Transform the korma you know into a vibrant curry with tender chicken and a beautifully balanced blend of spices. Shahi korma is a perfect centerpiece for your next party. If you are a chicken lover you will also love my Kerala Chicken Curry or my Weeknight Chicken Vindaloo. And an Instant Pot chicken korma as well.
A Royal Mughlai Chicken Dish
Korma is one of the classic sauces of India, and it means "to braise." The ingredients change from region to region. For example, the South Indian korma is called kurma, and it is built on a base of coconut. On the other hand, Kashmiri korma is a well-loved, intensely flavored mutton curry. Black cardamom is added to the spice mix, and this korma doesn't have the familiar creamy sauce.
Shahi means royal, and this chicken korma is a favorite North Indian dish served at celebrations. The additions that make a Shahi Korma are cashew cream and yogurt for a luxuriously creamy sauce.
Many restaurant kormas are disappointingly sweet and bland. This recipe is packed with flavor from spices and aromatics. While you can certainly add a teaspoon or two of sugar, I prefer a less sweet and more savory korma.
Experiment until your heart's content with what you would like to feature in this sauce. If you want a vegetarian korma, substitute in paneer or a mix of vegetables. Even a potato korma would be delicious.
Also, you decide whether to make a mild dish as I've written this recipe or a spicy chicken korma with more heat by adding additional chilies to your taste.
What is Special About Shahi Korma
- Enriched with cashew cream for a silky, sumptuous sauce
- A mild but flavorful chicken curry that will please everyone
- Can be made ahead to save time for when it comes to serving
- Built on a freshly made magical blend of spices
- This recipe is celebration-worthy ~ Less sweet and more sumptious
Ingredients & Substitutions
This chicken korma’s exotic flavor comes from a blend of toasted and ground spices.
Protein: Skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts.
Spices: Cinnamon, fennel, clove, Kashmiri chili powder, bay leaf, and paprika are the key spices.
Thickeners: Cashews and optionally, white poppyseed.
Aromatics: Ginger, garlic, green chili, and onion.
Liquid: Yogurt, water, lemon juice, and cream (optional).
How to Make this Korma
As with most curries, you can break the cooking steps down to fit your schedule. By doing short chunks of the preparation over several days, you will make an even more flavorful Indian chicken korma in the process. All the steps can be made ahead, or you could cook the korma from start to finish a day or two before serving.
If you want to marinate the chicken longer than 3 hours, leave out the lemon juice until just before cooking so the chicken doesn't become mushy.
The marinade is a mix of ginger, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. While the chicken is resting, make the cashew paste (1) with water and white poppyseed, if using.
2. Toast and grind the whole spices.
Toasted and ground the spices
3. Build the sauce by browning the onions in ghee (or oil) and more ginger and garlic paste.
Add in the Kashmiri chili powder, paprika, turmeric, and ground spices. Cook for a few minutes. Puree the mixture with 1/3 cup water and set aside.
Onions beautifully browned.
Cook the sauce until the oil separates.
4. Add remaining ghee or oil to the saucepan and stir in the onion paste and green chili. Cook until the oil separates from the rest of the sauce; about 5 minutes.
5. Turn the heat up and add the marinated chicken. Cook for 4 minutes. Stir in the water and cover. Cook at a very gentle simmer for about 12 minutes (8 minutes if using chicken breast or vegetables), or until done.
6. Stir in the cashew cream, yogurt, lemon juice, and raisins (if used). Simmer for 3 minutes, or until the sauce comes together. Add some optional cream at this point. Garnish and you have a party-worthy dish!
Chicken in a flavorful sauce.
The finished Shahi chicken korma.
Questions and Answers
Toasting and grinding whole spices take a dish from very good to memorable. Even a newly opened bottle of ground spices will not have the aroma and flavor of freshly ground whole spices. Spices have essential oils that dissipate after grinding so the fresher the better.
If you are short on time, you could substitute the whole spices with
1 teaspoon of garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom.
They are both mild, creamy chicken curries cooked with onions, ginger, and garlic. But butter chicken is cooked in a tomato and butter gravy. Whereas chicken korma is braised in a garlic and ginger spiked yogurt sauce enriched with ground cashews.
Tips and Tricks
Make this chicken curry ahead. As with many curries, you will have a more flavorful dish. And you won't need to do all the cooking the day you are serving it.
The most time-consuming aspect of this recipe is the 35 to 45 minute cooking of the onions until they become deeply caramelized. Don't rush this step because the beautifully browned onions serve as the flavor backbone for this dish.
Making cashew cream is a revelatory method of giving sauces a rich creaminess without cream. You won't miss the dairy and it is easy to do. Follow my detailed method for making a smooth cashew cream.
What to Serve with Chicken Korma & Storing
Serve Shahi Chicken Korma with rice, pappadums, naan, or any flatbread of your choice. It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This curry also freezes quite well for up to two months if stored in an airtight container.
More Chicken Curry Recipes
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Please rate by clicking stars ⭐️ on the recipe card and/or let me know in the comments below. Thank you! ~Alonna
Oh, and by the way—This recipe is one of the top 20 Indian favorite dishes. Take a look!
