chicken madras curry – ready in 30 minutes

Madras chicken curry. Big, bold tastes. Lush sauce. Just like you get at your local Indian restaurant. On the table in 30 minutes. For real.

This is crazy tasty curry in a hurry. Almost sounds too good to be true. But I can make this in a half hour flat. And so can you.

That makes this weeknight friendly. And it serves 4. So invite some friends. Grab some naan at your local shop.

Cook up some rice. Maybe a green salad. And have a dinner party on a Tuesday night. It’s totally doable. And it would be fun. Everyone needs to have fun.

It’s all about the onions

Onions are the foundation of a lot of Indian dishes. Doesn’t really matter what you make. It always seems to start with “chop a whole mess of onions”.

The next step is almost always “cook those onions until they’re brown”. That’s the part that takes time. Like 20 minutes. Or more. 30 minutes even.

And it’s 30 minutes of closely attended time. No wandering off to check your email. No checking Instagram. You need to pay attention.

There’s an easier way. A way that lets you make restaurant quality chicken madras in 30 minutes. Total time.

Indian restaurants have this figured out. They make this stuff called curry base. Or curry gravy. They make huge pots of it. Takes a couple hours.

Hard to make a curry in 30 minutes if the gravy takes 2 hours. That’s where your microwave comes in.

You can make curry gravy in the microwave. In 10 minutes. Zap the onions. Toss them in your blender. And then just cook like they do in restaurants.

Don’t worry. Restaurant curries are easy. You’ll see.

Table scene with chicken madras, parathas, dal and rice from above.


You need madras curry powder to make chicken madras

That should not be a surprise. It’s in the name. Madras curry isn’t actually an Indian dish. It’s an English invention. And the definitive ingredient is Madras curry powder.

A bit of history. Mid 19th century London. Leicester Square to be specific. A shop starts selling a curry powder with South Indian influences.

It’s a hit. A big hit. So much so that you can choose from multiple Madras curry powder at just about any Indian grocer.

It’s the signature ingredient in Madras chicken curry. It needs to be there. Leaving it out isn’t quite as ridiculous as leaving eggs out of egg salad. But it’s close.

It’s curry powder. But with a South Indian twist. Not just the uusual suspects. Curry leaves. Star anise. And more chili.

Not a crazy amount of chili. But more. A bit of bite that you won’t get in your run of the mill curry powder.

What I want to know is when they’re going to change the name to Chennai chicken curry?

30 minute chicken madras in a kadai, dal and rice from above.

The sauce is the thing for madras chicken curry

That’s the funny thing about curries. The sauce is the thing. At least for me. The chicken is good. But the sauce is what makes the dish.

So I’m always looking for ways to make a better sauce. It’s about texture. Lush is a word I use a lot.

But it’s about flavour first. Maximum flavour. So I look for it everywhere.

Restaurants pre-cook their chicken. They do it for speed. And they do it for food safety.

Knowing ahead of time that the chicken is cooked takes a big variable out of the equation.

That peace of mind comes at a price. A big price in fact. All those wonderful, flavourful juices from the chicken are lost forever.

Not here though. Here the chicken is poached in the final dish.

All those juices wind up in the sauce. And then in your mouth. Where they belong.

Closeup of chicken madras in a spoon

Restaurant results from restaurant technique

This is pretty close to full blown restaurant techniques. A lot of it is identical. The real change is the way the gravy is made. And cooked.

The rest is pretty much identical. Fry your whole spices. Cook out the garlic ginger paste. Bloom your powdered spices in oil to extract maximum flavour.

Fry the onion gravy. Add the chicken. Adjust the seasoning. That’s the playbook. Get that down and you’re on the path to mastering Indian restaurant style cooking.

It’s not hard. Maybe a little different from what you’re used to. But not hard. Once you understand the process you can cook anything.

The rest of the recipe follows lessons learned from restaurant style. Bloom the spices in oil. That’s important no matter what style you go with.

If you like a little spicy. And you’re craving a lush restaurant sauce. Then this chicken madras is one for you!

