Spicy, smokey and packed with flavour Karahi Chicken is a restaurant favourite that can be made so easily at home. A thick gravy and crunchy roasted onion and capsicum make this Indian curry a family favourite.
Not your regular chicken curry, but with almost the same ingredients, we are transforming chicken into a stellar dish today. Karahi Chicken is on the menu at pretty much every restaurant and it always makes the top #5 list of favourites. For good reason. The flavours of this dish are unbeatable, and work so well when you want chicken curry but different.
There is some work that goes into this dish, and the list of ingredients will feel slightly long. But when you break this down step by step like I've done here for you, you'll realise that it's pretty simple actually. And the entire dish takes 45 minutes from start to finish, which is a winner when you want something special.
How to make Karahi Chicken + Ingredients
Marinate Chicken: Start by marinating chicken with thick curd (or greek yogurt) and spices. This step helps tenderise the chicken and packs it with flavour. I like to use 'curry cut' chicken which is basically a whole chicken cut into 1.5 inch pieces. You can easily use only thighs and drumsticks if you like. I do recommend using bone in chicken for best results because the chicken stays juicy.
Karahi Masala: Karahi Masala is the backbone of this recipe. In addition to using regular ground spices, we are making a fragrant, flavourful spice mix with cumin (jeera), fennel (saunf), peppercorns (kali mirch), coriander seeds (dhaniya) and whole dried red chillies (khadi lal mirch). The spices are lightly dry roasted in a pan for 2-3 minutes till they release their oils (you'll be able to smell their sweetness and that's when you know they are ready), cooled and ground to a powder. This recipe makes approx 4 tablespoon and we are using 2 ½ tbsp of this masala. The rest can be stored in an airtight container and used for any curries or your next batch of karahi chicken or karahi paneer.
Roasted Onion Capsicum: This is another step that you can prep and keep ready before you start making the curry. Onions (I've used pearl onions but you can easily use whole shallots or onion petals), whole red chillies and cubed capsicum are roasted together in ghee on a really high flame till they char around the edges. This is added towards the end for sweet, spicy, smoky flavours. Karahi chicken gets its distinct flavour and aroma from these.
- Whole Spices: Start by sauteing whole spices in oil till the cumin (jeera) starts spluttering
- Onions: Cook onions till they are soft and translucent. We don't want to brown them too much, just soften them.
- Ground Spices: Add ground spices and ginger garlic paste. Saute this well to cook the spices and ginger garlic paste - about 2-3 minutes
- More Ginger Garlic: This dish is flavour packed and we want it to have strong flavours. The extra ginger garlic is added at this stage to keep the flavour robust and fresh
- Tomato Puree: Tomato puree is just fresh tomatoes ground to paste. I recommend fresh over store bought because store bought puree is tangier. Add the tomato puree, mix well and cook with the masala for a few minutes till you start seeing oil separating from the sides. Thats a sure shot sign that your masala is cooked through.
- Dry Roast Chicken: Add the marinated chicken and then on high flame, keep tossing it with the masala for 2 minutes. This will cook the marinade and seal the flavours.
- Simmer: Add some water and simmer the chicken 25 minutes
- Onion Capsicum: Final stretch. Add the roasted onion and capsicum along with kasuri methi and garam masala. Mix and cook this for another 5-7 minutes. The smokiness and sweetness from roasted onions and capsicum will make this a stellar dish!
- Serve: Lots of chopped coriander, some butter and you are ready to serve!!
Karahi Chicken tastes best with parathas, tandoori rotis or chapatis. The gravy is thick and jammy and the chicken remains juicy and tender. The bits of onions and capsicum help cut through the spice because of their sweetness and smokiness.
Towards the end of the meal, I also enjoy mixing any masala on my plate with some basmati or jeera rice. It's just my thing. So whatever you decide to serve with it, it always makes a phenomenal meal.
Watch the Recipe Video
- 500 grams Chicken
- ¼ cup Curd
- 1 teaspoon Ginger Garlic Paste
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Chilli Powder
Karahi Masala (makes 4 tbsp)
- 1 tablespoon Coriander Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
- 2 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
- 2-3 Dry Red Chillies
For the curry
- 4 tablespoons Mustard Oil
- 1 Bayleaf
- 5-6 Peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Jeera
- ½ inch Cinnamon
- 1 medium Onion finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon Ginger Garlic Paste
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 teaspoon Red Chilli
- 1.5 teaspoon Coriander Powder
- ½ teaspoon Jeera Powder
- 2 tablespoons Karahi masala ground earlier
- ¾ - 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 inch Ginger julienned
- 1 tablespoon chopped Garlic
- 2 large Tomatoes roughly pureed
- 1 teaspoon Ghee
- 2 whole Red Chillies
- 8-10 Sambar Onion Pearl Onions, sub with onion petals
- 1 Capsicum cubed
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon Kasuri Methi roasted and ground
- 1 tablespoon Butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped Coriander
- Marinate chicken for 15-20 minutes by mixing together all the ingredients mentioned under chicken marinade.
- On a low flame, dry roast ingredients mentioned under karahi masala for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices. Cool and grind to a powder
- Heat mustard oil in a kadai and add whole spices (bay leaf, peppercorns, cinnamon and jeera). Once the jeera starts spluttering, add onions and saute for a minute or two. Then add ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder, jeera powder and 2 tablespoon of the karahi masala (dry powder ground earlier) and cook for another minute or two till the raw smell disappears.
- Add salt, julienned ginger and chopped garlic and saute on high heat for a minute. Then add the tomato puree and mix well. Cook the tomato puree for two minutes on high heat till it starts leaving oil on the sides and add the marinated chicken.
- Stir fry the chicken for 2-3 minutes on high heat to roast the chicken and cook the curd.
- Add ½-¾ cup water and cover and cook on low for 25 minutes.
- In another pan, heat ghee and add whole red chillies, sambar onions and capsicum and stir fry on high for 2-3 minutes till the onions and capsicum look blistered. High heat cooking adds smokiness.
- Once the chicken has been simmering for 25 minutes, add the roasted onions and capsicum to the chicken and mix well. Add garam masala, kasuri methi and butter and cook for another 5 minutes. Add chopped coriander and turn off the flame. Let this sit for 10 minutes before serving.
- Do not skip the curd chicken marinade. The curd marinade tenderises the meat gently and effectively as compared to acidic marinades like lemon or vinegar which toughens the meat.
- Cook the tomatoes until the oil separates i.e., there is a thin layer of oil on top. The oil separating is an indicator that the spices have combined and are cooked through. It also indicated that the excess moisture has evaporated.
- Do not skimp on the coriander - it really elevates the flavour of the dish!
- Karahi Chicken tastes best with parathas, tandoori rotis or chapatis. The gravy is thick and jammy and the chicken remains juicy and tender. The bits of onions and capsicum help cut through the spice because of their sweetness and smokiness.