Mom’s Recipes: Dry Masala Chicken

This recipe is way overdue as I was supposed to share this beauty weeks and weeks ago. Sorry to those who asked for the recipe — I had not forgotten!

I think my chicken curry cooking skills are fairly honed by this point. I like to alternate between regular chicken curry (using red chili powder and a tomato base) and coconut curry chicken (using green chilis and a coconut milk base) at least once or twice a month. I definitely prefer to use bone-in chicken thighs as the flavor and tenderness are far better than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Last week I was strapped for time and used boneless skinless chicken breast to make curry, then immediately regretted it. It’s ok…but it’s not the best.

After making these curries on a consistent basis, I wanted to venture out to try my mom’s dry masala chicken. It is basically the same process as the chicken curry, but with a lot more time and TLC. As with any curry, the key is to let the dry spices cook for a long time to let those flavors really bloom. The darker the masala gets, the tastier it will be. Trust me, be patient, and it will be worth the wait!

Without a doubt, like a good curry, this chicken should be made with bone-in chicken. Thighs are the most tender; you could also use a combination of thighs and drumsticks. I remove the skin and cut the thighs in half to make them smaller. If you have a good butcher knife and a little courage, feel free to chop horizontally through the bone. Nirav usually will do this for me, and my mom is a pro at this. When I made it, I sliced the thigh lengthwise along the bone to split it in half and kept the bone intact. This was purely about safety for me since I’m already a klutz when not wielding a knife.

The nice thing about this chicken is that you can serve it with a side or two of veggies and be totally content. This is perfect for people following a grain-free diet. Of course, you can certainly eat it with rice or any variety of Indian breads like naan, poori, chapatti, roti, or my personal favorite, flaky, buttery parathas! I hope it knocks your socks off!

Dry Masala Chicken


2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs
3 inch piece of peeled, fresh ginger (don’t need to chop)
6-8 cloves whole garlic
1/2 a large red onion, sliced thinly
1/3 cup red wine
Garam masala (I had fresh ground that my mom made) – amount depends on your chicken amount (for 2 lbs probably used 2-3 tbsp)
1/2 tbsp red chili powder (more or less according to your spice preference)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp mustard seeds
Oil of your choice (I use coconut oil)
4-6 cariapala (curry leaves) – optional
4-5 whole cardamon pods
4-5 whole cloves
Salt to taste


Raw Chicken:
— remove skin and cut each thigh in half (either lengthwise along the bone or width-wise though the bone)
–wash then place in a collander to let as much liquid strain out while prepping the rest of the ingredients

In a blender/single serve blender/magic bullet:
–blend the garlic and ginger with a little bit of water to make paste.

Over low-medium heat in a large pot (enough to hold all the chicken):
* There is NO oil in the pot at this point*
— and add the freshly made ginger/garlic paste, garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric, and black pepper
–saute on low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir often so it doesn’t burn as there is no oil.
Add the washed/strained chicken and mix well.
Add salt.
Cover and let cook for 10-15 minutes. There will be some water from the chicken which is ok.
Remove the pieces of chicken to another dish. Leave the liquid in the original pot and keep the flame on medium.
Add 1-2 tbsp oil, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, and curry leaves to the liquid in the pot and let it saute for a few minutes.
Add the sliced red onions and saute. Let the liquids reduce down very well.
Once the onions are quit dry from sautéing,  add red wine to deglaze.
Let reduce down again over low-medium heat.
Once the onions are well cooked and most of the liquid is evaporated, add the chicken back in and mix to coat well. Let the chicken finish cooking (it will take longer since it has bone) over LOW heat. You want all the remaining liquid to evaporate, and the masala will turn a dark brown color.
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