Kadai Chicken is a restaurant favorite North Indian chicken curry, cooked in the traditional kadai with tender chicken and a rich blend of aromatic spices, along with crunchy onions and capsicum. It is easy to make this dhaba-style kadai chicken at home with this authentic recipe. Enjoy this curry with naan or rice for an amazing Indian dinner.

Chicken Kadai in a bowl

If you ever go to an Indian restaurant, you are sure to find Kadai Chicken on the menu. It is one of the most popular curries, similar to chicken tikka masala or butter chicken, to order at a restaurant.

This Indian kadai chicken preparation is very different than the Pakistani chicken karahi, even though both are prepared in a “kadai” which is a circular cooking pan typically made of cast iron or aluminum.

Let’s learn about how to make amazing Kadai Chicken at home. Bursting with flavors of freshly ground aromatic spices and tender chicken pieces, this dish is sure to leave you craving more.

What is the meaning of kadai in Indian food?

In Indian cooking, “kadai” refers to a thick, round-bottomed cooking utensil similar to a wok. This cookware is typically made of cast iron or aluminum. It is a staple in Indian kitchens and is widely used to prepare various flavorful dishes, including curries and stir-fries. The name “kadai” is derived from this cooking vessel and signifies the unique cooking style used in making these dishes.

What is Kadai Chicken?

Kadai Chicken is a mouthwatering North Indian chicken curry prepared in the iconic kadai. The dish features succulent pieces of chicken cooked with a blend of freshly ground spices and a rich onion-tomato-based gravy.

The show’s star is the “kadai masala,” a unique spice mix that infuses the dish with its distinctive flavor and aroma. Of course, you can buy ready kadai masala from a store, but the flavors and aroma of the freshly ground whole spices take this kadai chicken curry over the top.

Pakistani Chicken Karahi vs. North Indian Chicken Kadai

Kadai Chicken is often confused with Pakistani Chicken Karahi due to their similarities in preparation and the use of the kadai for cooking.

While both dishes share common elements, Kadai Chicken typically uses an onion-tomato-based gravy, whereas Chicken Karahi uses tomatoes and yogurt to make the gravy.

Indian kadai chicken served at restaurants typically has crunchy sauteed onions and bell peppers (capsicum) added to the curry, whereas Pakistani karahi chicken does not.

Is kadai chicken healthy?

Kadai Chicken can be a wholesome and nutritious meal, especially when prepared with lean cuts of chicken and a balanced amount of spices. The dish is rich in protein and contains an array of aromatic spices known for their potential health benefits. However, like any indulgent dish, moderation is key to enjoying it as part of a well-balanced diet.

Ingredients for Kadai Chicken

  • Chicken: Tender and succulent pieces of chicken with bones, cut into small bite-sized pieces, are the star of this dish. I like to use bone-in chicken, but you can use boneless chicken thighs if you prefer.
  • Oil: A small amount of oil is used for sautéing and cooking the ingredients, adding richness to the curry.
  • Cumin Seeds (Jeera): These aromatic seeds are used to temper the oil and add a warm flavor to the dish.
  • Dried Red Chili Whole: Whole dried red chilies add subtle heat and smokiness to the Kadai Chicken.
  • Onions: Finely chopped yellow onions provide a sweet and savory base to the curry, enhancing its overall flavor. We will also add cubed onion petals to the curry.
  • Ginger and Garlic: Freshly grated ginger minced garlic adds a zing and aromatic flavor to the curry. You can also use ginger garlic paste if you prefer.
  • Tomatoes: Medium-sized tomatoes are pureed to create a luscious and tangy tomato base for the gravy.
  • Yogurt: It provides a creamy and tangy element, balancing the spices.
  • Green Bell Pepper: Cubed into bite-sized pieces, green bell peppers add a subtle sweetness and vibrant color to the curry.
  • Green Chili Pepper: Slit into halves, green chili peppers adds a spicy kick to the dish.
  • Spices: Turmeric, Coriander powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, and salt are added to this chicken curry.
  • Garam Masala: A blend of aromatic spices, garam masala adds depth and complexity to the flavors of the Kadai Chicken.
  • Cilantro Leaves: Fresh cilantro leaves are used for garnishing, adding freshness and color to the dish.

Kadai Masala:

  • Coriander Seeds: These seeds add a warm and citrusy flavor to the kadai masala, enhancing the spice blend.
  • Fennel Seeds (Saunf): It provides a subtle licorice-like flavor, balancing the dish’s spiciness.
  • Cumin Seeds (Jeera): These aromatic seeds are toasted which release the flavors to make the kadai masala.
  • Black Peppercorns: Whole black peppercorns add a peppery and bold taste to the kadai masala.
  • Whole Dried Kashmiri Red Chili Pepper: These dried red chilies add a vibrant red color to the kadai masala without making it overly spicy.

How To Make Kadai Chicken?

