Chicken Korma, like my grandma used to make. Fork tender chicken, simmered in a deliciously fragrant, velvety yogurt sauce. Lightly spiced yet intensely flavorful – the Best Indian Chicken Korma Recipe ever! Its off-the-charts delicious!
Why should you make this Indian Chicken Korma Recipe?
Because the sauce will blow your mind!
In my Nanu’s time (Nanu means grandmother), Chicken Korma was one of the most popular dishes served on special occasions in the Indo-muslim community. Often referred to as “Shahi” Korma (shahi means royal), Chicken Korma was different from everyday curries because it contained special, hard to find ingredients like nuts and dried fruits.
In Nanu’s time, friends and family would purchase these ingredients as gifts when they travelled abroad. Nanu would carefully store these ingredients in recycled chocolate tins and save them for special occasions. Sometimes my brother, little cousins and I. would get a few pieces from her stock, as a special treat.
When Nanu cooked Shahi Chicken Korma, I would silently slip away after dinner and take my plate to another room. I would then very quietly lick the sauce off the plate. Its was that good..
I have taken what I remember of Nanu’s original recipe and simplified it using modern ingredients. Her cooking process was somewhat random (a fistful of this, a pinch of that). Thanks to modern ingredients and appliances I was able to simplify the process into a few easy steps so that it is pretty foolproof using ingredients from my local grocery store.
There is literally nothing as comforting as eating a plate of steaming hot rice drowning in a puddle of that velvety yogurt chicken korma sauce..
I do hope you try it – this easy recipe is heads and shoulders more tasty that any version you get in a typical Indian restaurant!
What is Chicken Korma?
Chicken Korma is an aromatic Indian chicken curry where deeply marinated chicken is simmered in a creamy, yogurt based sauce flavored with ghee, aromatic spices, garlic and ginger. Developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire, Chicken Korma typically contains special ingredients like nuts, dried fruits and ghee. The sauce itself is mildly spiced compared to other curries.
What you need to make Chicken Korma
Chicken & Marinade
The chicken thighs are deeply marinated with yogurt and salt. You can also use chicken breast – I use thighs because the higher fat content results in juicier, more succulent chicken.
Yogurt infuses the meat with a delicious, tangy flavor, and also tenderizes it more gently and effectively than regular acidic vinegar or citrus based marinades. Plain full fat yoghurt is traditionally used in Chicken Korma – however you can also use low fat, non-fat yogurt, buttermilk or even non dairy yogurt products like cashew nut yogurt.
Biresta is thinly sliced onions fried to golden brown perfection in a combination of ghee and vegetable oil. It is one of the most important ingredients in this Chicken Korma Recipe as it is the foundation for the other flavors. While you can use store bought fried brown onions and use them, nothing beats the taste of freshly made sweet biresta – its one of those things that you have to make yourself and taste to see what I mean.
Ghee is a clarified butter, where butter is simmered until all the water is gone. Ghee adds a distinctly nutty, buttery flavor to Chicken Korma. Since Chicken Korma is a festive dish, it is expected that you use ghee (a special and fragrant fat) to make the dish. Sometimes, when I don’t have ghee on hand, I just simmer a stick of butter in a saucepan over medium to medium low heat until it transforms into ghee. The butter transforms into ghee when you the liquid fat is clear and there are brown milk solids at the bottom. A stick of butter is all you need for this recipe. I usually sieve the ghee into a clean, dry jar with a tea strainer for later use. Allowing the milk solids to reach a darker brown color results in a more intense, nuttier flavor.
That being said, you can substitute the ghee with butter, coconut or other vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is combined with the ghee to keep the dish as light and airy as possible and maintain a high smoking point during the frying process.
The sauce mix consists of onion, ginger, garlic, coriander powder, cumin powder, some green chilies and water. You can add a little biresta too for further flavor. For convenience, I just throw everything into the blender. However if you already have the components like ginger paste, garlic paste and onion paste – you can use that too. The green chilies (optional, for heat and flavor) can be sliced to help them easily melt in the sauce. Green chilies give Chicken Korma a very delicious flavor – unfortunately I was unable to find green chilies in my local grocery store so I used serrano peppers instead. If you cannot find green chilis or peppers you can use dried red chilis or dried red chili flakes for the heat.
You can use 1 teaspoon of curry powder instead of the cumin and coriander powder or omit both. When substituting curry powder, I usually use about half the amount because the flavor is very potent and can overwhelm the light garlic-ginger flavor of the sauce – you can always add more later.
Raisin and Nut Paste
The raisin and almond nut paste is made separately and added after the sauce mix has had some time to cook. Any combination of dried fruits (e.g, like raisins, prunes and dried cranberries) and nuts (e.g., pistachios, cashews and almonds) can be used to make this mix. Golden raisins are traditionally used to retain the signature light golden brown color of the Chicken Korma. Pre-processed products like cashew or ground almond powder can also be used instead of whole nuts.
