Spicy and hot with a hint of lemon juice, this easy homemade chicken madras curry is a great Indian recipe to make at home. It's not too difficult to make and doesn't take long either. It's perfect as a homemade alternative to an Indian takeaway curry.
One of the most popular curry house curries here in the Uk is definitely the chicken madras and I know why. It's hot and spicy with a slight sourness as well as sweetness from the tomatoes. If you like a curry that's brimming with flavour but still easy to make at home then this is definitely it!
If you like a fairly healthy curry without cream or too much oil then this chicken madras is also a good choice. That's the great thing about homemade curries like this one. They really are healthy and nutritious as well as super tasty.
Indian food sometimes has a bad reputation as being full of oil and unhealthy but that's really not true. And you can still make a curry that tastes great as well as being healthy.
What is a Madras curry?
A madras curry is a hot tomato based Indian curry with a smooth sauce. It is usually a fairly rich red colour from the tomatoes and chilli powder. It's slightly sweet and sour. The sweetness comes from the tomatoes and onions and sometimes a little sugar is also added, although I prefer it without.
The sourness comes from lemon juice, vinegar or tamarind. I love curries with a sour flavour and often use all these three ingredients in my curries. However, for this recipe I've stuck with lemon juice.
What ingredients do you need for chicken Madras?
To make this chicken madras you'll need:
- Oil - I usually use vegetable oil but you can use light olive oil or ghee
- Whole spices - Cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick. Frying whole spices at the start of making a curry helps to add extra layers of flavour.
- Onion - Brown or red onion is fine.
- Root ginger - You can use a ginger paste or puree or fresh ginger.
- Garlic cloves - Like with the ginger, you can also use a paste or puree or a combined garlic and ginger paste.
- Ground spices - chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, paprika, black pepper, fenugreek
- Chicken - Use diced breast or thigh
- Tinned tomatoes - These can be replaced by fresh tomatoes or passata
- Tomato puree
- Lemon - A madras curry needs a sour element and I usually use lemon. However, white wine vinegar or tamarind can also be used.
- Coriander leaf - This adds a lovely freshness to the curry and I love to sprinkle lots on top when serving. However, if you're not a fan of coriander, just miss it out.
How to make chicken Madras
There is a full recipe card further down this page. However, the steps are fairly simple. First, put the onions, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender and set aside. Also blend the tomatoes. This helps ensure you get a smooth curry sauce.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the whole spices for a minute. Then add the onion, garlic and ginger puree. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes then add the ground spices.
If the pan seems too dry you can add extra oil first but I prefer to just add a tablespoon or two of water. This stops the spices burning. Stir into the onion mixture and then add the chicken.
Once the chicken seems to be sealed on all sides, add the pureed tomatoes. Leave it to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Squeeze the lemon on just before serving and stir in the coriander or sprinkle it on top.
What can you serve with chicken Madras?
Why not make some onion bhajis as a starter or to go on the side too?
Can you adapt this curry?
Yes of course. You can make this curry hotter or milder to suit your family. Add extra chilli powder or some fresh diced chillies if you want a hotter curry. If you want a milder curry, use less chilli powder and a little more paprika instead.
You can make a vegetarian version by adding vegetables instead of the chicken. Cauliflower, butternut squash and chickpeas work well in it.
As I said earlier, the tinned tomatoes can be replaced by fresh tomatoes or passata. The lemon juice can be replaced by vinegar or even tamarind if you have some.
Can you make this curry with lamb?
Yes, you can adapt this to make a lamb madras and I would then make it in the same way but would simmer the curry slowly for 90 minutes to make sure the lamb is tender.
Storing and reheating
You can keep any leftovers in the fridge in a covered container for up to three days. Reheat thoroughly on the hob or in the microwave.
Can you freeze chicken madras?
Yes, this curry freezes really well and so is great for batch cooking. Once the curry has cooled, transfer it into individual containers and you can then freeze it for up to three months.
Defrost it overnight in the fridge.
More homemade curry recipes
I love making homemade curries and have loads of great curry recipes here on Searching for Spice. Why not check out my collection of homemade curry recipes? Or try one of these recipes inspired by our favourite local takeaway curries:
Chicken Madras Curry
- Hand blender
- large saucepan
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 cardamom pods lightly crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 onion diced
- 1 tbsp ginger
- 8 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coriander
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp fenugreek
- 500 g chicken diced into large chunks
- 400 g tinned tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 lemon juiced
- 2 tbsp coriander leaf diced, including stalks
- Put the onion, garlic and ginger in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.
- Blend the tinned tomatoes too but not with the onion. I usually put them in a jug and blend with a stick blender.
- Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Add the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick.
- After a minute when the spices are becoming fragrant, add the onion ginger garlic paste.
- Fry, stirring for a couple of minutes. Then add the ground spices and stir in. If the pan is too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. Stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add the chicken to the pan. Stir to seal the chicken on all sides.
- Add the blended tinned tomatoes and the tomato puree. Stir in and then bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and leave for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice just before serving and top with some chopped coriander.
- Serve with rice and raita. Or Indian breads.
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