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What Is Curry Chicken?

By Angie Bates
Updated: May 17, 2024

Curry chicken is primarily a South Asian, curry-flavored dish that also has Chinese, Thai, and Jamaican variations. Although some versions are mild, often this dish contains a multitude of spices or a curry spice paste. Regardless of the version, curry chicken is normally pan-fried and usually contains few ingredients other than a well-seasoned curry sauce and chicken.

Authentic Indian versions of curry chicken use large amounts of curry powder in the dish's creation. Many other spices, such as Indian chili powder, cinnamon, paprika, and ginger, are used as well. Other flavorings include garlic, black pepper, lemon juice, and salt. The sauce is also made with coconut milk, tomato paste, and yogurt. Onions and sugar are also usually included.

Alternatively, an Indian curry paste can be used in lieu of the plethora of spices. The paste also replaces the milk, yogurt, and tomato product as well. Sugar, onion, salt, and pepper are included, however. Some recipes may still add ginger. Chicken broth is also often included in versions using the paste.

Chinese and Thai curry chicken use ingredients similar to the Indian version. Both versions usually add turmeric as well. Soy sauce and dry white wine are popular additions to Chinese curry chicken, and Thai versions adds seasonings such as cumin, coriander, and white pepper. A Thai curry paste is also used.

Jamaican curry chicken includes a Jamaican style curry paste. This paste is made up of mustard, coriander, anise, and fenugreek seeds, as well as cumin and allspice berries. In addition to the paste, thyme, hot peppers, and scallions are often used. Tomatoes may or may not be included.

Nontraditional variations of curry chicken may add little more than chicken, onion, curry powder, and yogurt. Cilantro or parsley may also be included, and sour cream is sometimes used instead of plain yogurt. Raisins are an additional option. Some versions will add vegetables as well, such as potatoes and carrots, and mincemeat is even included in the occasional recipe.

Regardless of the version used, preparation is basically the same. The onions are normally first sauteed in oil. Then, the spices or spice paste is added. The chicken, usually cut into bite sized pieces, is included after the spices with all or most of the additional ingredients. The dish is then simmered until the chicken is done.

Curry chicken is often served with rice. It can be garnished with toasted coconut, scallions, cilantro, or chopped almonds. Often, however, it is served without garnish.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Apr 23, 2013

Jamaican curry chicken is the best chicken dish I've ever had. It's amazing!

By burcidi — On Apr 23, 2013

@turquoise-- I'm not an expert on curry chicken but one of my close friends is Indian and I've seen him make curry chicken.

What he does is he mixes the chicken, onion, spices and yogurt mixture in a container and puts it in the fridge from the night before. The chicken and onion marinate in the spices and yogurt and become flavorful. He cooks everything on the stove the next day. You should try doing it this way, I'm sure it'll taste a lot better.

The other factor might be the freshness of the spices and the type of oil you're using. We shouldn't underestimate the flavor that ghee adds to Indian dishes. I highly recommend using ghee to make curry chicken.

The spices should also be fresh. In India, most women make their own curry mix at home by grinding the dry spices in a pestle and mortar. So the spices are full of flavor. Here, we buy our spices in packets and they are at least a few years old.

By turquoise — On Apr 22, 2013

I love Indian food and curry chicken is my favorite, I always have this when I'm eating out at an Indian restaurant.

Last week, I decided to save myself money and make it at home. I followed the recipe I got online but it didn't come out as good as the ones I've eaten at restaurants.

I'm not sure what I did wrong but the recipe was the same as what was described here. I sauteed the onions and spices and then the chicken.

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