TorchBearer Curry Chicken and Veggies

Close photo of a bowl of chicken and vegetable curry

Chicken and vegetables simmered in a spicy Torchbearer curry sauce

My first blog post here was a Berbere-rubbed chicken. Spicy. A little exotic. Delicious. You probably got the idea that I like hot foods. I might even boast about it every now and again. Or, well…I may boast about it a lot. “I get my drunken noodles ‘thai hot.’” “I grow my own habaneros.” You get the idea.

The first time I tried a TorchBearer hot sauce, I was put definitively in my place. I unwittingly dove right into the deep end with their Zombie Apocalypse sauce, made from ghost chili and habanero peppers. You might assume that the name of the sauce would have clued me in, but no. I doused my tacos with a liberal helping and scarfed down the first taco and a half before I got a hint of what I was in for.

Kids – TorchBearer’s hot sauces are NOT messing around.

In my defense, most of the TorchBearer labels feature a rating front and center that lets you know if what you’re trying is “sweet,” “mild” or in the case of their Rapture sauce, “deadly.” Zombie Apocalypse features no such rating. I figured I could handle it, but the subsequent tears and gulped glasses of milk were proof I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Let me introduce TorchBearer Sauces. Vid, Ben and Tim started the central PA-based company 10 years ago this week (Happy Birthday, guys!). It is truly a local endeavor – the three founders are locals, the labels are designed by local designer Hauck Interactive, and their wares are hawked by many central PA friends, including local celebrities and bloggers Sara and Tierney.

Bowl of TorchBearer curry chicken and veggies with a glass of wine

This recipe winds up spicy, but you can easily adjust the heat by adding less curry sauce

TorchBearer started when the boys had an excess of habaneros and decided to make a habanero preserve. I get that. I grow habaneros every summer, and often wonder what to do when I suddenly have 20 ripe habaneros on my hands. (This summer I’ll share a sweet habanero hot sauce recipe that is amazing on fish tacos.)

After realizing they had an amazing creation on their hands, the boys decided to go for it. They perfected their sauce, set out for their first hot sauce festival, and took home three national awards.

Now 10 years later they have over 20 products, ranging from mild but garlicy fan favorite Oh My Garlic!, to spicy wing sauces and salsas, to super, incredibly-mouth-blisteringly-hot sauces made with Ghost Chili and Trinidad Scorpion peppers. Their hottest is the aforementioned Rapture, which according to the boys is the hottest natural hot sauce in the world. I have to admit, I haven’t tried that one, not even a little drop.

TorchBearer focuses on natural ingredients in their recipes, which I love. Carrots and mandarin oranges add such a nice flavor along with their sweetness that you’ll never get from corn syrup.

Since choking on that Zombie Apocalypse, I’ve come a long way with TorchBearer. My fridge is currently home to 7 mostly used bottles of different Torch sauces. One of their newest is the Psycho Curry. When I first tried it, the Psycho Curry was so new it was still in “test sauce” status (so no fancy label). According to some inside information I got today, the sauce now has the green light and is on its way to amazing hand-drawn label status.

I couldn’t agree with that decision more. The curry sauce is really outstanding. It’s hot (made with habaneros), but when dealt with correctly—not overwhelmingly so. The flavor is very bold, from the lime, fenugreek, turmeric and other spices. Overall, I think it is a good sauce to mix in with something that will mellow it out (I picked coconut milk). But if you are courageous, try it on its own. Friend-of-the-blog Sara Bozich over at made a version using the sauce straight, more like a stir-fry sauce, and she and her husband loved it.

Ingredients for the TorchBearer Curry Chicken and Veggies

The fall vegetables work great, but summer veggies like yellow squash and peppers would be delicious too

When I first picked up the sauce, I did a little sampling of it by itself to get to know it. Like I said, it’s got a bold profile. And it isn’t a sweet curry. I wanted to put together a recipe that would tame the sauce just a little bit, but still let it shine. I picked carrot and butternut squash to bring some sweetness to the recipe; I decided at the end it still needed a little bit of brown sugar to sweeten it up a little more. And since I’ve been on a kick of using cauliflower instead of rice, I threw in some of that as well.

This recipe would work great without any meat; the veggies themselves are hearty and filling. And actually, that would make it vegan. But my husband doesn’t eat any meals without meat, so I added chicken.

You could adapt this recipe to almost any veggie and protein combo. I’ve tried this adding either snow peas or asparagus, and both were great – just watch the cooking time. Snow peas I added just a few minutes before finishing. Asparagus was a little longer. I think shrimp would be nice in it as well – again just add in for a few minutes at the end.

TorchBearer Curry Chicken and Veggies


  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cubed carrot (3 medium carrots)
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 14 oz. can coconut milk (lite or regular)
  • 1/2 cup Torchbearer Psycho Curry sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar


  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a skillet over medium heat
  2. Stir fry the chicken pieces until brown, about 5 minutes
  3. Remove chicken from heat and set aside
  4. While chicken is cooking, whisk together the can of coconut milk, curry sauce and brown sugar
  5. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a large skillet
  6. Add red onion to oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft - about 5 minutes
  7. Add carrot and squash, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  8. Add cauliflower and browned chicken, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  9. Add curry coconut milk mixture to veggies and chicken
  10. Bring to a simmer. Turn down heat to keep at a simmer
  11. Simmer 20-40 minutes, depending on desired consistency and liquidity. I liked my curry softer with less liquid, so let it go pretty long

Spicy Berbere Roast Chicken

Guys, if we’re going to be friends, there’s something you need to know. A few things, probably, like my tendency to interrupt myself, but we’ll start with this: I’m a locavore, and I like to eat organic when I can.

