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Easy Indian Chicken Masala | Low carb, One Pan Chicken Curry

Coconut chicken masala is a simple yet flavourful low carb Indian chicken recipe you can throw together with commonly found spices and aromatics. A succulent and mild chicken curry with a perfectly spiced coconut gravy that’s so good you’ll be making this every weekend. 

Coconut chicken masala in a Balti bowl with a blue napkin.

 Low in carbs and high in protein, this healthy keto friendly curry pairs well with cauliflower rice or low carb flatbreads.

Only 6.3g and a healthy 44g of protein per serving!

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Coconut chicken masala is a one pan curry made with Indian spices such as turmeric, cumin, and garam masala, simmered in a rich coconut gravy.  This low carb chicken recipe pairs well with rice, naan bread, or cauliflower rice, and is a warm and comforting weekend meal for the family. 

A bowl of chicken masala with gravy in a silver Balti bowl served with cauliflower rice.

Recipe Card

Easy Indian Coconut Chicken Masala

A silver Balti bowl with low carb chicken masala, garnished.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 432 kcal
Net Carbs 6.2 g
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Coconut chicken masala is a simple, mildly spiced Indian chicken recipe you can make using common Indian spices. This low carb curry features tender pieces of chicken in a rich and falvourful coconut gravy. A healthy keto friendly Indian chicken recipe that pairs beautifully with cauliflower rice, low carb flatbreads, or roasted vegetables. So simple anyone can make this!

IMPORTANT – There are often Frequently Asked Questions within the blog post that you may find helpful. Simply scroll back up to read them!

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Equipment

  • Knife and Cutting Board
  • large saucepan or Dutch oven with a lid

Ingredients
 
 

  • ¼ cup oil/butter/ghee plus extra for frying
  • 1 large red or yellow onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons ginger paste
  • 2 whole chilies green or red
  • 4 whole green cardamom pods spilt
  • 1 stick cinnamon about 2" [5cm]
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 large tomato diced
  • 2 pounds skinless chicken boneless, or bone in legs/thighs
  • 3 tablespoons creamed coconut (about 3 inches) or 5 oz coconut milk
  • salt to taste

Masala (Spice Mix)

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the masala (spice blend). In a small bowl, combine the Kashmiri chili powder, paprika, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, cumin, black pepper, salt. Set aside.
    ¼ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, ½ tablespoon paprika, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 tablespoons corriandar, 2 teaspoons garam masala, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1½ teaspoon salt
  • Fry onions, garlic, and ginger. Add the oil to a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until they turn translucent and begin to brown. Add the garlic, and ginger paste, season with salt, and combine well. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until the garlic starts to brown.
    ¼ cup oil/butter/ghee, 1 large red or yellow onion, 2 tablespoons garlic paste, 2 tablespoons ginger paste, salt to taste
    Fried onions, garlic, and ginger in a large saucepan.
  • Add spices and aromatics. Push the onions to the sides of the pot to exposed the bottom and make a well. Add additional oil to the well if it appears dry. To the well add, whole chilies, green cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and fennel seed. Cook for around 1 minute, until the fennel seeds begin to pop. Add in the masala, stir to combine and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes to toast the spices. Add additional oil as needed, a be careful not to burn the spices.
    2 whole chilies, 4 whole green cardamom pods, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 teaspoon fennel seed, salt to taste
    Spices and aromatics for chicken masala in a pot with onions.
  • Water fry spices and onions into a paste. Add the water to the saucepan 2-3 tablespoons at a time, stirring in between and allowing the water to completely cook off before adding the next 2-3 tablespoons. Repeat for the remaining water, the onions and spices should have started to break down into a paste. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for around 5 minutes until tender.
    ½ cup water, 1 large tomato
    Water fried onions and spices in a pot.
  • Add chicken and cook. Nestle the chicken into the onion and masala mixture in the saucepan. If using bone in chicken thighs, place top side down for around 5 minutes to cook, and the flip over to cook for another 5 minutes. For boneless chicken, brown on all sides.
    2 pounds skinless chicken
    Cooked chicken coated in masala paste.
  • Simmer and cover until tender. Add enough water to just about cover the chicken in the saucepan. Place a lid on the pot, and bring to a boil, once boiling reduce to a simmer and allow the curry to simmer for 35-40 minutes for bone in chicken, and 20-25 minutes for boneless chicken. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pot occasionally to prevent burning. Simmer until the chicken is tender.
    3 tablespoons creamed coconut (about 3 inches)
    Chicken and masala gravy in a large pot.
  • Add coconut and cilantro. Add the cubed creamed coconut, or coconut milk, and fresh cilantro. Simmer uncovered for at least 10 minutes, or until the gravy has reached your desired consistency. Season with salt to taste.
  • Rest, garnish, and serve. Turn off the heat, and allow the chicken masala to rest uncovered for at least 5-8 minutes before garnishing with cilantro, chopped chilies, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
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Notes