The Mughal Emperors loved exotic dried fruits and nuts so feel free to be creative with what you have in your pantry.
Whole Aromatic Spices
Whole aromatic spices like bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, black cardamom pods, green cardamom pods, cloves and black peppercorns is used to further flavor the oil in this recipe. Use the freshest whole spices available to maximize the flavors. Traditionally whole, not ground spices are used in this curry to temper the oil. Whole spices also burns less easily and slowly infuses the sauce with flavor and aroma during the simmering process. If you prefer not to use whole spices, you can use the relevant powdered version eg., 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon powder, cardamom powder, clove powder and black black pepper.
This dish still works with just a few of these aromatic spices. In a pinch you can also put in a teaspoon of garam masala in to the spice mix and continue. I would not worry if you don’t have or cannot find a bay leaf or black cardamom.
More layers of fragrance and flavor are added right at the end through milk powder, garam masala, green chilies, prunes and rose water.
Milk powder is one of the secret ingredients in this korma recipe that helps produce a very special authentic flavor that distinguishes it from regular Indian curries. Nanu used malai (a type of clotted cream) or Khoya (unsweetened, dried evaporated milk solid) right at the end to give the korma a delicious creamy flavor. Both milk products are very time consuming to make. In this recipe, I use milk powder because it produces a similar taste and is easily available.
Saffron infused in warm heavy cream (optional) can also be added at this stage. Blooming the saffron in warm milk helps hydrate the strands, releasing that gorgeous orange-red saffron pigment and luxurious earthy-floral flavor.I don’t usually use saffron in Chicken Korma because this dish is already aromatic and intensely flavorful on its own.
Garnish (optional, but highly recommended!)
Toasted or untoasted almond slices and biresta are commonly uses as a garnish for korma.
How to make Indian Chicken Korma
Step One: Marinate the chicken
Whisk the yogurt and salt together, until creamy and thoroughly combined in a large bowl. Add the chicken to the marinade and mix thoroughly making sure that each piece is coated thoroughly. Marinate at least one hour to overnight.
Step Two: Make the biresta (fried onions)
Heat the oil and ghee over medium high heat in a large skillet or medium dutch oven until almost smoking. Add the thinly sliced onions and sauté until a light golden brown. Remove the fried onions from the oil with a slotted spoon and place the fried onions on paper towel and spread out. The paper towels absorb the oil, leaving a deliciously sweet, crispy biresta. Set aside dutch oven with the flavored oil and allow to cool.
Step Three: Blend the korma sauce mix
Add all the ingredients together along with 1/4 cup of biresta into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside in a bowl.
Step Four: Blend the raisin and nut paste
Add all the ingredients together and blend until smooth. Set aside in a small bowl.
Step Five: Temper the whole spices
Heat the biresta oil over medium heat. Add the whole spices and sauté until fragrant – about 1-2 minutes.
Step Six: Fry the korma sauce until the oil separates
Add the korma sauce and sauté until the water evaporates and the oil rises to the top of the sauce. About 2-4 minutes.
Step Seven: Cook the marinated chicken in the sauce
Add the marinated chicken pieces to the simmering korma sauce and mix thoroughly. Reduce flame to medium low and cook. Add another 1/4 cup of water if the sauce looks too dry – you will most likely not need more water as the chicken will also release water. Mix. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the dried fruit and nut paste. Mix the chicken thoroughly stirring from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes on medium to medium-high heat, stirring from the bottom occasionally.
If it looks like the chicken is breaking apart, swirl the pot instead of stirring the pot. Add all the finishing ingredients and mix well. Adjust for seasoning. The sauce should taste tangy-sweet. Indian yogurt is very sour so if you need to add more acid, add a twist of lemon or lime juice. The blended raisins should add enough sweetness, but if you would like to add more, add upto a teaspoon of sugar.
Put the lid on the pot and turn off the heat. Let the korma steam for about 15 minutes – do not open the lid during this time.
Step Eight: Garnish and serve
Sprinkle the remaining biresta and sliced almonds on top of the korma and serve.
Tips on making the best Chicken Korma curry
- Keep the marinating period under 24 hours. A longer marinating time is better for chicken korma but the chicken will soften and fall apart during the cooking process if over marinated. If using bone-in chicken thighs, lightly score the meat so that the yogurt marinade can penetrate.
- Fry the spice until just fragrant. Reduce the heat if it looks like the whole spices are burning. The objective is to release the flavor and aroma of the spices when frying. A good way to know when you are done is when the cinnamon stick opens slightly.