I know, right? Ugh.

You can’t be all that surprised about the local part. This blog is called Made from PA. And the organic part…well, I’ve just read a little too much about the food industry.

But but BUT — I swear to you I’ll try not to be preachy about it. Or at least, I’ll try to tone down the preach to non-denominational levels. I’ll just judge you quietly instead.

Berbere roast chicken with Misr Wat, an Ethiopian lentil dish.

Berbere roast chicken with Misr Wat, an Ethiopian lentil dish

Given my local, organic tendencies, it was easy for me to decide what ingredient to feature first here at Made from PA. A whole roast chicken from my meat CSA, North Mountain Pastures. North Mountain is a perfect example of why I feel so lucky to live where I do, with easy access to one of the only meat CSAs that I’m aware of.

(A quick aside for my friends who aren’t familiar with the whole Community Supported Agriculture thing: check out the info at, then sign up for one before spring. If you live by me, sign up for Piney Mountain Orchard. You’ll love it, I promise.)

North Mountain Pastures is an 84-acre farm run by a couple, Brooks and Anna, just outside Newport, PA. I adore them. The chickens, cows, pigs and sheep they raise are grass-fed and have permanent access to pastures. I will keep my soap boxing short, but I really enjoy knowing that the majority of the meat cooked in my house is from animals that were raised in a way where they could act naturally, weren’t pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, and were killed humanely when it was time for slaughter.

Beautifully browned Berbere roast chicken, in the roasting pan

The Berbere rub leads to a nice dark skin on the roast chicken.

Even more than that, I love personally knowing the farmers that are raising the meat I eat. When I pick up my 12 pound mix of beef, chicken, pork and lamb once a month, it’s usually Anna handing it to me. I’ve even had Brooks occasionally apologize that our meat wasn’t frozen yet because it was just butchered that morning. I mean…really? How cool is that?! (Other than being kind of gross if I think about it too hard, so let’s not do that.)

Starting this blog with something from North Mountain was obvious. I’m pretty well smitten with them. (The fact that Brooks is totally cute has nothing to do with that, I swear.) Chicken was obvious, as well. We eat a variety of meats in my house, but I gotta be honest – we eat a LOT of chicken. Every month, we get at least one whole chicken from North Mountain, so there we go.

Doing Ethiopian Berbere roast chicken? Not much reason to that other than that I’d just picked up a new jar of Berbere spice from Penzeys, and figured it would be fun to roast a chicken with a rub including the Berbere. I was right. Spicy and tasty without hiding the good chicken flavor.

Ingredients for the rub for the Berbere roast chicken are Berbere seasoning, ginger, garlic and butter.

Berbere, ginger, garlic and butter go into the rub.

After I decided on Berbere, I went on a trip to my local farmer’s market where I scored some purple carrots, some ingredients to make Misr Wat, and I was all set. Misr Wat is an Ethiopian lentil dish, and I’ll have the recipe for that posted soon.

I picked up the purple carrots because they seemed pretty nifty, and I’d never cooked with them before. The joys of a local farmer’s market! Don’t worry, you can use regular carrots if you can’t find purple ones.

The chicken roasts with purple carrots, onion and lemon.

Purple carrots are fun, but using regular carrots will work fine too.

One final thing — Berbere is HOT. Particularly the Berbere seasoning I used from Pensey’s. If you don’t like heat, reduce the amount of Berbere in the rub.

Let’s get cooking!

Berbere Roast Chicken

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Not your average roast chicken! A spicy and exotic roast chicken using Berbere seasoning, an Ethiopian spice mixture containing cayenne, fenugreek, cardamom and more.


  • 1 small whole chicken (about 3 lbs.), rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1" piece of ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons Berbere seasoning*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 small onions, quartered
  • 2 large purple carrots, peeled and cut into 1" chunks (use 3 orange carrots if you can't find purple)
  • *Berbere is hot, so feel free to use less if you don't like a lot of heat


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, Berbere, salt and butter to form a paste.
  3. Use your fingers to gently separate the skin from the meat of the chicken (aim for breasts, legs, and thighs). Again using your fingers, rub seasoning paste under the skin, getting the meat good and covered. Rub any extra paste over the chicken skin or inside the cavity.
  4. Place the lemon quarters and the bunch of cilantro inside the chicken's cavity. Fold the chicken's wings up and over its shoulders, tucking the wing tips beneath the back, and tie the legs together at their ends. Or do whatever fancy truss technique you prefer.
  5. Place onion quarters and carrot pieces into the bottom of a roasting pan. Place chicken, breast-side up, over onion and carrot.
  6. Put your chicken in the oven and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, lower the heat to 300 degrees and roast another 40-50 minutes until your chicken's skin is golden and the thigh meat has reached a temperature of 165 degrees.
  7. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.