe!
Like chole masala and spinach dal, this beginner-friendly chicken curry can be done within 30 minutes (or less if pressure cooked) and needs just five simple ingredients for the gravy. How? Read on to find out!
We can never say no to easy chicken recipes for dinner with a few basic ingredients, can we? Like the baked chicken breasts and sheet pan lemon garlic chicken legs, this 5-ingredient chicken curry is yet another of my easy & healthy dinner recipes.
What more, it can be made ahead and frozen, which makes it a perfect curry for meal planning.
Is this chicken curry recipe actually made of only 5 ingredients?
I used to make this recipe when I had to cook up a quick curry or when I don’t have enough stock of ingredients to make something else (just to prove myself that I’m resourceful!) I resort to adding coconut milk to thicken a curry, only if a recipe absolutely requires it or if I’m left with no other option.
Since making it a couple of times, it has become my family’s favorite. Now I cook this low-calorie curry at least once a week and more importantly, we never get bored of it.
This is a genuine 5 ingredient chicken recipe made from scratch with no hidden ingredients. Unless the critic in you wants to add the salt, water and chicken, which make it eight.
Still not bad, right?
What are the mysterious 5 ingredients?
Shallots, ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and chilies. Incredible, isn’t it? You have to cook the curry and eat it for you to believe that it is actually possible to make a chicken curry with these simple pantry ingredients.
The secret to this recipe is using small shallots aka pearl onions, a lot of it, like 1 cup for a bowl of curry that serves 2 to 3. So the only thing you need to ensure is that you always have a lot of shallots at home if you want to enjoy this chicken curry as often as I do.
As for the other ingredients, I presume you will already have them in your pantry if you love cooking Indian food, especially curries.
Can I substitute onions for shallots?
If you don’t have shallots, feel free to use the same quantity of diced onions. The reason I use shallots is that they have a slightly milder flavor. Since you are using lots of it in this recipe, it makes sense to go for the milder version. If you’re using onions, use 1 teaspoon more oil and ensure that you brown them well before you make the paste.
What is the best cut of chicken for the curry?
I’ve used chicken thighs here, it is just a personal preference. You can use any cut of chicken for this chicken curry recipe. The cooking time will vary accordingly, which I’ll explain in a minute. That being said, bone-in chicken will naturally have more flavor from the bones and also turn out softer.
How to make chicken curry without coconut milk- step by step
(You can find the exact measurements and instructions in the recipe card at the end of this page.)
Heat oil in a pan and stir in the shallots, dry red chilies, ginger, garlic, and cumin seeds. Sauté on medium heat until the shallots turn brown. Remove from heat, cool the mixture and blend into a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining oil in the same pan and stir in the blended paste and chicken thighs. After 5-10 minutes of stirring add one and a half cups of water and salt. Keep covered and bring it to a boil. Simmer on a medium flame for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken pieces) until the chicken is cooked. You will know that the chicken is cooked when the flesh almost starts falling apart.
If using boneless chicken breast, chop them into bite-sized pieces. The simmering time is 10 minutes.
For chicken drumsticks, the simmering time is 25 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.
Tips to make the best chicken curry
- Sauté the shallots/onions on medium heat until well browned. More browning equals more tasty curry.
- After blending the onions, sauté the paste again before adding chicken.
- If you have the time, sauté chicken for a good 10 minutes on medium heat before adding water.
- If you like your curry with a more brownish tint, add 2 additional teaspoons of oil while you sauté chicken.
- The curry tastes great as is. But you may add 1/2 teaspoon garam masala if you like more of “Indian curry” flavors. (It will no longer be a 5-ingredient curry, but this would take no extra effort from your side:)
Since this chicken curry has no dairy or coconut milk, it keeps well for about 4 days in the fridge and a month in the freezer. Store in an airtight container. If freezing, thaw overnight in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop.
What to serve with chicken curry
Have this easy curry with naan or plain boiled rice and a side dish like mango chutney, microwave-fried okra or tandoori cauliflower. You get a healthy, delicious and wholesome meal in no time. For a low-carb option, pair it with coconut cauliflower rice. And it’s a must-have recipe when trying to lose weight.
Is chicken curry healthy?
This chicken curry is healthy since it does not use added saturated fat like butter or cream or any thickening agents like coconut cream. Using chicken breasts will further cut down on the fat.
What goes with curry other than rice?
This curry goes amazingly well with naan, roti or just plain toasted bread (use wholemeal if you want a healthier option.)
How do I make chicken curry taste better?
Shallots or onions that are sauteed twice (once before blending and again after) is the secret to making this tastiest curry. The more you brown the onions, the better.
This little curry “hack” can be used for any curry. If you want to thicken up a curry, saute a couple of onions in oil until browned, cool and blend. Saute the onion paste again in a little oil and add to your curry with added salt and pepper. Simmer until thick. This is the best and healthiest way to thicken curries.
Do you cook the chicken before putting it in curry?
Cooked chicken does not absorb the flavors well. So for this recipe, you simmer the chicken with the curry so it becomes flavorful.
Can I cook chicken curry in a pressure cooker?
This chicken curry can be cooked faster in a pressure cooker. After adding the chicken and water, transfer the contents to the pressure cooker, wait for it to reach high pressure, then simmer for just 5 minutes. Let it stand until the pressure is released. In this case, the quantity of water used should be lesser (1 cup for this recipe).
Now that you’re familiar with the 5-ingredient easy chicken curry, don’t let the thought of cooking up a curry intimidate you again!
Are you in the mood for one-pan street noodles with chicken? Try this Singapore fried bee hoon!
If you like another quick healthy chicken recipe, lemon coriander chicken with yogurt sauce and lemon balsamic chicken is for you. Or if you want an elaborate chicken curry recipe for the weekend, go for chicken meatball curry.
More curry recipes
Grab a printable copy of the curry paste that helps home cooks like you cook different curries in 30 minutes or less:
More chicken recipes
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