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How To Make Chicken Balti from Scratch

You can make this chicken balti from scratch in no time!

As you can see from the publication date of this chicken Balti recipe, I wrote it quite a few years ago. I recently revisited the recipe as I often do.

I’ve learned a lot over the years messing about in my kitchen and wanted to give you my updated version.

chicken balti

So easy to make and delicious too!

This chicken Balti was actually one of the first curry house/Balti house recipes I learned while doing recipe research. 

I remember very well walking into the restaurant kitchen in Birmingham’s Balti triangle to see how it was done and being a bit disappointed. 

 

This is how chicken baltis were first made.

Not that I didn’t like the chicken Balti that was served to me that day! I loved it. So perhaps I should explain…

The chef that day decided to show me his balti recipe from scratch. Although he used a base sauce for his baltis and added pre-cooked tandoori chicken to the baltis that he served in the restaurant, he thought he should break it down for me.

In hindsight, this was a great idea.

I wanted to learn the actual chicken balti recipe from the restaurant but he assumed I didn’t know what that ‘secret’ base sauce recipe was all about.

He also thought that many of my readers would not want to make a base sauce before starting cooking.

He was right there!

The base sauce…

The curry house base sauce was developed for speed and economy. The thing is, it also makes the curry delicious.

Rather than frying up a large amount of onion and tomatoes and adding water as is done in the following recipe, base sauce is added instead.

This is not only faster but also gives the chicken balti and completely different flavour and a smoother texture.

Many people prefer this chicken balti cooked from scratch. There is a lot less prep work to do and it does taste amazing.

What exactly is a Balti?

Balti curries first became popular in the 70s and 80s.

At the time, many Pakistani run restaurants were finding it difficult to compete with the Bangladeshi run restaurants across town.

These Pakistani restaurants were serving their own neighbourhoods but few others. 

The Bangladeshi restaurant chefs were dishing up delicious chicken tikka masalas, Madras and vindaloo curries but the authentic Pakistani curries served at Pakistani restaurants needed forward planning and took a lot longer to get out to the table. 

The idea of using small stainless steel pans (Balti Bowls) instead of the more authentic cast iron karahis changed all this. Special Balti bowls were produced the first time.

The hot Balti curries were cooked over high heat and served in the same bowls they were cooked in. The stainless steel pans heated up much faster than cast iron so service was much faster too.

Unfortunately, the company that produced all those Balti bowls went out of business and the manufacture of the bowls was sourced out to India and China.

These imported Balti bowls were inferior in quality and eventually, the Balti craze and the pans became far less popular.

The good news is, the original Balti pans are now, once again produced in the UK and the popularity of authentic Baltis is again on the increase.  A true Balti needs to be cooked in a stainless steel Balti pan and served in it, sizzling hot too!

Nowadays, most restaurant chefs cook their ‘Baltis’ in a normal frying pan and then serve them in an ornamental balti bowl but this, thankfully is changing. 

Why should you try this chicken Balti recipe?

The original recipe on this page wasn’t cooked in a balti bowl so it really wasn’t a Balti. It also served 4 which again, just isn’t what Balti cooking is all about.

Here I have downsized the recipe and shown it cooked in an authentic stainless steel Balti bowl. I hope you give it a try but if you would like to make a Balti using the base sauce and pre-cooked meat, you should do that too.

If you would like to try an authentic Balti using a base curry sauce, pre-cooked marinated meat and special spices just like those at the best Balti houses, try my much more recent chicken, mushroom, chickpea, chilli and garlic Balti recipe here

I think you’ll love them both. 

Step by Step Photos

 

Add oil to the hot pan. About 2 – 3 tbsp should do.

Adding onions to the Balti bowl

Add the chopped onions and fry for a few minutes until soft and translucent.

 

Stirring in the chopped garlic and ginger

Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and stir well to combine. Cook for about 30 seconds.

 

Stirring in the remaining vegetable

Add the remaining veggies and chillies.

 

Adding tomato puree to the pan

Add the tomato puree. Add more if you want a redder colour.

When you stir all these ingredients together, you have what is called a base masala. 

That is the base of your sauce. It is what you do instead of adding base sauce. Adding base sauce, if you have it is a quicker option. It is also my preferred way to cook a Balti. 

Here is the same Balti recipe but using a base sauce. 

