Chicken Recipes/ Curry/ Pakistani Food Recipes

Chicken Kalia or Salan – Pakistani Chicken Curry

Jump to the Chicken Kalia / Murghi ka Salan Recipe

Spring is a tease. Every now and then you get a nice, sunny, warm, bring out the water table and sand box kinda day (can you tell I am a mom??) and then you get a whole bunch of cold-wet-cold-wet-overcast-humid-wet-cold. Pfft.

Don’t worry, I did resist the urge to drown my sorrows in sugar and butter. Not just because I was out of butter. So here is another dish, with considerable less fat and sugar, which I find pretty comforting. It is a version of chicken curry called Chicken Kalia (kul-ya) that I had not had until I got married.

Kalya - Pakistani Chicken Curry - Murghi ka Salan

What is Chicken Kalia?

Kalia is a chicken salan that is very different from the traditional chicken curries. It does not contain yogurt or tomatoes. The robust flavours of whole garam masala are also absent in Kalya which only uses cumin seeds in it’s whole spices. Most notably though the flavour of the Kalya seems to lie in the onions. In most curries onions are barely sauteed, cooked to a delicate gold or deep fried then crushed (Korma). A Chicken Kalia’s base is the deep flavour of caramelized onions. This makes for a curry that is somehow rich tasting and light in body at the same time. 

Can I use Pre Fried Onions

For those of you who are not looking forward to caramelizing onions for Chicken Kalia you can absolutely use store bought fried onions. However, there’s a catch. The onions you use MUST NOT have any coating whatsoever. Some varieties are coated in flour or contain other ingredients which ruin a curry. Read the package! Ideally you have two ingredients – onions and oil. Those will actually taste good. So good that my kids will casually snack on them when I am cooking. If you have those pre fried onions then they also work well in this simple Chicken Pulao and can also be used in this Nihari recipe.

Kalya - Pakistani Chicken Curry - Murghi ka Salan

What kind of Chicken is best?

My astute friends will notice this is boneless chicken in my curry. We tend to use a lot of boneless chicken owing to a combination of my FILs heart condition and convenience. However, there is no question that your Kalya will be even more flavorful with any bone in meat than boneless. 

If you make this Chicken Kalia then I’d love to hear how it went! Share a comment and rating below or tag me in your recreations on Instagram. I am @flourandspiceblog and always happy to hear from you!

5 from 2 votes
Kalya/Murghi ka Salan or Pakistani Chicken Curry

A curry that gets its deep but light flavours from caramelized onions and mild spices

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, Pakistani
Keyword: Curry, Salan, Chicken, Murghi, Kalya
Servings: 4
Author: Sarah – Flour & Spice
  • 1 Pound Chicken Breast Meat cut into 2 inch pieces
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 heaped tbsp garlic or 5 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ to 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1- 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4-5 Whole green chillies optional
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot

  2. Add the cumin seeds and whole black pepper

  3. When the cumin seeds start to sizzle then add the onions

  4. Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally until the onions are mostly a rich brown

  5. Now add the garlic paste, saute for a minute then add the red chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder and salt.

  6. If at any time during the process the spices or onions start to burn add a splash of hot water.

  7. Cook stirring frequently for about a minute then add the chicken pieces, stirring them at regular intervals until the look cooked/white from all sides.

  8. Pour 1.5-2 cups of hot water into the pot, bring to a boil and then simmer covered for 30 minutes. The chicken should be nice and tender.

  9. Increase the heat and dry up the masala, as you do so the onions will break down and form a beautiful cohesive paste. You can skip this step if you're pressed for time and simply adjust the consistency of the curry to your liking.

  10. Once the masalas become a paste and the oil rises to the top (bhunn) then add hot water as per your preference along with the green chilies and bring the mixture to a boil.

  11. Turn the heat off, add the garam masala, adjust the seasoning, top with cilantro and serve.

Recipe Notes
  • If you are using pre fried onions then skip frying the onions, cook the garlic paste, spices, chicken, and when the chicken is sealed then add the pre fried onions. Remember to buy onions without any coating!
Kalya - Pakistani Chicken Curry - Murghi ka Salan

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  • Reply

    Your salan sounds delicious, but how come you do not use tomatoes?

    • Reply

      Hello Nusrat! The chicken salan I grew up eating usually had tomatoes, this one is a traditional recipe passed down from my mother in laws side of the family and it doesn’t have tomatoes in it which it makes it a little different, but very yummy. If you are looking for a recipe with tomatoes then I have one at
      Thanks so much for coming by and for your question!

  • Reply
    Parvez Iqbal

    Fantastic recipe. I followed all your instructions and used all the recommended ingredients. Only thing i did different eas that i used chivken stock instead of water and I added tomatoes with the chicken. all the readers youve got to try this once twice thrice. Thank you Sarah.

    • Reply

      Such a great idea to use stock instead of water!!! I am totally going to try that! Also thank you so much for stopping by and commenting – I really appreciate you taking the time!

  • Reply
    Parvez Iqbal

    Excuse my spelling folks. I do you know how to spell chicken Itza predictive text again

    • Reply

      no worries, predictive text messes me up all the time!

  • Reply
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  • Reply

    Heyyy, love your feed. I never knew this had a name other than usual chicken Salan. But yes my mom makes it the same way and it’s the best light meal you can have , with tandoor naans or boiled rice. Only thing she does different is she just blends onions and then cooks them up with exact same spices.
    So good to see recipes of your own household up there on a forum as yours . Lots of love:)

    • Reply

      Ooh she must get a silky smooth salan! love that this recipe reminds you of one that you grew up on and are so fond of!

    Penny for your thoughts?