Kadai chicken is a delicious, spicy & flavorful dish made with chicken, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic & fresh ground spices known as kadai masala. Kadai translates to an Indian wok which is a most basic kitchen essential in Indian homes. Any dish prepared in an Indian wok using a kadai masala would be named after it like kadai chicken, kadai paneer, kadai mushrooms & so on.
Kadai chicken is almost there on most Indian restaurant menus & is made differently in each place. The recipe shared here is roughly adapted from the popular chefs Vahchef and Nita mehta’s recipes.
This came very close to what I had eaten in some of the best restaurants and loved it.
The fresh ground kadai masala is the key to this yummy and much flavorful dish. There are also so many brands selling kadai masala powder.
If you do not have the whole spices to make the kadai masala then you may consider buying one from the Indian stores.
Coriander seeds, red chillies & fennel seeds are the 3 main ingredients used to make the spice powder. Apart from kadai masala a small amount of garam masala is also used to further flavor up the dish.
Since the garam masala I have used had a good amount of fennel seeds or saunf used, I skipped it while making kadai masala. Kadai chicken looks deep red in color due to the red chilies and deep roasting of the masala.
Tips to make kadai chicken
- Bone-in chicken tastes best in this recipe as the juices from the bones seep to the curry and make it more flavorful & delicious. However if you do not have bone-in chicken just use boneless chicken like the way I have used.
- Kadai chicken is made with fresh ground kadai masala. This recipe also details on making it. You can however use readymade kadai masala powder. If you are accessible then just use a regular garam masala. You really cannot get the flavors of kadai chicken but it will still be a very good dish.
- Most restaurants use cubed onions and bell peppers. However you can also skip them as it is not used in the authentic kadai recipes.
- Frying the cubed onions & bell peppers on the highest flame will give a smoky aroma to the kadai chicken. You can skip them and just smoke the dish with a charcoal.
- Optionally to smoke the kadai chicken, just light a charcoal until hot and place it in a small bowl. Keep this bowl in the kadai. Pour 1 tsp ghee. Immediately the charcoal begins to release smoke. Cover the kadai and allow the cooked chicken to be smoked for about 2 to 3 mins.
This post was originally shared in 2013 along with the first picture which I had made without bell peppers & cubed onions. I updated the post with the step by step pictures. Hence there are 2 different pics.
Preparation for kadai chicken recipe
1. Dry roast coriander seeds, fennel seeds (optional) along with red chilies until crisp. Cool and powder coarsely with garam masala.
2. Puree tomatoes. You can also use chopped tomatoes.
If you do not have cream, then make a fine paste of the cashews in a blender with 4 to 6 tbsps water.
The cashew paste must be very smooth.
How to make kadai chicken
1. This step is optional. Skip if you do not want to use capsicum. Heat a pan with oil. Fry cubed onions and capsicum for 2 to 3 minutes on a high flame. When they begin to smell good, set them aside in a plate.
2. Add red chili and cumin.
3. When the cumin begins to crackle add onions and fry till golden.
4. Time to add ginger garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears.
5. Add chicken and saute for 3 to 4 minutes.
6. Cover and cook on a low flame for 4 to 5 mins. Do not add water.
7. Add kadai masala, garam masala, red chilli and turmeric. I mixed up all of them and added here. Saute for another two to 3 minutes.
8. Add tomato puree, cashew paste and salt. Stir and cook uncovered till the raw smell of tomato puree goes away. The gravy also thickens. This takes around 5 minutes on a medium to low flame.
9. Cover and cook until the chicken is soft and fully cooked. Then add onions and capsicums.
10. Mix and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
11. Pour 3 tbsp cream to a cup, add little tomato gravy from the kadai to the cream. Mix and add back to the kadai.
12. Lastly I sprinkled crushed kasuri methi and coriander leaves. I also added a bit more of garam masala. Cook for another two minutes.
Garnish kadai chicken with coriander leaves, lemon, onion wedges and ginger julienne.
Kadai chicken recipe | Chicken karahi
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- 400 grams chicken (bone or boneless)
- ¾ cup capsicums (or bell peppers cubed) (optional)
- ½ cup onions (cubed & layers separated) (optional)
- ¾ cup tomatoes (chopped & pureed) (about 2 large)
- 1 ½ tablespoons oil (divided, adjust as needed)
- 1 red chili broken
- ½ teaspoon cumin or jeera (optional)
- ½ cup onions chopped finely
- 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
- ½ teaspoon Salt or as needed
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chilli powder Kashmiri (optional)
- 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 10 cashew nuts (or 3 tablespoon cream)
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves or cilantro finely chopped
For kadai masala
- 1 ½ tablespoons coriander seeds (or daniya)
- 4 red chilies
- 1 to 1½ teaspoons garam masala powder
- ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
How to make the recipe
- Dry roast 1 ½ tablespoons coriander seeds, ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds and 4 red chilies until crisp & aromatic.
- Cool and powder them in a spice jar along with 1 to 1½ teaspoon garam masala.
- Add ¾ cup chopped tomatoes to a blender and puree them. You can skip this step if u don’t mind using tomatoes directly.
- Optional : Substitute to cream. You can skip this step if using cream. Soak 10 cashews in warm water for 10 minutes. Then make a fine smooth paste adding 4 to 6 tbsps water.
How to make chicken karahi or kadai chicken
- Optional: Add 1 tbsp oil to a kadai or wok. When the oil turns hot, add ¾ cup cubed capsicum and ½ cup cubed onions. Fry for 2 minutes on the highest flame. When you begin to smell them good transfer to a plate. Keep it aside.
- Heat the kadai with 1 tablespoon oil. Then add 1 broken chili and ½ teaspoon cumin.
- Fry till the cumin begins to splutter. Add ½ cup finely chopped onions and fry till they turn golden.
- Next add 2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste. Fry till the raw smell goes off. Do not burn it.
- Add chicken and fry for 3 to 4 minutes. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add kadai masala, turmeric and ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chili powder (optional).
- Mix and fry well for just 2 to 3 minutes.
- Next pour tomato puree, cashew paste and add salt.
- Mix and cook till the raw smell of the tomatoes goes away.
- The masala thickens and begins to leave oil. Cover and cook until the chicken is soft cooked.
- Add sauted onions and capsicums. Mix and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Cook till the gravy thickens to your desired consistency.
- If using cream, pour the cream to a bowl. Take a portion of the gravy and mix with cream. Add back to the kadai and stir well.
- Do not overcook kadai chicken. Capsicum and onions should be crunchy.
- Sprinkle crushed kasuri methi and coriander leaves. Mix well and cook for just one to two minutes. Off the stove.
- Serve kadai chicken with rice or roti.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.