Chicken Recipes/ Pakistani Food Recipes

A No Tomato Smoky Highway Karhai Chicken

karhai chicken

Jump to the No Tomato Karhai Chicken Recipe

If you had asked me if I had ever had a Karhai Chicken without tomatoes I would have firmly insisted no. And then I did and it all came back to me. Cramming into cars to go to the highly recommended highway restaurant, the charpoys and takhts scattered over large areas, the waiters deftly going by with their hot naans, and the smell, that amazing smell wafting through the air. It is the spices, but more than the spices its charcoal. Really, there is something about that smell that makes you feel like you can almost taste the best tikka in the world or perphaps the best karhai chicken. 

karhai chicken

Please note that the spice level in this recipe is quite high, but please do feel free to take it down a notch. I personally like the whole my mouth is on fire where is the cold bottle of coke when I need it feeling. But that’s just me.

Diya A. Khan a woman of many culinary talents which you can catch on her appearances on Masala TVs Lively Weekends show originally shared this recipe on a Facebook group. It gained enormous popularity and I had to try it. I was a little bit in love. Ok maybe more than a little bit. Fortunately for me she graciously okayed my sharing the recipe here.


Cooking Notes:

Now here are some key notes on cooking Karhai Chicken. Use a large dish, preferably a wok. Traditionally you cook the chicken until the water it releases dries up then add oils and spices or you cook it in generous oil, remove the pieces, make your masala and put the chicken back. Ideally you would make it with bone in chicken. However, since I didn’t have the patience to defrost mine (true story) I used boneless chicken and adapted the recipe accordingly. This makes a dry in your face spicy Karahi Chicken, if you want something with a little more gravy then add a little whipped yogurt to it. The koylay ka dum is an absolute must.

Please note you need to heat a coal on a stovetop, not get it ready to barbecue raw chicken on to create that smoky effect. I have a ceramic cooktop and it works just fine 🙂 This is definitely a dish served best when it is hot, but I love the idea of making a delicious wrap with this chicken as well. Chicken breasts is convenient, but capricious. If yours gets tough add a generous splash of water, simmer until tender. 


5 from 7 votes
karhai chicken
No Tomato Highway Chicken Karhai
  • 1 lb Boneless chicken cut into bite size pieces
  • 7-10 Green Chillies, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Chopped Ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp Chopped Garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp Coarse Black Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • Oil/Ghee for Cooking
  • Handful of Coriander leaves
  • Julienned Ginger for Garnish
Karahi Masala
  • 1/2 tbsp Coriander powder
  • 1/2 tbsp Red Chilli Flakes
  • 1/2 tbsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Kasoori Methi
  • 1/2 tbsp Chaat Masala
  • 1/2 tsp Khatai/Raw Mango Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Black Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Garam Masala Powder
Karhai Masala
  1. Dry roast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a pan until darker and aromatic, pulse a few times to coarsely grind. Mix in remaining Karhai Masala ingredients

Chicken Karhai
  1. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and green chillies to the oil, cook for 30 seconds and add the chicken pieces, salt and pepper.

  2. Saute until ALL the pieces have changed color i.e. no longer look raw 

  3. Add a splash of water and cook on medium heat stirring often and when the chicken is almost done (test by breaking a piece) add the Karhai Masala, Lemon Juice and Julienne Ginger (if using) and stir fry for another minute. 

  4. Turn off the stove.

  5. Cover the dish and heat a piece of coal on the stove top till you can see parts of it changing color. Put a piece of foil in your wok, place the coal on top, add a splash of oil and as soon as smoke billows from it shut the dish for at least five minutes

  6. Top with chopped cilantro and serve immediately with your flatbread of choice

Recipe Notes

The trick to a dry boneless chicken dish, or any drier chicken dish is to cook until its just tender. However, if you go over then add a generous splash of water and simmer until it is tender once again. 

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