Skip to Content

Is chicken curry and curry chicken the same thing?

Chicken curry and curry chicken are two dishes that are very similar but have some key differences. While both dishes feature chicken and a curry spice blend, the preparation methods and ingredient focus differ. Understanding the distinctions between these dishes can help you decide which recipe to make for your next Indian food night.

Defining Chicken Curry and Curry Chicken

Chicken curry and curry chicken are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing. Here’s a quick definition of each dish:

Chicken Curry: A dish made by braising chicken pieces in a sauce flavored with curry spices and herbs. The sauce is the main feature of chicken curry, with the chicken playing a secondary role.

Curry Chicken: A dish made by seasoning chicken pieces with a curry spice blend and then cooking the chicken, either by grilling, baking or frying. The chicken is the star ingredient, with the curry spices complementing the chicken flavor.

Main Differences Between the Dishes

While both dishes use curry spices, chicken, and sometimes onions and tomatoes, there are some notable ways that chicken curry and curry chicken differ:

  • Sauce focus vs. chicken focus: Chicken curry focuses on the rich, flavorful curry sauce, while curry chicken highlights the chicken itself with curry spices used more sparingly.
  • Simmering vs. dry cooking: Chicken curry involves simmering the chicken in sauce, while curry chicken relies on dry cooking methods like grilling or baking.
  • Whole spices vs. ground: Chicken curries start with whole spices like cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks and curry leaves, while curry chicken uses pre-ground spice blends.
  • More ingredients vs. fewer: Chicken curries have a longer ingredient list including garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes and yogurt or cream. Curry chicken sticks to just chicken, spices and occasional onions.

So in summary, chicken curry is saucier and more involved to prepare, while curry chicken is simpler with a focus on the chicken.

Ingredients in Chicken Curry

Chicken curry relies on a combination of whole spices, aromatics and curry powder to build up layers of flavor. Here are some typical ingredients:

  • Chicken – bone-in cuts like drumsticks or thighs are preferred
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Tomatoes
  • Yogurt or cream
  • Whole spices – cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns
  • Curry powder
  • Fresh herbs – cilantro, mint
  • Coconut milk (in some recipes)
  • Vegetable oil

This combination of aromatics, dairy products, spices and herbs creates a rich sauce with complex flavors surrounding the chicken.

Ingredients in Curry Chicken

Curry chicken focuses mainly on the chicken along with a simple curry spice blend. Typical ingredients include:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • Curry powder
  • Onion (optional)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cilantro

The chicken can be marinated briefly in the spice blend, or the spices can be sprinkled directly onto the chicken before cooking. The result is chicken infused with curry flavors, without a heavy sauce.

Cooking Methods for Each Dish

The different focus of chicken curry and curry chicken is also apparent in the cooking methods used for each dish:

Chicken Curry Curry Chicken
  • Browned onions, garlic, ginger
  • Bloomed whole spices in oil
  • Simmered in sauce for 30+ minutes
  • Marinated chicken in spices
  • Grilled, baked or fried
  • Quick cooked – 15 minutes or less

As shown, chicken curry involves building flavor by simmering the chicken in an aromatic sauce. Curry chicken focuses on quick cooking methods to add spice and enhance the chicken’s flavor.

Serving Suggestions

Chicken curry and curry chicken are both very versatile dishes that can be served:

  • With rice or flatbread to soak up the sauce
  • With a cucumber or yogurt raita on the side
  • With a fresh salad
  • Stuffed into a pita or sandwich
  • On top of chickpeas or lentils
  • Garnished with cilantro

Curry chicken also works well in tacos, fajitas, pizza, pasta and salads due to the pre-spiced chicken. Chicken curry is better suited as a sauce or topping due to its looser consistency.

Key Taste Differences

The tastes of properly prepared chicken curry and curry chicken also differ in noticeable ways:

  • Chicken curry: Deep, complex flavor. Moderate spice level balanced by creamy. Sauce clings to chicken.
  • Curry chicken: Prominent chicken flavor with curry as background. Crisp exterior with tender meat. Curry spices adhere to chicken.

Chicken curry highlights the sauce as the star of the dish, while curry chicken puts the spotlight directly on the chicken. But both dishes deliver aromatic, spice-infused flavor in every bite.