Chicken madras in a kadai with rice, parathas and dal from the front

Weeknight cooking – weekend results

This is an old recipe. From 2018 in fact. Originally published as part of a nearly Indian restaurant series. So it’s a retread. All new pictures and text. But a retread nonetheless.

I’m bringing it forward because I believe. Madras chicken curry for all. Any day of the week.

Because good food shouldn’t be a weekend thing. It should be an everyday thing.

Madras chicken curry on Tuesdays. I think that should be a thing. I’m hoping you feel the same.

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4.92 from 23 votes

30 minute chicken madras

You can put a restaurant quality chicken madras curry on the table in 30 minutes.
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword madras curry
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 433kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The onion paste

  • 2 cups onions – coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

chicken madras

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 3 pieces per thigh.
  • 4 tsp madras curry powder – available at any Indian grocery
  • 1 tsp paprika – for colour
  • 2 tsp mild kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kasoor methi – dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 1/2 2 inch piece of cinnamon bark – also called cassia bark
  • 1 tsp kosher salt – use a bit less if you are using table salt
  • big pinch butcher's grind black pepper (coarse grind) – about 1/8 tsp
  • 2 tbsp garlic ginger paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste plus enough water to dilute it to the consistency of tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/6 lemon – juiced


The onion paste

  • Place the onions in a microwave safe dish and cover loosely. Microwave at 70 percent until the onions are soft and translucent. This takes 10 minutes in my 1100 watt microwave. I can’t predict how long it will take in yours…
  • Remove the onions from the microwave. Be careful. They will be hot. Let them cool slightly. Place the onions, 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 1 cup of warm water in a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.

chicken madras

  • In a small bowl, combine the madras curry powder, paprika, Kashmiri chili powder, kasoor methi, black pepper and salt. This is your spice mix.
  • Heat 4 tbsp vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat until it shimmers.
  • Toss in the cinnamon bark and let cook a few seconds. You will see little bubbles forming around the bark.
  • Add the garlic ginger paste and cook until it stops spluttering.
  • Turn the heat to medium low. Add the spice mix and stir continuously until it starts to smell really good – around 30-40 seconds. Watch it carefully. If you burn the spices at this point you have to start over.
  • Add the diluted tomato paste and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the onion paste and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes. The curry will darken a bit as it cooks. Don't worry if it seems a bit dry. The chicken will release tasty, tasty juices as it cooks and you should be left with a nice amount of sauce.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the chicken and stir. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Flip each piece of chicken and continue cooking until the chicken is done. It's done when you measure the internal temperature and it says 170F, about 10-15 minutes. I can't tell you exactly how long this will take. I don't know how big your chicken pieces are.
  • If the curry is a bit thick add a bit of water or chicken stock and stir. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Let the chicken madras simmer another minute or so. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
  • Garnish with a bit of cilantro or fried shallots if desired.


You can buy garlic ginger paste but it’s easy to make and homemade is way better. Here’s an easy recipe for garlic ginger paste. If you cook Indian fairly often it’s so worth it to whip up a batch. It will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 433kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 801mg | Potassium: 670mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 915IU | Vitamin C: 9.7mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2.8mg

45 thoughts on “chicken madras curry – ready in 30 minutes”

  1. 5 stars
    I’m in love with your 30 minute curries. This one is so flavoursome and went well with your so simple dal and my easy peasy flatbreads…

  2. Hi Romain, looking forward to trying this out. Do you have a recipe for Madras curry powder. Would prefer to make my own wherever possible. Thanks in advance, Rachael

  3. 5 stars
    Spot on for those of us in a hurry, and very tasty it is. In middle of making the dal to go along with it, something I never usually like but the look of your one appealed to me x

  4. I will continue to make large quantities of base gravy, because it’s convenient to prepare everything in advance.

    But certainly this is a very good option for putting together a quick meal and in truth, there is no difference in quality, as one might expect.

  5. Romain seriously. In our house you are known as “the blog guy that does the amazing food”. Curries, chilli, mac and cheese. Now I’m wondering why i wasted so much of my life making gravy when i could have just microwaved onions! Please retire soon and write a cookbook, or present a youtube channel or write a joke book. You bring so much joy to many people! Thank you for loving food, it makes us all love food more and the world is better for having people like you.

