Chicken Cardamom Masala

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The cooking of Kerala is varied and open to outside influence. This is a not unusual combination of north and south Indian cooking. The recipe is based on a dish I had at Preethi restaurant in Thripunithura. The easiest way to make it at home is to take a garam masala spice mix, homemade or store-bought, and jazz it up a bit with more spices, most of all fresh-tasting cardamom. but also sweet cinnamon and strong chiles. Yogurt has a tendency to separate when cooked, if it does, you may add a few tablespoons of heavy cream just before serving. In any case, do not use low-fat yogurt. This is not a dish that demands any purity of flavor—the more flavors, the merrier. You may want to odd more vegetables: for example, cauliflower and carrots. A sprinkle of crushed fennel seeds and ground coriander would not go a miss.

Serves4 as a main course

Cooking Methodsauteeing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free


Taste and Texturecreamy, meaty, savory, spiced


  • ½ cup plain full-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 6 to 10 cardamom pods, lightly bruised
  • 1 1-Inch piece of cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 4 chicken thighs, halved
  • 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
  • Oil for panfrying, such as canola
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 3 to 5 doves garlic, chopped
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons cashews
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro (fresh coriander) or parsley for gemlsh


  1. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garam masala, cardamom, cinnamon stick, chili powder, ginger, and salt. Add the chicken, turning to coat. Let marinate for as long as you have time—if more than an hour, place the bowl in the refrigerator.

  2. Using a rubber spatula, scrape off as much of the yogurt marinade from the chicken as possible; reserve the marinade. Pat the chicken dry using paper towels, and sprinkle with the turmeric.

  3. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a wide pot over high heat. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the skin is nicely browned. You may have to do this in two batches in order not to crowd the pot.

  4. 4 Remove the chicken, reduce the heat and sauté the onions and garlic for 4 to 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the chicken, the reserved marinade, the cashews, and tomato paste, cover, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

  5. 5 Stir in the cream (if desired) and cook for 2 more minutes, garnish with cilantro.

  6. Variation: If you would like to make a thick sauce without adding a lot of calories, add another ½ cup of yogurt along with the marinade and chicken.


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