Stirring in the spices

By adding the spices, you are taking that base masala and making it into the curry it is.

 

Adding chicken and water

Now add the chicken and water to cover. This is a dry curry so you just want to add enough water to cook it.

 

chicken balti from scratch

Be sure to cook the sauce down until it is quite thick. Perfect for dipping your naans into.

 

balti with chicken

Dig in!

Balti cooking tips

When you first start cooking baltis, you should cook over medium high heat. That is until you get used to cooking in the small stainless steel Balti bowl which gets really hot fast. 

After you’ve made a few Baltis, you can and should turn the heat up. The sauce will caramelise around the edges of the bowl which adds amazing flavour. 

Scrape the caramelised sauce back in for flavour. 

Never fill your Balti bowl more than 2/3 of the way up. The curry will cook better if your pan isn’t full to the rim. 

Plus, this is a curry to serve one to two people so filling it to the rim would be a bit much. 

Any more advice?

Yes. Have a kitchen towel nearby.

The balti pan will get very hot. Too hot to handle. 

I have seen Baltis on fire when Balti chefs cook. How and why is that done?

Many chefs say they do this to burn off the excess oil. Personally, I think it is more for show. 

If you want to do that, it usually happens when the garlic and ginger paste are added to the oil. There is moisture in the paste that flares up when it hits the flaming hot oil.

Doing this would be difficult with this recipe but if you want to give it a try, you should try my authentic balti with base sauce here

 

Yield: 1 - 2

Chicken Balti from Scratch

chicken balti from scratch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil or ghee
  • 1/2 large onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger - grated and finely chopped
  • 2 fresh green bird's eye chilli peppers
  • 1/2 large green or red pepper roughly chopped
  • 1 tomato - diced
  • 2 - 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbs tandoori masala - good quality store bought or homemade
  • 2 tsp Madras curry powder
  • 225g (1/2 lb) - skinned and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the ghee or oil in a large frying pan or balti pan over high heat.
  2. Toss in the chopped onion and allow to fry for about 5 minutes or until the onion is beginning to turn soft and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and stir to combine. About 30 seconds should do the job. You just want to cook off the rawness.
  4. Spoon in the tandoori masala and curry powder.
  5. Now add the green chillies, bell peppers, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Give this all a good stir to combine.
  6. Throw in the chicken pieces and brown this in the onion mixture. Stir continuously to brown the chicken evenly.
  7. Now add about (1/2 cup) 125ml of water. You can add more to assist in cooking the chicken but Baltis are dry curries so try not to add too much.
  8. Simmer for about 8 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  9. Add the cider vinegar and simmer for another minute.
  10. Just before serving, sprinkle the coriander into the curry and season with salt and pepper to taste and then add the lime juice.

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I hope you enjoyed the chicken Balti recipe. If you do try it, please don’t be a stranger. Let me know in the comments. 

Alex

Sunday 22nd of August 2021

I made this curry for my mother in law and she loved it, as did the rest of the family. I visited my local Tesco the day after and noticed 'The curry guy bible', I bought it! There are some superb dishes that I can't wait to make.

Dan Toombs

Sunday 29th of August 2021

Great to hear, thank you for letting me know. Dan

Claire

Tuesday 8th of June 2021

Hi is the the tandoori masala a paste ? thank you xx

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

Tandaoori masala is a powder, available in Asian stores. Thanks Dan

Graham Gledhill

Monday 7th of June 2021

Just made this and I've got to say it was absolutely amazing. I left it to cook longer so I got those nice charred bits, I used a wok as I didn't have a balti dish but it worked great. Served with a home made naan and papadams.

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

Thanks so much for letting me know. I am glad the wok worked. Cheers Dan

Sandra Hauptman

Thursday 6th of February 2020

Hi, I don’t own a Balti pan so what brand would you recommend?

Dan Toombs

Monday 10th of February 2020

Google The Birmingham Balti Bowl Company. Their Balti pans are the best.

Thanks, Dan

Josphin Silva

Thursday 2nd of August 2018

Hi, I tried cooking Veg Balti ..All I can say amazing..really nice turn out. That was something new for my visitors.

Thanks & Regards, Josh Silva

Dan Toombs

Monday 14th of January 2019

Great to hear Josphin! I'm happy you enjoyed the recipe.

Thanks Dan

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