Make Kadai Masala: Dry roast the ingredients for Kadai Masala in a pan until they release their aroma. Let them cool, then grind them coarsely using a spice grinder.

You can make this kadai masala and have it ready for use. Store it in an airtight container to seal the aroma. I would suggest keeping it fresh and use within 1-3 weeks..

Saute veggies: In a pan, sauté chopped green bell pepper and onion petals. Cook and stir until they get slightly browned and blistered. Take them out of the pan and set aside. We will add them to the curry during the finishing steps.

Make the gravy: In the same pan, add the cumin seeds and dry red chilies. Saute for 30 seconds to a minute until the cumin seeds sizzle. Then, add chopped onions and cook until they turn golden.

Add ginger and garlic to the pan. Cook until you don’t smell their rawness anymore. After that, mix in the tomato puree and cook until everything blends together nicely.

Add turmeric, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder, and salt. Keep cooking until you see the oil separating from the mixture. Now the masala is ready.

Add chicken pieces and fry them until they are nicely coated with the spice mixture.

Bhuno the chicken pieces (which means cooking on medium heat). Keep cooking until they turn white on the outside and are covered with the flavorful spices.

Add whisked yogurt while stirring continuously and cook until well incorporated.

Mix in the reserved Kadai Masala and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add water, cover, and cook until the chicken becomes tender.

Once the chicken is tender, remove the lid, and add back the sautéed onion and green bell peppers we had kept aside. Mix well.

Kadai Chicken with spatula in a pan

Sprinkle garam masala powder and add the green chili peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Garnish with cilantro leaves, and your Kadai Chicken is ready to be served.

Indian Kadai Chicken garnished with cilantro

Pro-Tips

  • Adjust the spice levels according to your taste preferences by varying the amount of red chili powder and green chili peppers.
  • Use fresh chicken pieces and freshly ground spices for the best taste.
  • I did not marinate the chicken for this curry. However, if you prefer, you can marinate the chicken with the yogurt and spices listed in the ingredients and use that when making the curry.
  • Dairy-free variation: Use oil in place of ghee to make the curry. You can use soy yogurt or skip it altogether.

Serving Suggestions

Serve this dry Chicken Karahi with rotiparathas, or naan.

This curry pairs wonderfully with raita and kachumber salad, which balances the spice in the curry.

This kadai chicken is on the dry side. If you like to serve it with rice, add a little water, about ½ cup, at the end and bring the curry to a boil. Then serve with jeera rice or peas pulao.

Storage Suggestions

Store any leftover Kadai Chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

This curry will also freeze well. Portion it into small containers and freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop.

Kadai Chicken Masala on a wooden board

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5 from 7 votes

Restaurant Style Kadai Chicken

Kadai Chicken is a restaurant favorite North Indian chicken curry, cooked in the traditional kadai with tender chicken and a rich blend of aromatic spices, along with crunchy onions and capsicum. It is easy to make this dhaba-style kadai chicken at home with this authentic recipe.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 750 grams Chicken with bones, cut into small pieces, skinless
  • 3 tablespoon Oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup Onion, cubed into 1 inch pieces and petals separated, can also use pearl onions
  • 3/4 cup Green Bell Pepper, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds (Jeera)
  • 3 Dried Red Chili Whole
  • 1 1/2 cup Onions, finely chopped, I used yellow onions
  • 5 cloves Garlic , minced
  • 1 inch Ginger , grated
  • 3 Tomato , medium, pureed, about 1.5 cups puree
  • 1/4 cup Yogurt, whisked
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1-2 Green Chili Pepper, slit vertically into 2*
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • Cilantro leaves, to garnish

Kadai Masala

Spices

Instructions 

Make Kadai Masala

  • Take a pan & dry roast all the ingredients mentioned for Kadai Masala on low heat for 2-3 mins. Cool & rough grind the masala. Take out 4 teaspoons of this masala for the chicken. You can store the balance for future use.

Saute Onions & Bell Peppers

  • Add 1 tablespoon oil to a pan on medium heat. Sauté the capsicum & onion petals in the pan for 2-3 minutes until they look blistered. Remove & set aside.

Make the gravy

  • In the same pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
  • Add the cumin seeds and dry red chilies. Saute for 30 seconds until cumin changes color.
  • Add the chopped onions. Sauté for around 7-8 mins on medium heat till the onions are light brown.
  • Add the ginger and garlic, and fry for 1-2 minutes till the raw smell is gone. Add the tomato purée & fry on high to medium for 2-3 minutes till the purée is cooked.
  • Add all the spices – turmeric, kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder & salt. Stir and saute for 2-3 mins till the masalas are cooked & oil separates.
  • Add the chicken pieces and mix well. Cook the chicken pieces on medium for another 5 minutes so that they are browned & coated with the masala.
  • Turn the heat to low & add the whisked yogurt while stirring continuously. Cook for 2-3 minutes till the yogurt is cooked.
  • Add the 4 teaspoons of the Kadai Masala, stir, and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup of water, cover with a lid, and cook for 10 minutes till the chicken is tender.
  • Add the sautéed onion and capsicum we had set aside. Give a gentle stir.
  • Add garam masala and green chili. Stir & cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Garnish the curry with cilantro leaves. Kadai chicken is ready to be served with naan or roti.

