Karhai Chicken

If someone were to ask me what my favorite Pak-Indo food it is, my answer would undeniably be that it is Karhai Chicken.  A karhai is a traditional Indian cooking vessel.  Consider it a sister to the Asian wok.

The northern parts of Pakistan are known for their amazing Karhai Chicken, and it’s made in the tradition karhai.  Tomatoes and a small handful of spices are cooked with either chicken or beef, creating a sweet, tangy, and spicy combination of awesomeness 🙂

Today’s recipe comes via my husband’s side of the family.  The women on that side of the family are known for their extraordinary cooking.  I cannot think of a single time where someone cooked something that was short of stunning.   So with that being said, I say you give this family-favorite a try and turn it into your own family-favorite 🙂



Karhai Chicken

 Yield:  4 Servings


For Karhai Spice Mix:

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

For Karhai:

  • 2 pounds chicken, cut into curry pieces
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Karhai Spice Mix
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 1 green chili, sliced
  • Pinch fenugreek leaves, optional
  • Handful cilantro, for garnish


Make Karhai Spice Mix:

Combine coriander and cumin and grind until the mixture turns into a fine powder. Mixture keeps well in a jar at room temperature.

Make Karhai:

Heat oil in a large cooking vessel over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook until transparent.  Add tomatoes, red chili powder, and turmeric.  Cover and lower heat to medium, and cook until tomatoes loose their shape, about 15 minutes.  Be sure to stir once in a while to prevent the mixture from burning or sticking to the bottom of the vessel.  Once the tomatoes are soft, use an immersion blender to blend ¾ of the mixture into a thick sauce.

Add chicken, ginger-garlic paste, red pepper flakes, salt, and ½ cup water.  Cook until chicken is no longer rare, about 20 minutes.  Stir once in a while to prevent burning.

Add Karhai Spice Mix, ginger, green chili, and cilantro and mix well.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and allow Karhai to simmer until gravy is thickened, about 10 minutes.  Add fenugreek leaves (if using) and remove from heat.


13 responses

  1. Oh my word, mouth watering. I love Indian food – actually most foods from the east/aisa yet my heritage is so British. I can only imagine the smell of this dish – delicious. I’m not the best cook in my family but I sure do enjoy trying different things. Thanks for the share.

  2. Wow! I’m so happy to have stumbled upon your blog! Honestly, I don’t know how to cook much desi food, and it’s hard because my mom never measures anything, so I have no idea what to put/how much. Thanks, I pan on making this soon, inshaAllaj

    • I’m happy you stumbled upon it too, lol! And I totally understand where you’re coming from about moms never measuring. Rest assured, my mom is the same way lol. When I want to learn something from her, I hand her the teaspoons and tablespoons and say, “Ok Ma, cook with these.” 🙂

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