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British Indian Restaurant Style Pre-Cooked Chicken

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Pre-cooked chicken not only makes curry better but tastier too.

This is batch cooking at its best. Change the seasoning and you can use this technique for any cuisine that requires tender chicken.

Whether the restaurant is a low cost Indian curry house or an upmarket Indian restaurant, the chefs will normally cook chicken before service so that it is tender and ready to use. This recipe can be adjusted by changing the spicing to work in any cuisine.

pre-cooked chicken for BIR (British Indian Restaurant) style curries.

About this recipe.

You can pre-cook chicken in several different ways. So if one of my curry house recipes calls for pre-cooked chicken, you could use any of these methods.

This pre-cooked chicken recipe goes well in any curry house style sauce. As it is slowly stewed for optimum flavour, you can also use some of the cooking liquid in your curries for more flavour.

Making pre-cooked chicken in this way will not only speed up the cooking process but will add another delicious layer of flavour to you BIR (British Indian Restaurant) style curries.

Why should you pre-cook your chicken?

Pre-cooked chicken, meat and potatoes play an important role in the preparation of British Indian restaurant style meals.

Pre-cooking the chicken until tender not only makes cooking in Indian restaurants faster but tastier too. If restaurant chefs had to wait for the chicken to cook through each time an order was placed, it would double the time it takes to get the curry to the table.

Time is money in the curry house world. That said, batch cooking like this is also very convenient for the home cook.

If you want to prepare delicious curries in minutes like they do at the best curry houses, pre-cooking your chicken, meat and even vegetables is a good place to start.

Are there other ways to prepare pre-cooked chicken?

Yes and you will probably already be familiar with them. A stewed chicken like this goes really well in a mild korma or even in a mind-blowing vindaloo.

You might, however want to make chicken tikka masala, chicken jalfrezi or chicken chilli garlic which often have tandoori chicken tikka added to them, so you might like to try your hand at one or more of these recipes.

This tandoori chicken tikka recipe is a great place to start but I have a lot of chicken tikka recipes for you to try. Link to those are follow.

Air Fryer Chicken Tikka
Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka with Vegetables
Chicken Shashlik
Afghan Chicken Tikka
Malai Chicken Tikka
Stovetop Chicken Tikka
Hariyali Chicken
Pakistani Chicken Tikka

Which cut of chicken works best?

At curry houses, breast is usually used as it is prettier white meat. Thigh meat has a lot more flavour so I use that.

Although not mentioned in the recipe, I also often add a few chicken legs on the bone for additional flavour in the stock. Then I cut the meat of the bone and use that too. 

How do you use pre-cooked chicken?

You just need to get your pre-cooked chicken ready. Place it by your work station and then follow one or more of my British Indian Restaurant (BIR) stye curry recipes.

When the recipe says to add the chicken or other protein, add your pre-cooked chicken. Even if the recipe calls for another protein such as lamb or paneer, you can always add your pre-cooked chicken instead.

Adding a splash of the cooking liquid to the curry will also give it a more intense flavour as if your 10 minute curry has been simmering away for much longer.

There is a lot of cooking liquid. How do you use that?

As mentioned above, you could add it in small amounts to the the curry you are preparing.

If you have a lot left over, try making a base curry sauce using not just water but the cooking liquid. This will give the base sauce a lot more depth of flavour.

Other ways to use this recipe.

Making a curry with this recipe is not the idea behind it. However, if you make it and change your mind about using the chicken for pre-cooked chicken for curries, you will notice that this is a delicious and mild curry in its own right.

You will need to get creative. Adjust the spicing and salt so that it is exactly as you want to eat it. You could also stir in some coconut milk or yoghurt to thicken the sauce.

Hopefully, you will use this recipe as it is intended but you really can do a lot with this if you decide you just want to sit down and eat.

How long can you keep this pre-cooked chicken in the fridge?

Once you make it, you can store it covered in your fridge for about 4 days. In fact, as it rests in the fridge, the flavours will develop and your pre-cooked chicken will be even better.

The chicken can be added cold to the curry you are cooking. It will heat through quickly over the heat and in the sauce you are cooking.

Can you freeze this chicken?

Yes and that is part of the idea of making it. If you make a large batch, freeze it in portion sizes that are convenient for you.

You might like to freeze it in portions that are perfect for a curry to serve one to two people. If you know you are going to be preparing a curry feast for friends, you could freeze it all together.

I freeze the chicken with some of the cooking stock so that I can add both to my curries.

Step by step photographs.

Ingredients for the recipe.

Get all your ingredients prepared and at the ready before starting. It’s easier that way.

Adding whole spices to oil in a pan to infuse their flavour into the oil.

Heat the oil in a high-sided pan. When the oil begins to shimmer from the heat, stir in the whole spices and let them infuse into the oil for about a minute.

Adding the chopped onions to the pan.

Stir in the chopped onions and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucents.

Adding the garlic and ginger paste to the pan.

Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for a further 30 seconds, while stirring.

Adding turmeric and chopped tomatoes to the pan.

Add the turmeric and chopped tomatoes and stir well to combine.

Adding the chicken to the pan.

Now add the chicken. I usually add as much as I can get in there and not just the 1kg called for.

Adding water to cover the chicken in the pan.

Add enough water to cover and bring to a simmer.

Simmering the chicken in a covered pan.