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, awesome recipe!! I’m really grateful that you started reposting the Easy Indian recipes; who knows how long it would have taken before I had discovered this section otherwise? Simple, fast, yet the end product sometimes even surpasses more complicated version! Like this dish. Who wouldn’t want that? The world needs to know!!

    • Haha. I agree – which is exactly why I am trying again. Tell all your friends. I need help getting the message out.

  7. 5 stars
    Hi Romain

    Another absolutely delicious dish

    So much flavour and taste using the onion as I steam first
    Another winner in my family
    Its almost winter in Cape Town, South Africa.
    Shared with friends and they are all blown away.
    Now I am sharing your webpage.

  8. 5 stars
    This was a big hit with me and my partner! I have made many of your hotel style curries but this dish has received the best marks so far, which is great because it’s so easy to make.

    I steamed the onions for about 10 minutes since I don’t have a microwave to (as far as I know) no ill effect.

    • Steaming onions is a great idea. Thank you for that tip. Everyone who doesn’t have a microwave try this!

  9. Love this recipe 👌.I’m in the uk 🇬🇧 we have some excellent curry houses here this recipe is nearly as good as you say 😊 thanks🙏

  10. Hi, made this today. Very delicious. However, I had a couple of tablespoons of your makhani sauce in the freezer and I substituted for the tomato. Probably changed the flavour profile but was delicious. Enjoy your traditional recipes. Keep up the great work.

  11. 5 stars
    I’ve made this a few times now , I’ve got to admit it’s the best recipe ever, even my brother loves it and he’s not a fan of spice

  12. 5 stars
    Mind blowing! I need to translate the recipe now, because my parents loved it so much, that my mom also wants to make it! This is the first step of converting them to follow glebekitchen, like me!

    • Awesome! Delighted you liked and your parents liked it enough for them to want to be able to cook it themselves:-)

  13. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, some days ago I cooked this dish and it was awesome again! My wife could not stop eating, the children loved it. And I was happy and also enjoying it! Less salt this time, it is amazing that blooming the spices seems to cause less salt necessary, due to the intensity of the spices. And I have to admit that I used ghee instead of vegetable oil, just because I had a can open and I wanted to use it. It worked out fantastic, no separate fat, everything was mingling together perfectly. And it was full of flavour, very delicious. Now I have the feeling that I am more in charge of the proces rather than performing alien steps without knowing what I am doing. Exciting! Never I cooked a curry and the pan was empty so quick! (With previous recipes we put the scraps in the freezer and never touched it again!) Great method, great recipe. We loved it! Can’t wait to cook the next one! Thanks and regards, Daniel and family.

    • That is just awesome to hear Daniel (and family). It sounds like you are on your way to mastering this. I can’t wait to hear how the next one turns out! You always know when you’ve done well if there’s no leftovers:-)

  14. 5 stars
    Thank you for sharing your recipes and cooking tips. I don’t have a microwave so I used my pressure cooker to cook the onion and it worked well. The food was absolutely delicious, great recipe!

  15. 5 stars
    Usually make BIR curries using base but wanted a quick one, but still having that restaurant taste. Wow, so glad I found your recipes, works a treat.

  16. 5 stars
    Authentic restaurant style curry and really easy to make!
    Thanks be to your site. I will try many more of your recipes

    • So glad you liked it. There are a few more nearly restaurant style recipes here and more on the way!

  17. How long would you cook the onions for without a microwave or can you just use the restraunt curry base in your pathia recepie?

    • I’ve never tried doing this without the microwave so I don’t know how it would work out. If you have the curry base why not just make this madras instead?

    • 5 stars
      Andrea, i brown the onions in a pan with some oil. it adds much more flavour to the finished dish. i am intending on trying a little chicken stock instead of water next time also. this is a great recipe! as close to a restaurant madras as i have found.

4.92 from 23 votes (9 ratings without comment)

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