Adjusting the salt: The amount of salt shown on the recipe card is the minimum. Its important to salt as you go and taste when appropriate. 
Adjusting the spice level: For a spicier chicken masala, replace all the paprika with Kashmiri red chili powder or cayenne pepper. For a milder curry, replace the Kashmiri red chili powder with paprika. 
Kashmiri red chili powder vs. Chili powder: Kashmiri red chili powder it made from crushed, and ground hot chilies, and is quite spicy. It is NOT the same thing as "Chili powder" often sold in grocery store which contains a mix of southwestern American inspired spices often used in chili and Tex-mex cuisine. 
Creamed coconut or coconut milk: Creamed coconut is a pantry stable brick of dehydrated coconut that will melt into the gravy giving it a rich coconut flavour. Look for it in the aisles of your grocery store or order it online. You can also substitute full fat coconut milk instead. 
If you cant find Kashmiri red chili powder, use ground cayenne powder.

Nutrition

Calories: 432kcalCarbohydrates: 8.7gProtein: 43.7gFat: 24.5gSaturated Fat: 13.6gSodium: 825mgPotassium: 530mgFiber: 2.4gSugar: 2.6gVitamin C: 8.4mgCalcium: 70mgIron: 3.3mgSugar Alcohols: 0.1gNet Carbs: 6.2g

Nutritional information is calculated using the recipe calculator and verified database available from Cronometer. Although every reasonable effort is made to provide accurate information this estimate is provided as courteously and convenience only. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe.

Try the free recipe calculator at Cronometer
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Keywords: Chicken curry, Desi Keto, Indian

What is Chicken Masala?

The word “masala” simply refers to a blend of spices or a spice mix, a term often used in Indian cuisine. Chicken masala is a fairly common Indian chicken recipe made from chicken, spices, herbs, onions, garlic, cream, and sometimes tomatoes. There are numerous different variations of masala out there. This version is very similar to chicken bhuna masala and has tender pieces of chicken simmered in a succulent, spiced coconut gravy.

Low carb chicken masal curry in a silver bowl on a white surface with a bowl of cauliflower rice.

Chicken masala is a very simple, and accessible Indian recipe for anyone looking to dip their toes into Indian cooking. It uses commonly found Indian spices that can be purchased from the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores or ordered online. 

If you’ve ever cooked Indian food before you likely have most of these already, otherwise you only need to stock up once and then keep them in your spice cupboard until you undoubtedly make this again. 

Tip: Do not buy Indian spices in the little glass jars you find in the spice aisle, its a rip off. Look for the large bags of loose spices in the ethnic aisle or purchase from a bulk food store like Bulk barn. It’s 2-3 times cheaper and you get way more. Indian cooking uses a lot of spices and you will blow through those overpriced jars in no time.

Is chicken Masala the same as Chicken Tikka Masala?

Chicken masala and Chicken Tikka Masala are not the same thing. The definition of chicken masala is quite loose and can refer to any number of spices.

Chicken tikka masala on the other hand generally contains small chunks of yogurt marinated chicken which are grilled, and then added to a creamy spiced gravy, it tastes quite smokey and bold while this one pan chicken is cooked to perfect right in the rich coconut gravy.

Is Indian Chicken Masala Healthy and Keto Friendly?

Coconut chicken masala is a healthy low carb recipe that is packed with protein, and essential minerals such as electrolytes. Its made with no artificial colours, sweeteners, sugars, seed oils, or unnecessary fillers.

This Indian chicken recipe is a clean keto recipe that the whole family can enjoy. The few carbs in this recipe come primarily from whole foods like onions, garlic, tomato, coconut, and ginger with a small portion coming from dried spices. 

Some of the spices used such as turmeric and ginger have been long reported to be beneficial for your health and have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. 

What is in chicken Masala?

Although there are many variations of chicken masala out there, this low carb version uses only common, easy to find spices and aromatics. Feel free to add any of your favourite Indian spices that aren’t listed here. 

