Here's a spicy, restaurant-style recipe for chicken karahi. The kind of karahi you get on Dhaba (street restaurants) of Karachi when you travel to Pakistan. Karahi is most famous amongst all curries of Pakistan and very easy to make.
The basic technique of karahi making is stir-frying. You need a large cooking surface that allows searing. Also, avoid crowding the pan and cooking karahi in bulk as the moisture won't evaporate easily and you will miss the rich karahi taste. If you need to cook for a larger group, consider cooking in two separate works.
Fry Chicken First
I fried the chicken first just like they do it on Dhabas in Karachi. Why? we all know chicken has a short cooking time compared to mutton. So if you cook chicken in tomato puree it gets either over-cooked and chicken flesh comes falling off the bone. Or sometimes tomatoes have a raw taste if cooked on high flame. Both conditions will spoil the taste and delicacy of Karahi. So frying chicken and then adding to tomato later helps overcome over-cooking of chicken.
Tomatoes Pureed or sliced
Using tomato puree instead of sliced tomatoes is also helpful to get an even texture with the skin. But if you cook long enough sliced tomatoes work well too and dissolve quickly. Cooking tomatoes for a long is necessary because tomatoes release lycopene upon slow cooking. So if you don't give the tomato enough time to cook. It gives a raw taste.
Why add onions?
Authentic karahi doesn't have onions. And you can skip it if you like less gravy. I added a small onion so have enough masala to be enjoyed with naan. Alternately, you can add 1 extra tomato to skip onion.
The ingredients of the karahi recipe are more or less the same what makes all karahi different is technique. Authentic chicken karahi is made in ghee with the main ingredients of meat, tomato chillies, and ginger. A lot of stir-frying is a key factor in making karahi.
A visual of ingredients is always helpful. But I won't list all the ingredients which clearly visible and labeled too.
- Chicken: Smaller bone-in chicken is best for karahi. Boneless chicken can also work but the fats from bones add more flavor to karahi.
- Ghee or oil: I used oil in this recipe to keep it simple and healthier. But the dhabas use ghee and I must confess ghee AKA clarified butter tastes much better. If you don't have ghee consider using a mix of oil and butter. Lastly, Dhaba karahi is loaded with fat and I'm using bare minimum fat. You can't reduce it further or karahi would taste watery and not as good.
- Fresh tomatoes: Fresh, flavorful, deep red, fully ripened, and firm tomatoes add a lot of flavor to the recipe. I used freshly made puree because we don't like tomato skins in karahi. But sliced tomatoes also work very well and are easier too.
- Ginger: Chicken Karahi means load of ginger garnish and more ginger in the curry. The depth of taste comes from fresh ginger.
- Black pepper: Freshly grounded pepper tastes far more intense than bottled pepper. So the extra effort is worth it.
- Green chilies: Just like ginger, green chilies are a must for karahi. And the aroma of chilies plays a big role in the overall Karahi look and flavor. Look for thicker and less spicy chilies for garnish. While in the curry goes smaller spicier chili paste.
- Dried fenugreek, optional: This add a very Punjabi or Lahori touch to the karahi but you can skip it.
- Kashmiri chilli powder or paprika: This ingredient is mainly for color. But if your tomatoes have rich red color, you can do without it.
Karahi curry literally refers to any curry cooked in a karahi. Usually, Karahi is a tomato-based curry with very few spices like ginger, garlic, green chilies, cumin, coriander, and pepper. It is usually made of lamb or chicken. White karahi, a dairy-based is another variant.
A karahi is a moderately spiced curry with spice levels similar to tikka masala. Usually, green chilies are added in karahi in the end for spicy touch and tempting aroma.
While Karahi vessel is absolutely essential for getting that restaurant-like taste in Karahi curry. If you don't have a wok or karahi then look for wide-based and thick bottomed vessels like a frying pan that can help you sear easily, but I highly recommend making this recipe in a traditional Karahi.
Yes, absolutely. Most ingredients in karahi retain their taste and color upon freezing.
Tandoori naan, roti, roughni naan, pita bread, chapati all pair well with karahi. A fresh salad with rinsed sliced onions makes a very good match.
How to make Pakistani chicken Karahi?
I posted this recipe many years back and today when I update the recipe with new photos, I have simplified it by skipping the grinding of spices. The rest of the recipe remains the same.
- In a wok fry chicken in oil or ghee with salt and pepper for 2-3 minutes until color changes.
- Color has changed and few golden marks are visible. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon leaving oil in the pan. Set aside.
- In the same wok, fry finely chopped onions for 3 minutes until onion is translucent. You can skip onions if you like.
- Add the spices and for a minute until spices sizzle.
- Add tomatoes pureed or sliced and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Cook uncovered until oil separates and the color of gravy darkens, keep stirring on medium-high heat.
- Now, add fried chicken with juices in the wok again. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes on low flame until chicken is tender. (You can add ¼ cup water only if required and if the chicken feels uncooked.)
- Add a dollop of butter (if using) for a makhni flavor. Garnish with ginger and chili. ( Seeds of chili removed and cut length-wise)
Hungry for chicken curry? Try these!
- Lamb Karahi
- Ginger Chicken
- White Chicken Karahi
- Chicken Korma
- Haryali Chicken
- White Korma
- Pakistani Chicken Biryani
- Kashmiri Chili Chicken (sweet and sour with raisins)
Tried any recipes? I'd LOVE to hear about it in the comments. Your 5-star ratings and comments motivate me to do my best.
Pakistani Chicken Karahi Recipe
- ½ kg chicken, cut into pieces
- ⅓ cup oil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 small (100 gram) onion, very finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon chopped garlic
- ½ tablespoon green chilli paste
- 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves, (kasuri meethi)
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper powder, freshly grounded
- ½ teaspoon red chilli, (skip red chilli if you like less spicy food)
- 3 tomato
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter, (optional)
- 1½ piece ginger, thickly grated
- 2 medium chillies
- 1 lemon, sliced in wedges
- Heat oil in a wok, add chicken, salt, and pepper. Fry for 3 minutes until color changes. Then remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- In the same oil, add onions and cook for 3 minutes until translucent.
- Next, fry spices for a minute until it sizzles.
- Now mix in tomatoes and salt. Cook on high for 3-5 minutes until oil separates.
- Add chicken to the gravy and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes until chicken is tender. (Add ¼ cup water, if required).
- Add 1 tablespoon butter (if using) chillies and ginger. Cover the karahi for few minutes to let the chillies soften and serve.