Video

Notes

  • Green Chili Pepper: I typically use Thai, Birdeye, or Serrano Chili Pepper in my recipes. Don’t forget to adjust to your taste. 
  • Adjust the spice levels according to your taste preferences by varying the amount of red chili powder and green chili peppers.
  • I did not marinate the chicken for this curry. However, if you prefer, you can marinate the chicken with the yogurt and spices listed in the ingredients and use that when making the curry.

Nutrition

Calories: 322kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 19gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 494mgPotassium: 630mgFiber: 4gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 1182IUVitamin C: 85mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 2mg

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Diet: Gluten-free, Nut-free
Tried this recipe?Mention @pipingpotcurry or tag #pipingpotcurry!

About Meeta

I strongly believe that each one of us has a chef inside us, we just need to explore the ingredients and create great food. My passion is to share easy, healthy, and wholesome recipes made using Instant Pot & Air Fryer, that are well tested, so you can cook with confidence.

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10 Comments

  1. Nice receipe in detail yu forgot to mention when to add green chilies .
    Thank you. How many people will this 750 g serve.
    I am one of yur follwers from New Zealand.
    Thank Yu meets for the great receipes.

    1. Hi Harish – Thank you for sharing your feedback. I have updated the recipe with the details. This recipe serves 6. I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Meeta, your recipe for Kadai Chicken (and others) was interrupted by ads. I understand the need. But when the video was returned, it went to an entirely different recipe and never went back to the recipe(s). So, I never saw the rest of the Kadai Chicken video. What am I missing?

    1. Hi David – Thank you for understanding and feedback. I have updated the setting so the video will always show in the recipe card under the Video section for this recipe. I hope that helps!

  3. I made this dish last night, following the instructions scrupulously, and it was absolutely delicious! I used bone-in chicken thighs (having removed the skin), ghee for the oil, bottled garlic paste and ginger paste (it’s too much work to remove skin from ginger or to mince 5 garlic cloves!), Mutti brand Passata for the tomato purée, plain full-fat Greek yogurt, and 2 Thai green chili peppers (where there were choices for the ingredients). I was afraid that with all those spices (esp. the Thai peppers, split in two), the sauce would be quite hot, but it wasn’t. It was mild, flavorful, and delicious, with little bursts of flavor from bits of the Kadai masala that had survived the grinding. I even had about 1 cup of sauce left over to use on something else! And it looks absolutely beautiful—a bright red color from the Kashmiri chili powder and of course the tomato!

    1. Hi Donald – I’m thrilled to hear that your dish turned out delicious and beautifully vibrant! Your substitutions and adjustments sound fantastic. 🙂

  4. Hi Meeta,

    I had two questions about the instructions:

    1. The ingredients call for 750 grams (or about 1.65 pounds) of chicken with bones. Can you use the chicken with the skin, or do you recommend removing it? (The photos of the preparation of the dish show chicken without the skin, but the directions don’t mention removing it, so I wondered.)

    2. When should you add the green chili peppers to the dish? Given that the ingredients are listed pretty much in the order that they’re used, I’m assuming that they should be added in step 11 with the garam masala. Is that right? Or should they be added sooner? (The instructions don’t mention when to add them.)

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Donald – Usually, in Indian curries, we use chicken without the skin. Good point about making that clear in the ingredients. You are right about when to add the green chili. Thank you for asking all the relevant questions, it really helps me understand how to make my recipes better!

      1. Thank you so much for the kind replies, Meeta!

        I had one last question—a more general one than specifically about this recipe: Are there guidelines about which type of oil to use with different Indian recipes? What gave rise to the question was that I noticed under the List of Ingredients for this recipe that the oil had a link to avocado oil on Amazon. I used ghee for the Kadai chicken, figuring that it was probably the most authentic choice for Indian cooking; and I’d never previously cooked with avocado oil (though I’ve since purchased some). Are there certain recipes or types of recipes that are better with avocado oil (or other vegetable oil), rather than ghee, if the type of oil isn’t specifically mentioned among a recipe’s ingredients?

        Thanks in advance!

      2. Hi Don – You are right that ghee is the most authentic for Indian cooking. But it is totally fine to use the oil of your choice for any curry as well. I use avocado oil in my everyday cooking and just use that for curries as well. It is healthier compared to some other oils and has a high smoking point.
        Avocados and avocado oil are otherwise not native to India. There, my parents use regular vegetable oil or sunflower oil for cooking. Some dishes are specifically made using mustard oil for the extra punch of flavor, such as okra and bitter melon. In Southern India, coconut oil is popular for cooking as well.