Mughlai Chicken Zafrani is a delightful restaurant-style chicken curry packed with royal flavors. Marinated chicken is cooked in a creamy onion-based gravy to make this authentic Mughlai chicken curry. Serve with naan, jeera rice, or biryani for a wonderful Mughlai dinner!

Mughlai Zafrani Chicken in a steel bowl topped with cilantro.
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Mughlai food is a culinary treasure with a variety of dishes such as kebabs, biryanis, and curries. During Mughal rule over India for three centuries, Indian food culture got a boost in such an impressive way that the entire world is thankful and still enjoys this passed-on heritage of Mughlai cuisine. 

Usually, Mughlai food is considered very labor intensive, which means slogging in the kitchen for hours. But it is possible to make the same mughlai dishes, such as this Zafrani Chicken, at home in less than an hour. Let’s see how!

 

What is Mughlai Chicken?

Mughlai Chicken, or Mughlai Chicken Korma, is the popular curry from the royal Mughlai cuisine of the Awadh region in North India, where Lucknow is the most populous city.

Chicken pieces are marinated with yogurt and spices and then cooked in an onion-based gravy. The sauce is usually made creamy with the addition of nuts such as almonds or cashews. The use of whole spices gives this curry a wonderful, strong aroma while not making it too spicy.

This curry is also called Chicken Zafrani or Zafrani Mrugh due to the use of “zafran”, which is saffron, a spice known for its distinctive color and subtle, floral taste.

Mughlai Chicken Zafrani is a rich and flavorful curry to prepare, just like my kadai chicken and malai chicken curry, whether you are looking for a comfort meal or want to make a special dinner for your family or friends.

Ingredients

Mughlai Chicken Ingredients
  • Chicken: Use skinless bone-in chicken. Ensure that you use small curry cut pieces. You can also use boneless chicken thighs to make this curry.
  • Plain Thick Yogurt: Acts as a base of marinade, makes the chicken tender, and increases the richness of curry.
  • Ginger Garlic: Adds a zing and aromatic flavor to the curry. You can use freshly minced ginger and garlic or ginger garlic paste.
  • Ground Spices: This chicken curry contains Turmeric, Coriander powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, and salt.
  • Whole Spices: You’ll need bay leaf, cinnamon, black cardamom, green cardamom, cloves, and mace.
  • Lime: Gives a tangy flavor to the marinated chicken.
  • Saffron: Known as Zafran in Mughlai cuisine, it is a luxurious and aromatic spice derived from Crocus sativus flower. It is a prized addition to the dish, imparting a golden hue and a subtle floral flavor. 
  • Cashews: They play a crucial role in giving the curry a creamy and indulgent taste.
  • Golden Fried Onions: Popularly known as Birista. It plays a pivotal role in the making of Mughlai Chicken. Blended fried onions add a rich, complex flavor to the curry.
  • Oil: Use it as a cooking medium to saute and blend various ingredients, ensuring a well-cooked dish with the right flavors. 
  • Ghee: Adds a rich and aromatic essence to the dish.
  • Green Chili Pepper: It is optional, but I highly recommend it because it adds flavor and spice to the curry. Use Thai, birdseye, or Serrano peppers.
  • Garam Masala:  It is a combination of the essence of spices that contributes to the overall richness of Mughlai Chicken.
  • Kewra Water: A fragrant essence derived from the pandanus flower. It imparts a distinctive floral aroma to the curry. 
  • Cilantro leaves: Fresh cilantro leaves are used for garnishing, adding freshness and color to the dish.

How to make Mughlai Chicken Zafrani?

We will start with marinating the chicken, blending the aromatics, and then making the mughlai chicken curry.

Marinate Chicken

To marinate, place the chicken in the bowl and add the yogurt, ginger garlic paste, turmeric, coriander powder, red chili powder, salt, and lime juice. Mix it all together. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate up to 8 hours.

Prepare Aromatics

Infuse the saffron in warm milk for 10 minutes. Soak the cashews in warm water for 10 minutes. Transfer both of them to a blender. 

Add fried onions to the blender, along with the soaked saffron and cashews. Blend them together to make a smooth paste.

Regarding fried onions: You can use store-bought fried onions or fry onions in hot oil at home.

Make the Curry

Heat oil and ghee in a large pan on medium-high heat. I like to use a combination of oil and ghee. But feel free to use all ghee for a richer flavor.

Add the whole spices and saute for 30 seconds until they release their aroma. 

Add the marinated chicken and let it fry for 5-6 minutes until the color starts changing on the outside. 

Add the blended onion and cashew paste. Mix everything well and saute for 3-4 minutes. 

Add water and give the curry a stir. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Keep stirring in between. 

Add the remaining ingredients – green chili, kewra water, garam masala, and mix well. 

Now, you can taste test, and if needed, add more salt. Add water if needed to adjust the consistency of the gravy. Turn off the flame.

