A rich, fragrant and relatively hot curry, chicken madras is easy to make at home in one pan. Blending the onion gives the sauce a thick and sumptuous texture. A great Friday night curry!
Do you like your curry hot?
I like a hot curry every now and then, but not so hot you can't taste the flavours and you're sweating at the table!
This curry can be made as hot as you like. We're using madras hot curry powder for the heat, but you can add in more heat with fresh chillies, or less heat by swapping out the madras powder for regular medium or mild curry powder.
If you follow the ingredients in the recipe card, you'll get a curry with a warming heat that comes through after a few seconds in the mouth. It's a heat you can taste, but doesn't burn. My kids (age 10 and 13) will eat it, but with a glass of water next to them.
What is madras curry?
A madras curry is a fairly hot curry with a dark red thick sauce (the colour comes from the chillies and paprika). It's got slightly tangy notes to it from the addition of tamarind and fenugreek. The chicken is not marinated in this dish, and the spices are often dry-fried or roasted. The sauce is usually a smooth sauce.
We're using a madras spice mix in this recipe, but will also add in a few extra spices. To get the lovely smooth sauce, we'll be blending the onion and also using passata (rather than tinned tomatoes - which are quite lumpy).
What do we need?
How to make it:
- Blend onion, garlic and ginger to a paste in a mini food processor. Fry the mixture in ghee or oil over a high heat until starting to brown at the edges (about 3-4 minutes).
- Add in chopped chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes, until sealed.
- Lower the heat to medium and add in cinnamon, madras curry powder, paprika, ground fenugreek, tamarind paste, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly until those spices release their fragrance.
- Add in passata and tomato puree and bring to the boil, then stir in coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
I love to serve mine with fresh coriander (cilantro), a few sliced red chillies and finely sliced red onion, plus some boiled rice and some steamed greens.
Want to make a chicken tikka madras?
Add even more flavour to your madras by marinating the chicken tikka paste and then grilling the chicken to lightly charred perfection!
- To a bowl add ½ cup (120ml) thick natural yogurt, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp minced ginger, the juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp each of ground coriander and paprika, ½ tsp each of turmeric, cumin, mild chilli powder (or hot if you like it spicy), salt and pepper, plus a pinch of cinnamon.
- Mix it all together, then stir in the chopped chicken breasts. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 2-3 hours.
- Once marinated, place the chicken on skewers, or just spread the pieces out on a baking sheet and brush with 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Then grill (broil) the chicken, turning once, until cooked though.
- Add the cooked chicken to the sauce right at the end (after it has simmered for 10 minutes).
Can I use beef or lamb instead?
Yes. For a quick beef or lamb curry, use strips of lean beef steak (such as rump or flat iron) or lean lamb steak (shoulder or leg). Fry the strips in a little oil in a very hot pan for a 3-4 minutes until cooked but still tender, then add them into the sauce a the end of cooking (after the 10 minutes of simmering the sauce).
For a slow cooked version, use diced braising or chuck beef, or diced lamb leg or shoulder. Add in as you would the chicken (at step 3). Add an additional 200ml (70z) of passata, plus 200ml (70z) of beef stock (as well as the 200ml (70z) of coconut milk), then bring to the boil and place in the oven at 160C/320F for 3 hours (stir occasionally). Or place in the slow cooker and cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 7-8 hours.
Is madras curry powder spicy?
Yes, madras curry powder is generally fairly hot and spicy. If you want the taste and texture of a madras, but without the heat, you can replace it like-for-like with mild curry powder. You'll be adding in garlic, ginger, cinnamon, tamarind, paprika and fenugreek too - so you'll still get the complex, slightly tangy flavour of a madras.
More Chicken Curry Recipes:
- Thai Green Chicken Curry
- Chicken Tikka Masala
- Persian Style Chicken Curry
- Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken Curry
- Butter Chicken
- Chicken Jalfrezi
- Chicken Dhansak
- Or my Vegetarian Sweet Potato Curry
Watch my video to see how to make it:
- 1 onion - peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 3 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
- 3 chicken breasts - chopped into bitesize chunks (this is about 525g or 18.5oz)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp madras hot curry powder - * see note 1
- 1 ½ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp ground fenugreek - * see note 2
- ½ tsp tamarind paste
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 14 oz (400ml) passata
- 2 tbsp tomato puree - (paste)
- 7 oz (200ml) coconut milk (full fat)
- Small bunch of fresh coriander
- 1 finely sliced red chilli
- ¼ red onion - peeled and finely sliced
- Boiled rice
- Add the onion, garlic and ginger to a mini food processor and blend to a paste. Add a splash of oil to loosen if needed.
- Heat the ghee (or oil) in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the onion mixture and fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown at the edges.
- Add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until sealed.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the cinnamon, madras curry powder, paprika, ground fenugreek, tamarind paste, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add in the passata and tomato puree and bring to the boil.
- Add the coconut milk. Stir and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve with fresh coriander, sliced chillies, red onion and boiled rice.
Note 1 - Madras curry powderIf you can’t find madras curry powder use regular curry powder but add a teaspoon (or two if you like it really hot) of cayenne pepper or hot chilli powder.
Note 2 - Fenugreek:Don’t buy a full jar if you’re only going to use it for this recipe, you can leave it out if you don’t have any – the madras powder will likely have some in anyway.
Can I make it ahead?Yes, this chicken madras can be cooked, quickly cooled, covered and refrigerated for 2 days. Reheat over a medium heat in a pan, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is piping hot throughout (about 10 minutes). You may need to add a splash of water to stop it drying out.
Can I freeze it?Yes, this chicken madras can be cooked, quickly cooled, covered and frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat over a medium heat in a pan, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is piping hot throughout (about 10 minutes). You may need to add a splash of water to stop it drying out.
Can I make it in the slow cooker?Yes, make the curry in a pan up to the end of step 5, then transfer to the slow cooker along with the coconut milk and stir together. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or high for 1-2 hours. Nutritional Information is per serving without the serving suggestions of rice and coriander (cilantro).
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