Dairy-free Creamy Chicken Korma

Succulent chicken in a creamy sauce flavoured with aromatic spices. This authentic Dairy-free and Paleo recipe is made with coconut yoghurt and cashew nuts.

Chicken Korma

Korma is a mildly-spiced curry, in which chopped vegetables or meats are braised in a sauce thickened by yoghurt or cream. Too often this results in a bland sauce that has little flavour beyond the cloying taste of dairy. But it doesn’t need to be this way – yes, a korma does not typically pack much in the way of heat, but you should expect your tastebuds to be warmed instead by an harmonious array of aromatic spices.

Tips & Tricks

  • Soak the cashew nuts – this softens and saturates the nuts so that they blend to a creamy texture. Do not soak for more than 16 hours, as they start to develop a sour taste
  • Fry the curry paste – this releases the flavour compounds, allowing the essential oils from the spices to dissolve into the cooking oil (they are not water soluble)
  • Add liquid once the oil starts to separate – this means that all the moisture has evaporated, so the spices will quickly start to burn
cooking time
Dairy-free Creamy Chicken Korma


for the paste:

  • 1/2 cup (75g) cashew nuts
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 onion (130g), peeled and quartered
  • thumb-sized piece of root ginger (20g), peeled
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons (40g) tomato puree
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 5 tablespoons (75ml) olive oil / neutral-tasting oil

for the chicken:

  • 800g skinless chicken breasts, cut into 4cm pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

for the curry:

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 onion (130g), peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) water
  • 120g coconut yoghurt (replace with 120ml more water if you cannot find)

to serve:

  • a handful of flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat, until lightly browned


  1. Make the curry paste. You can make the paste ahead, as it will keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. To store, spoon into a jam jar, press down to eliminate air bubbles, and then pour over a layer of neutral-tasting oil.
  2. Cover the cashew nuts in warm water and leave to soak for at least 45 minutes, and no more than 16 hours.
  3. Break open the cardamom pods by crushing with the broad side of a heavy knife. Shake out the seeds and discard the husks.
  4. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the whole spices (cardamom seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns) and dry fry for 1 – 2 minutes, or until they release a fragrant aroma. Tip into a spice grinder and grind until finely ground (if you do not have a spice grinder, then use a pestle and mortar or the small bowl of a food processor).
  5. Once the cashew nuts have soaked for 45 minutes, drain and tip into the small bowl of a food processor. Blitz until smooth. If the mixture needs loosening, add a bit of the oil. Add the aromatics (onion, ginger, garlic and tomato puree), and blitz again until smooth. Tip in the toasted spices, the ground spices (turmeric, garam masala, salt and chilli powder), and the oil. Blitz until fully blended.
  6. Tenderise the chicken (optional). Put the chicken in a non-metallic bowl. Add the salt and lemon, and massage into the meat. Cover, transfer to the fridge, and leave to marinate for 30 minutes – 2 hours (do not marinate for longer than this, as the lemon juice will toughen the meat).
  7. Fry the onion & paste. Heat the cooking oil in a heavy-based casserole over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and salt. Cook until the onion is lightly browned, stirring occasionally – about 8 minutes.
  8. Reduce the heat to low. Scrape in the curry paste and stir until blended. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the water if it is dry and sticking to the bottom. Cook until the oil starts to separate, stirring frequently – about 3-5 minutes (it is important not to rush this stage, as it develops flavour and stops the spices from tasting raw).
  9. Simmer the sauce. Add the water and yoghurt (if using), and stir until blended. Turn up the heat until the sauce begins to simmer. Add the chicken, and stir until evenly coated in sauce. Simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thickened. Reduce the heat if necessary, and stir frequently to stop the sauce from sticking to the bottom.
  10. Transfer into a serving dish and sprinkle over the toasted flaked almonds.



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