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Pakistani Chicken Karahi (Spicy Tomato-Chicken Curry)

4 to 6 Servings

40 minutes

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Spicy and warming with hints of sweetness and acidity from tomatoes, chicken karahi is named for the shallow, wok-like pan in which it is cooked. In Lahore, Pakistan, we tasted multiple versions, and once back in the Milk Street kitchen, we combined our favorite attributes of each. We found that a 12-inch skillet worked as well as a karahi—its large surface area quickly concentrates flavor and consistency. We tried canned tomatoes, but they lacked the freshness we sought, so we opted instead for a combination of fresh plum tomatoes, grated down to the skins on a box grater, and tomato paste for color and intensity. From Asli Fresh Tikka Shop, we learned to stir a little yogurt into our chicken karahi; chef Mani Mirza included yogurt as well, but he also added butter, which inspired us to use ghee as the cooking fat (equal parts butter and oil is a good stand-in for the ghee). The duo of dairy provided just the right richness to balance the spices and tomatoes. The curry can be on the table in under an hour. Serve with basmati rice, naan or both.

4 to 6



Don’t use low-fat or nonfat yogurt. The higher fat content of whole-milk yogurt will prevent it from breaking when it’s stirred into the curry. Don’t be shy about the black pepper. It’s a key seasoning in chicken karahi. (Chef Mirza used well over a tablespoon in his version.) For best flavor, make sure the pepper is freshly ground.

40 minutes


  • ¼

    cup ghee or 2 tablespoons salted butter plus 2 tablespoons neutral oil

  • pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces


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Beth M.
February 29, 2024
Amazing Weeknight Chicken
The flavor in this was fantastic. I worried that it would be too spicy but it was perfect. I was a little surprised that the chicken was not seasoned before cooking. I made these changes: Seasoned chicken with seasoned salt and 2 teaspoons cumin. I did not have coriander so I used 2 teaspoons of Balti Seasoning with the garam masala. Served with rice and roasted veg.
Melissa V.
March 15, 2024
Easy and tasty!
The lemon at the end is key. Don't forget it.
Jennifer J.
February 29, 2024
Quick and tasty
I made this for a quick weeknight meal and found it quite easy. It’s not as complex as some of the other curries, but due to the ease, I will definitely make it again. I thought it was good day one and much better the second night. I was pleased to see the yogurt in the sauce didn’t break when I heated up the leftovers. The lime at the end really brought out the flavors.
Craig B.
March 19, 2024
The sauce flavor did not penetrate the chicken well. The sauce was well seasoned, but it didn't penetrate the chicken leaving the chicken pieces devoid of flavor. Maybe salting the chicken pieces for 30 minutes and only salting the sauce to taste at the end, but no this was not great.