Indian Cashew Chicken

I love Indian food, although my exposure is somewhat limited.  That said, I know that Cooking Light is not a place to find authentic ethnic food, Indian or otherwise. Obviously the CL recipes have been modified to reduce fat and calories.  Still, the flavors that I love are there and I could stand to shed a few pounds so the light version is probably my best bet.  Tonight’s culinary adventure is a version of Murgh Makhani.  The sauce is rich and smoky and leaves just a little heat in the back of your throat.  It’s like gravy and what’s not to like about that?  Yum.

This is a “do ahead” recipe.  The chicken has to marinate.  I didn’t get to it until this morning so mine only marinated about six hours.  The recipe says three hours to overnight so I think I’m good there.  My sauce was not as smooth as I would have liked.  You have to spin this stuff for a while in the food processor to blend the cashews in with the yogurt and spices.  I got it mixed so that the cashews were chopped pretty fine and then my food processor quit mid-whir.  It’s not a huge surprise since the machine is more than fifteen years old, but it was pretty inconvenient.  Still, I was close enough that I decided to go with it.

The key to dishes like this is making sure there’s enough room in the pot.  I only made a half recipe so I considered using one of my small dutch ovens.  It would have fit in the end.  The issue is surface area.  You want to be sure that the bottom of the pot is big enough to sear all the chicken in a single layer.  My 7 quart dutch oven felt a little like overkill, but I think it was the best option.  (Maybe I need to investigate acquiring a 5 quart cast iron pot…).  Anyway, you also want to be sure to deglaze the pot when you add the liquid.  Just use a wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits off of the bottom.  Not only will that add a ton of flavor to the dish, but it will make the pot easier to clean too.

I only made one real substitution here.  I couldn’t find cardamom pods in my regular haunts and wasn’t inclined to make my way to an Indian grocery today.  I did price ground cardamom in the store and it’s about $12 a bottle.  Given that the price is two to three times more than any other spice, except saffron of course, I decided to hunt for a substitution.  I’m sure it’s not exactly the same, but the online Cook’s Thesaurus said that I could use equal parts of cloves and nutmeg so that’s what I did.  Of course I have no basis for comparison, but I feel like it was an acceptable substitution.  Another slight substitution was using all chicken breast instead of thigh.  Boneless thigh meat was expensive this week and I don’t like to bone them myself.  Boning a chicken breast is easy so I went that route.  Then I had bones left to make stock.  All good.  Finally, I used light cream instead of half and half.  I honestly have no idea what the difference is.  The light cream came in a smaller container so I bought that.

The recipe calls for you to serve this with rice or naan.  I’d say you should feel free to serve both.  Serve the chicken over basmati rice.  It’s a light, very long grain rice.  Serve some naan on the side.  Buy the naan.  It’s not hard to find at most stores, but it’s very hard to make.  At least in my experience.  Ideally, to make naan you need a clay oven that heats to 700 or 800 degrees.  My oven isn’t clay and it doesn’t get nearly that hot.  I found some whole grain naan and just heated it up a little for dinner.

I recommend making a little raita too.  You only need 2/3 C of yogurt to make this whole recipe.  If you buy the 2C container of yogurt you’ll have exactly enough left to make raita for the table.  And if you halve the recipe, you only need 1/3 C of yogurt leaving you plenty out of a 1 C container to make raita for the smaller number.  I don’t use a recipe for raita any more so it comes out differently every time, but recipes are easy to come by.  It’s always some combination of plain yogurt (I recommend Greek style), cucumber, cumin, coriander, lime juice, salt and red pepper.  Plus or minus a few ingredients.  Make it ahead so the flavors have time to blend.  Serve it on the side with the naan.  It’s a lovely way to cool the heat that this dish creates in your mouth.

There aren’t any pictures tonight because my camera batteries are dead.  They should be charged by the time I’m ready for leftovers later in the week.  I’ll try to remember then.

Good? Very yummy!
Easy? We’re going to call this intermediate because of the number of ingredients and steps.
Good for company? I think company would be pretty impressed.
Special shopping? Probably. You may not keep all of these spices on hand. But if you buy them for this, you might feel encouraged to make more dishes with these flavors! And the cashews. I don’t usually have those.

The recipe below reflects my ingredient and amount changes so this serves 3. Click on the recipe title to see the original which serves 6.

Indian Cashew Chicken


1/3 cup cashews, toasted
1/3 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt
1/8 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoons white vinegar
3/4 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 garlic cloves, chopped
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 dash each of ground cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light cream


1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Combine nut mixture and chicken in a large bowl; cover and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onion, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cinnamon stick to pan; cover and cook 10 minutes or until onion is golden, stirring often.

3. Add chicken mixture to pan; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in broth, tomato puree, paprika, and salt, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 hour or until thick. Stir in half-and-half; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Discard cinnamon stick. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

2 Responses to “Indian Cashew Chicken”

  1. Kristin Says:

    I’m not seeing the cardamom pods on the ingredients list–am I somehow overlooking them? Or were you mixing your own garam masala?

  2. 1womanskitchen Says:

    Nope, the ingredients list reflects the changes I made and I didn’t use the cardamom pods. I replaced them with the dash of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. I have some garam masala from Penzey’s.

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