Chicken Karahi, or Kadai chicken, is on every Indian takeout menu, and with good reason! It is a delicious curry, full of flavor and with a nice spicy kick.
This recipe for Simple Chicken Karahi uses some clever tricks to make a fantastic restaurant-style curry at home. It is easy to make, and you will be blown away by the taste!!!
Serve this Kadai Chicken with your favorite naan or roti and enjoy an authentic tasting curry at home!
What is Chicken Karahi
Chicken Karahi, also called Kadai Chicken, is a chicken curry with a spicy tomato base, fragrant spices, and ginger. To finish the curry, we add plenty of green chilies and fresh cilantro.
Whether you are making a Pakistani version or the North Indian version, it may or may not have onions and green bell peppers.
Chicken Karahi has a rich, thick gravy and is perfect for scooping up with Indian bread. It is so good!
The name karahi/kadai comes from the type of pan used traditionally for cooking Chicken Karahi. A karahi is a heavy-based metal pan with a flat base and rounded sides. Similar to a wok. They usually have two handles on either side and were originally used in open fires for high heat cooking.
But you certainly don't need a karahi to make this curry. Instead, you can use a large skillet, dutch oven or even a wok!
Does Chicken Karahi have onions in it?
Yes and no! The dish has many versions, most notably the Pakistani and the North Indian versions.
North Indian Chicken Karahi includes chunks of onions and green peppers, while Pakistani Chicken Karahi doesn't.
My personal preference is for onions but no green peppers. But that is because I love onions and dislike green peppers!
Chicken Karahi Spices
You can buy all the spices needed to make Chicken Karahi (Kadai Chicken) in the grocery store:
- Ground coriander
- Ground cumin
- Cayenne pepper
- Ground fenugreek
- Black pepper
Recipe tips and tricks
We all know that Indian takeout or Indian in a restaurant has that special something that makes you go back for more. It is that mix of spices, the rich savoriness, and that glisten of oil on your lips.
If you want Indian restaurant-style food at home, you have to use oil, it is what gives the sauce that almost split look, and it is where the flavor happens!
The delicious savory sweetness comes from onions. And with the BEST Indian food hack ever, you will see how to turn your onions into the most amazing sauce ever!
The recipe starts by cooking onions in quite a bit of oil; once soft garlic, ginger, and tomatoes get added, this mixture is pureed up with a bit of water, making a soupy onion tomato base for your curry. It doesn't look or taste like much at this stage, just sort of weak pasta sauce! But have no fear!
Yes this tomatoey onion mixture looks nothing special, but the magic happens when it's added back into the pan with the chicken. The pureed onions start to caramelize within the sauce, adding a depth of flavor that tastes like it has been cooking for several hours rather than 30 minutes.
The other tip I have is to mix up the spice blend before you cook the chicken, get them all in a bowl, and well mixed. This blend can then be sprinkled over the chicken, ensuring each piece of meat is well seasoned and flavored with all of the spices.
An extra splash of oil at this stage also helps temper the spices and take the flavor through the whole dish….again, more taste in a shorter cooking time.
- This is a spicy curry, but if you like it mild, leave out the cayenne pepper and don't add the green chili at the end.
- If you like it extra hot, you can add more cayenne pepper or add some fresh red chillis when you add the spice mix to the chicken.
- I don't recommend replacing the chicken thighs with breasts here, the curry needs to cook for 25 minutes, and the breasts will dry out and become stringy.
- The oil here gives you the authentic flavor and sauce texture. You can reduce it, but the curry won't be the same - or as good. But it will still be tasty.
Leftovers and cooking in advance
You can make this curry in advance; the flavors are just as good! Don't do the final step of the recipe - adding the fresh green chilis. Save this step for when you reheat the curry. Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Or freeze for 2-3 months. Thoroughly defrost before reheating.
You can store leftover Chicken Karahi in the same way- in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2 – 3 days. Or freeze for 2-3 months. Again defrost thoroughly before reheating.
How to reheat your curry
The flavors will develop in the curry the longer it sits, and you will find that the oil separates from the sauce a little. This is okay! Once reheated, the sauce comes back together perfectly.
To reheat in the microwave, heat on 75% power for 3-4 minutes, ensuring that the chicken is piping hot. Stir well to recombine the sauce. I use the microwave for small portions of leftovers rather than reheating after I cooked the curry in advance.
Alternatively, you can use the stovetop, which is my preferred method if I am heating up a large amount or making the curry in advance. To do this, add the curry back into a large skillet and reheat over medium heat. If the curry becomes too dry, add a little water and stir well.
With both methods, finish the dish with some fresh chopped green chili and fresh cilantro.
What to Serve with Chicken Karahi
Chicken karahi or Kadai chicken is a drier curry, so it works well with Indian breads, like naan, chapati, or roti.
But if you love rice, then try this Indian Pilaf or a simple Indian Basmati rice. Both have enough flavor to be eaten with just a little sauce!
What to drink with Chicken Karahi
The spice in this curry means you want to avoid anything too oaky or too acidic. It will ruin the wine and the curry!
My top picks would be a Riesling; an off-dry or sweet riesling would work exceptionally well, but if dry wine is your thing, then a dry riesling still has the sweetness to balance the spice.
Or try a fruity rose, or even better, a sparkling rose. The level of fruitiness is perfect with the heat of the curry.
For red lovers, again, avoid oak or anything too heavy or high in alcohol. Instead, think Gamay, Pinot Noir, or Grenache.
If you cook this curry, don't forget to come back and comment or tag me on social media.
Any questions about the recipe? Use the comments section below.
Simple Chicken Karahi Recipe
For the curry base
- 2 onions - see note 1
- ¼ cup oil
- 3 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger - grated
- ¾ cup crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup water
For the spice blend
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper - see note 2
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the curry
- 1 onion - see note 1
- 3 tablespoons oil - divided
- 6 chicken thigh fillets - boneless and skinless
- ½ tablespoon ginger - grated
- 2 green chilies - sliced - see note 2
- fresh cilantro - chopped
Make the curry base
- Peel and roughly chop the onions.
- Heat the oil in a large pan or skillet (you can use a wok), then fry the onions over medium-high heat until soft and starting to color at the edges. Around 10 minutes.
- Pour the onions and the oil into a blender or food processor. Add the garlic, ginger, crushed tomatoes, and water— blitz to a puree.
Making the curry
- Start by making the spice blend - Mix all the spices in a small bowl and set to one side.
- Peel and roughly chop the onion and cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized chunks.
- In the same pan, you cooked the onion base in, heat the oil until shimmering. Fry the chicken for 5 minutes, then add in the chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the remaining oil, grated ginger, and sprinkle over the spice blend, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the curry base, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Bring the curry to a boil and cook over high heat, frequently stirring, until the sauce starts to separate roughly 7-10 minutes.
- Once cooked, finish the dish with chopped fresh green chilis and plenty of cilantro.
- You can use brown, white or yellow onions for this.
- The cayenne pepper and green chilies give this curry its spice. But feel free to leave them out for a mild curry, or to increase them for a spicer one.