Chicken Korma

In my new office here in Pensacola Florida, we have an interesting combination of Navy families. Two of my co-workers have spouses they met while stationed in England, and another met his wife while serving in Canada. I’ll often ask them what new dishes they’d like for me to bring into work, as they typically (and unknowingly) are my tasting judges. The question inevitably gets passed to their spouses, and all too often I hear complaints that there are “no good curries” to be found in our town. This Chicken Korma recipe is the result of those conversations.

“Korma” comes from the Urdu word ḳormā, which means to braise. This dish, as with other braised dishes like Rogan Josh, is characteristic of Moghul cuisine, which was first introduced to Northern India by the Mughal Empire in the 16th Century; the Mughal were a predominantly Muslim people of Turko-Mongol descent (some claimed to be direct descendants of Genghis Khan).

There is a lot of variation to kormas, but the underlying theme includes a slow braise in a rich, mildly-spicy curry sauce, often flavored with yogurt or heavy cream. For this recipe in particular, I kept it relatively dairy-free (what’s a recipe without butter or ghee?) and used a bit of lemon juice to impart the tanginess you’d expect from using yogurt.

Chicken Korma (Gluten-free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30-friendly)

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes plus 30 minutes to marinate
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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curry blend:
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 green cardamom pod, seeds only (or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom)
1/2 tsp mace (or 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg)
2 tbsp ghee, more if needed
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, sliced
2 cups chicken broth, divided, more if needed
2 tbsp cashews (roasted preferred, but raw are fine)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter, cubed (ghee okay)
salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
slivered almonds to garnish
cilantro leaves to garnish

1. Combine the curry blend ingredients. Combine half of the curry blend with the thigh pieces; cover and chill for 30 minutes. Combine the remaining curry blend with the cardamom and mace, then set aside.

2. Heat the ghee in a large skillet over med/high heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add half of the chicken and brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side, then remove and set aside. Repeat with the other half of the chicken, adding more ghee if needed.

3. Reduce the skillet heat to medium, then add the onion. Saute until softened, about 3 minutes, then add the garlic, jalapeno, and the remaining curry blend; saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds.

4. The skillet should be nice and crusty at this point (see the picture below the recipe for an example), which is perfect. Add 1 cup of the broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits.

5. Once the skillet is clean, pour its contents into a blender. Add the remaining broth, the cashews, the lemon juice, and any accumulated juices from the chicken to the blender. Blend until smooth, then return to the skillet. Simmer over medium heat until no longer frothy, stirring often, about 2 minutes; add the chicken and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 5 minutes. Add more broth if it gets thicker than you’d like.

6. Add the butter cubes and stir until incorporated (this will give a silky texture to your curry). Taste and add salt if needed, then garnish with slivered almonds and cilantro leaves. Serve with rice, cauliflower rice, or something even simpler, like the blanched spinach you see in the main picture.

** For added richness, stir in 1 tbsp heavy cream, coconut milk, or yogurt before serving.; if using yogurt, only add 1/2 tbsp lemon juice while cooking the dish.

** To make your own garam masala, combine 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 ground nutmeg, and a pinch of allspice (yields a little more than 1 tbsp garam masala).

** This dish can also be made with lamb pieces, but will require a longer braising period (step 5) to get tender (about an hour).

After browning the chicken and adding the curry blend, your skillet will be crusty and brown; deglazing it with some broth will incorporate all these delicious browned bits into your curry.

55 thoughts on “Chicken Korma

  1. Fantastic. Lots of great info on the history as well. This is definitely one of my favorite blogs. I cook paleo meals professionally for about 20 families and always find great inspiration on your blog.

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  2. Hey Russ – I’m Tim and a fellow Navy vet and Paleo fanatic. I came across your site and couldn’t resist reaching out.

    Quite the story you have . . . not many people can say they were clinically dead for that long. I have my own story with Paleo but it isn’t quite as dramatic as yours!

    I made a switch to Paleo after suffering from terrible acne during my mid-20s (while assigned to a sub in San Diego and deploying multiple times). Of course it totally reversed my skin issues and ever since I’ve been passionate about helping others do the same.

    So I recently launched my own site and am in the early stages of getting traffic and subscribers.

    I noticed the guest post that Kristin did for you a few years back, but it doesn’t look like guest posting is common for you, so maybe I will just ask for any advice you have for me as I get going in the online space.

    I recently wrote a post highlighting Dr. Cordain’s study on acne and you can check it out here if you’re interested. http://clearskinway.com/why-youre-breaking-out-acne-in-a-nutshell/

    I also do recipes of my own so if you *do* have room for a guest post I would love to send something along.

    Either way t’s great to be in touch with a fellow Navy-Paleo guy and inspiring to see your success in the blogosphere.

    Keep the recipes coming!

    Sincerely, Tim

    PS – Good to see another pro-rice guy out there.

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    1. Hi Tim, thanks for writing, and thank you for your service. Happy to hear that you found improved health through changing your diet. I made the decision some time back to only post my own content on my blog, so I stopped allowing guest posts, mostly to streamline my audience’s reading experience. My advice is to keep doing what you’re doing – write about what you’re passionate about, hone your craft, and be consistent. I was blogging for over a year before I saw any real increase in traffic! Best of luck!

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      1. Hi Russ,

        I just made this tonight and it turned out great! I think I should have let the sauce simmer a bit longer to thicken it more, but it was delicious. I just used about half of a jalapeño instead of a whole one because I know my husband isn’t a huge fan of spicy. Thanks for the recipe, it’s certainly a keeper and one I will add to my favorites!

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    1. Haha, I hadn’t forgotten about you folks, although I had already planned on making this dish before I started taking requests! :) There will be a lot more recipes coming soon from that latest round of feedback, so keep your eyes peeled!

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  3. Would it be possible to half the recipe? Whenever I make a new recipe I don’t want to make the full thing in case I don’t like it and hubs is incredibly fussy! Would I still need to half the spices etc. or keep them the same? I’m never sure when it comes to the spicing. Keep up the great work. This looks super tasty!

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      1. Well it certainly came out just fine halving everything, though I have to say it was way spicier than any korma I’ve ever eaten! :-) I’d definitely make it again but I might omit the chilli this time. Thanks for the great recipe (and actually answering my question in the first place).

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  4. Looks incredible, cannot wait to try this myself. My girlfriend recently went on a somewhat strict diet for health purposes, but I’m happy to find a lot of inspiration on your blog that fits the criteria!

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  5. Pingback: The Roundup
  6. Thank you for sharing this recipe, it is absolutely delicious! I made a double batch so I could have leftovers and I’m so glad I did. Really deep, amazing flavors in this dish.

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  7. Russ,
    Gratitude to you for the recipe and historical info. Coming from a ‘nutrient dense/nourishing” mindset, I’m wondering if bone-in thighs would work as well.

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    1. Thanks, glad you like it! Bone-in thighs can most definitely be used, I just used boneless to make for a less messy experience :) The cooking time will be a bit longer, but otherwise the recipe can be used as-is. Best of luck!

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  8. I just made this for my family tonight and we loved it! I think I might add a few raisins for some sweetness before I blend it next time but it was delicious! Thank you for sharing this 😊

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