This easy leftover chicken curry recipe with tomatoes, fragrant spices and creamy yogurt is a favourite family dinner to use up leftover roast chicken. On the table in 30 minutes, it’s quick to make and loved by kids.
One of my favourite economical ways to include chicken in our weekly meal plan is to roast a whole chicken and then use the leftovers over the following days. It’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken per kg / pound and I find leftover chicken is quicker to make into another dish on busy weeknights. Whether it’s the super quick chicken mayo sandwich, coronation chicken or chicken naan, or slightly longer leftover chicken pie or curry.
Why we love this recipe
- Chicken curry with left over chicken is a delicious family friendly dinner making the most of chicken leftovers.
- It is a useful recipe for using the last bits of roast chicken or rotisserie chicken. Use chicken thighs, chicken breasts, and also any slightly overcooked and dry bits of chicken.
- It is a mild chicken curry – like my chicken pasanda and slow cooker beef madras, this mild curry recipe is packed with flavour and popular with kids.
- This recipe for leftover chicken curry is made with tomatoes and a little yogurt to create a low calorie, healthy and gluten free curry.
- You can easily use this recipe to make a leftover turkey curry – just sub in leftover Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey!
Ingredients notes and substitutions
- Cooked chicken – cooked roast chicken or rotisserie chicken.
- Garlic – 3 cloves fresh garlic or 3 teaspoons of jarred crushed / minced garlic.
- Ginger – fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon jarred chopped / crushed ginger
- Spices – ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and optional chilli powder are added at the beginning of cooking the curry. Garam masala is added at the end of cooking.
- Water or stock – I often use water to keep the cost down and also to prevent the curry from being too salty. However feel free to use your favourite chicken or vegetable stock, or use homemade stock.
- Tomatoes – tinned / canned tomatoes. Crushed or chopped tomatoes, or use plum tomatoes and roughly chop with a spoon when you add them to the curry.
- Yogurt – any plain Greek yogurt, Greek style yogurt or plain yogurt. I would advise against using half fat yogurt or non fat yogurt as they are more likely to split even when gently heated.
How to make this curry with leftover chicken
- Sauté the onion in the oil with the green cardamom pods.
- When the onions are soft, add the crushed garlic and grated ginger and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder and heat until fragrant.
- TIP: don’t let the spices catch on the bottom of the pan as they can become bitter.
- Tip in the tomatoes and stock or water and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
- Add the cooked chicken then cover with a lid and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is heated through. Note: you can use either shredded chicken or chicken cut into bitesize pieces.
- Stir in the yogurt and garam masala.
- TIP: Do this over a low heat and make sure the sauce doesn’t boil to stop the yogurt from curdling.
- Serve the curry straight away.
If you want to add some extra vegetables, frozen spinach, tinned corn, capcisum / pepper, mushrooms, peas and cauliflower are all delicious.
If your curry is still looking a little thin at the end of cooking then mix a little cornflour / cornstarch or arrowroot with some cold water and tip this in to the curry. Stir and heat, it should thicken as it heats.
My recipe tips
- Cooking the spices – you want to cook the spices lightly to help them release their flavour however take care not to overcook them as they can catch quite easily.
- To prevent a watery curry – Briskly simmer the curry sauce before adding the chicken to help reduce and thicken the spiced tomato sauce.
- The yogurt will help thicken the curry sauce too.
- Don’t let the curry boil after adding the yogurt as it will split and look grainy. Whilst you can still eat it, it won’t look as appealing.
- If you want to pad out the curry to make it go further, or if you don’t have enough leftover cooked chicken, use a tin of cooked chickpeas or lentils.
- For a vegetarian option: use the same curry sauce but add cooked beans or lentils instead of the chicken. (Or make the sauce then place half of it into a different saucepan and add chicken to one pan and lentils / chickpeas to the other before heating through. I often do this to please both the meat eaters and vegetarians in the family.)
As this is a curry made with leftover cooked chicken I advise you to eat it when freshly made and not store leftovers. If you are making it for 2 people rather than 4 then half the quantities listed.
- On top of fluffy rice (or cauliflower rice for a low carb option).
- With chapati or naan bread to mop up the last of the tasty curry sauce.
- Serve a coriander chutney or creamy raita on the side.
- If you want to add a little chilli heat to your curry, top with some quick pickled chillies.
- Serve with steamed broccoli or green beans.
- As an alternative to the spices listed, a quick and delicious curry can be made using a teaspoon of mild curry powder – or hot curry powder if you want more spice. Cook it for 30 seconds to remove the raw curry powder taste.
- Add vegetables – a handful of roughly chopped fresh spinach added 1-2 minutes before the end of cooking time, or use frozen spinach. A chopped bell pepper / capsicum, cauliflower or broccoli florets are also delicious, added with the chicken.
More recipes using leftovers
Leftover Chicken Curry
- 1 tablespoon oil ($0.08 / £0.03)
- 1 onion, roughly chopped ($0.45 / £0.10)
- 3 green cardamom pods ($0.18 / £0.06)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed ($0.39 / £0.08)
- 2½ cm (1 inch) ginger, finely grated ($0.15 / £0.03)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin ($0.20 / £0.08)
- 2 teaspoons ground coriandar ($0.28 / £0.10)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric ($0.04 / £0.02)
- ⅛-¼ teaspoon chilli powder, optional ($0.01 / £0.01)
- 400g (14 oz) tinned / canned tomatoes, crushed or chopped ($0.75 / £0.32)
- 200-250g (7-8½ oz) leftover cooked chicken ($2.00 / £1.00)
- 360ml (1½ c) stock or water ($0 / £0)
- 3 tablespoons plain yogurt ($0.44 / £0.11)
- ½ teaspoon salt – less if using bought stock ($0.01 / £0.01)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala ($0.12 / £0.02)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper ($0.02 / £0.01)
- Place the onion in a large saucepan with the oil and cardamom pods and cook over a low-medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until softened.
- Add the crushed garlic and grated ginger and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder, if using, and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Tip in the tomatoes, stock or water and salt and black pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is starting to thicken.
- Cut the chicken in to bitesize pieces or shred it, then tip in to the sauce and simmer with the lid on for 5-10 minutes until the curry sauce is thick and the chicken is heated through.
- Turn the heat down then stir through the yogurt and garam masala. Heat gently for 1-2 minutes, taking care not to boil as this can make the yogurt split.
- Serve straight away with rice, naan or chapati.