Garnish with Cilantro leaves. Serve Mughlai Chicken with roti or naan. 

Mughlai Zafrani Chicken in a steel bowl topped with cilantro.

Instant Pot Mughlai Chicken

  • To make this curry in the instant pot, follow the same steps to marinate the chicken and prepare the onion-cashew paste.
  • Then follow the steps until you saute the chicken; add the blended onion paste to the chicken, and saute for 3 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 cup water and give the curry a stir. Close the lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
  • When the instant pot beeps, quick release the pressure manually. Open the lid and add the remaining ingredients: green chili, kewra water, and garam masala. Mix well and saute for 1-2 minutes.
  • Mughlai chicken is ready to be served!

Pro-Tips

Chicken: Use skinless, bone-in chicken for the best flavors of this curry.

Marinade: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes. If you have more time, then you can marinate for 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Fried Onions: Fry the onions in a pan until they are deep brown in color. You can also use store-bought fried onions.

Blending: Make sure the aromatics and cashews are blended to a smooth paste to ensure that the curry has a smooth, luxurious texture.

Consistency: Usually, mughlai chicken is a thick gravy. Use water only if needed once the chicken is cooked.

Gluten-free: To keep this curry gluten-free, ensure to use gluten-free fried onions.

What to Serve with Mughlai Chicken?

Mughlai Zafrani Chicken is a perfect meal for Sunday dinner or any special occasion. Having it with parathas, naan, roti, or jeera rice will make it a perfect wholesome meal. 

Serve this curry with a side of cooling riata as well as kachumber salad.

You can even serve this curry with peas pulao, or turmeric rice.

How to Store?

Leftover Mughlai Chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Make sure to cool the curry to room temperature before storing it.

This curry will also freeze well. All you must do is store it in small portions in freezer-safe containers for 3-4 months.

When ready to enjoy, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. This curry can be reheated in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop.

More Indian Chicken Curry Recipes

5 from 2 votes

Mughlai Chicken Zafrani

Mughlai Chicken Zafrani is a delightful restaurant-style chicken curry packed with royal flavors. Marinated chicken is cooked in a creamy onion-based gravy to make this authentic Mughlai chicken curry. Serve with naan, jeera rice, or biryani for a wonderful Mughlai dinner!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

For Marination

For Curry

  • 10 strands Saffron
  • 2 tablespoons Warm Milk, for soaking saffron
  • 12 Cashews
  • 1/4 cup Warm Water
  • 2/3 cup Golden fried onions (Birista),
  • 2 tablespoon Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Ghee
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder, optional, add to taste
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 Green Chili Pepper, slit lengthwise, optional
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1 teaspoon Kewra water , optional
  • Cilantro leaves , chopped, to garnish

Whole Spices

Instructions 

  • Add chicken to a bowl. Add all ingredients mentioned under marination – yogurt, ginger garlic paste, turmeric, coriander powder, red chili powder, salt, and lime juice. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Soak saffron in warm milk for 10 minutes. Soak cashews in warm water for 10 minutes. Then transfer both to a blender.
  • Add fried onions to the blender, and blend the onions and cashews to a smooth paste.
  • Heat oil and ghee in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add all the whole spices and let them saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add the marinated chicken and fry for 5-6 minutes until the color changes on the outside.
  • Add the onion-cashew paste. Mix well and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 cup water and give it a stir. Cover with a lid and cook for 10-12 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in between once.
  • Add green chili, kewra water, garam masala and stir it.
  • Tate and add more salt if needed. Add hot water if needed to adjust the consistency of the gravy.
  • Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve mughlai chicken with roti or naan.

Instant Pot Method

  • To make this curry in the instant pot, follow the same steps to marinate the chicken and prepare the onion-cashew paste.
  • Then follow the steps until you saute the chicken; add the blended onion paste to the chicken, and saute for 3 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 cup water and give the curry a stir. Close the lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. When the instant pot beeps, quick release the pressure manually.
  • Open the lid and add the remaining ingredients: green chili, kewra water, and garam masala. Mix well and saute for 1-2 minutes. Mughlai chicken is ready to be served!

Video

Notes

Marinade: Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes. If you have more time, you can marinate for 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Fried Onions: Fry sliced onions in a pan until they are deep brown in color. You can also use store-bought fried onions.
Blending: Ensure the aromatics and cashews are blended to a smooth paste to ensure the curry has a smooth, luxurious texture.
Consistency: Usually, mughlai chicken has a thick gravy. Once the chicken is cooked, use water only if needed.

Nutrition

Calories: 362kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 27gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 87mgSodium: 879mgPotassium: 621mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 546IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 78mgIron: 2mg

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, Pakistani
Diet: Gluten-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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2 Comments

    1. Hello – You can find it at Indian grocery stores or on Amazon. But it is also okay to skip if you don’t have it.