Traditional Chicken Curry

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

When most people think of Indian food, the first dish that comes to mind is a good chicken curry. Because I never ate this dish growing up, I relied on my husband’s childhood version for this recipe. He says the best chicken curry is made with a rich sauce and no vegetables. Though many recipes call for chopped cauliflower or carrots, I’ve tried to remain true to his tastes for this recipe.

NotesSlow cooker size: 5-quart

To make this dish in a 3½-quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. A half recipe makes 3 to 5 servings.

Garam Masala:

This spice mix is one of the most common in North India. It includes coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. You can purchase the spices already ground or buy a packet of all of the above combined but left whole for you to grind later. If you grind them yourself, remember to balance the amount of each spice used. And be careful, as the whole cinnamon can be a little challenging to grind all the way down. Don’t be intimidated to go this route though-I’ve done it and the results are wonderful. In most dishes, the garam masala is sprinkled over the food toward the end of cooking, but I prefer to put it in at the beginning along with the other spices.

Fenugreek seeds/leaves (methi seeds/leaves):

Small and hard, these seeds are mustard yellow in clolor. They have a very distinct taste and can be especially bitter when cooked. This bitterness is usually welcome in the dishes in which they are used, such as khardi and sweet and sour pumpkin. The key when using these seeds is to cook them just until they have browned. Too little or too much cooking tends to enhance their bitterness.

The green leaves are delicious when used to make Indian breads such as parantha and dishes such as chicken curry. They can be purchased fresh or dried, because they are easier to find and impart a richer flavor.

Can these recipes be made on the stovetop?

Absolutely. Just keep in mind that when cooking on the stove, you’ll use a quarter more water because liquids evaporate. So, if a slow cooker recipe requires 4 cups of water, use 5 cups when making it on the stovetop. Also, though you can keep your pot at a low simmer on the stovetop, you still always want to keep an eye on it to prevent drying and burning. If food-especially beans and other legumes-starts to dry out, just add more water and continue to cook.

The rule in the land of slow cookers is usually never to open the lid while cooking for fear of losing critical heat and slowing down the cooking process. This may be true, but I have a tough time following the rules myself. Also, there are some dishes, such as Curried Spinach with Homemade Cheese (Palak Paneer), that need to be stirred during cooking. Know that the cooking times cited in my recipes reflect my inability to keep the lid shut, so to speak. Just do your best to limit peeking. A good rule-of-thumb is to add about 5 minutes of cooking time for every time you lift the lid.

8 servings

Cooking Time8 min

Cooking Time - Text480

Cooking Methodslow cooking


Total Timehalf-day

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Equipmentcrock pot


Taste and Texturecreamy, savory, spiced, tangy


  • 3 pounds (1.36 kg) skinless whole chicken, cut in about 8 pieces including the breast, legs, and wings (boneless can also be used)
  • 1 large or 2 medium yellow or red onions, peeled and chopped into 8 pieces
  • 2 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 (4-inch [10 cm]) piece ginger, peeled and chopped into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) garam masala (see Notes)
  • 1/4 cup (59 mL) vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 cup (237 mL) plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) red chile powder
  • ½ cup (100 g) dried methi leaves (optional [see Notes])
  • 1 (2-4 inch [5-10 cm]) cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 4-6 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, halved lengthwise
  • ½ cup (118 mL) boiling water (optional)
  • ½ cup (100 g) fresh cilantro, chopped


  1. Put the chicken in the slow cooker. (If the meat was frozen, make sure it is thoroughly defrosted. Never use frozen foods in a slow cooker, because it takes too long to raise the heat to an appropriate level for safe, bacteria-free cooking.)

  2. In a food processor, grind the onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic until smooth. This may take a few minutes, so be patient. You want the paste to be as smooth as possible.

  3. Transfer the paste to a bowl. Whisk in the salt, turmeric, garam masala, oil, yogurt, red chile powder, and methi. Pour this mixture over the chicken.

  4. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and green chiles. Mix gently.

  5. Cook on low for 8 hours. If you want more both with your chicken add the water toward the end of the cooking time. Remove the whole spices.

  6. Garnish with cilantro and serve over bed of basmati or brown rice or with roti or naan.

  7. Try This! For you vegetarians out there, substitute seitan for the chicken and follow the same steps. Although seitan does not need to cook as long as the chicken would, stick to the cooking time given. The masala still needs to cook thoroughly. If you are concerned that the seitan may get tough, add it in after four hours of cooking.


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