If you have madras curry powder, then Sri Lankan Tamarind Chicken Curry is really easy to make. Madras curry powder is an essential ingredient in this dish and the good news is that it is generally available. You can get the madras curry powder either at an Indian grocer or perhaps at a Bulk Barn. I made my own and could therefore control the heat. Pre-made madras curry powder does have hot chili and is meant to be spicy, but my version has been tamed.

Sri Lankan Tamarind Chicken Curry

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Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Passive Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Degree of Difficulty : Easy
Servings: 4 people
Tip : Make your own Madras Curry to control the heat or just buy it if you like to elevate the spice.



  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp Madras Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp tamarind sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt to taste


  • 2 lbs chicken 2 thighs and 2 legs or 2 chicken breasts cut into pieces
  • 3 tbsp oil for sautéeing
  • 1 medium onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic grated
  • 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  • 1 1" piece cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 pods green cardamom
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp Madras Curry Powder
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes and their juice
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste


  • 3-4 sprigs fresh cilantro chopped


  • Gather all ingredients before starting recipe.
  • Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp paprika, 2 tsp Madras Curry Powder, 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 2-3 tbsp tamarind sauce, and 1 tsp kosher salt to taste. Mix the marinade ingredients.
  • Combine chicken pieces with marinade and work the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Lightly crush 3-4 pods green cardamom in a mortar and pestle, set aside.
  • Heat 3 tbsp oil for sautéeing in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat.
  • Add 1 medium onion chopped, 1 tsp grated ginger, and the leaves from 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves. Sauté until the onions begin to color, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add 3 cloves garlic grated, and stir to combine, about 1 minute. Add crushed cardamom and stir to combine, sauté for about 2 minutes.
  • Add 1 tsp chili powder and 2 tsp Madras Curry Powder and sauté for another minute.
  • Add 2 lbs chicken pieces along with the marinade and stir to combine well.
  • Add the 1 can chopped tomatoes and their juice, 3 tbsp tomato paste 1 1" piece cinnamon stick and stir to combine, then cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the juices come out of the chicken and the chicken has cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • When the chicken is done, add 6-8 more curry leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for a half hour to an hour. Reheat when ready to serve.

Author Notes

I altered the original recipe to suit my tastes and, in my opinion, to make it easier to cook. I did make my own Madras Curry Powder. I had all the ingredients on hand and this allowed me to control the heat. Not that there is none, I did include the generous number of whole black pepper corn as well as the chili powder, so it does have some heat. But you can control this by increasing the quantity called for in the recipe, or add your own hot chili if you like the flavor.
I also substituted the fresh tomatoes that were originally called for with chopped canned tomatoes as I find that the flavor and color you get from canned is more predictable than using fresh.
Lastly, I also added tomato paste to counter balance the sourness of the canned tomatoes. This worked well to enhance the flavor of the tamarind sauce as well as the texture and color of the dish.

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