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Chicken Karahi – Chicken Tomato Curry

Chicken Karahi – Our Pakistani chicken karahi or chicken Kadai is a thick, tomato-based curry with fresh ginger, garlic, and green chilies like the street-style dish found in dhabas all over Pakistan and North India. Bring home the same restaurant flavor with our easy recipe for authentic tomato-based chicken karahi. We serve ours with roti, chapati, or Basmati Rice.

Chicken Karahi on a plate topped with cilantro and served with green chilies.

WHAT IS CHICKEN KARAHI?

Karahis originate from the Khyber Pakhtunkhava region of Pakistan. The dish is often made with chicken. However, you can also prepare karahis with beef, Goat, lamb, and fish! Tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and chilies deliciously flavor the dish with a rich, concentrated flavor. Once you’ve made this recipe, try our Karahi Gosht next!

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  • Ghee: Ghee is a staple in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, and it develops a deep, nutty flavor; mustard oil is a great alternative.
  • Cumin: Cumin seeds toast in ghee to pronounce their natural flavor.
  • Chilis: Slit green chilis add a heat that doesn’t overwhelm. If you prefer your karahi to be spicier, consider chopping the chilis before adding them.
  • Chicken: Traditionally, chicken karahi is made with a whole, cut-up chicken, but I tend to use bone-in chicken legs and thighs; for boneless preparation, try chicken thighs or breasts. They will take less time to cook than the bone-in chicken, so adjust the cooking time accordingly; the safe temperature for chicken is 165° F (73° C).
  • Ginger: Ginger is a prominent flavor in karahi! It flavors the curry and serves as a tasty garnish. The bites of karahi with fresh ginger are my favorite ones!
  • Garlic: I suggest using four cloves, but don’t let my recipe tell you how much garlic to use – go for it; measure with your heart!
  • Tomatoes: Ripe, fresh tomatoes are the base for the flavorful karahi masala. Roma tomatoes work best because they have less moisture than other varieties. I use a food processor to puree the tomatoes beforehand because it shortens the cooking time. If this isn’t a concern for you, dice the tomatoes and reduce them in the pan for a thicker gravy.
  • Karahi Masala: Salt, pepper, Kashmiri chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and kalonji seeds come together to season this dish. If you’re in a hurry, use Laziza Karahi masala alongside the tomatoes, ginger, and garlic.
  • Cilantro: Use cilantro to garnish and add a pop of color.

HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN KARAHI

Warm the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Then, add cumin seeds and green chilies. Cook until they begin sputtering.

Chilies and cumin seed cooked in oil add depth to the Pakistani Chicken Karahi

Add the chicken and fry until the outside becomes light golden brown. 

Fry the chicken pieces for Pakistani karahi.

Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the raw smell fades.

Cook chicken with fresh garlic and ginger to add flavor to the Pakistani chicken karahi.

Combine the salt, pepper, Kashmiri chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and kalonji seeds into a small bowl. Add the spices to the pan, along with the pureed tomato. Stir to incorporate. Then, cook for 20 minutes until the oil separates- and the masala darkens. 

Pakistani chicken karahi cooking in a large wok.

Lower the heat, and stir in the cilantro; simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add cilantro to Pakistani chicken karahi.

Garnish with fresh ginger, cilantro, and extra green chilies. Serve with naan or long-grain Basmati Rice, and enjoy!

Pakistani chicken karahi finishing on the stove.

COOKING TIPS

  • The cooking technique used to make karahi is called bhunna, or cooking over high heat until the ghee or oil separates.
  • Avoid overcrowding the pan with the chicken because the moisture won’t evaporate. If you end up with too much liquid in the pan (tell me how I know this), remove the meat and set it aside; this allows the masala to cook down faster. Return the chicken once it reduces.
  • Fresh tomatoes, garlic, and ginger aren’t required, but they are highly encouraged!
  • If you prefer more curry to eat with roti or chapati, I recommend using 1 to 2 more tomatoes.

SEARCHING FOR MORE LIKE THIS? 

If you love this recipe, try one of our other Pakistani and Indian-inspired meals!  

Chicken Karahi in a karahi topped with cilantro and served with green chilies.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS

  • FRIDGE – Store the leftovers in an airtight container; it will keep for 2-4 days.
  • FREEZER – Allow the the dish to cool, then add it to a freezer-safe container or bag; karahi freezes for 2 months. When you’re ready to eat, defrost it in the fridge overnight.
  • REHEAT – Warm leftovers on the stovetop and prepare your sides.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why is it called chicken karahi?

Pakistani curry is named after the wok-like pan it cooks in. While the dish gets its name from the pan, karahis are better known for meat simmering in a thick tomato, ginger, and garlic-based gravy. 

What is karahi made of?

Fresh tomatoes, garlic, and ginger are the main components of a great-tasting karahi. Fragrant spices contribute to the overall flavor of the dish. However, you will find that the combination of seasonings varies from recipe to recipe.

Is karahi spicy?

It may appear spicy at first glance, but our chicken karahi recipe is pretty mild. While not overly spicy, it’s packed with flavor and traditional Indian spices. If you prefer a spicier karahi, consider chopping the chilis before adding them. You can also increase the Kashmiri chili powder to three teaspoons.

Is karahi the same as curry?

In the U.S., we are quick to call most Indian dishes with a lot of sauce curry. However, karahi is in a category all on its own. The primary difference between a curry and a karahi is the absence of cream, yogurt, and onion to create the gravy. Instead, karahis rely heavily on tomatoes to carry the flavor.

Does chicken karahi include onion?

While modern recipes include onion or yogurt, we stick to the basics with our take on the Pakistani classic. However, make the meal your own and if you like extra masala, feel free to use onions.

YOU SHOULD ALSO TRY:

Chicken Karahi on a plate topped with cilantro and served with green chilies.

Chicken Karahi – Chicken Tomato Curry

Tressa Jamil
Bring home the restaurant-style flavor with our easy recipe for authentic tomato-based chicken karahi; it's ready and on the table in 45 minutes.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani
Servings 4 people
Calories 391 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 Thai green chili, split lengthwise
  • 1 ½ pounds chicken thighs and legs, skinless and bone-in, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon  kalonji seeds
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, pureed
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • ¼ cup fresh ginger, matchstick, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Warm the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Then, add cumin seeds and green chilies. Cook until they begin sputtering.
  • Add the chicken and fry until the outside becomes light golden brown. 
  • Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the raw smell fades.
  • Combine the salt, pepper, Kashmiri chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and kalonji seeds into a small bowl. Add the spices to the pan, along with the pureed tomato. Stir to incorporate. Then, cook for 20 minutes until the oil separates- and the masala darkens. 
  • Lower the heat, and stir in the cilantro; simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with fresh ginger, cilantro, and extra green chilies. Serve with naan or Basmati Rice, and enjoy!

Notes

Cooking Tips: 
  • If you wind up with too much liquid because of the tomatoes or crowding the pan with chicken (tell me why I know this), that’s okay! Remove the meat from the pan and allow the masala to cook down over medium-high heat. Return the chicken once the gravy reduces.
  • Fresh tomatoes, garlic, and ginger aren’t required, but they are highly encouraged! 
  • If you prefer more curry to eat with roti or chapati, I recommend using 1 to 2 more tomatoes.
 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.

Nutrition

Serving: 2 chicken piecesCalories: 391kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 49gFat: 17gSodium: 188mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating




RJ

Sunday 16th of October 2022

This karahi was terrific. Felt just like home. We've made it a few times since and it is a favorite for everyone including the kids and a picky grandfather. Very flavorful and rich.