Recipe: Upside-Down Chicken Curry Bowl

updated May 1, 2019
Upside-Down Chicken Curry Bowl
This bowl turns Indian take-out upside down with a bed of roasted cauliflower and lentil on the bottom and chicken tikka on top.


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(Image credit: Christine Han)

I adore Indian food, and while my tastes range wide in that nation’s incredibly diverse cuisine, I have to admit that the rich, Westernized chicken tikka masala was my gateway love and still a guilty pleasure. But what does it look like when you flip the bowl and leave the curry until last? Can chicken curry be a lighter, fresher meal?

The latest in this week’s Flip the Bowl series takes the classic takeout meal of chicken curry, and flips it upside down and inside out, stuffing the bowl with vegetables first.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

What does it mean to flip the bowl? It’s simple: Take your favorite meat-heavy meal — tacos, meatballs, a steak dinner — and flip it upside down by stuffing your bowl with vegetables first, then using the meat (and carbs) to top off the bowl with flavor.

The five bowls in this series start with a fast, 30-minute base of vegetables, and they’re topped with meat from the freezer or your grocery store hot abar. Easy, fast, good!

Flip the Curry Bowl

What’s in a classic plate of chicken curry? Warm, fluffy basmati rice under rich curry, with ghee-fragrant sauce and tender chicken. Such a treat, right?

But let’s lighten it up for a weeknight meal. This bowl turns Indian takeout upside down and inside out, with a bed of roasted cauliflower spiced up with curry powder and cilantro, tossed with spicy arugula and lentils for a warm vegetable dish that’s delicious all on its own. (I endorse my own creation, as I’ve been eating leftovers for lunch all week.)

Toss on a scoop of chicken curry, like the classic East-West collision chicken tikka masala. This takeout favorite is chicken curry designed for Western palates, and dearly beloved by the Brits. Pull some from the freezer or left over from a take-out container to dress the whole dish and make it a hearty meal.

Top it all off with some yogurt and cucumber for a deconstructed nod to raita and you have a delicious one-bowl meal ready in about 30 minutes. You’ll never miss the rice.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

What’s in the Bowl

Tips and shortcuts for a quicker dinner.

  • Vegetables: Cauliflower is a quick-roasting vegetable and it will cook in about the same amount of time it takes to simmer the lentils. Want a shortcut? Use a 15-ounce of can of lentils to replace cooked-from-scratch.
  • Extras: Toppings of yogurt and cucumbers cool this dish, and optional cashews add a toasty crunch.
  • Meat: Any saucy chicken curry will taste delicious on this hearty warm salad, but I designed it specifically with the classic chicken tikka masala in mind. It’s a great use for leftover takeout curry, too.

Make the Meat

For the meat topper, try one of these chicken curries. Each of these freezes beautifully, so make a batch and freeze in 2-cup portions for easy defrosting.

Upside-Down Chicken Curry Bowl

This bowl turns Indian take-out upside down with a bed of roasted cauliflower and lentil on the bottom and chicken tikka on top.

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the bowl:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    water, plus more as needed

  • 3/4 cup

    dried green lentils

  • 1

    head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and cut into florets

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 3 tablespoons)

  • 2 teaspoons

    curry powder

  • 5 ounces

    baby arugula

  • 1 cup

    coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

For the toppings:

  • 2 cups

    chicken tikka masala, warmed

  • 1 cup

    whole-milk yogurt

  • 1

    small cucumber, diced

  • 1/2 cup

    coarsely chopped roasted cashews (optional)


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F.

  2. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lentils, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer uncovered until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add water as needed to make sure the lentils are just barely covered.

  3. Meanwhile, roast the cauliflower. Place the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the oil, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Roast until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

  4. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl, add the lemon juice and curry powder, and toss to combine. Add the arugula and cilantro and toss again until wilted.

  5. When the lentils are cooked, drain off any excess liquid. Add the lentils to the cauliflower mixture and toss to combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

  6. To serve, fill bowls with the cauliflower mixture and top with a scoop of chicken curry. Top, if desired, with spoonfuls of yogurt and cucumber. Add cashews for a little crunch if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cauliflower can be roasted and the lentils cooked up to 2 days ahead. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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