Looking for a traditional and authentic Chicken Korma recipe that’s the real deal? This one-pot chicken korma is made in the Pakistani and North Indian way but without the fuss. All the mind-blowing flavor of korma – yet ready in much less time. After making & testing this korma for years, I’ve perfected it to the point that I can confidently call it the BEST chicken korma.
This is one of those traditional dishes, like Chicken Karahi, Chicken Biryani, and Haleem, that I’ve attempted numerous times before I was satisfied enough to share. My goal is to give easier versions of these dishes with zero sacrifices on the classic, ‘authentic’ taste.
Pop Quiz – What makes this Chicken korma ‘authentic’? Is it because…
a) I’m full-blooded Pakistani and feel strangely entitled to call it so.
b) You will not find ‘curry powder’ as one of the ingredients. Instead, you’ll notice an unapologetically long list of whole spices.
c) It uses legit (yet optional) ingredients like mace and kewra essence. #fancy
d) All of the Above.
If you guessed D, then your answer is correct!
Jokes apart, I don’t think there is an authentic way to make anything anymore. Cuisine doesn’t freeze in time or place. Our recipes transport and evolve just as we do. Whether intentionally or not, we adapt our cooking to the ingredients, produce, and flavors around us.
But because I’ve tried to stick to the original concepts of korma as conveyed by google, youtube, various cookbooks, and multiple aunties, I hope ‘authentic’ will pass as an accurate descriptor.
What is Chicken Korma?
Korma is a cherished South Asian dish with Mughlai origins. The word ‘korma‘ (or qorma) means ‘to braise’, or pan-sear. In the Pakistani and North Indian way of preparation, chicken is sautéed in ghee/oil and whole spices before a blend of yogurt and fried onions is added to produce a rich curry.
Ingredients for Chicken Korma
Chicken Korma’s distinguishing features are its use of whole spices, a rich yogurt masala, and a layer of oil/ghee on top. Kewra essence and blanched almonds, though not mandatory, give a luxurious finish.
Other than that, you’ll need basic ingredients commonly used in Pakistani and Indian curries. Here’s the breakdown:
- Oil/Fat: I’ve used just as much as needed to give it a traditional look and taste.
- Onions: When making traditional korma, you brown, then grind the onions along with the yogurt. This gives it the signature texture and flavor. Don’t worry about slicing them up perfectly, and feel free to sub pre-ground onions.
- Bone-in, cut up, skinless chicken: I buy pre-cut up pieces of a whole chicken, but bone-in chicken thighs work too. Feel free to use boneless chicken in place, though it may require a shorter cooking time.
- Whole spices: Authentic Chicken Korma uses whole spices like bay leaves, cumin seeds, and black peppercorns. Leave out whichever ones you don’t have on hand.
- Garlic + Ginger: A traditional recipe will have more garlic and ginger than your typically used to. Feel free to use paste if you’d like!
- Tomatoes: Optional – more on this below.
- Yogurt: An essential korma ingredient. As suggested by a reviewer, you can use cashew yogurt to make it dairy-free!
- Spice powders: This recipe uses common spices like coriander and cumin as well as a few optional spices like mace and black cardamom. Though I know not everyone has spices like mace lying around, I’ve added them because they’re true to the classic method. However, you can easily omit them if you don’t have them and I’ve also given substitutes!
Does Chicken Korma include tomatoes?
Chicken korma was originally made without tomatoes, but I’ve found that they’re commonly used in Pakistani & Indian korma recipes.
Tomatoes give off water and result in a thinner, curry-like consistency while yogurt gives a thicker masala-like consistency.
I just love the flavor and texture that tomatoes give to korma so I can’t get myself to omit them. If you prefer not to use the tomatoes, simply increase the amount of yogurt you use.
How to make Authentic Chicken Korma
Making an authentic chicken korma is actually quite easy:
- First, sauté the onions until nice and golden brown. Remove them from the pan and add to a food processor.
- In the same pot, add the whole spices and garlic/ginger and sauté the chicken. Meanwhile, blend the onions with tomatoes & yogurt. When the chicken has been seared or shall we say ‘braised‘, add the blended yogurt mixture along with the powdered spices & green chili.
- Cover and allow to cook. Midway, add the remaining spices – adding these toward the end maintains their aroma and flavor. Cover and cook again.