Nutritional Comparison

Both dishes provide protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, chicken curry tends to be higher in calories, carbs, and fat due to the sauce and added ingredients:

Nutrient Chicken Curry (per serving) Curry Chicken (per serving)
Calories 650 450
Fat 35g 15g
Carbs 15g 5g
Protein 30g 40g

So curry chicken provides comparable protein to chicken curry with fewer calories and less fat. But chicken curry offers a richer array of flavors.

Cost Comparison

Chicken curry tends to have a higher cost per serving than curry chicken due to more ingredients:

Dish Estimated Cost Per Serving
Chicken Curry $3.50
Curry Chicken $2.50

The base chicken costs are similar, but the additional spices, aromatics, dairy and prep time increase the price of chicken curry. Curry chicken uses less meat per serving but its lower cost makes it more budget-friendly.

Cost Saving Tips

Here are some tips to cut costs for either dish:

  • Use less expensive chicken pieces like drumsticks or thighs
  • Reduce expensive spices like cardamom
  • Make your own garam masala blend instead of store-bought
  • Substitute plain yogurt for cream
  • Use frozen veggies instead of fresh where applicable
  • Cook larger batches and refrigerate leftovers

Preparation and Cook Time Comparison

Curry chicken is significantly faster to prepare than chicken curry:

Dish Prep Time Cook Time Total Time
Chicken Curry 15-20 mins 45-60 mins 60-80 mins
Curry Chicken 10 mins 15-25 mins 25-35 mins

With a longer ingredient list and simmering time, chicken curry takes nearly twice as long to make as curry chicken. Curry chicken’s shorter cook time makes it better for busy weeknights.

Tips to Shorten Prep Time

You can reduce active cooking time for either dish by:

  • Prepping ingredients ahead of time
  • Using pre-minced garlic and ginger
  • Buying pre-cut vegetables
  • Marinating chicken the night before
  • Cooking chicken in a pressure cooker (for curry)

Ease of Preparation

Curry chicken is generally easier to prepare, especially for beginner home cooks, for a few reasons:

  • Shorter ingredient list
  • Less prep work like chopping and blooming spices
  • No simmering or stirring required
  • More flexible cooking methods

Chicken curry involves more steps like browning onions, making a curry paste, and carefully simmering the sauce. So it’s better suited for more confident cooks.

Tips to Simplify Chicken Curry

You can reduce steps for chicken curry by:

  • Using pre-made curry paste
  • Skipping whole spices and using curry powder
  • Adding onions, garlic, and ginger without browning
  • Simmering in a slow cooker instead of on the stovetop

Which Dish Should You Make?

So should you make chicken curry or curry chicken? Here are some guidelines based on different scenarios:

  • For maximum flavor complexity: Chicken curry
  • For ease of cooking: Curry chicken
  • For quicker weeknight cooking: Curry chicken
  • To highlight chicken flavor: Curry chicken
  • For lower calories/fat: Curry chicken
  • For entertaining/impressing guests: Chicken curry
  • For currying on a budget: Curry chicken

The saucy richness of chicken curry makes it best for low-stress weekends and celebratory meals. Curry chicken suits busier schedules thanks to faster prep. Choose based on your time, budget, and flavor preferences.

Adapting Leftovers

Both dishes make great leftovers. Here are some ideas for repurposing them throughout the week:

  • Chicken curry: Stir into rice or quinoa bowls, add to omelets or scrambled eggs, use as filling for samosas or hand pies, spoon over roasted vegetables.
  • Curry chicken: Toss with pasta, stuff into sandwiches/wraps/pitas, cube for salad topping, dice for fried rice or veggie stir-fry.

With versatile flavors and ingredients, chicken curry and curry chicken are easy to reinvent into quick meals later in the week.


Chicken curry and curry chicken both provide delicious and aromatic chicken dishes using curry spices. Chicken curry spotlights a complex sauce with the chicken playing a supporting role. Curry chicken simplifies the recipe to highlight curry-infused chicken. Choose chicken curry for an impressive weekend meal, and opt for curry chicken to get a flavorful dinner on the table fast during the work week. Either way, you can’t go wrong when chicken meets curry!