Cover and simmer over a medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. This could take up to 40 minutes. Do not overcook the chicken or it will become stringy.

Cooling the chicken.

When cooked through, take off the heat and allow to cool some.

The pre-cooked chicken.

Remove the chicken for immediate use or to store for later. The cooking stock can be simmered down and frozen for use in curries or used in a base sauce for additional flavour.

Pre-cooked chicken.

Your pre-cooked chicken is ready to add to your favourite BIR curries.

When you make this pre-cooked chicken, you might like to try it in one of these famous curry sauces.

Tikka masala sauce
Korma sauce
Pasanda sauce
Chasni sauce
Chilli garlic sauce
Ceylon sauce
Pathia sauce
Jalfrezi sauce
Keema sauce
Bhuna sauce
Methi sauce
Madras sauce
Vindaloo sauce
Phaal sauce

Have you tried this pre-cooked chicken?

If yes, please give it a star rating in the recipe card below and leave a comment. I love receiving your feedback and I’m sure other readers of my blog do too. Thank you.

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Yield: 8

British Indian Restaurant Style Pre-Cooked Chicken

Pre-cooked chicken

Chicken breast meat is used at most curry houses because it has a nice texture and looks good
too. Chicken thigh meat isn’t as pretty but has a lot more flavour. In the photos above, I used chicken thigh meat and also through in a few chicken legs on the bone for additional flavour.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes


  • 2 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 3 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2.5cm (1in) piece of cinnamon stick or cassia bark
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 Indian bay leaves (cassia leaves) 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 x 400g (7oz) tin (can) chopped tomatoes
  • 1kg skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (tikka)
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tsp garam masala


  1. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium–high heat until small bubbles form. Add the whole spices and bay leaves, and stir continuously for about 30 seconds to release their flavours into the oil.
  2. Add the onions and stir regularly for about 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Sprinkle the salt over the top; this will help release moisture from the onions.
  3. Now spoon in the garlic and ginger paste, followed by the turmeric; the pan will sizzle as the paste releases its moisture.
  4. When your kitchen becomes fragrant with the magnificent aroma of garlic and ginger, tip in the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium and let the ingredients simmer and get to know each other for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and just enough water to cover the chicken.
  6. Reduce the heat and let the stock softly bubble until the chicken is just cooked through; don’t overcook it.
  7. Stir in the garam masala and, using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces for use in your curries, reserving the cooking stock. A little of this added to your chicken curries makes them even more delicious.


The cooled chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to four days or frozen.


If freezer space is an issue but you want to have some stock on hand, reduce the finished stock by two-thirds. Let the remaining stock cool, and freeze in ice cube trays. Then simply toss one or two cubes into your sauces as required.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 242Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 153mgSodium: 435mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 31g

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Wednesday 18th of January 2023

Hi Don,I have done your base gravy and chicken Balti recipe, absolutely great thanks for sharing your tasty tips.

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 7th of February 2023

Thanks very much, Martin. Really good to hear. Dan


Saturday 2nd of July 2022

Hi Dan, I've not used Kardomon pods before and am wondering if they need to be grinded or cooked whole. I assume that the black peppercorns and cinnamon are cooked whole. Is that correct?

Looking forward to the Madras once I have the ingredients.

Kind regards


Caroline Toombs

Monday 4th of July 2022

Cook the cardomon pods whole that take them out before serving. Yes, the peppercorns and cinnamon are whole too. If you are worried about fishing them all out use a tied muslin cloth to put them all in as the dish cooked and this will still impart the flavour. Thanks Dan


Saturday 30th of April 2022

When you want to double or triple recipes, do you just double or triple ingredients?

Dan Toombs

Sunday 8th of May 2022

Yes, that is what I do but be a bit careful with any hot spices. Maybe add those to taste. Thanks Dan


Sunday 13th of March 2022

Hi! I made another batch, this time with double quantities - turned out great. I'm planning on making six times the quantity in my largest stock pot so that I can freeze it in individual servings and defrost as needed. But here's a question: when I make the chicken it takes ages to fish it out separately from the tomatoes, onion, cardamom etc. Is there some kind of way to keep the chicken separate, in a basket or something, that you can recommend? I suppose I could leave the chicken thighs whole but then the broth wouldn't penetrate the meat as well as it does. So I'm thinking of suspending a sieve basket in the broth with just the chicken in it then pulling it out, a bit like a fryer basket. Any advice?

Dan Toombs

Thursday 17th of March 2022

If you don't like the whole spices I would recommend tying them in a muslin cloth and then you can take it out at the end. The tomatoes should just break down and the onions are fine to eat with the chicken. Thanks Dan


Saturday 5th of March 2022

I've made the chicken jalfrezi off this site several times - and last time I'd run out of this, so I just used plain, diced, precooked chicken. It was still good, but nowhere near as good as this. So if you're on the fence about the extra effort: do it at least once. This adds another layer of flavor that just can't be matched, even if you up the amount of seasoning in your curry sauce.

I grew up in Scotland but moved to the US long ago. We have Indian restaurants here but they're not the same as BIR. I can say without hesitation - the base curry sauce, the precooked chicken, and the mixed powder are the building blocks for that taste of home. If you shortcut it, it'll still be good, but you won't make it all the way there. Do it once and you'll know.

Dan Toombs

Thursday 10th of March 2022

Thanks for the post and I am glad you are able to enjoy Indian food in the US. Dan

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