- Sauté the korma spices until the oil rises. This process of sautéing spices until the excess moisture evaporates and the oil rises to the top is called “Bhunna.” This process is unique to Indian cooking and helps develop the signature rich and creamy gravies popular in the region. If the spice mix dries out, it is ok to add a little water. If the spices look like they are burning, reduce the heat. Sometimes if the oil does not rise, its because very little oil was used in the first place. In this case add a tablespoon of oil as the spices do need a minimum amount of oil to develop flavor.
- Once the sauce is done add the ‘finishing’ ingredients and adjust for seasoning. The nut and raisin paste does not take long to blend into the sauce. The powdered milk adds a creamy-sweet flavor that is hard to reproduce with heavy cream, half and half and evaporated milk. The sauce should taste a little sour-sweet. Indian yogurt is quite tart so the Chicken Korma sauce is meant to be tangy. To adjust for this effect a little lemon or lime juice works very well. Also if the blended raisins do not add sufficient sweetness, add a tiny bit of sugar until the sauce tastes just right.
- Do not skip the garnish. The biresta and almonds add a lot of flavor to the dish. Unlike some garnishes which are present primarily for appearance or a hint of freshness, the biresta and sliced almond garnish adds a ton of flavor in addition to a distinctive luxurious look and taste for which Mughal cuisine is famous for.
How long does Chicken Korma last in the fridge
Chicken Korma will last about 3-4 days when stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator. One of the best things about Indian food is that the flavors deepen over longer periods. The additional time helps the flavors deepen and intensify.
Reheating Chicken Korma
Stovetop (preferred) – the best way to reheat chicken korma is over medium low heat on a stovetop. If the korma looks dry add a little water – like 1-2 teaspoons and heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat once it is heated thoroughly. The stovetop is a preferred method for both an individual serving or for a large batch.
Microwave – For individual or small servings, Chicken Korma can be conveniently reheated in the microwave. This method is not always advisable as it can dry it out. Also since this is a ghee based curry sometimes microwaving can create ‘heat spots” where a part of the korma sauce can dehydrate and burn. If reheating more than one serving, stir the korma occasionally so that the heat is evenly distributed.
Oven – Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the korma in an tightly covered oven safe container. Sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of water on top and cover the container tightly – aluminum foil works very well. Heat for about 15 minutes, then check – remove from heat once the Chicken Korma is completely heated through.
Make ahead tips
This easy Chicken Korma recipe can be made up to two days ahead. Allow it to completely cool then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Each serving of this delicious Indian Chicken Korma Recipe has about 521 calories, 23.9g of fat and 42g of carbohydrates (37g of net carbs).
This recipe yields approximately 8 servings. The nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe nutrition calculator. It is intended for informational purposes only and should be used as a general guideline. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should independently verify it using your preferred tool.
The best way to reduce fat in Chicken Korma
It is difficult to cook a fat free or low-fat Chicken Korma since a minimum amount is needed to fry the onions and cook the sauce. The best way to reduce fat is to reduce it during or after certain stages of the cooking process as shown below.
Option # 1: Cool the Chicken Korma in the refrigerator overnight and just remove the cold solidified fat from the top. This step is very Easy + Effective.
Option #2: To reduce the fat in this recipe, remove about 1/8 cup of oil before tempering the whole spices in Step Five. You cannot start with less oil because you need a minimum amount to cook the biresta.
Option # 3: Remove the oil floating on top of the sauce with a ladle once you have finished cooking the Chicken Korma.
Chicken Korma recipes vary not only by region but also by household. For example, some Indian recipes use chili powder, turmeric and chopped tomato. Others believe that Korma should never be cooked with any of these ingredients.
Korma from North India is laced with malai (a type of clotted cream) or Khoya (unsweetened, dried evaporated milk solid). South Indian Chicken Kormas use a combination of coconut milk and grated fresh coconut.
The type of dried fruits and nuts also vary based on individual taste and what is available locally. For example, golden raisins and aloo bukhara (tart, dried plums) are commonly used in Indian cuisine but craisins and prunes commonly available in North America would work just as well.
The delicious gravy of this creamy chicken korma is perfect over piping hot basmati rice and of course naan bread. It also works very well with plain fresh salads as the gravy is a fantastic dressing! This is also a great recipe that works really well with Roti, Quick Homemade Bread, tandoori roti and naan.
For a perfect end to an incredible meal, try cold, refreshing Shemai – Creamy Vermicelli in Sweet Rose Infused Cream. Its one of those perfect combinations that needs to be tasted to be believed!
Chicken Korma FAQs
Chicken korma is a mildly spiced chicken curry in a creamy, velvety sauce. Butter chicken has a much higher spice intensity and the complex sauce includes tomato puree which gives it a deep reddish brown color.
Developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal era, chicken korma is a mildly spiced chicken curry in a creamy, velvety sauce. The chicken is deeply marinated in yogurt, the sauce contains special ingredients like raisins, almonds, ghee and a thick milk product like malai (a type of clotted cream) or Khoya (unsweetened, dried evaporated milk solid). Chicken curry is cooked for everyday occasions. The chicken is not marinated and is cooked in everyday Indian spices like cumin, coriander, chili, turmeric and garam masala.
Chicken korma is a mildly spiced chicken curry in a creamy, velvety sauce. The chicken is deeply marinated in yogurt, the sauce contains special ingredients like raisins, almonds, ghee and a thick milk product like malai (a type of clotted cream) or Khoya (unsweetened, dried evaporated milk solid). In chicken tikka masala, the chicken is marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spiced then grilled. The grilled chicken is then simmered is a rick sauce consisting of tomato sauce , cream and other Indian spices like cumin, coriander, chili, turmeric and garam masala.
Korma is heavily influenced by Mughal era so the mild velvety sauce is infused with aromatic spices, tempered in ghee as well as other special ingredients like raisins, almonds and a thick milk product like malai (a type of clotted cream) or Khoya (unsweetened, dried evaporated milk solid).
More Indian Mughal Style recipes
Chicken Biryani – If you love Biryani but don’t know how to recreate this iconic dish, you are at the right place! Here is a crazy delicious Chicken Biryani Recipe with all the authentic flavors you want and that you can make in your own kitchen!
Chicken Tikka – A made from scratch Chicken Tikka recipe with spicy yogurt infused chargrilled chicken. Marinating the night before takes this super simple recipe from delicious to OMG AMAZING! Packed with 35g of protein and less than 4g of carbs, its a keto lovers dream.
Butter Chicken – Seriously tasty, this super easy Indian curry chicken recipe consists of deeply marinated chicken in an incredibly creamy tomato-based curry sauce. This is Butter Chicken at its best and its I-Can’t-Stop-Tasting-It Good!
Finally, if you make this recipe
I’d love to hear how it went – please leave a comment and rate this recipe. Above all, I love hearing from all of you and will do my best to answer each and every comment!
Best Chicken Korma Recipe – Indian
- Medium dutch oven or pot
Chicken & Marinade
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup yogurt full fat
- 2 pounds chicken thighs skinless and boneless
- 1/4 cup ghee
- 1/4 cup oil
- 2 onion medium
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 onion
- 1/2 inch ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 3-4 green chilies optional, to taste
Raisin and Nut Paste
- 3 Tablespoon pistachios and or almonds
- 2 Tablespoon golden raisins
- 1/2 cup water
Whole Aromatic Spices
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 inches cinnamon
- 2 black cardamom
- 5 green cardamom
- 7 cloves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup milk powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 8 green chilies optional, to taste
- 8 prunes optional
- 1 teaspoon rose water optional
- 1 Tablespoon almond slices optional
- Marinate the chicken – Whisk the yogurt and salt together, until creamy and thoroughly combined in a large bowl Lightly score the chicken thighs so that the marinade can be easily absorbed. Add the chicken to the marinade and mix thoroughly making sure that each piece is coated thoroughly. Marinate at least one hour to overnight.
- Make the biresta (fried onions) – Heat the oil and ghee over medium high heat in a medium dutch oven until almost smoking. Add the thinly sliced onions and sauté until a light golden brown. Remove the fried onions from the oil with a slotted spoon and place the fried onions on a paper towel and spread out. Set aside dutch oven with the flavored oil for later use – about 5 minutes.
- Blend the korma sauce mix – Add all the ingredients together into a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside
- Blend the raisin and nut paste – Add all the ingredients together and 1/4 cup of the biresta into a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Temper the whole spices – Heat the biresta oil over medium heat. Add the whole spices and sauté until fragrant – about 30 seconds
- Fry the korma sauce until the oil separates – Add the korma sauce and saute until all the water evaporates and the oil rises to the top of the sauce – about 2-4 minutes
- Cook the marinated chicken in the sauce – Add the marinated chicken to the simmering korma sauce and mix thoroughly. Reduce flame to medium low and cook. Add another 1/4 cup of water if the sauce looks really dry. Mix and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the dried fruit and nut paste. Mix well. Simmer for about 15 minutes on medium to medium-high heat, stirring from the bottom occasionally. If it looks like the chicken is breaking apart, swirl the pot to move the sauce instead of stirring the pot. Add all the finishing ingredients and mix well. Put the lid on the pot and turn off the heat. All the korma to rest for 10 minutes – do not open the lid during this time.
- Garnish and serve – Sprinkle the remaining biresta and sliced almonds on top of the korma and serve immediately.