Classic Indian Chicken Curry: “Dhaba-Style”


My memories of dhaba-style chicken curry is that it is mostly very yellow (thanks to the heaps of turmeric powder that goes in) and that it is very tasty and spicy! Our version of this dish was also very hot, spicy and flavorful. A lot of you would agree that there is nothing like the yellow chicken curry that the dhabas in India serve! Without going into too many details, for our non-Indian friends, a “dhaba” is like a diner on a highway equivalent- just very very rustic and basic. But to have this dish you don’t necessarily need to go to one. I think I have had some great (Indian) chicken curry at some decent restaurants in Delhi & Bombay and of course at home cooked by mom.  So we attempted to recreate this classic dish in our kitchen and it sure was finger-licking good!! In fact one of my favorite food is “chicken curry & rice”- yum yum yum! The best part of this is that most of the ingredients are almost always present in any (Indian) kitchen. Here is how we made it- 

Classic Indian Chicken Curry: “Dhaba-Style”

Yield: 2-3 servings


  • 5-6 pieces of boneless chicken thighs or leg pieces (increase your cooking times by about 20 minutes if you are using chicken with bones)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola or olive oil
  • 1 small dried bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4-5 cloves
  • 1-2 small cinnamon sticks
  • ½ a teaspoon black peppercorns, whole
  • 1-2 small cardamoms
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¾ medium onion, pureed
  • 2 medium tomatoes, pureed
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped green chili, optional depending on your tolerance for spicy food
  • 1-1 ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (I like it very yellow so usually put about 2 heaping teaspoons!)
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt, add more depending on your taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 3 tablespoons plain or Greek yoghurt
  • 4-6 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves


  1. Coarsely grind together the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, bay leaf, peppercorns and cumin seeds.
  2. In a heavy bottom pan/ base of a pressure cooker, add the oil and the coarsely ground mixture and sauté for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the pureed onions and the chopped ginger. Sauté until the onions change color, for about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Then add the tomato puree and the chopped garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped green chili, turmeric powder, red chili powder, ground coriander and garam masala powder.
  6. Mix well and then add the chicken and the salt and cook it on high flame until the chicken roasts a bit (stirring occasionally) – for about 10-12 minutes.
  7. Next add the yoghurt and mix well. Lower your flame and cover with a lid and cook until the chicken is cooked. This can take about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Make sure to stir at reasonable intervals to ensure that the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Usually the chicken will release its juices and there will be water from the yoghurt and tomatoes but if you think the chicken is sticking to the pan, add a few sprinkles of water to deglaze and cover again and cook on low flame. Also add half of the chopped coriander half way through cooking.
  8. After about 13-14 minutes (or sometimes more) and when the chicken starts to look cooked (the pieces will start falling apart), add about 4-5 cups of water and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  9. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve with basmati jeera rice!


how simply irresistible is this!




  1. Your blog is amazing thanks for sharing a post..

  2. 4-5 cups of water for what?

  3. Paani jyada ho gya tumhari vajah se ! par ban gya. Thanks guys

  4. Hi,
    The recipe luks fantastic. i am gona try it..Just one question,dont we need to marinate the chicken…?if yes can you please recommend the marinade..?

    Great help friend. Thank you!

  5. Hi,
    The recipe was really simple to make and turned out great for me. I did however use my own proportions for most ingredients such as the spices and onions (I used 4 onions since i had more chicken, instead of the 3/4 mentioned here). Putting some whole spices also helped add a bit of zing. And finally, I also added just a bit of fresh cream (2 tsp) at the end to add heaviness to the gravy. Turned out quite fabulous and well appreciated! Thanks and look forward to making more recipes from this site.

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  7. Hello! It is my first visit on your blog, and all your recipes look very good. Bravo!

  8. Hi Scott- Great to know you tried & loved the recipe. And it does sound like a good idea to brown the chicken in a separate pan to get a crisp crust! Do send us a picture of what you cooked if you have one. 🙂

  9. Great recipe and as good as any restaurant bought Dhaba Curry I have ever tried. I also browned my chicken thighs off in a separate pan and then transferred the liquid mix to that to scrap off and grab all the browned goodness from the pan. The depth of flavour was amazing!

  10. Looks like a fantastic recipe…….

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