Recipe Card 📖
Shahi Chicken Korma (Mughlai Murgh)
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs ~ Cut in quarters, see first Note below
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste ~ Or 1 1/2 teaspoon each garlic & ginger, finely minced, buy or make
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice ~ Or lime juice
- 3/4 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Or 1 1/2 tsps of kosher salt. About substitutions
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1 tablespoon Indian white poppy seeds ~ Optional; see second Note below
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 2-inch piece of cinnamon ~ Broken into pieces
The Korma Sauce
- 3 tablespoons ghee or a neutral oil ~ Divided. Buy ghee or make
- 2 cups yellow or white onions ~ Thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon table or sea salt
- 2-inch fresh ginger ~ Peeled & sliced OR 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste (divided in 1/2)
- 3 garlic cloves ~ Thinly sliced OR skip if using the paste above
- 1 small Indian chili ~ Seeded and minced (1/2 tsp) OR substitutions. More to taste.
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Substitutes
- 1 teaspoon paprika ~ Not smoked
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt ~ Buy or make
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice ~ Or lime juice, to taste
- 2 tablespoons raisins ~ Optional
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, optional ~ Or coconut milk. I usually don't add, but you decide if the dish needs it!
- 1/4 cup cilantro ~ Coarsely chopped
- toasted almonds or cashews ~ Whole or chopped
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or yogurt ~ To drizzle
- Place 1 tablespoon of the ginger garlic paste in a bowl with lemon juice and salt. Mix and add chicken pieces; mix to coat thoroughly. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. If you are marinating the chicken for longer than 3 hours, leave the lemon juice out until just before cooking.
- While the chicken is marinating soak the cashews in hot water for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Puree cashews, poppy seeds (if using), and 1/3 cup of water in a blender (see last Note). Set aside.
Toast & Grind Whole Spices
- In a small skillet over medium heat add fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, and cinnamon. Toast for a minute or two, until fragrant. Be sure not to over toast. Let cool for several minutes.
- Using a spice grinder, blend to a fine powder. Pass the powder through a sieve, grinding any larger pieces again. Sieve again and discard the small amount of coarse spice left behind. Set aside.
Make the Korma Sauce
- While the chicken is marinating and the cashews are soaking start your sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and add sliced ginger, sliced garlic, onions, and salt. (If using ginger garlic paste, add the first tablespoon after the onions have been cooked.)
- Cook the onions until deeply caramelized; 25 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes and add a tablespoon of water, or more as needed, if the onions begin sticking on the bottom of the pan. Also, lower the heat if necessary, to avoid burning. Add the first 1 tablespoon of ginger garlic paste now, (if using instead of the sliced ginger and garlic). Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the ground spices, Kashmiri chili powder, paprika, and turmeric to the onions, and stir for 1 minute to cook through and the paste smells fragrant.
- Puree mixture with 1/3 cup water and set aside.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoons of ghee or oil to the saucepan, over medium heat. Stir in the onion paste, the last tablespoon of the ginger garlic paste (if using), and the green chili. Cook until the oil separates from the rest of the sauce. About 5 to 6 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the marinated chicken. Cook for 4 minutes. Pour in 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook at a very gentle simmer, covered for about 12 minutes (8 minutes if using chicken breast or vegetables), or until the meat is done.
- Stir in the cashew cream, yogurt, lemon juice, and raisins (if using). Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the sauce comes together.
- Stir in 4 tablespoons of cream (if using). I don't use this extra enrichment but taste the sauce and see if you think it needs cream to mellow it out. Also, taste for salt, acid, and heat. Add more lemon juice if needed.
- Garnish as you wish. There are some ideas above.
- I don’t typically recommend chicken breast in Indian chicken curries because it tends to dry out. This is one dish that you can get away with using white meat if you are careful not to overcook it. Lamb would be delicious too but will take much longer to cook.
- Indian poppy seeds are white and if you can’t find them, leave them out. You are going for a light-colored masala for this dish.
- To create the magic of this curry, do not hasten the browning of the onions. Put on an audiobook, listen to a podcast, or better yet, have some engaging company in the kitchen, with a glass of something fun while you enjoy this step.
- If you want a vegetarian meal, substitute paneer, cubed potatoes, or a mix of your favorite vegetables, instead of chicken.
- If you want a dairy-free dish, substitute yogurt with plant-based yogurt.
- If you are having trouble getting a smooth paste for your cashew and poppy seed puree, here are some solutions:
- If you have a Vitamix or Indian grinder/mixie, both are perfect for getting a smooth consistency.
- Also, a personal blender like a Bullet or Tribest works very well.
- I have found that my Ninja blender failed, given the small volume of ingredients that you need to blend for this recipe.
- Another option is to grind the cashews and poppy seeds (if using) in a spice grinder, then proceed with the recipe as written. Use a strainer to remove the larger pieces, if you find it is necessary.
- Lastly, giving the cashews a soak for at least 30 minutes or more will help them break down
- If you want an instant pot recipe for korma, see my Instant Pot chicken korma recipe.
- Indian chicken korma is one of the Top 20 Dishes in India, enjoy!