chicken korma – lucknavi style

Chicken korma, or murgh kurma,  is the characteristic Mughal recipe – it is mildly spiced, delicate and elegant. This is the way the dish is prepared in Lucknow and is a great example of Awadhi cuisine.

Korma dishes can be traced back to the 16th century and the Mughal incursions into present-day Northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

A korma is a braise of meat or vegetables in yogurt or cream. The technique covers many different styles of korma, and is discussed in what is korma?

The flavour of a korma depends upon a subtle mixture of spices and yogurt kept below curdling temperature, incorporated slowly and carefully with the meat juices.

This recipe could best be described by what is NOT in it. There is no chilli. This recipe pre-dates the arrival of chillies into India by centuries. Such heat as the dish has comes from the so-called “hot” spices – cumin, coriander, cinnamon (or cassia), cardamom and cloves. There is no fresh ginger. Many northern Indian dishes do not use fresh ginger, but use dried ginger powder, as this one does. There are no onions or garlic. Some traditional beliefs say that onion and garlic “heat the blood” and must be avoided, so asafoetida is used instead. There is no turmeric.

The chicken won’t be swimming in a rich, creamy, sloppy sauce. You need to be careful adding the yoghurt, and the amount described will give a small amount of sauce to hold the dish together. Most people’s experience of a korma is usually from a curry house, and most of those tend to prepare the dish with copious quantities of cream and yoghurt – not how the dish should be.

Because of the suggested overnight marination, you should start this recipe the day before.

To be successful with this dish do not hurry. It doesn’t take long to cook, but if you try to do it too fast you will curdle the yoghurt. Don’t be tempted to add chilli as this is not what this korma is about. If you want a hotter dish, try our recipe for a south Indian korma instead.

What you will end up with is a mild and aromatic dish. It has a delicate flavour, and is very elegant in its structure.

This is a staple dish in our home cooking repertoire. We would typically serve this at home with a pulao, or some chapatis.

Its simple elegance and easy preparation make it a good choice for entertaining. If doing so and you scale the quantities up, make sure you use a big pan. You need to ensure you braise the chicken rather than stew it.

the recipe

preparation:15 mins
cook:30 mins
marinate:12 hrs
total:45 mins
servings:4 servings
calories:659 kcal


  • 800 g chicken thigh filletsskin removed, scored and cut into 3cm pieces

for the marinade

for the sauce

to serve


to marinate

  • Toast and grind the coriander seeds, then set aside.
  • Put the ghee in a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cassia, cardamom pods, cloves and cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, take off the heat and allow to cool.
  • Once cooled, remove and reserve the bay leaves from the pan. Transfer the remaining spice mix to a blender and add the ground coriander seeds and salt. Add a little water and blend to a paste of the same consistency as mustard.
  • Place chicken in a mixing bowl, cover with the paste from the blender and mix well, ensuring that the chicken is evenly coated. Add the reserved bay leaves. Cover, refrigerate and marinate overnight.

to cook

  • Warm the milk, then add the saffron threads. Stir and set aside to infuse.
  • Heat the ghee in a wide frying pan over a medium heat and when hot, add the asafoetida and ginger powder. Stir and fry for 30 seconds.
  • Add the the chicken and marinade, mix well, and cook for five minutes or until the chicken starts to colour.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and add the yoghurt one tablespoon at a time, ensuring it is well combined before adding next tablespoon. Cook the chicken, uncovered, on a very low simmer for 20 minutes.  Do not allow to boil, or the yoghurt will split and curdle.
  • When chicken is cooked, stir in the saffron infused milk, and mix well.

to serve

  • Remove from heat, then sprinkle with coriander leaves and almonds to serve.
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