- When finished cooking, add water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for a few minutes. When the oil rises to the top, you’re done! Finish off with kewra essence, cilantro, and some blanched almonds.
Chicken Korma FAQs
What if I don’t have all the whole spices?
Don’t worry! I’ve made this korma in all kinds of ways, omitting spices left and right. Trust me – no spice makes or breaks the korma. Just make it with whatever you have on hand. It’s still be extremely delicious!
What to do with the whole spices after cooking Chicken Korma?
In South Asian cuisine, the whole spices are typically discarded while eating.
How to Scale the Recipe
Halve the recipe if you’d like to make it with 1 lb of chicken (for 2-3 people). Note that the sauté times will decrease for less quantity. Similarly, you may double the recipe and all the ingredients. Just be sure to use an extra large pan!
Can Chicken Korma be made with pre-fried, ground onions (birista)?
If you make your own or have a brand of pre-fried onions you like, you can certainly use them in this recipe. Just skip the first step of sautéing the onions. I would estimate using 1- 1.5 cup of pre-fried onions in place of the onions called for in this recipe.
More Tips for Making the Best Chicken Korma
- Browning the onions is the most time consuming part of making traditional korma. To reduce prep time, I like to prepare the rest of the ingredients while they’re sautéing. As mentioned in the FAQ, using pre-fried onions will reduce total cooking time.
- Kewra essence and whole mace are available in South asian grocery stores and give a nice authentic flavor/scent to the Korma. If you don’t have them, either omit or try substituting rose water for the kewra and pinch of ground cinnamon in place of mace.
- To quickly blanch raw almonds, microwave them in water for 1 minute. Then drain and peel the skin.
- If you’d like a runnier korma, just add more water than is called for in the recipe. Add salt as needed.
- Korma thickens up after being removed from heat and cooling. To reheat over the stovetop, add a bit of water to get the right consistency.
What to serve with Chicken Korma
Chicken Korma is traditionally served with naan, roti, or other bread, but can be paired with rice since it does have a good amount of ‘curry’ or salan.
Because korma is a luxurious dish, it’s a dinner party and formal event favorite. This recipe lives up to the hype!
Other Chicken Curry recipes you’ll love
Instant Pot Pakistani Chicken Curry with Potatoes
Baked Tandoori Chicken Curry
Coconut Chicken Curry with Potatoes
20 Minute Coconut Lime Chicken Curry
Pakistani Chicken Karahi (Easy & Authentic)
Instant Pot Butter Chicken (Easy & Authentic)
The BEST Authentic Chicken Korma
- 1/3 cup neutral oil
- 2 tbsp ghee or sub more oil
- 2 large onions (~500 g) sliced*
- 2 lbs bone-in, cut up, skinless chicken (or sub chicken thighs) cleaned and excess skin removed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/8 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 1-inch cinnamon stick
- 8-10 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 inch piece ginger crushed
- 2 small tomatoes* (optional) quartered
- 3/4 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder or to taste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp paprika powder optional – for color
- 2 1/8 tsp salt or to taste depending on amount of chicken
- 2-3 green chili peppers chopped
- 1 black cardamom (optional)
- 1 piece whole mace or sub pinch ground mace or cinnamon
- ½ tsp garam masala
- pinch nutmeg powder
- 1/2 tsp diluted kewra essence or sub rose water
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves chopped, for garnish
- 10-12 blanched almonds for garnish
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan over high heat. Once hot, add the oil and onions and sauté the onions until they are golden brown (~20-25 minutes depending on quantity). Remove the onions from the pan and transfer them to a food processor. Add tomatoes (if using) and yogurt to the food processor and process until mostly smooth.
- In the same pan used to brown onions, heat ghee (or oil) and add the whole spices, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 30 seconds or until the garlic and ginger begin to darken. Add the chicken and fry it until it changes color (~5 minutes).
- Add the yogurt mixture to chicken along with the ground spices, salt, and green chili peppers and sauté until the mixture comes to a light simmer (~2-3 minutes).
- Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and allow it to cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir in the black cardamom (if using), mace, garam masala, and nutmeg powder. Cover and cook again for 10 minutes.
- Raise the heat to high. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water (depending on how thin you'd like the curry) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and allow chicken to simmer for another 2-3 minutes. The oil will have risen to the top. Sprinkle the kewra essence and stir. Turn off the heat and garnish with cilantro and blanched almonds.