  • Oil/butter/ghee/coconut oil – A good curry will need a good amount of fat. This is used for cooking and should be used liberally as needed anytime the saucepan appears too dry. Don’t be afraid to be a little heavy handed. Ghee is traditional but use any of your preferred cooking oils, avoid using olive oil for Indian cooking.  
  • Onion, Garlic, Ginger – These are basically the holly trinity of Indian cooking. Almost every dish will start with these in some form, and they are the foundation of the rich coconut gravy. 
  • Hot Chilies – Birds Eye Chilies, sometimes called Thai chilies are the preferred choice. Red or green can be used. If you can find them use a jalapeno or a serrano.
  • Aromatics –  Used to infuse gentle flavours into the curry as it simmers. This recipe uses: green cardamom, cinnamon stick, and fennel seeds.
  • Masala (Spice Mix) – The masala used is a combination of: Kashmiri red chili (or cayenne) powder, paprika, turmeric, coriander, Garam masala, cumin, salt, and black pepper.   
  • Tomato – A single diced tomato helps balance the heat and spices throughout the dish. Use a 1/4-1/2 cup diced canned tomato as a substitution. 
  • Chicken – I always prefer skinless bone in chicken thighs for curry. It can handle the long simmering time and has a ton of flavour. You may use any cut of chicken you like, boneless or bone in, just remove the skin before adding it to the curry. 
  • Creamed coconut – Creamed coconut, sometimes called “coconut butter” but not to be confused with “coconut cream” is a shelf stable, block of concentrated coconut.  Its solid, but melts when heated and adds an intense coconut flavour to recipes. You may use a can of coconut milk or cream in its place. 
Chunks of Grace creamed coconut with the box.
  • Garnish – Fresh cilantro, chopped chilies, sliced onions, and freshly squeezed lime juice can be added after the chicken masala has cooked to bring some bright flavours and texture to the dish. 
Two succulent chicken thighs in low carb masala gravy.

What to serve with Chicken Masala

Coconut chicken masala with its rich, succulent gravy needs something to soak up all that yumminess. Indian chicken recipes like this are traditionally served over basmati rice, with a vegetable bhaji, or an Indian flatbread. 

For a healthy low carb meal try pairing this recipe with some roasted cauliflower rice, keto  “aloo” bhaji, or my Dadi’s zucchini Bhaji recipe.

For side dish inspiration check out my dedicated post for low carb side dishes that pair well with curry.

Try one of these low carb sides!

Pro Tips for making Indian Chicken Masala

  • Be generous with the oil and salt – As my father always said, fat and salt are flavour. Indian curries are so delicious in part because of the fat and salt used so this is not the time to skimp. 
  • Be patient – Another important factor in Indian cooking is time. It takes time to break down the onions into the gravy, develop complex flavours, and mellow out the spices used. A rushed curry is not a good curry. The gravy won’t have those deep flavours you’re used to, it will taste over spiced, and the chicken won’t be tender. 
    • For bone in chicken: simmer at least 35-40 minutes. 
    • For boneless chicken: Simmer at least 20-25 minutes. 
  • Always cook your spices! – A crucial step is to toast or temper the spices. In this recipe the spices are tempered in hot oil to start the gravy. This helps mellow out the flavours an distribute them evenly in the recipe. Never add raw spices directly to the gravy.
  • Water fry the onions – Water frying is an often overlooked step in Indian cooking. Many recipes say to use a blender to break down the onions, in my opinion that is a worthy shortcut but not the real deal. 
  • Let the curry rest before serving – Much like a juicy steak this recipe does best with a brief rest after cooking. Remove from the heat and allow the chicken masala to rest with or without a lid for at least 5 minutes before serving. Resting allows the chicken to relax and absorb some of the spices from the gravy. This also makes the chicken become softer and tender.

Storing leftover chicken masala

Much like other Indian curries, this recipe makes excellent leftovers and meal prep. The flavours meld and combine in the fridge making it taste even better the next day!

To store leftovers, allow the chicken to cool and place in a sealed air tight container. For meal prep divide evenly amongst sealed microwave safe containers along with your choice of side dish. 

Store in the fridge for use within 5 days. 

To reheat, place in the microwave and cover loosely with a spatter cover of paper towel to avoid a mess.  Heat on high until warmed through. 

You can also reheat on the stovetop in a saucepan over medium-low heat until warmed through.

Is Keto Chicken Masala Freezer Friendly?

This recipe is a flavour packed low carb freezer meal, great for meal prepping and work lunches. Once the curry has cooled, transfer to a sealed airtight container or resealable freezer bag. Place in the freezer for up to 2 months. 

Thaw in the fridge overnight, or place the frozen curry directly into a saucepan on the stove, or in a crockpot to thaw slowly until warmed through and ready to eat. You can also thaw using the microwave, be sure to remove the curry from the freezer bag before using the microwave or ensure that the plastic is microwave safe.

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Coconut chicken masala in a Balti bowl with a blue napkin.

Enjoy!

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