A warming bowl of spicy Chicken Nihari can be really satisfying with hot naan and lemon wedges and ginger and herbs. This is a simple, quick, and convenient version of traditional nihari that can be made in 35 minutes!
Chicken Nihari is a spicy flour-based chicken stew made with fried onion, yogurt, ginger, garlic, and wheat flour. The aroma of chicken nihari is derived from a unique blend of Indian spices comprised of fennel seeds, cumin, coriander, cardamom, red chili, and other common spices. It is garnished with a load of julienned ginger, sliced chilies, and cilantro. Lemon wedges are always served along.
Authentic and traditional Beef Nihari is cooked overnight with beef shanks. With the growing popularity of organic chicken as a healthier substitute for red meat, the chicken nihari version came into being.
Obviously, the beef version tastes better but this chicken nihari is so easy and quick to make, I bet it will become a family favorite. Nihari like other Mughal dishes like korma, biryani, and haleem is widely eaten in Dehli, India, and Karachi, Pakistan. Both regions enjoy this chicken version as an alternative to beef.
- It is difficult to describe the taste of chicken nihari. It is moderately spicy and aromatic with background fennel flavors. This gravy is thick and has a little nutty touch from roasted flour slurry.
- The splash of lemon and julienne ginger makes it one of the kind experience having Nihari. Beef nihari is an unbeatable experience. But I promise this chicken nihari does justice to the taste.
- Nihari tastes better the next day so any leftovers are delicious and can be frozen too. Nihari tends to thicken as it sits longer. So add a few tablespoons of water when reheating. The thick flour-based curry is promoted to burn easily if reheated on high heat.
So I've also shared the ingredients of the spice mix in the photo below. As all the ingredients are visible in the photo. I will not list them again.
- Chicken: Make sure to use bone-in chicken as a lot of flavors come from fats in the bones.
- Spice Mix: Nihari is all about spices and aroma! So nihari masala or spice mix seasoning is essential for this curry. You can get ready-made nihari masala from amazon. These spices mixes are very spicy so use less than the suggested measures.
- Or if you have these whole spices in hand (the most important spices are visible on the spice plate, make your own spices mix in a coffee grinder. Find my detailed recipe Nihari masala here.
- Wheat Flour: Wheat flour is traditionally used for Nihari but you can use plain flour as well. For a gluten-free or keto nihari, you can use gluten-free flour or almond flour respectively.
- Corn starch or cornflour is usually not used. Because cornflour doesn't provide the nutty flavor that you get by roasting wheat flour or cooking wheat flour for very long.
- Yogurt: This ingredient gives a little tanginess to nihari.
- Onion: Brown onions help give some thickness to gravy and taste to Nihari.
- Ginger: This is the most important ingredient of garnish. We like it with loads of ginger and sliced chilies.
How to make it?
If you have nihari masala in hand, making chicken nihari is a breeze.
- Heat oil in a vessel and add chopped onion. Fry on medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes until onions are lightly golden. (Adjust heat if needed.)
- Now add Nihari spice mix, green chili, ginger, and garlic paste. (Use only 2.5-3 tablespoons of the prepared spice mix.)
- Give the spice a stir and let it sizzle for a few seconds then add chicken.
- Cook on high flame for 3-5 minutes until the color of the chicken changes, then add 1 cup of water. Cover and cook the chicken for 10 minutes on medium until tender.
- While chicken cooks, roast wheat flour in a pan until fragrant. Transfer flour to a bowl. (For a gluten-free or keto nihari, you can use gluten-free flour or almond flour respectively.) Mix 1 cup of water in roasted wheat flour and make a smooth paste. Set aside.
- When the chicken is half-cooked, add the wheat paste (flour slurry). Mix well.
- Also, add whipped yogurt add about 1 cup of water to thin out the gravy to desired consistency. (The gravy will thicken as it cooks.) Continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes on low heat until a little layer of oil rises on the top.
- Transfer Nihari to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh coriander, ginger, and chilies. Heat little butter or ghee in a vessel and add red chili. Pour heated butter over nihari. Serve with Tandoori Naan or toasted bread.
Whole wheat flour is used to thicken nihari gravy, but some people also use plain flour. If you want to make gluten-free nihari you can use any gluten-free almond flour to thicken nihari till the desired consistency is reached. For a Keto Nihari also you can use almond flour to thicken the gravy.
Nihari is served with tadoori naan, kulcha or karak double roti. Ginger, lemon, and herbs are must accompaniments.
Hungry for Chicken Curries? Check these!
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Chicken Nihari Recipe
- ⅓ cup oil
- ½ cup chopped onion, About 1 medium
- 2½ tablespoon Nihari Masala, or more to taste. Here's my recipe or get ready-made spice mix)
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- ½ tablespoon green chilli paste
- 500 grams skinless chicken, cut into pieces
- 2 cups water , divided
- ¼ cup wheat flour
- ½ cup plain yogurt, whipped
- 2 tablespoon ghee , or butter
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder, or less
- 1 inch ginger, cut in julienne
- Fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 4 lemon wedges
- Heat oil in a pot and add chopped onion. Stir and cover the lid. Cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat until lightly golden.
- Now, add Nihari spice mix, ginger garlic paste, and green chili paste. Give it a stir and then add chicken. Fry for 5 minutes until the color of the chicken changes.
- Then add 1 cup water. Mix well to remove any masala sticking on the bottom and sides of the pot. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- In another pan, roast wheat flour for 1-2 minutes on medium heat until fragrant. Transfer flour to a bowl. Add 1 cup water to wheat flour and mix well. Make a smooth paste with batter-like consistency.
- Add wheat paste and yogurt to the chicken pot and mix well.
- Mix in 1 cup water and cover the pot again. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes on very low heat until a layer of oil is visible on the top.
- Heat butter or ghee on a pan and add chili powder.
- Simultaneously fill Nihari in a serving bowl, garnish with ginger and coriander leaves. Pour heated butter the garnish and serve with lemon wedges.
- Try to make Nihari 4-6 hours ahead and let it sit for several hours for enhanced flavors.
- You can substitute my Nihari masala with store-bought Nihari Masala to save time. Add more masala if needed.
If you make Nihari frequently, I suggest double or triple the recipe and making a big jar of spice mix, and store in the fridge or freezer. This stays good for up to a year.
- Nihari tends to thicken as it sits longer. So add a few tablespoons of water when reheating. The thick flour-based curry is promoted to burn easily if reheated on high heat.